Medical Lore in the Bestiaries

9th century image from the Physiologus

Some time in the first part of the Christian era, perhaps as early as the second century, there emerged a curious collection of zoological fables and religious moralizations called Physiologus.

Shrews, Rats, and a Polecat in the ‘Pardoner’s Tale’

Rethinking Chaucerian Beasts

The animals of particular interest to us are creatures that function in two distinct ways: as familiar dead metaphors and as familiar live animals.

Old Companions, Noble Steeds: Why dogs and horses were buried at an Early Medieval settlement along the Old Rhine


Excavations at the Early Medieval site of Oegstgeest, located in the Dutch Rhine estuary, have yielded the burials of three horses and three dogs

Pets in the Middle Ages: Evidence from Encyclopedias and Dictionaries

Miniatures of Canis Maior (Larger Dog) and Canis Minor (Smaller Dog), in tables from Ptolemy's Almagest.

How, then, did people in the High and Late Middle Ages categorize the relationships between people and animals?

‘There Came a Hart in at the Chamber Door’: Medieval Deer as Pets

medieval deer

John of Maidstone paid a visit to Gregory de Rokesle, then mayor of London. With him, he brought some writs from court, which he left on a counter in Gregory’s chamber, presumably for his review, before they were dispatched to Boston and elsewhere. This routine matter was disrupted, however, when a hart (the male red deer), which was in the house, entered the chamber and devoured the writs.

Cat Pics from the Middle Ages

Medieval Cat Pics - British Librayr Harley 4751 f.30v

August 8th is International Cat Day! We thought should do something to commemorate this day and let you know that cat pics existed in the Middle Ages as well.

Medieval Beekeeping

medieval beekeeping

Beekeeping has been a practice going back to ancient times, and during the Middle Ages one could find many farms that kept beehives and collected honey. However, few medieval texts offer indepth information on how this was done. One

Medieval poaching site discovered in England

medieval deer hunting scene - British Library Egerton 1146   f. 5v

Archaeologists working in northern England have uncovered a stone-lined cess pit that was filled with dozens of bones from deer. The evidence suggests that they were dumped here by poachers.

Medieval Pest Control

medieval pest control - British Library Additional 27210   f. 13

Have a pest troubling you? In the Middle Ages, you could try these remedies to get rid of them – poisons, traps, or even writing a letter to them! In the mid-10th century a farming manual was created in Byzantium. Known as the Geoponika, it was mostly transcribed from selections of various ancient and Byzantine writers, and […]

Human-Bovine Plagues in the Early Middle Ages

ox book of durrow

In other words, when spreading among cattle, a now-extinct morbillivirus episodically colonized and spread in human populations during the early Middle Ages.

Study reveals size of livestock were at their lowest in Early Middle Ages

medieval livestock

A new study, covering the last 2000 years of livestock animals such as cattle, pigs, sheep and goats, has revealed that in Spain these animals were at their smallest size during the 8th and 9th centuries.

What was it like to be a Cow? History and Animal Studies

Medieval Cattle - British Library Oriental 5024   f. 177

This essay outlines where the history of animals is now, and suggests where it and the historiographical issues raised by the inclusion of animals in a study of the past might go in the future.

Local and Traditional on the Millennial Scale: Sustainable Waterfowl Management from Viking Age Iceland

Local and Traditional on the Millennial Scale: Sustainable Waterfowl Management from Viking Age Iceland

Inhabited by Vikings since approximately 600 AD, the islands hosts an abundant, but terribly fragile resource, puffins, flightless birds that nest on rocky exposed cliffs, in easy range of the islanders other prime food source, pigs.

Medieval Horse Stable: The Results of Multi Proxy Interdisciplinary Research

medieval horse

A multi proxy approach was applied in the reconstruction of the architecture of Medieval horse stable architecture, the maintenance practices associated with that structure as well as horse alimentation at the beginning of 13th century in Central Europe.

Reality x Fiction: The Image of the Tiger in the Bestiaries of Medieval England

A hunter capturing a tiger cub and distracting its mother with a mirror, Central or northern England, c. 1200-10, 220 x 160 mm. Royal 12 C. xix, f. 28

The present article intends to make an analysis of the way that how the tiger, an animal native from Asia, was represented in the bestiaries of the Medieval English literature (XIIth to XVth centuries), in a time that the European knowledge about Asia still was very loose.

Sea Monsters on Medieval and Renaissance Maps

Sea Monsters on Medieval and Renaissance Maps

Chet Van Duzer, author of the recent book Sea Monsters on Medieval and Renaissance Maps, will trace the history of sea monsters on European maps, beginning with the earliest mappaemundi on which they appear in the tenth century and continuing to the end of the sixteenth century.

Tropical fire ants traveled the world on 16th century ships

fire ant  photo Rick Hagerty / Flickr

Thanks to a bit of genetic sleuthing, researchers now know the invasion history of the tropical fire ant, the first ant species known to travel the globe by sea.

The Hare and its Alter Ego in the Middle Ages

Dog and Hare - Harley 1121  f 141

This article deals with the topic of hares and rabbits in Creation scenes and Naming of the beasts scenes in bestiaries and other medieval manuscripts.

Can You Guess Which Animal This Is?

which medieval animal is this

Here are 25 images of animals from the Middle Ages – can you figure out which creature they are?

Ten Strange Medieval Animals You Might Not Have Heard Of

ten strange medieval animals

A fish that can stop a ship and a bull that passes gas to defend itself – these and more strange animals from the Middle Ages!

Mermaids in the Book of Treasures

Medieval mermaids

Florentine writer Brunetto Lattini explains what mermaids are in his Book of Treasures.

Toxicology and Treatment: Medical Authorities and Snake-bite in the Middle Ages

medieval snake and man

By end of the thirteenth century, surgeons and university-trained physicians in Western Europe had a plethora of authorities from the Greco-Roman and Arabic tradition from which to consult for the treatment of snake-bites.

The Kraken: when myth encounters science

Kraken Octopus - Denys Montfort in Histoire naturelle, générale et particulière des mollusques: animaux sans vertèbres et a sang blanc

Hundreds of years ago, sailors were terrified by the Kraken, a dreadful sea monster capable of sinking ships and with a taste for human flesh.

Trolls in the Middle Ages


Where did trolls come from? What did medieval and early modern people think of trolls? How did the concept of the modern day troll evolve?

The Sounds that Animals Make – the Medieval Version

geese book

It seems that every parent at one time or another teaches their children the sounds that animals make. They did it in the Middle Ages too.

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