Cats in the Middle Ages

The cat lost its regal position through the efforts of the medieval Church which encouraged the association of the cat with devils and darkness. Introduction The life of a cat in the Middle Ages (c. 476-1500 CE) differed significantly from that of a dog owing primarily to its association with witchcraft, darkness, and the devil.[…]

10 Surprising Facts about Books of Beasts from the European Middle Ages

Art history students offer a bite-sized introduction to the bestiary of the European Middle Ages. Introduction The medieval book of beasts, a kind of encyclopedia of animals known as the bestiary, was full of fascinating creatures both real and fantastic. While the bestiary often linked animals to Christian beliefs, teaching readers moral and religious lessons,[…]

Animals in the Art of Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci saw in animals the ‘image of the world’. About six months ago I stopped eating meat. I was teaching a graduate course at UCLA that investigated how Italian Renaissance writers conveyed their concepts about the human through writing about the nonhuman – plants, animals, objects, angels, demons, gods and God. As weeks[…]

Hunting in Medieval Western Europe

More than a pastime, it was an important arena for social interaction, essential training for war, and a privilege and measurement of nobility. Introduction Throughout Western Europe in the Middle Ages, humans hunted wild animals. While game was at times an important source of food, it was rarely the principal source of nutrition. Hunting was[…]

Dogs and Their Collars in the Middle Ages

In Europe in the Middle Ages (476-1500 CE), dogs performed many services. Introduction Dogs have played a prominent role in the lives of humans going back thousands of years and, more than any other domesticated animal, this role has remained relatively unchanged. In the present day, dogs serve as guardians, perform tricks or tasks on[…]

Animals in World War I

Discussing the role of animals in transport, logistics, cavalry and communications in the First World War. Introduction While the First World War witnessed the development of modern, technological warfare, it also made unprecedented demands on what we might see as archaic methods of campaigning. Despite the tanks, planes and machine guns, fighting still depended on[…]

Meerkats Without History: Digging for a Non-Human Past in the Kalahari Desert

Perhaps there’s room now for a type of history that moves smoothly between human and animal subjectivities. The truth is, that man is a creature of greater power than other living creatures are … There be beasts that see better, others that hear better, and others that exceed mankind in all other sense. Man excelleth[…]

Horse Racing’s Unlikely but Indelible Mark on the History of Victoria

By Melinda Smith Horses are not indigenous to the state of Victoria or anywhere else in Australia. So, how did the Land Down Under become the greatest horse racing — especially thoroughbred racing — nation in the world? And why is Melbourne and Greater Victoria arguably the epicenter of racing in Australia? The answer to[…]

Ancient DNA is Revealing the Origins of Livestock Herding in Africa

Pastoralism is a central part of many Africans’ identity. But how and when did this way of life get started on the continent? Ancient DNA can reveal how herding populations spread. Introduction Visitors to East Africa are often amazed by massive herds of cattle with a gorgeous array of horn, hump and coat patterns. Pastoralism[…]

Cambyses II of Persia and the Battle of Pelusium: A Victory Won by Cats

The battle was won through a very unusual strategy on Cambyses II’s part: the use of animals as hostages and, especially, cats. Introduction The ancient Egyptians had a great reverence for life in all its forms. Life had been given by the gods and reverence for it extended beyond human beings to all living things.[…]

Ritual Sacrifice May Have Shaped Dog Domestication

An ancient Arctic site suggests a complex relationship between humans and dogs. By Lea Surugue In the Siberian Arctic, the Ob River flows lazily across vast, cold stretches of tundra. In the city of Salekhard, Russia, where it meets with the Polui River, lie the remains of an ancient ritual site. Overlooking the floodplains, it[…]

The Sacrificial Puppies of the Shang Dynasty

A new study suggests young dogs were frequently buried with humans in China some 3,000 years ago, but the precise reasons remain elusive. By Joshua Rapp Learn During the last centuries of China’s Shang dynasty, which lasted from 1600 B.C. to 1050 B.C., ritual sacrifice was a well-oiled cultural phenomenon, rich and varied in its[…]

“O Uommibatto”: How the Pre-Raphaelites Became Obsessed with the Wombat

Dante Gabriel Rossetti and company’s curious but longstanding fixation with the furry oddity that is the wombat — that “most beautiful of God’s creatures” which found its way into their poems, their art, and even, for a brief while, their homes. This article, “O Uommibatto”: How the Pre-Raphaelites Became Obsessed with the Wombat, was originally[…]

Animal Skin Artifacts from the Bronze Age Salt Mines of Hallstatt

The social context of cloth from the Neolithic to Bronze Age as seen in the Hallstatt prehistoric animal skin artifacts. Introduction My PhD research focused on the social context of cloth from the Neolithic to Bronze Age with case studies from the Alpine area. One aspect of this is the interrelationship of the technologies used[…]

Rugendas’ Iconography of the Animal Condition in 19th-Century Brazilian Society

Rugendas up the challenging mission of drawing and conveying the New World to Europe. A significant weakness of commonplace records of the first four centuries of Brazil’s history is that they do not capture the wide range of interactions between humans and nonhuman animals, nor recognize them as an essential element in the formation of[…]

The Emotional Lives of Animals

Grief, friendship, gratitude, wonder, and other things we animals experience. Scientific research shows that many animals are very intelligent and have sensory and motor abilities that dwarf ours. Dogs are able to detect diseases such as cancer and diabetes and warn humans of impending heart attacks and strokes. Elephants, whales, hippopotamuses, giraffes, and alligators use[…]

A History of Thinking with Animals

Animals have always been central to human culture, as cave paintings around the world attest. In more recent times, they have also been used to reflect on what it is that defines us as human. Animals, as the anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss suggested, are ‘good to think with’. (Totemism, 1964). From the earliest human societies, they[…]

A Brief History of Animals in Early Modern and Modern Children’s Literature

Books had the practical aim of helping children to learn to read, count, and understand the world around them. Stories about animals have always been a staple of children’s literature. At first, such books were not particularly concerned with entertainment, but had the practical aim of helping children to learn to read, count and understand[…]

Animals in Thai Manuscript Art

Examining the role of animals in Thai manuscript art. Illustrations of real and mythical animals play an important role in Thai manuscript art, especially in Buddhist folding books and in animal treatises, but also in manuscripts related to astrology, divination and fortune telling. The belief that certain animals have super-natural powers is well reflected through[…]

Behind the Rocket Cat: Animals in Warfare from Hannibal to World War One

War animals have been with us for a very long time. There’s a good chance you’ve come across the bewhiskered warrior above on the web: it’s been featured on the Guardian and ABC News. And for good reason: the image is the best combination of cats and history since those inky pawprints on the medieval manuscript. The so-called “rocket[…]