Man's Best SCA Friends: Medieval Dogs

Dame Aoife shares her links for research on hound coursing and medieval dogs. Greetings all.

As I write, Legolas is licking my toes, and Samwise is laid out on the bed, snoring to beat the band. My dogs are happy to be in from the weather as Hurricane Isabel beats on the door. While I own some very rare mixed breed dogs, I hope you will enjoy this week's Links list that focuses on pedigree medieval and renaissance dog breeds of many types. I am sure there will be something for the dog-lover to find interesting. If you do not see your favorite breed, please visit some of the sites anyway, as each has quite a list of links to offer and may lead to your breed's specific information.

As always, please forward this list where it will find an interest, but remember that not everyone likes multiple copies of huge messages, nor does everyone find dogs adorable and fascinating (hard as that is to believe :). So please be judicious in the places you send the list.

One of the outcomes of forwarding this email list weekly is that I get to be on a lot of people's address books. While I normally wouldn't mind, it seems that a lot of people have become infected with SoBig, a virus that seems to delight in using MY address, gleaned from folk's address books, to send bogus messages to other people containing attachments that are spreading the virus. When the messages bounce, I receive the bounce replies. I was quite surprised to get my computer up and running last week from a power problem, after a week's absence, to find that I had over 20 bounces from messages I hadn't sent. PLEASE CLEAN YOUR COMPUTER OF VIRUS regularly with updated programs and definitions. If you cannot, we may have to re-evaluate the way that this list is replicated and sent in cyberspace. If you have suggestions, I'd be glad to hear them. Reply directly to me, not to the list, since I do not read all the lists where THIS list appears.

Good luck, and hug your dogs for me


Dame Aoife Finn of Ynos Mon

Greyhound History in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance
(Site Excerpt) Greyhounds nearly became extinct during times of famine in the Middle Ages. They were saved by clergymen who protected them and bred them for the nobility. From this point on, they came to be considered the dogs of the aristocracy. In the tenth century, King Howel of Wales made killing a greyhound punishable by death. King Canute of England established the Forest Laws in 1014, reserving large areas of the country for hunting by the nobility. Only such persons could own greyhounds; any "meane person" (commoner) caught owning a greyhound would be severely punished and the dog's toes "lawed" (mutilated) to prevent it from hunting. The value of a Greyhound exceeded that of a serf, and the punishment for causing death of a Greyhound was equivalent to the punishment for murder.

Lure Coursing Information, Club's, Reading and Links
(Site Excerpt) Below, you'll find information on Coursing clubs not only here in the United States, but in other countries as well. Along with places to obtain coursing equipment, and some stories. None of the links are listed in order of importance, but I'd like to suggest that you check out the American Sighthound Field Association site first if your new to the sport..

(Site Excerpt) What is hound coursing?
Coursing is an ancient and noble sport that allows one to witness the beauty of a sight hound doing what it was bred for. In the Middle Ages, a rabbit was released in a field and the hounds were then released after it. Eventually rules were established, which in turn led to the modern day dog track. In the SCA we use an artificial lure (generally a plastic bag) attached to a string, run through a series of pulleys, and driven by a hand crank or electric motor.

SCAtoday Houndcoursing Information Available
(Site Excerpt) Many breeds are eligible for coursing, in some Kingdoms any breed is eligible as long as it follows the lure. The most popular breed would be the greyhound and there are many that have been retired from the track readily available from adoption groups. If you are interested in getting involved with hound coursing, you will need to get in touch with your Kingdom's Houndsmaster (some Kingdoms use other titles).

Rules of Renaissance Coursing
(Site Excerpt) First therefore it was ordered, that he which was chosen Fewterer, or letter-loose of the Greyhounds, should receive the Greyhounds match to run together into his Leash, as soon as he came into the field, and to follow next to the Hare-finder till he came unto the former and no horsemen nor Footman, on pain of disgrace, to go before them, or on either side, but directly behind, the space of forty yards or thereabouts.'s Grey Hound Historical Image Gallery

Bloodhounds: Noble Medieval Trackers
(Site Excerpt) The era of wild boar and stag in British history marked the height of the Bloodhounds' popularity. Long before Bloodhounds were used to track men, they were noblemen's hunting partners. Their job was to find the boar or deer wherever they hid. Scent hounds, like the bloodhound, have long flews (loose hanging parts of the upper lip) and long flapping ears specifically designed to funnel and push air and scents toward the dogs' olfactory system. The bloodhound has the special ability to follow a cold scent.

Horses and Dogs in Northeastern Japan
(Site Excerpt---go to middle of article) Japanese dog breeds are separated into two categories. One category includes breeds such as the Shiba, Kai and Kishu, The other category includes breeds such as the Akita and Hokkaido. The blood type of the latter group is different from that of former group. The former group is the G-type, which is common with other Asian dog breeds. The latter group is the A-type, which is generally common with European breeds.

Hunting in the Upper Class Society
(Site excerpt) As soon as the lord blew a series of notes on his horn, several levriers (greyhounds) sprang towards the stag, causing it to bolt. The hunting party and dogs sprinted after it, until it could be cornered. Although the deer was wounded by the members of the hunting party, the kill was usually carried out with lance or bow by the huntsman himself.

As Others See Me: Medieval realms: Britain 1066-1500 Images of King John with dogs
(Site Excerpt) Image 1:King John and his dog
In the Middle Ages artists did not have our modern idea that a picture of a person should be an accurate likeness of him or her. Pictures of people are not therefore portraits but pictures of how they should look. King John therefore wears a crown even though he seems to be relaxing with his dogs and not carrying out official business. Like all the nobles of this time, John was fond of hunting and these dogs may have been hunting dogs. The picture shows John's affection for the animals - a pleasant side of his nature. He has often been described elsewhere as one of the most evil kings England ever had.

Stefan's Florilegium: Dogs
(Site Excerpt of messages on the subject) "There is a book on medieval hunting called 'The Hawk & the Hound' which has descriptions of (and primary source illustrations) of both quilted armor and brigandine for canines."

Medieval dogs in the street knew they were for the pot (Caution, this one could be distressing to real doglovers)
(Site excerpt of Irish News Article on famine) The archaeologists point out that, in a historical context, the consumption of dog flesh in western Europe was generally related to times of extreme famine and warfare. During the siege of Derry in 1688-89 the defenders are known to have eaten horses, dogs, cats, rats and mice.

History of the Mastiff
(Site Excerpt) In a count of a Mesta in the year 1526 no less than 3.453.168 sheep were involved. Excluding approx. 40.000 shepherds and no less than 18.000 Spanish Mastiff for protection! Not counted in this were the shepherd dogs who formed the inner circle around the sheep.

An English Springer History
(Site Excerpt) Dr. John Caius, a respected physician, gives a description of the spaniel in his Treatise of Englishe Dogs published in 1576. This book was the first work to attempt to list the British breeds by function.

Poodle History Project
(Site Excerpt) A comprehensive history of the Poodle does not exist. Neither does this exist for the several other varieties of European water spaniel, although evidence in art history indicates that these were a familiar sight as early as the High Middle Ages. Prior to ca 1870 our knowledge is sketchy, excepting certain brilliant examples. Meanwhile, we make do with a series of fascinating sources, which are presented here as an annotated bibliography in quasi-essay format, organized by function. We welcome receipt of additional sources.

History of the Irish Wolfhound
(Site excerpt) The name Irish wolfhound is quite a recent one but the hound itself goes back far into the mists of time. It is mentioned, as cu (variously translated as hound, Irish hound, war dog, wolf dog, etc.) in Irish laws, which predate Christianity, and in Irish literature which dates from the 5th century or, in the case of the Sagas, from the old Irish period - AD600-900. Only kings and the nobility were allowed to own the great Irish hound, the numbers permitted depending on position. For example, the Filid (the professional class of composers of sagas and other tales, who were of the lesser nobility) were entitled to two hounds. There were plenty of kings and nobles, as ancient Ireland was divided into fifths, each with a king, and each fifth comprised numerous kingdoms (there were 150 kingdoms in Ireland) each of which had a lesser king subject to the kings of the fifths.