How should a hunters horn look like? A great hunters horn was traditionally made in ivory, carved decoratively and they are called “olifant’s”, just like Rolands horn Olifant in La Chanson de Roland.
In the late Norse 13th century Karlamagnussaga it is said that Olifant actually was the horn of a unicorn.
If you’d like to see it, you can either visit the famous pilgrim site of Santiago de Compostella in Spain or the Vitus cathedral in Prague who both claim to be in possession of it.
Johan has carved it beautifully for me and today I finished a new pompous baldric in the style of Livre de chasse. A baldric is the sholder strap in which the horn is carried.
The baldrics in Livre de chasse are often very wide, mostly of a straight cut but sometimes dagged in the edges (as seen above). Both coloured and undyed baldrics appear. Typical for this manuscript is that they often are decorated with what looks like little round-ish metal mounts.
I choose to interpret them as little brass flowers on my baldric. Then I filled up the space between the mounts with a floral pattern inspired by what I’ve seen in period illuminations, picking up the shape of the leafs that Johan carved in to my horn. I’m happy with how it turned out, especially the brass fittings I’ve made myself, stepping slightly outside my comfort zone as a craftsman.
Johan made his own horn over 10 years ago and has been wearing it on events in Sweden and around Europe since then. The age and patina adds to its beauty, but his baldric is new. The brass letters on it says “venator”, meaning hunter, and “veltrahus” is one in charge of greyhounds.
Edward of Norwich teaches us about hunting horns in his book Master of Hunt from early 15th century:
“There are diverse kinds of horns, that is to say bugles, great Abbots, hunters horns, ruets (trumpets) and meaner horns of two kinds. That one kind is waxed waxed with green wax and greater of sound, and they be best for good hunters, therefore I will devise how and in what fashion they should be driven.
First a good hunters horn should be driven of two spans in length, and not much more nor much less, and not too crooked neither too straight, but that the flute be three or four fingers upper more than the head, that unlearned hunters call the great end of the horn.
And also that it be as great and hollow driven as it can for the length, and and that it be shorter on the side of the baldric than at the nether end. And that the head be as wide as it can be, and always driven smaller and smaller to the flue, and that it be well waxed thicker or thinner according as the hunter thinks that it will sound will sound best.
And that it be the length of the horn from the flute to the binding, and also that it be not too small driven from the binding to the flute, for if it be the horn will be too mean of sound. As for feweterers and woodsmen, I speak not for every small horn and other mean horn unwaxed be good enough for them.”
I’ve also written a short article about the medieval hunters use of his or her horn. Johan is as always one step ahead and provides an informative video.