The wolfhunt

20170304_150616 Hunting wolf in 14th century was mostly considered something you had to do. Pestcontrol. The wolf was not considered a noble animal, and its by-name (Noanamn) in swedish was ‘varg’ who’s original meaning was thief, or a generally bad person (a ‘Kasevarg’ was an arsonist). By-names was used for creatures that was feared, as using its real name supposedly would make it take notice and come to your farm and you wanted to avoid that. Hence, it is called ‘varg’ (thief) instead of its real name, Ulv. These days it is generally known as varg (better not take any chances still, eh?).

‘Being hanged with wolves’ was a shameful way to be executed where you were hanged on the same gibbet as wolfs.

Edwards has some things to say about the wolf in his Master of game.

..and evil they be and strong, for some- 
times a wolf will slay a cow or a mare and he 
hath great strength in his mouth. Sometime he 
will bear in his mouth a goat or a sheep or a 
young hog and not touch the ground (with it), 
and shall run so fast with it that unless mastiffs 
or men on horseback happen to run before him 
neither the shepherds nor no other man on foot 
will ever overtake him. They live on all manner 
of flesh and on all carrion and all kinds of vermin. 
And they live not long for they live not more 
than thirteen or fourteen years. Their biting is 
 evil and venomous on account of the toads and 
other vermin that they eat.

So, hunting wolf is not considered a noble hunt, but more a hunt out of necessity. Therefor there was no rules to the hunt, they could be hunted with nets, traps, poison, dogs, spikes in meat, or, if you liked, par force.  According to the Book of St. Albans, the wolf was hunted from the Nativity of the Virgin Mary (September 8) to the Annunciation (March 25), making this a winterhunt.

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Wolf, hunted par force.

Men take them beyond the sea with hounds and greyhounds 
with nets and with cords, but when he is taken 
in nets or cords he cutteth them wonderfully fast 
with his teeth unless men get quickly to him to 
slay him. Also men take them within pits and 
with needles and with haussepieds or with veno- 
mous powders that men give them in flesh, and 
in many other manners.
c64_616

Haussepieds, as mentioned above, a type of snare that lifts the prey from the ground.

Traps

The traps depicted are often quite elaborate, which stands in opposition to some hunters saying that wolves do not return to a place where men have baited.

When men lay trains to acharne (with flesh) so as to take 
them, they will rarely come again to the place 
where men have put the flesh, especially old 
wolves, leastways not the first time that they 
should eat. But if they have eaten two or three 
times, and they are assured that no one will do 
them harm, then sometimes they will abide

c66_616 c65_616 The traps shown are ones that are recommended in huntbooks though, the ones above being from Livre de chasse.

c67_616Netting was a preferred way, in Swedish lawbooks the farmers were supposed to have a certain length of wolfnets prepared and was obliged to partake in wolfhunts when ordered to by the king or his appointed local men. The farmers then connected each length to each other making the whole parish combined wolfnet.

Getting geared

Clothing

20170304_153640As said before, the wolfhunt was a winterhunt, and when hunting in wintertime, grey clothing was preferred (as we have taken a look at here). Probably due to its camouflaging factors. In the pictorial evidence, in  most wolfhunts they are wearing other clothes than grey, but… people did as they pleased even then.

The other clothes I used during this little outing was green, as this is the preferred colour during summer. The good old bycocket hat, as seems very popular amongst hunters, also got to be taken out for a little ride.

More on hunters clothing in general can be read here .

The dog

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Not all dogs was suitable for wolfhunting. The wolf is a fast animal, and will outrun most dogs. And also uses hiding as a way to escape.

When 
he is long hunted with running hounds he fleeth 
but little from them, but if the greyhounds or 
other hounds press him, he fleeth all the covert
as a boar does and commonly he runs by the high 
ways

the wolf also measures the mettle of the dogs set on him, and if they are not courageous enough it will scarcely bother about them. This gave rise to special woulfhoundbreeds of greyhounds.

When men let run greyhounds at a wolf he turns to look at them, and 
when he seeth them he knoweth which will take him, and then he 
hasteneth to go while he can, and if they be greyhounds which dare 
not take him, the wolf knows at once, and then he will not hasten 
at his first going.

Wolfhounds have been known to be able to single-handedly take down a wolf. Usually by running just as fast and tackle them. Then keeping them at bay by fast attacks to the abdomen. But being tackled by a 75 kilo dog and going down in speeds around 60 km/h is rather a tumbling experience in it self.

The wolfcollarThe spiked wolfcollar is iconic and has been in use for a long time. There are several depictions of it from medieval times, and also a preserved Viking age spiked collar from Uppland, Sweden, that we wrote about here. 20170304_153545The purpose of this spiked collar is to prevent the wolf from getting its jaws around the neck of the hound to bite it. The added bell makes it easier to follow the dogs movements in dense terrain. The spikes does not have to be overly sharp as they will do their job just as well by just being there.

Weapons

20170304_153837This wolfhunter carries a javelin and a sword. The sword in this case being of the Falchion type.

20170304_152157The javelin had, by the 14th century, mostly been reduced to a huntingweapon. As such it is fairly common it seems and it is almost always carried in wolfhunts. The head of the javelins are most often leafshaped and very few have barbs, as one might have expected them to have. I am not sure why this is the case, a javelin that sticks to its target would be better in slowing a target, but it is possible that reuse of the javelin was considered, as it could be picked up and thrown again. To get more information about our thoughts on the javelin, i recomend you to read this.

The sword was carried as the main means to kill the prey. After the dogs had catched it, it was killed, and this, the ‘Mort’ was almost always delivered with a sword. Armingswords, long Basilardas, and also falchions are seen brought into the hunt. Stabbing swords are more useful with killing animals, so I am not sure what the falchion, being mainly a cutting weapon, would be good for. but… there it is. falchion

The hanging of most swords, and therefore also the falchion, in later 14th century is often very simple. A loop from the scabbard that goes around the belt.20170304_153513

Horn and leash.

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The horn is of course carried as it is the main means of communications during hunts. The Mort is not sounded when killing the wolf at the end of the hunt though. It seems it was not considered worthy of such honour.
leash on hornThe leash is sometimes seen as carried on the horn when not in use. It is suspended from the crossknot of the hornbaldric. 20170304_153423


The quotes above is all taken from ‘The master of game’, by Edward of Norwich, and the pictures from ‘Livre de chasse’ by Gaston Phoebus. Both BF and Morgan version is used. 20170304_151117


		
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The hunt

After all this time it seems that we need to talk about the actual hunt.

There where many ways to hunt during the medieval times… just like there is now. The one that mostly concerned the huntbooks and its intended audience was the hunt Par force, but other types of hunting was popular and prevalent. We will have cursory look at them.

Many ways of hunting

Bercletti

queen-marys-psalterThere where many ways of hunting in the medieval times. The one we most Think about, where a hunter stalks his prey with his trusty dog companion, was called the bercletti. Our sources don’t talk much about this hunt but mentions some breeds that are good for this kind of hunt and that it is preferable to wear green clothes and even paint your bow green.

Phoebus recommended that bows be made of boxwood or yew and twenty hands long (over three feet). They were to be strung with silk, which was more elastic than hemp. Arrows were to be eight hands long, and the double-edged and barbed head five fingers long and four wide. A hunter stalking for game was always to have his bow ready and partly drawn in order to avoid a quick motion. The arrow was to pierce the animal’s breast.

Traps

 

c60_616Netting and trapping was of course also popular, especially amongst bisshunters (those that hunter for fur). It was considered a lowly form of hunting. Edward of york will have nothing to do with it and does not mention it in his book (or, rather he mentions that he will talk about it and then skips it altogether). In King modus there is some trapping as well as in Livre de chasse. trapping and netting was something that was also considered a method for poachers. In Modus these are treated a bit ambiguously. They are of course not to be tolerated, but are even so thought of as fellow hunters of skill. It seems the romantic shimmer have Always illuminated the poacher amongst his fellow hunters.

Falcon

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The hunting of prey with Falcons and other birds of prey was of course a loved way of hunting. There seems to be a little animosity between ‘doghunters’ and ‘birdhunters’, (as can be read about here —>  )but many did both. The art of birdhunting is a subject for a later article (one I will need help writing), so for now, lets stay with that it was an appreciated form of hunting.

Par Force.

the great hunt, hunt par force. This is what takes up most of the huntbooks. This is also the hunt we will look a bit closer upon.

The stages of the hunt par force

The legwork

It all starts the day Before the hunt. The huntsmaster goes out and talk to the foresters and woodsmen. Talking to them about what kind of prey is available and where it has its overnight lay. After the lay has been located the hunter marks the trails in and out of the bushes (the lay is usually in thickets). When the markings are out the hunter returns home for the night.

The brunch

c38_616The day of the actual hunt the whole huntingparty sets out. This is usually a big affair with noblemen hunting, different kind of dogkeepers, stableboys and different kind of specialists. Most of the hunters assembled in a sort of huntingbrunch called ‘the gathering’ (something we reenact each year on st. Eustace day). Whilst they were assembled at the gathering the hunter set out to the lay he had marked the day before.

At the lay he does two things.
He cuts a small stick the size of the hoofprints at the site.
He also collects ‘fumes’ (that is a more fancy word for poop, my friends), that he puts in his horn and secures with some grass.

After this he returns to the gathering.

poopshowingThere all the hunters that has been out to different lays shows their fumes and sticks to the huntsmaster who then evaluates the fumes and the sticks, thereby judging the animal’s size and how much ‘in fat’ it is. If we look more carefully at the picture above, From Gaston Phoebus ‘livre de chasse’ we can see how the fumes are being inspected at the high table by Gaston himself.

He then proceeds to decide which of the animals they are going to hunt that day.

This is the only animal that they are hunting. They can not change prey during the hunt.

The hunt commences

When the animal is chosen the hunters move out to their places and prepare for the hunt par force. Three relays of three greyhounds each it positioned along a route. Raches, packhounds, are readied to be released. At least 12, preferably 24 or more is the recommended size of the pack. “The more hounds, the merrier music they make” , Edward of Norwich states.

10513429_10152160197552765_2504682716337842305_nA special trackingdog, the lymer, is brought forward. This dog is used to find and move the prey.  It was called a “lymer” (or limer) because it was always kept on a line (lyme).  As soon as the game is moved, the signal for ‘the game is afoot” is sounded and the raches is let loose after it.
It is recommended that the Lymer is brought along behind the raches to easier find the game if it is lost.

The raches are to chase the game and the hunters to follow on horseback, not wholly dissimilar to an English foxhunt. Bows are not used, but sometimes swords and javelins. It seems that the main use for these where to wound the animal to slow it, making it loose stamina and also make the trail it leaves clearer to the dogs. vildsvinsjakt4

If the game was lost the hunt stopped and the lymer brought up to find and move it again, and the hunt continued. If the game startled another animal, the dogs where not supposed to take this, but stay true on the decided animal.

c47_616Huntinghorns were used to communicate during the hunt so all concerned would be able to keep up as to what was happening.  ”the game is afoot”, ”the dogs follow the game straight” (parfait), ”the dogs have lost the game” where some of the signals used during the hunt. Most hunters, doghandlers (Berners, or valet de chiens) and other had horns and were supposed to repeat all signals. Thereby both showing they had heard it, and also signalling along to others further up.

Release the hounds!

As the hunt drew past a relay of greyhounds (greyhounds was a collective term for all sighthounds) they were let loose, or ”slipped” on the game. It the greyhounds where always slipped AFTER the prey had past, never before. Greyhounds run fast (around 65 Km/h for a good one) but not very far. They are sprinters. If one relay did not catch the prey the next one it passed was released.kvinna-jagar

 

The end of the hunt

At some point (well… at the end actually) one of the greyhounds would pull the game down. They where not supposed to kill it though and the dogs were pulled of, or beaten with sticks so they left the animal alone, and a hunter killed it with a sword or dagger, and in some cases a spear. The Mort was then sounded on the horn (unless it was a female animal for whom the mort was not sounded) to denote that the prey had been killed.

thaymouth-curre

After this the animal was skinned and disemboweled. The dogs got their fair share of the animal and everyone went home to share huntingstories.Another rather complicated note was played on the horns on the hunters return.

Other hunting

other speciality hunt was also practised, for example Otterhuntingutterjakt

And coursing, mostly for hare and rabbit

tacitus-sanitatis-1400-tal-7

 

 

Conclusion and further reading

This has been a very short summary of some the medieval hunting. For some more reading of certain aspects of it you can read about the different types of dogs here

How hunters dressed; here

More about the hunt books, and who wrote them here

Something about javelins in hunting, with a little film; here

More about women in hunting, here

So, Finally we covered at least the basics of the medieval hunting…

breugel

 

 

 

Viking age dogcollar and chain

Out of focus

As you might know this blog generally deals with 14th century, but today we will move out of focus a bit. Vikingage is not even considered being part of the medieval age in Sweden, but as the rest of the world considers it a part it will be covered now as we want to put some light on dogequipment from Uppland.

Viking gravefinds

In Uppland, Sweden, old-time religion lasted longer. This also means that norse burial traditions also lasted longer. The habit of gravegifts is a heathen one. Christians generally frowned on this and christian graves have very few gravefinds. The Uppsala area was a religious hotspot, where the rulers of old lived. Great powerful people lived here and the Vendel gravefield is famous for its previking gravefinds.

We will look on two objects found in two different graves. 200 years separate them. They currently resides in Museum Gustavianum in Uppsala. A very old and venerable museum.

If this collar and chain have been used for guard or hunting dogs we do not know. A chain is seldom used for hunting, so this points toward a guard dog. The collar on the other hand might well have been used for a hunting dog.

The collar

This dogcollar was found in a viking boatgrave.That makes it the belonging of a nobleman. We know from other graves that big sighthounds was used by norse nobles in this area (several have been found in graves in Old Uppsala), So called ‘Mjöhunde’ . The collar is dated to 10th Century (900 tal).

20160130_153528_001

The leather is obviously new, just to show how it would have been mounted.
The collar have metal plates, approx 3 inches Square, with pointy spikes in each corner riveting it to the leather. We can see that the leather have been rather thick, able to hold a bigger dog. The grey pad between the metal and the new leather is just to protect the old rusty iron.

It is hard to figure out how big the spikes might have been as they are all rusted down. But as spikes generally are used to protect a dog’s neck against predators getting their jaws around it, they probably have been bigger than their current stunted size. 20160130_153610

Two plates are connected with a metal link. My guess is that this has been the attachementpoint of a leash. This would possibly give the collar a semichoke character.

 

The guard dog chain

 

This chain is thought to be a dogchain and it is a bit earlier then the collar.

It is dated to 8th Century (700 tal)

20160130_153657_001

There is no easy way to open or close this for attachment. Probably it was used to attach a dog to something (a house perhaps? ) and having it guard it. Or it was used with some kind of groundanchor, a short pole maybe. The chain is rather short, but dogkeeping could be quite harsh in old days.

In all honesty I am just guessing about its use. There is a swivelpoint that is quite common later in dogequipment, but the other end terminates in a ring and a plate on it… I cant really see how this is helping holding that dog to anything… but there might have been more to it that have corroded away.

In conclusion

The conclusion here is that we just wanted to show you a viking age collar as there is not that many out there and this one might be new to most.

/Johan

 

 

 

Get out! Get Dirty!

 

Your clothes looks so used! They look authentic worn, stained and patched like that! How do you get your clothes patinated that good?

I have no events to use my clothes at! No one makes events with my focus/timesegment.

You recognise these questions? We have gotten them and similar many times. People like to use the things they make but there is no place to do it at. Its the same for us. But it don’t have to be that fancy and difficult. We are what can be described as quite active. That’s how our clothes get ‘that used and tarnished look” (dirty and decript is also terms that has been applied…)

Why is it good to get out?

While some are perfectly happy to just make clothes and watch them hang on a rack, many want to feel how they work. To get a real feel for how they work, what works and in which way, you need to actually use them. Sitting at a table at a banquet you can do in almost any clothing. But walking, running, climbing and working in the clothes will make you feel what works and what doesn’t. It might also give you some revelations about why the clothes are cut, or the gear positioned, as it is. This is to slowly move into experimental archaeology…

Organising an event?

Now, all things we do might look very planned when it is digested and pooped out in blogform. But mostly they are about as planned as this:

Me: Hey, its supposed to be nice weather tomorrow, forest?
Emil: Yeah, we aint been out since two weekends ago. You finally going to shoot that hornsoundingvideo?
Me: Naa….. dun feel like it.. I need to check up sources…. lets just.. eat cheese.
Emil: Ok, new forest?
Me: Naaa…..  lets take the same one as I’m lazy and don’t wanna walk to far before  we get to the actual woods.

Evenets dont have to be big. Instead of cunducting a salmonorchestra ocf pipers, maybe just a pie in the park?

Events don’t have to be big. Instead of conducting a salmon orchestra of pipers, with a meatfork,  maybe just a pie in the park will do?

And this is the making of about 80% of our blogposts under the ‘hunting expeditions tag’ (like this one for example) . They usually result in a day or half day of medieval woodsmanship.

Time for planning: approx ten minutes.

Time to prepare approx 20 min (including looking for braes -ten minutes)

This is an excellent way to keep your medievaling going and get to use your clothes that you put all those hours into making.

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The next level, organising an event!

Lets say you want some more people to join you and not just the ones that are easily gripped at armslength.

It still don’t have to be very much work. Just set a date, a time and maaaaaybe some kind of theme (if it doesn’t feel to advanced) and tell people to be there. You usually get more people the longer time they have to plan.

A week?  You get maybe three to five people.

A month?  You get maybe ten to twenty.

noone ever liked Neighbors playing loud music. Keep the event civil.

No one ever liked neighbours playing loud music. Keep the event civil.

Now, some might think its more work the more people you get. But you don’t really have to do everything yourself. You don’t have to make all the food, get places to sit and tables and all that. Most people like making their own things. That is part of the hobby after all. These kind of events can range from rather small and cosy, like the huntgathering, or very big social historical crossovers, like “the ultimate historic megapicnic” , which where both in the form of a picknick and thus not as draining on the organisers.

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Its just me, myself and I

Lets say it is mostly just you that share the fascination of late spring 1378 and you’d like others to play with you. To get people interested there is almost just one way to go around it. Get active. If you build it, they will come. People like to be social, and they like to do things. This is why historic segments with alot of actives, get more actives.

Try to get cool pics for Facebook. But dont get photobombed by shady monks in sunglasses. No one likes those guys.

Try to get cool pics for Facebook. But don’t get photobombed by shady monks in sunglasses.
No one likes those guys.

If you want to get a new historic segment started you need to make things people can do in that segment. There is no use to try and lure someone to sew an outfit to clutter up yet more space in an overused closet. As stated above, it doesn’t have to be fancy, but it has to be shown. If you are falling down in the forest and noone noticed it on Facebook, noone will ever know. But if you show all and everyone how you sit on a rock, eat a sausage and pokes a worm, they will see how cool it is and want to join.

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In conclusion

You don’t have to make things big and fancy. Just grab your stuff and go out.vår
/Johan

Out and about with all your stuff

ut på turMany of our readers are out and about in the woods themselves in your medieval gear. We all face the same problem eventually. How do I get all my my stuff with me?

I have said it before and I say it again. The medieval man was not the nature loving trekker we want her to be. You went into the wilds only when you had to. Even in Sweden, then a civilisation backwater, you had inns instated at least one day from each other. This was regulated by law. If this was not for some reason possible the villages where not that far-spread and you can often see one church from one parish to the other.

The hunt was probably mostly over the day, judging from the huntbook descriptions. Starting in the morning and finishing in the evening when you where back home, or possibly in a hunting lodge if it was a far removed hunting area. Most described hunts are from dawn to evening, when you return to your home. The woods where also home to trolls and werewolfs. Even if we scoff at these notions today, they where real fears for medieval man.

This means that they did not have the same need to lug a lot of gear around, and when they did it was often A LOT of it (meaning a sumpterhorse was needed). The reason I am addressing this is that many are translating their modern needs to a medieval environment. this usually means they want, or need, a rucksack or similar to carry their things in. This need was not as great for medieval man as her needs to carry a lot of stuff was not as big. Sleeping outdoors probably was very rare, and something that was avoided as much as possible. It is not unheard of though, but when its mentioned, for example in Decamerone, they just lay down on the ground. Henri de Ferriers is shown laying on some kind of straw-mat, but we don’t know if he is sleeping out or just resting.

Henri Ferrieres having a Little laydown

Henri Ferrieres having a little laydown

 

So, the backpack, what about that?

harvesting leeks in the 1390:ies

Harvesting leeks in the 1390:ies

We can start by saying that a backpack is virtually unseen unless you are using it in work. For example people picking grapes use a wicker basket on their backs for the grapes. Quarry-workers also have similar, or people having a need to transport things on a workplace. These wicker-baskets are mostly seen when you are transporting different wares or when harvesting. Also, some do not use two straps, but one horisontal, carrying the bag with the chest more then the shoulders. Of course these COULD have been used to carry things further. For example if you have to carry things out into the wild, it is possible even if we have not seen this on pictures, and If there are these baskets around, you would use it. They seem to be a popular way to transport goods.

The Martebo sack.

martebo_02

martebo_01On the church of Martebo on Gotland, Sweden, we see a woman carrying things as she is wandering. She probably utilises a double sack, one that has two compartments and an opening in the middle. It is possible, although not likely, that it is a regular sack-, but the lack of a visible closing makes the first option more probable. This sort of bag appears to be both rather simple and common as it is seen in many other places too. It can be carried over the shoulder or used for sumpterhorses.

I have been using this kind of bag for several years and it is quite possible to walk long distances with it loaded with the necessities needed. You might need to change shoulders now and then to distribute the burden. It is not as comfortable as a backpack, but its working and it is also easy to use with a horse.

The sack carried by me

The sack carried by me

the same sack, carried by a sumpterhorse

the same sack, carried by a sumpterhorse

Of course, having a horse in medieval times is like having a car now. Most that actually where travelling around had a horse and they came as expensive as sin for a combat-trained stallion, destrier, or rather cheap  for the lowest quality nag, one step away from the glue factory (or the dinner table if this was vikingtimes). Using a horse is a great way to get your stuff moved about, if you like to see the use of sumpterhorses I recommend this video of a medieval pilgrimage I did, where sumpterhorses was put to good use.

pilgrimmer.Another way to use this bag is seen on some pilgrims in 15:th Century. They have made a hole straight through the bag and thus are able to carry it more evenly distributed on the shoulders. You can also see bags carried around their waists. Thos probably is shoulder bags worn like this. Talking about that.. lets have a look at…

 

 

Shoulderbags

pilg blackShoulderbags are mostly seen on pilgrims. They are so much associated with pilgrims that they are a part of what identifies a pilgrim (the bag, and staff are often used as symbols for pilgrims). Pilgrims are of course the very example of medieval people that are travelling. But they are also in a way very non-representative for medieval travellers. Being a pilgrim means that you are supposed to rely on God and the kindness of others to get along. So all you needed was your bowl, spoon and a canteen of water.

So, did others use shoulderbags, the ones we also call pilgrimbags? There is scarce evidence of anyone else then pilgrims using them. Why this is is hard to know. Perhaps the need was not big as they did not have a lot of things with them. But we can almost be assured that they had something to eat on long walks. Perhaps some coldcuts to nibble on between the inns. But we don’t know in what they carried this. I can not in good conscious say that shoulderbags was in good use by all, but to me it seems plausible if you had things you needed to bring.

pilgrimsbag, leather

pilgrimsbag, leather

There is also a ongoing discussion (I can say this knowing that even if this article is read in two or three years from now, it will still  be discussed…) if these bags are in leather or textile. If they are lined or not. No preserved pilgrimbags are known and in pictures they come in different colours. This can mean that it is textile, or that is dyed leather. I for one Think that they where common enough to probably have been made in both textile and leather. Lining of the bags is not easy to know. There are other bags and pouches that have linings, and using textile inserts in beltbags is not uncommon. Again, we do not know and both having and not having a lining seems plausible.

Bundle it up

You can also just fold everything into your blanket and tie it up nice and tight. This is sometimes seen when medieval man is packing up trade items. I guess there is nothing really stopping you from doing the same with your personal stuff.

carrying stuff

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Bundled up trade goods

 final thoughts

So, we probably have more needs then medieval man had when we are out. Sleeping outdoors is something we can quite enjoy when it was something to avoid for them. If they had to they mostly probably just slept under a tree with the cloak for blanket. But hopefully you have gotten some ideas about how to lug around your gear in a probable medieval way.

I myself mostly use the double carry sack (Martebo sack) when I need a full overnight kit, as these seems to be the most common pack of people travelling in the 14:th century. I have been walking days with it and it is not that uncomfortable, once you get used to it.

For dayoutings a pilgrimbag is all that is needed. Sometimes I tie an extra cotte to the bagstrap if I think it might be needed. All I carry then is some cheese and wine and maybe a sausage for lunch. And a little bowl if I feel abit fancy.

extra kyrtil

Extra cotte strapped to the shoulder-strap of the bag

/Johan

 

Warm, dry and happy.

Out and about in wintertime

We like to keep active the year around, and in Sweden we have the saying “there is no bad weather, just bad clothing”. To know how to dress in cold climate and what will keep you warm and why, that is the key. This article will be about HOW to keep warm, not just how the medieval people did it, but general tricks about how to be outdoorsy in medieval clothing. In the middle ages people where out and about in wintertime. These days we often think of winter as a troublesome time of year. But the medieval person did not really share this and in Sweden winter was a preferred time of travel.

Hålväg, Medieval road in Sweden. Eriksgata, Sandhem

Hålväg, Medieval road in Sweden. Eriksgata, Sandhem

The medieval ‘roads’ up here through the great forests where nothing more than tracks. Mostly orientated to the high ridges as to not become rivers in periods of heavy rain. Most modern hikingtracks are bigger then medieval roads. Keeping to high ground also meant that the meandering roads had alot of ups and downs. In wintertime the landscape was completely different. The frozen rivers and lakes became virtual highways. Flat, straight surfaces to use sleighs or to ski on and most places where situated along water and easy to get to. In old itineraries (descriptions of how to travel. the forerunners of maps) you often see two sets of descriptions, winter road and summer road. The winter road is always about one to two thirds faster. When the swedes themselves could choose, they also liked to wage war in winter. In winter the farmers was not needed to tend crops and where free to go to war in another way. (Swedish army was based on the levy of farmers. Well equipped and free men with regulated service to the crown).  

The theoretical part

What keeps you warm?

There is basically two things that makes you warm. Activity, making your body generate heat, and air, that insulate from the outside cold.

What makes you cold?

You mostly get cold from being wet. As the moist evaporates from your body it cools it. You also get cold from the wind blowing away the air that the body have heated.

Being rugged

Humans are capable of getting used to highly uncomfortable situations. Our threshold for what constitutes as to uncomfortable versus just abit annoying can be pushed and is all a matter of what you are used to (as everyone that has spent time in the military is aware of). I guess that living a simpler life more in tune with weather and nature would make you less whiny. It is possible medieval folks was willing to accept a little more discomfort than a normal modern city-dweller. In a way this article shows abit of what I mean

On to the practical part

walkingBeing out and about in wintertime is actually not very cold in many ways. Walking in winter is making your body produce its own heat and generally it is enough wearing two cottes. The clothing should be airy, as it is the air that your body warms that will keep you warm, not the thickness of your garment. A airy garment that will ‘trap’ air will keep you warmer than a garment made just of thick cloth and slimmed around you. The outermost garment can be of a closer weave, or fullered as this will keep the wind out. The wind will blow “through” more open weaves and hence take all that cosy warmness with it. I usually have two or three cottes, depending on wind, cold, and the amount of work I think I will do. This brings us to…

Adjust the clothing to the activity

Actually one of the more common reasons people are getting cold is because they are wearing to much while being active. This makes them sweat and thus wet. When being active, that is walking, you need to regulate your clothes. Being to lazy to do this WILL punish you. When you get hot, remove clothing. As soon as you stop for longer than five to ten minutes, you will need to strengthen your clothing to preserve the heat generated. A coat or a cloak will be good for this. Many will feel to tired to root out a coat for what they think is a short break. Don’t be that person. Getting cold means loosing energy, so you will only get more tired the colder you get.

Don’t stand in the snow

branches is a good way to isolate from cold

branches is a good way to isolate from cold

Especially with medieval leathersoled shoes you need to insulate yourself from the groundcold. If you are standing in one place for a bit longer, kick the snow away, or compact it so your feet are not covered in snow. Use branches, fir preferably, and make a little heap to stand on. This will reduce the cold from the ground you are exposed to when standing still. (Also, to state the obvious, don’t sit in the snow.)

Your built in furnace

Heat is energy. To produce energy your body needs fuel. You need to eat regularly and drink more then you think. If your belly is full you will have fuel to burn. Technically it takes energy to heat and to cool food to body temperature so eating hot food is in a way a energyloss (lukewarm food and drink being the most efficient) but the psychological effect of having warmth spreading from inside is often more desired.

Cold feet but a hot head?

The body, as we now know produces heat. But it does so to keep you functioning. Thus it will prioritize keeping the parts of the body hot that is essential. This is firstly the head where your brain resides, and the torso, where your vital organs are. Extremities are not considered vital for your lifesupport. This will mean that if the head is not warm enough, the body will start to redirect heat (blood-flow mostly) from the extremities. Your feet first and then hands and working its way inwards progressively. Helping the head to keep warm will in essence help you to keep your feet warm. The body will not have to prioritize heating the head. So, you will feel cold in your feet, but not your head, because the head is getting the heat from your feet. Warming the head will let the feet keep their allotted warmth.

The little trick

The body have ventilation-points. The most used ones are located on your wrists, your neck, your temples and the jugulum (the hollow where the collarbones meet). As people in hot climates know, pressing cool clothes at these area will cool you down efficiently. The same goes with warmth. It is efficient to warm, that is cover, these and thus reducing the ventilation.

Get the snow off

Snow that falls on you, either from the clouds or from branches dumping their load, should be brushed off straight away. The snow in it self is cooling and it will also make you wet when it melts from your body heat. Help each other out and brush off snow that the other can not see. This is equally important with your shoes, pick out lumps of snow that has ventured inside them.

The materials

Materials in the clothing is a vital part. It all comes down to getting wet again. You will get wet, no matter how you act and how the materials in your clothes react when wet is vital.

double pair of wool hosen. I never needed more then this

double pair of wool hosen. I never needed more than this

You want to have wool. Wool have several features that makes it a very good material.It has a natural fat (these days often washed out, but it can be refatted) called lanolin. This makes it naturally water resistant. Wool is also able to soak up as much as 30 percent of its own weight in moisture without feeling wet. When it gets wet, it channels the wet to its lowpoints making the hems of the garment heavy with water, but the upper parts almost dry in comparison. Also, and this is the most awesome part, wool warms you when it is wet also (!). In comparison cotton is about 150 times more cooling when wet then when dry. Now, the most amazing part… Wool fibres are made up of cortical cells, and these cells are wrapped in cuticle. This scaly outer layer is then covered by yet another layer, the epicuticle — a filmy skin that helps to repel moisture. What’s more, the epicuticle also helps out in high humidity because it has tiny pores that draw in the moisture vapour to the centre of the fibre where it’s absorbed by a chemical process. The hydrogen bond of water, H2O, is actually broken, creating a chemical reaction with the wool fibre molecules to generate heat when it has taken on a lot of moisture. (taken from how stuff works). If wool is also fulled (hard felted), it repells water even better, but looses some of its ability to bind air. But this is countered by….

The use of layers

Emil showing Three cottes in layers

Emil showing Three cottes in layers

To trap air and keep warm, and also to be able to easily regulate your clothing to your activity (as covered above) you use layers of clothing. Ultimately you have a thinner closest to your body (I generally don’t use linen shirts at all in the wintertime as they just get wet and don’t have the moisture retaining quality of wool). Over this you have a more loosely woven woollen cotte, also loose in it’s cut, to trap air warmed by your body. Over this you use a fullered cotte to resist the weather and also to keep the wind out. When standing still you have a coat or a cape to reinforce the layers of trapped air. Another way of layering is….

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Lining your garments

furlined coat on Sofia, showing typical medieval furpattern

Furlined coat on Sofia, showing the typical medieval furpattern

Lining your garments allows you to combine two garments essentially. You can create a pocket between them making it two cottes in one, but you can also line with fur. Fur needs no closer explanation really.. It is vastly superior in binding air. Some fur even has hollow strands and will be very hot indeed (reindeer for example, has hollow hairs that allows you to sleep directly on ice on a fleece). In medieval times there are nothing in pictures pointing towards the wearing of fur with the hairs out. When this is seen on paintings it always shows heathens, or wild men. Those that are not part of the culture and the ones you define yourself as not being. Eva Andersson, dresshistorian with special edge towards medieval clothes, have seen some evidence of this in the north though.  There are examples, both written and in pictures, of lining your clothes with fur. But as there is mentionings of bear it is possible that this was worn as a “fur outward” coat, as it is a fur that is very heavy, thick and hard to line a garment with. This might also apply to wolf (depending on witch part of the wolf is used). You had to be a bit careful though, as it was thought that you could emulate the characteristics of some animals via some kind of fashion osmosis. Lining with another layer of wool, or preferably, with fur is a very good and medieval way to keep warm. Note that this refers to cottes and hoods, I have yet to see evidence of furlined hosen or shoes.

What fur was used?

The aforementioned Eva Andersson have been looking at medieval testaments in regard to clothes. According to her squirrel is the most common but marten gains popularity in 15:th cent. amongst the burgers lamb/sheep was popular and also rabbit, ferret (polecat) otter, wolf, reindeer and bear are mentioned in some cases. (På svenska; ekorre, mård, lamm/får, kanin, iller, utter, varg, ren och björn.) Edward Of Norwich, in Master of game, say that wolf is good to use in cuffs, or pelisses. For this, especially ‘cuffs’ he also recommends fox.

some need no extra fur

Some need no extra fur

(Check out “Clothing and textile materials in medieval Sweden and Norway ” in Medieval clothing and textiles. Vol. 9 edited by Robin Netherton and Gale R. Owen-Crocker., pp. 97-120 for more extensive info here)

 On to the garments!

So, lets take a look on how medieval people might have tackled the above problems and solutions.

Cottes

As we already covered in the ‘layering’ part. you will get along splendidly with just some extra cottes. Two or three is usually enough up to -15C or even -20C . Just think about not having to tight clothing. And Wool. Always wool.

Hood

Furlined hood, your friend in the snow

Furlined hood, your friend in the snow

The hood is very popular and is excellent in some ways. The collar of the hood keeps the bodyheat that raises from the body, and collects it. The hood in it self is covering the ventilationpoints in the temple, the neck and the jugulum. The hood also keeps the air warmed of the head in close proximity to the face, so the wind don’t blow it away. When worn with a cloak or coat, it seems that it is common to have the collar of the hood inside the coat.

Shoes

regular medieval shoes

regular medieval shoes

So far I have seen no evidence of any special ‘wintershoes’. The thing that is needed by shoes in winter is that they are big enough to make room for socks and extra hosen. There is some evidence that higher boots might have been of this kind, that is bigger to allow the use of socks. There is no difference in the feet as opposed to the body in regards to what makes you freeze. Trap air and keep dry. if there is dry snow, as it is when its more then -2 C you can actually just use several socks, without a shoe. The key is not to cram socks into a shoe that is not made for it. This will only compress the sock and make the air it is able to hold less. It will also press on your foot and reduce the bloodflow thought it. This will also make the foot cold as bloodflow is vital to keep warm. A well greased up shoe will, of course, keep water out better (I usually make a shoefat of sheepstallow, beeswax and tar) but if it is wet out, the shoe will get wet sooner or later.

Shoestuffing

Stuffing materials into the shoes to isolate from the cold is also a method that was used. One of our readers, Nicolas Hofbauer, pointed us to a german poem from 13th century; “Meier Helmbrecht” where there are peasants mentioned “who dance so wildly that the straw comes flying out of their boots”. We also know of ‘bootstraw’ from later times. There is even a grass here in Sweden called ‘shoegrass’.

There are finds of wool thats seems to have been stuffed loosely into the shoes and then felted together in the shape of the shoe (they have found the felted wool).

Socks

Socks are in use for reinforcing the feet. These are made with naalbinding, knitting is not used in Europe at any bigger extent at this time. The knitted socks that are in existence seems to be very fine and for the very top classes of society. Naalbinding is a very old technique and seems to have been used throughout the viking- and medieval age. To get to know more about naalbinding you can follow this link.  Also there is some suggestions of sewn socks that are shorter then normal hosen.

a Naalbound sock, probobly medieval

a Naalbound sock, probably medieval

Footwraps

The Bockstens man, one of few full medieval clothes ensable that have been found from 14th century, wore patches of cloth, footwraps, (fotlappar in Swedish) that was made from old used clothing and then cut into squares and wrapped around the foot. He used three to six wraps.

 

* Gloves

Naalbound glove, Lund, Oslostitch. Around 14:th cent

Naalbound glove, Lund, Oslostitch. Around 14:th cent

 of all kinds was in use. Either five fingered or threefingered of thumbed. The threefinger glove seems to be more common on males then females. The materials are probably cloth, naalbinding and some in leather. The leathergloves are often interpreted as workgloves. There are some gloves that show signs of fur lining, but these are rare.

threefinger gloves. one show signs of fur inside

Threefinger gloves, one show signs of fur inside

a glove, felted, from Lödöse.

Two gloves, one felted

Coats

Bigger coats are great for when you stop to rest. Testaments (wills) shows that these are inherited between sexes. This might show that men and women alike could use them, or just that they where deemed valuable. Many coats have a slit in the arms, allowing you to stick the arm out if it becomes to bulky. Coats are often better then cloaks as they don’t open themselves and let the air out when you move.

 heavily fullered coat lined with fur.

Heavily fullered coat lined with fur

Cloaks

Cloaked men from MSBod 264

Cloaked men from MSBod 264

Cloaks are maybe not as popular as coats in the 14:th Century. But they are used in rough and wet weather. Most common is to wear it buttoned on one shoulder and seldom longer than below the knee.

Bild 306The shepherds hood

This hood is often shown on shepherds. it is a hood with a longer collar to it. almost as a short cape. They usually are as long as to go to the wrists of the hands. Our friend Vix have written an extensive article about these cloaks that you can read here.

Water

Although snow is water of a sort it is not always suitable for drinking. First of all, it cools you, and secondly its dry and don’t quench the thirst as good. For cooking, snow is excellent though, so there is no lack of water when in camp where there is snow. One problem that we have encountered is that the water in the leather canteens freeze. This results in that some of the canteens, that use a cork, was frozen shut and could not be opened at all. The one using a wooden plug could be pried open and the layer of ice that had formed inside hacked through with a dagger to get some drinking water. with modern bottles you usually carry them inside the clothes to keep them from freezing, but as almost no leathercosterel is safe from leaking, this is not recommended with them.

Pic. by Sofia Stenler

Picture by Sofia Stenler

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 in conclusion

This article builds heavily on years of experience. the theoretical parts comes mostly from survival-courses in the Swedish army, coupled with books on the subject by  Lars Fält (founder of Swedish Army survival School and internationally recognised survival expert). For the reconstructing we do as always, look at period text and pictures and go from there (our methods can bee seen more in Four grey hunters and Can I wear this? ) To conclude this article though;

  • Wear layered clothing.
  • Wear wool, wool, and only wool.
  • Keep in motion to generate heat  (“only lazy and stupid freeze” another saying, meaning those that are to lazy to to move or to stupid to put on more clothes)
  • Don’t stand in snow
  • Regulate clothing to activity to avoid getting sweaty
  • And most of all…. don’t get wet!, change wet clothing as soon as possible

Also eat and drink and.. be happy. Its always easier if you have a cheerful attitude instead of starting a negative spiral. /Johan

Doghandling -the tools

dogheaderIt is now time to take a look on what tools was thought to be needed for handling the dogs during the middleages. This article will concern mostly late 14:th and early 15:th century, but some offshoots might occur to other times. Like always we lean heavily, or maybe all on, the tools used in the hunt. We will use archaeological finds, textual evidence, illuminations and sculptures to get into the nuts and bolts of the medieval doghandlingtools and how they where used. Words and meanings of expressions you can get an explanation to in the article about the medieval dog, here. The use of the words ‘dog’ and ‘hound’ is here used in the medieval way, where there was no bigger distinction between the two. The both meant rather the same back then.

berners

Berners with lists of dognames to memorize, being instructed by Gaston Phoebus

The man handling the dogs where called a ‘berner’ or ‘Valet de chiens’. If he was the one using a limer he was reffered to as ‘lymerer’. The berner in charge of greyhounds was sometimes called a ‘feweter’ or ‘veltrahus’ in gallo-latin. Needless to say, doghandling was something that was though of as a craft. The doghandlers where supposed to memorise  the names and characteristics of the dogs, hear in the way they bayed if they where on the track, had lost track, or where standing the game.

Collars

A metal ornament from Waterford, ireland. A dogcollar from 12:th cent, probobly riveted onto learther

A copper ornament from Waterford, Ireland. A dogcollar from 12:th cent, probably riveted onto leather

The collars of the middleages where sometimes highly decorated. Showing the high value you put on the dog. The more run of the mill collars where simpler, but it seems that leather and textile are the most common. There are also special collars for different purposes.

♦ Regular collarsenluminures2In illuminations (medieval book illustrations) most collars are red with golden studs. Some blue, black and one or two green also appears. Most probable these are made out of leather, but some might as well be textile. Most seem to be of the non choke kind, and uses one buckle to close it.

Other kinds of collars seems to use two buckles and a swivel for the leash between them. finds of the buckles and swivels are sometimes made. They can also be seen on illuminations and paintings.

double buckle with swivel. England

double buckle with swivel. England

In Q. R. Wardrobe Ace. for 1400  is mentioned “2 collars for greyhounds (kverer) le tissue white and green with letters and silver turrets.” also, one of ” soy chekerey vert
et noir avec le tret (? turret) letters and bells of silver gin.” in Expanses of Queen Mary is also mentioned ” Dog collors of crymson vellat with vi lyhams of white leather.”

the Collar described in Queen Annes expenses interpreted by the author

the Collar described in Queen Annes expenses interpreted by the author

♦ Wolfcollars

Wolfcollars are collars with big spikes protruding from them.

Wolfcollar of unknown date. resembles ones in illuminations.

Wolfcollar of unknown date. resembles ones in illuminations.

The purpose of these are that the wolf should not be able to close its jaws over the throat/neck of the dog. The spikes do not have to be sharp for this, but many wolfcollars have very sharp spikes indeed. These collars was worn by dogs hunting wolf. Also, and maybe more common, they are worn by dogs guarding cattle or sheep against wolves.

Some common wolfcollar seems to have been made of linked metal-chains with spikes. These may, or may not have been backed by leather.

Collar from Vendel in sweden. Possibly a wolfcollar, the spikes have eroded somewhat. early vikingage

Collar from Vendel in sweden. Possibly a wolfcollar, the spikes have eroded somewhat. early vikingage

Others seems to have the spikes fastened on a leather or textile collar. I choose to make one of the leather versions, backed with several layers of canvas. To stop the spikes from being pushed backwards and chafing the neck the canvas was stitched in ‘compartments’ around the spikes. The spikes themselves are roughly forged on just an anvil and have large flat heads.

wolfcollar 2

Boudica wearing a wolfcollar of the leathertype

wolfcollar

Leathertype wolfcollar, livre de chasse

♦ Mail/scales collar?
There is some uncertainty around the use of mailcollars to protect the dogs. These would predominantly have been used in boarbaiting I am guessing. There are some pictorial evidence that might suggest mailcollars or collars of scales.

Alaunt with scale collar?

Alaunt with scale collar?

possible mailcollar in the morgan library Livre de chasse

Possible mailcollar in the morgan library Livre de chasse

They are portrayed on alaunt and mastiff like hounds and therefore hounds that would have been used for boarbaiting. But I have not seen any mentioning of them in text. As all sorts of hounds could be used in boarhunting, my guess is all kinds of dogs could wear them.

Boudica wearing her mailcollar of riveted round rings

Boudica wearing her mailcollar of riveted round rings

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Leashes

leash on horn

leash hanging from horn

The need of holding on to the dog has been ever present. The leash was mostly of two kinds, the couple and the liam. When the leash was not in use it was commonly  hung on the arm, or in some cases the huntinghorn, or tucked into the belt.

Limes
A liam, lyome, or fyame, is an old Word for leash. It could be made of silk or leather, Edward of Norwich informs us that the best lyams are made of White (tanned with fat, tawed) horseleather. The ‘race’ lymer gets its name from being used on a lyme.

In ‘Expenses of Mary’ we read about of ” A lyame of White silk with collar of white vellat embrawdered with perles, the swivell of silver.” ” Dog collors of crymson vellat with vi lyhams of white leather.” ” A Heme of grene and white silke.” ” Three lyames and colors with tirrett of silver”

according to Master of Game: “and the rope of a limer three fathoms and a half, be he ever so wise a limer it sufficeth. The which rope should be made of leather of a horse
skin well tawed. “

A hound was said to carry his liam well when he just kept it at proper tension, not straining it.

Couples

Sometimes the dogs where leashed together two by two.coupled hounds Edward has some smart advice about how a couple should be fashioned:  “And also he (the boy who cares for the dogs) should be taught to spin horse hair to make couples for the hounds, which should be made of a horse tail or a mare’s tail, for they are best and last longer than if they were of hemp or of wool. And the length of the hounds’ couples between the hounds should be a foot .” It seems this is mostly used on raches.

Ropes

Ordinary ropes, or at least what looks like ropes, is seen quite alot in the illuminations.berner with ropelyme While it is possible these are made of horsehair, silk and all the other suggestions and recommendations, I find it rather believable that some are of ordinary hemp. As Edwards say that hemp is not as good as the others, it is a indication towards hemprope being used. Linen might of course be used as well, but all that has used linen ropes know how hard a knot is to get loose if it gets wet….

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Using the leash and collar

The use of leash and collar is similar to those use today, but there are some tricks of the trade they medieval berner used.

♦ Twisting around the arm

vinterjägare 1410 italien Castello Buonconsiglio,

Hunter from Castello Buonconsiglio,1410, with the leash around his upper arm.

To have the use of the hands free it is common to see Berners twisting the leash around their upper arms a couple of turns, thus gaining the use of the hands to carry things in or handling things with. It keeps the dogs safely secured and even big dogs are rather easy to handle in this way. It is a smart way to keep the use of the hands free while having a leashed hound. This technique also seems popular when you double the leash up.

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Coupling up

Often you see dogs, especially Raches coupled up. this was done by putting a leash between two dogs. Coupled up dogs could be gathered up together in a hardle, consisting of 8 dogs. When set on the game they where then usually uncoupled, although one sees still coupled dogs running after prey in illuminations.

“And because a man cannot come nigh him with a lymer, it is good to uncouple the hounds, for the hounds will get nigh them quicker”

There is some thoughts about that a ‘firm’ older dog was coupled with a more inexperienced young dog, hence making a sort of Learning Couples.

coupled raches

Removing the collar

Removing the collar when releasing the hounds seems to be fairly common. You see dogs released on the prey without collars, and also berners (doghandlers) with several collars hanging from their arm. Maybe this was done to lessen the risk of the dog getting caught in the under-brush.

releasing raches 2

removing collars on release

hanging collars

Berner with collars hanging from the arm

Doubling the rope

Pulling the rope through the ring in the collar and then back to the hand, thus doubling is not that common, but it does exist and it is a very good way to hold a dog when you are about to slip it. It is harder to hold it firm when the dog pulls though as dropping one end of it will make it run trough and the dog bolting. Thus it is mostly used with tying one end to the arm.

A hunter from 1455, doubling up the rope to two dogs.

A hunter from 1455, doubling up the rope to two dogs.

Veltrahus from Ucellos 'the night hunt' 1470, the leash tied to his arm and doubled through the collar.

Veltrahus from Ucellos ‘the night hunt’ 1470, the leash tied to his arm and doubled through the collar.


Leash Connection

a swivel  to connect the rope to

a swivel to connect the rope to

When you have a leash, and a collar, there comes a point when you need to connect the two to each other. The most common way seems to be to a ring at the collar. This is often attached directly at the collar. Sometimes it is set in the space between the ends of the collar.  But the way to connect the rope to this ring or swivel  is not always that easy to figure out.

 

♦ The screw

Bells or screws?

Bells or screws?

There is some thoughts about the use of a kind of metalscrew. I have not seen any conclusive evidence on this, and I have read nothing about anything similar. There is, for example a picture in the Luttrel psalter that some say shows this screw-connection, but to be honest, it can just as well show bells on the dogs collars

I decided to make one anyway, just to try if it was actually any good. My experience is that it had a tendency to unscrew, leaving the dog all of a sudden plodding along on its own. This kind of undermines the whole business of leashing the hound. It is also often faster to just tie the rope or remove the collar.

screw it

♦ Permanent attachment

Limer with leash that is not tied

Limer with leash that is not tied

limer with what seems like a leash ending in a ring that connects to the collars ring

Limer with what seems like a leash ending in a ring that connects to the collars ring

There are some illuminations that seems to show that the leash is just permanently attached to the collar. There is no need to actually be able to untie for example a lymer, if it is always held on a leash when out. Also, as it seems fairly common to remove the collar on release the need to remove the leash is little in those cases to.

 

♦ Tying

Probably the most common, and also the one I found works best. It could be a bit of a bother to get off fast, but if that is not really needed, then it works well. This is the solution I mostly use myself.
knyta

Muzzles

muzzle

Study, early 15:th cent

lovely study of a muzzle 1420-1450, italian

Lovely study of a muzzle 1420-1450, italian, Antonio di Puccio

These seems to be of the same type mostly, they all consists of leather straps holding the snout closed. I have seen none that uses a basket over the mouth.

Evidently mostly dogs that might have a tendency to bite had these, alaunts being treated to a muzzled more often.

The stick

stickguyThe berner is often shown carrying a stick. Sometimes you are also advised to cut a stick or a switch. This was a stick used to punish and chaste the dog. You beat the dog if it did wrong, or if it did something you wanted it to stop with, for example if you wanted it to stop biting/eating the prey after catch. In Tristan and Isolde they also say they beat the dogs on the paws with hazelswitches to get them excited before the hunt.

Beating the dog is a brutal and not very efficient way of training dogs that Exploring the medieval hunt does not condone. It is a savage custom that unfortunately still is used by some. In the medieval days it was an accepted practice though, and even beating the young boys who where serving at the kennels was recommended.

Do not beat your dogs.

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Bear and boar armour

The dogs in armour always provoke the imagination of us modern people to run wild. There is little written proof of the armoured dogs, in the most common huntbooks it is not mentioned at all. There are pictures of it though. We see dogs hunting boars in Spain wearing them and also on tapesteries hunting bear. The use of armour would be when hunting prey that would be dangerous to the dogs, mainly bear and boar. Technically the antlers of a hart would be just as, of not more fatal, but it seems one did not use armour here. This is probably because of the speed-reduction it would impede on the dog during the chase. Boars and bears are not as fast and therefore one could afford swapping speed for protection.

libro de monteria

Dogs hunting boar in Armour, Liberia de Monteria

hund i rustning.

Dog hunting a bear, in the Devonshire hunting tapestry. Possibly in textile armour? Judging from the lines that gives a gambeson like look

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Bells

Taymoth hours

Taymouth hours

The use of bells on the collars for the dogs might have been purely decoration, or it had the purpose of making the movements of the dog easier to follow when it is running around.

The bell seems to have been attached either on the collar, or at the end, on the strapend.

 Closing words

This article have been browsing the tools of the doghandler. It is our hope it will awaken your slumbering researchspirits and make you throw yourself out into the world looking att stuff. We hope it has pointed out some things one can look at, and maybe help you interpret what you see on pictures and in artefacts on museums.

Even if this article has had quite alot of pictures, there are still more collected in our FB-album. If you like to see more pictures of dogs and doghandling tools, I recommend that. You find it here
If you like to see recreated dogcollars we made, you can find them in our other FB-album; here

/Johan

Those old hounds

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dubbelhund

As soon as you talk about dogs or hounds whit someone that has an ‘old breed’ you will hear that it goes back into medieval times or longer.

This might very well be true, or not true at all. Dogbreeds as we see them is a relatively new thing, they hail mostly from the 19:th century, with some breeds getting bred in a ‘modern way’ already in 18:th cent. Earlier, and especially in medieval times, they had a much wider definition of ‘breeds’ if you could even call it breeds, they are more a family of dogs, with some subfamilies, maybe.

Dogs where breed for a purpose mostly. The thought of connecting a certain look to that purpose is a not new one in breeding though. Breeding for purpose will give a certain look of course. But just because there was a ‘mountainregion X sheephound’ and there is a dog breed called the same now, doesn’t mean it is the same looking breed as 700 years ago. It just means a shepherdsdog that is in use in the region.

So, what DO we know about the medieval dog?

Les très riches heures du Duc de Berry, Lymer, raches and greyhounds at the curre

Les très riches heures du Duc de Berry, Lymer, raches and greyhounds at the curre

They are described in the huntbooks and there is quite a lot of dogs depicted in art and literature. Most look like a middle-range dog with floppy ears, a bit like a golden or labrador maybe. Most are short-hairs and they have a wide range of colours.

The dogs where often handled by doghandlers, valet de chiens, or berners, as they where commonly called.

This article will just deal with the types of dogs, the relation between dog and man, the actual doghandling and the Equipment around the dog will have to wait until a later article.

Lymers

c34_616 Lymer

The lymer was a scent-hound that was used to locate the prey. They where trained to be silent and was held on a leash, lyme. One could maybe compare these with the more modern bloodhound. When the game was moved the raches was released after it and the job of the lymer was essentially done. But it was advised to let the lymer run along after the pack. If the pack lost the track of the game the lymer could be brought up to help recover it.
The Lymer was to be rewarded with the head of the animal at the curré, the fleshing of the hounds when they got rewarded after the hunt. The lymer was not considered a ‘breed’ as such, but some breeds would produce better limers then others (probobly Greyhounds did not become good limers…)

Raches

The name raches probably comes from the old norse word ‘racki’, a word for dog. It is still in use but these days more used derogatory like ‘mutt’.Raches

Phoebus ranks the running hound highest as he saw them as having unique qualities. These are the hounds of the pack. They are released after the prey and chase it by scent and sight. They are often a driving dog that drives and exhaust the game with barks. They where preferable set out in packs of twelve or twenty-four. “the more hounds, the merrier the music they make” as Edward so eloquently puts it. They where often leashed together two and two, coupled up, or released completely. when let loose it seems common to take the collars of altogether. One often see the berner with several collars hanging over his arm. Possibly this was done so the hounds would not catch in the vegetation and get stuck. The raches was not allowed to change game during the hunt but was made to keep to the one that was appointed as prey.

These hounds are almost always shown as smaller to mid-size dogs with hanging ear, spotted or plain with short hair coats.

There are some subgroups mentioned here such as ‘kennets’, smaller dogs, Harthounds, that excelled in hunting harts, and so on….

Edward of Norwichs description of them is:
“…well grown of body, and should have great nostrils and open, and a long snout, but not small, and great   lips and well hanging down, and great eyes red or  black, and a great forehead and great head, and large ears, well long and well hanging down, broad c47_616
and near the head, a great neck, and a great breast and great shoulders, and great legs and strong, and not too long, and great feet, round and great claws, and the foot a little low, small flanks and long sides, a little pintel not long, small hanging ballocks and well trussed together, a good chine bone and great back, good thighs, and great hind legs and the hocks straight and not bowed, the tail great and high, and not cromping up on the back, but straight and a little cromping upward. Nevertheless’ I have seen some running hounds with great hairy tails the which were very good. “

The Talbot

The Talbot, known through heraldry was originally a common name to name the dogs. After a while it was becoming synonymous with bigger slower hounds. A ‘real’ Talbot was supposed to be white.

Greyhounds

‘Greyhound’ is a broad term in the 14:th Century, denoting all sight-hounds, from small Italian Greyhounds to big Irish wolfhound like hounds (in French the big greyhounds was nominated: Levrier d’attache, the small nervous ones petits levrierpour lievre. Greyhound was Levrier) . The Greyhound was valued and was often kept in the castle instead of out in the kennels. A nobleman was said to be recognized by “his hawk, his horse and his greyhound”. They where used in relays of three (usually in three relays) and was set loose on the game as the raches drove it past them. They where often the ones pulling the game down, and the one finalling the hunt by doing this was called ‘parafiteur’ .

Emil and Basilard

In the pictures short-hair, and often spotted Greyhounds are mostly depicted. But Edward describes them to have “full hair under the cheeks, like a lion” witch rhymes better with a longhaired sighthound, like a wolfhound.

The berner in charge of greyhounds seems to sometimes be referred to as a ‘veltrahus’, a word that goes back on gallo-latin. In English they where refered to as a Fewterer.

Edwards full  description of the good Greyhound is thus:

The good greyhound should be of middle size, neither too big nor too little, and then he is good for all beasts. If he were too big he is nought for small beasts, and if he were too little he were nought for the great beasts. Nevertheless whoso can maintain both, it is good that he have both of the great and of the small, and of the middle size. A greyhound should have a long head and somewhat large made, resembling the making of a bace (pike). A good large mouth and good seizers the one against the other, so that the
nether jaw pass not the upper,nor that the upper pass not the nether. Their eyes are red or   black as those of a sparrow hawk, the ears small and high in the manner of a serpent, the neck great and long bowed like a swan’s neck, his chest great and open, the hair under his chyn hanging down
in the manner of a lion.  His shoulders as a roebuck, the forelegs straight and great enough and not too high in the legs, the feet straight and round as a cat, great claws, long head as a cow hanging down. The bones and the joints of the chine great and hard like the chine of a hart. And if his chine be a little high it is better than if it were flamjöhundart. A little pintel and little ballocks, and well trussed near the ars, small womb, the hocks straight and not bent as of an ox, a cat’s tail making a ring at the end and not too high, the two bones of the chine behind broad of a large palm’s breadth or more. Also there are many good greyhounds with long tails right swift. A good greyhound should go so fast that if he be well slipped he should overtake any beast ”

 Spaniels

spanielThe spaniel was a bird-dog. It was so called spaniel because its breed originated in Spain.
They where used to flush out birds from bushes, mostly quail and partridge. Phoebus complained that spaniels lacked discipline, barked too much, and had so many other faults that he used them only when he had the goshawk, falcon, or sparrow hawk on his fist. Edward also has nothing good to say about these dogs, but that might be due to him not being a big fan of falconry. He say that they are probably good dogs but share to many characteristics with their landsmen (in his words – not ours).  He does say that they may make good berclettis (berclettis are shooting-dogs, dog you use when your hunting alone with bow).

a spaniel in le roi modus et le reine  ratio

A spaniel in le roi modus et le reine ratio.

The spaniel is mostly shown with curly hair and long ears, much like they look today.

The description of the Spaniel in the master of game is:
“Also a fair hound for the hawk should have a great head, a great body and be of fair hue, white or tawny, for they be the fairest, and of such hue they be commonly best. A good spaniel should not be too rough, but his tail should be rough.”

Other then this he mostly talks about how they behave (or more on how they misbehave…)

Mastiffs

The mastiff was a mixbreed (Mestiff), called a mongrel, and it was not considered a good dog for hunting. “They be of a churlish nature and ugly shape”. The French matins
were generally big, hardy dogs, somewhat light in the body, with long heads, pointed muzzles, flattened forehead, and semi-pendant ears ; some were rough and others
smooth coated.
Edward Thinks it might be a good dog for those that just hunt meat for the household. In some ways they seem to share characteristics with the alaunt, but have more guard-instinct in them.

rooting it out

Bullen the boarbaiter, ready to let loose his frenzy.

We also know that noblemen have used mastiffs in war, bringing them onto the field of battle with them. It appears that the ‘mastiff’ of the 14:th cent was an aggressive yard-dog, kept mostly for its guarding virtues. “The mastiff’s
nature and his office is to keep his master’s beasts and his master’s house, and it is a good kind of hound, for they keep and defend with all their power all their master’s goods”

They do not have to be as big as the mastiffs of modern age, although some was. But smaller ones, like Staffordshire terrier would also have been grouped in here, or possibly in alaunts.

Alaunts

AlauntA strong, ferocious dog, supposed to have been brought to Western Europe by a Caucasian tribe called Alains or Alani. This tribe invaded Gaul in the fourth century, settling there awhile, and then continued their wanderings and overran Spain. It is from this country that the best alans were obtained during the Middle Ages, and dogs that are used for bull- or bear-baiting there are still called Alanos. Gaston de Foix, living on the borders of this country, was in the best position to obtain such dogs, and to know all about them. His description, which we have here, tallies exactly with that written in a Spanish book, Libra de la Monteria, on hunting of the fourteenth century, written by Alphonso XL

alaunt 1

Sir Justin, with the alaunt Apollo from Eslite d’ Corps

Alaunts are generally seen as big dogs. But when looking at medieval Pictures and Reading the descriptions one does not get the feeling that was always the case. What denotes the Alaunt seems to be that it is a biting and holding dog. It grabs the prey and holds it until its master comes. They where used in the hunt but notoriously hard to handle due to their aggressiveness “Alauntes will run gladly and bite the horse. Also
they run at oxen and sheep, and swine, and at all other beasts, or at men or at other hounds. For men have seen alauntes slay their masters. In all manner of ways alauntes are treacherous and evil understanding, and more foolish and more harebrained than any other kind of hound.”  They are said to be very good at holding game, but need the assistance of Greyhounds to catch it. The are refereed to as ‘Mastiffs’ also and it seems they share many of these dogs characteristics.

“..should be made and shaped as a greyhound, even of all things save of the head, the which should be great and short. And though there be alauntes of all hues, the true hue of a good alaunte, and that which is most common should be white with black spots about the ears, small eyes and white standing ears and sharp above” ”  …but they be (heavy) and foul (ugly). … ” “…great lips and great ears..”
They bring to mind something like a great dane.

Edward advises that these might be send in after boars that have taken to hiding in thickets “…if they be slain by the wild boar or by the bull, it is not very great loss”.

It seems that the alaunt is a breed that if they are good was very good, but was a hard breed find good examples in. Contrary to Greyhounds that seems to have been thought to be generally good.

Lapdogs

Lapdogs are small dogs that are mostly held for companionship. a medieval classifiaction was ‘a dog that a man can encircle its neck with one hand’. there is a plenitude of dogs here the most famous being Van Eyucks little fellow in The Wedding of Arnolfini.eyck_arnolfini_dog_1__800_800 One might think that these small dogs where not held in high regard in this age of hunting and maschisomo, but in the law of Sörmland (county in  Sweden) the fine for killing a lapdog was the highest. Even higher than for Greyhounds, but in Östergötland (another of the counties) only if the owner could prove that it had never bitten anyone. It is said that the wife of Bo Jonsson, the wealthiest man in the history of Sweden, is said to have been saved from bad men just because of her lapdogs inscessive barking. A dog she allegedly had in her sleeve.

The Scandinavian Bärsaracki

Bärsaracki just means ‘huntingdog’ (bärsa means hunt, and racki is the same word as Rache=dog). These could have been any kind of dog, looking any witch way.

Ivan and Ullr, typical scandinavian hunter

Ivan and Ullr, typical scandinavian hunter

But in some areas, like Sweden and Norway (Finland is also Sweden in medieval times), spitze dogs have always been popular and you can trace their bones back to bronze-age in these parts (Norwegian elkhound, jämthund, Finish spitze, or similar kind of dogs are very old breeds) . They keep being a common find in archeological evidence throughout the middle ages, and still are very popular as huntingdogs here. These are probobly just called Bärsaracki (huntingdog) here but thinking about how they are as a dog it sounds probably they where mostly used as berclettis (dogs you use when hunting alone, with bow ). The big hunts might not have been as popular here as on the continent, and most laws concern hunting with traps.

The value of the hound

As I expect you all are curious about what the aforementioned law of Södermanland say about the values of the dogs, and also in one way tells us what ‘breeds’ they counted in Sweden in early 14:th century

Kövärne (lapdog) ————————————— 24 ören

Mjöhund (greyhound) ———————————-12 ören

Bärsaracki (Rache)————————————-12ören

vallhund(sheepdog)————————————-12ören                                     

Gårdsvar(mastiff, yard dog)—————————3 ören

The dog reenacted?

foxie

Olivia and Foxie

If the dog is part of your reenacting, you might like to have a ‘medieval dog’. What you want here is of course not a set thing. The dog is a living thing and should not only be bought because it is ‘right’, you need have a dog that fits your purposes, so that the dog can be happy. If you are planning to do actual medieval hunting, you dog should of course be able to do that while looking the part. If you are not doing actual hunting, then it will only have to look the part. A labrador or a Golden retriver for example, looks rather much like a rache, but thier job does not though. As you did not shoot birds but used falcons, retriving dogs was not needed. If you only want a dog that hangs around you that dont look modern, then they will be fine.

Medieval foxie?

Medieval foxie?

Medieval dogs can look..just about like anything. Most modern dogs (except some of the more odd ones maybe) could pass for medieval if you go by the looks. Although the dogs above are the only ones mentioned in the huntbooks, it do not mean they where the only ones around. The books, after all, is about hunting (lapdogs are not mentioned in the huntbooks)

As a finale to this article, I bid you a picture of a dachshund, with a wolfcollar. From 15:th century.

DachsenWe thank sir Justin and Eslite d’ Corps for the use of the picture of Apollo, and Ivan Merl and Ullr for posing for the nordic bärsaracki. They are all members of St: Huberts Rangers

Also in the Article, Oliva and foxie, Helena and Bullen, and Emil and Basilard
/Johan

Four grey hunters

distance greyhuntersThe Point of research 

As we find new information, it is time to implement it. When we found that Gaston say you use grey clothes in winterhunting, as we wrote about here, we had better make ourself some grey clothing. For us this is what reenacting is about. When you find new information you need to upgrade your kit to reflect this. Otherwise…. what is the point of research?

This article is about the use of research and the first one literally written by both of us together. We wanted to share an example of how you can go about to interpret the material you have, how to think around your sources to reconstruct a believable garment. You will never be spot on, so it is always good to know HOW you think as you do and WHY.

For us the interpretation is often based on how the garment falls around the body in the picture. This will give some clues to what kind of textile, how it is cut and what seams that are used. Many people look at the pictures, but don’t really see them. They have a illustration of a person from the age, but they do not see things that they do not already ‘know’ they wore. Another common thing is to explain everything that don’t fit into your picture of the age is to call it ‘artistic freedom’ on the illuminators part, even if it appears in several pictures and from different artists.

Another trend in reecreating is going fancy. Sure, you like to have the tight cottehardi with fifty-eleven buttons. Sure, they where high fashion at the time. But what is the type of character you are actually wearing? Many have very simple cottes, especially when doing manual labour. Not to say that the manybuttoned cottes are not used here also, but how many reenactors dare to make the simple cotte today? Or to renounce from wearing all the nice stuff they have accumulated over the years? We are the same here, we like to use the nice things also. But we feel in our hearts that we should show the simple and common as well.

We scoured our homes after fitting textile, and the books after fitting clothing. Granted, the climate in the books might not be the same as we have. The books are written in France, and Gaston himself lived in Occitania. I don’t really know how winter down there is, but  there might be a difference from Scandinavian winters in cold and snow-depth. The cloth is not very thick though, as we see the garments mostly as a over-garment for functionality. The layer principle is at work here, and our experience tells us that you don’t need thick clothing when moving around in the winter forest.

Emils kyrtil

My kyrtil is partly inspired by two pictures of boarhunters from Livre de chasse, the Morgan library version, folio 83 and folio 84. Kombo 83 och 84On both pictures, most hunters wear greyish clothing, so I assume it is a winter hunt. Both kyrtils are of calf length and very wide, loose-fitting.

F 83 (left)  has a delicately cut S-curved shoulder seam, almost like a grand assiette. It features a puffy sleeve, seemingly cut at an angle by the elbow, possibly also with a narrow cuff making it tighter over the wrist (it doesn’t really show but is an assumption based on my interpretation of how the fabric falls when the hunter is aiming with his crossbow). If F 84 (right) was thought to depict a garment of a similar cut is hard to know, it looks a little simpler, without the grand assiette and it could have another type of baggy sleeve with less fabric in it. Still, they are much alike and on both pictures I notice that the grey fabric folds and drapes very nicely against the belt. That makes me think of an ingenious cut that I’ve seen on preserved 14th century kirtles from Herlofsnes, Greenland.

As none of the pictures show the front of the garment or the cut of it in detail, I decided to combine them with an archaeological find in my interpretation. From Herjolfsnes there is a wide kirtle known as Norlund 63. I think it appears to be much similar in cut and drape to those depicted in Livre de chasse and it is also contemporary with them. 61

Norlund 63 is characterised by its loose fit and baggy S-cut uppeIMAG4346r sleeves with a narrow cuff over the wrist. The most obvious difference to the kirtles of Livre de chasse is that this one has a small standing collar and that it buttons down front with 16 cloth buttons. I went for just a handful of buttons as I don’t need more. In Livre de chasse it is more common to have just a few, rather than a full button row down the front. I really like the collar and as collars appear on other kyrtils from the same manuscript, I decided to keep it.

All in all, my winter kirtle is far more based on the archaeological find rather than the pictures from Livre de chasse, but I think it is a fair interpretation as they all are contemporary and of a similar cut.

 

johans

the inspiration for Johans kyrtil

Johans kyrtil

I found a loose garment in the same book (Folio 83v.), a jaunty loiterer mostly chewing the fat with the other hunters down in the corner. As the cloth I found at home was double-sided, grey and light brown, it seemed like a nice fitting garment. The scene is a boarhunt at winter and all hunters wear shades of grey. I thought the garment was probably very simple and loose. The arms looked straight and I could see no collar. While it was possible it had an opening at the front, I did not think it had one, based on the thought of the simple garment. To get width over the 10898268_10152526556922765_3317232265131267743_ntorso but not over the shoulders, I extended the gores in the sides up to the arm-opening. Based on most cottes construction at the time, I used grand (or grandish..) assietes for the armholes. This is also for the freedom of movement. Grand assietes is superior in matters of movement in a garment. The seam of the arm was left on the underside of the arm though, not on the back as is more common. Perhaps a rear-centred seam would have been a better choice, but I choose the underarm variant to stay with the thought of the simple construction. The edges was left raw.

Using it

As the weather was not really on our side we thought we’d just snap some photos of thejohans grey kyrtils to get this article running. We found a grey tangle of brush, to show why grey might have been a smart move during the defoliage season. Most  woods up where we live are evergreen fir, juniper and pine so green might work just as well at wintertime really… But staying true to the huntbooks we took our grey kyrtils out and posed up!

Johan had a basic cotte under and another more loose on top. The grey came up ontop of that. It kept the warmth rather nice, don’t let the absence of snow fool you, it was a very chilly day. Judging from the picture the arms are longer then the arms of the man wearing it, and then turned up. This was a rather good feature as turning them down kept the warmth over the hands well enough.

20150104_151940Emil had double layers of wool with his thin summer-cotte under the new heavy grey one. The generous cut of the new kirtle made the garment drape just like in the pictures. All the draping and folds of the fabric made little pockets of air, soon warmed by the body. When needing to regulate the warmth, it is easy to just undo a button or two.

IMAG4315

 

 

 

 

 Conculsions

So, after we found out that wintertime you wear grey, there wasnt really much you could do but make some grey clothing. These hands on instrutions are rare in reecreating. Most have to make guesses and read between the lines in recreating a certain type of person. When you also see the text mirrored in the pictures showing wintertime hunting (mostly boar) we felt we did not have any choice but to make a set of ‘greys’
greyhuntersBy Johan and Emil.

 

 

 

The books of hunt

We often refer to “the huntbooks” when we write our texts. These are books about hunting written in the middle ages. In the 14:th Century there is mainly three books that concern us, they are also the most well known of all the medieval huntbooks. There are other prominent huntbooks from other centuries, the most important here being The Art of Venery,1327, by the Anglo-French Master of game, Twiti (Twici). Many of the later books draws on this and it is probably the basis of the ones we use the most. Sadly it has yet been unobtainable for us.

The books we use the most are instead;

Les livres du roi Modus et de la reine Ratio (1354–1376), attributed to Henri de Ferrières

Livre de Chasse (1387–1389), Gaston III (Phėbus) Phoebus, Count of Foix. Various copies with excellent illustrations. Also known as Book of The Hunt

The Master of Game, Edward, Duke of York

Lets take a closer look at them and how they relate to each other….

 Les livres du roi Modus et de la reine Ratio

Les livres du roi Modus et de la reine Ratio (1354–1376)

Les livres du roi Modus et de la reine Ratio (1354–1376)

Les livres du roi Modus et de la reine Ratio or, the book of king method and Queen Theory.  This book is attributed to Henri de Ferrieres and it is said that after the big plague in the 50:ies people where concerned that so many had died that knowledge would have died with them. Therefore they set the art of the hunt to text. The second part of the book also contains ‘the dream of the pestilence’. It is written as an allegory where King Modus or Queen Ratio answers questions posed to them. There is also a fair amount of moral and musings about the religious thinking concerning the hunt.

Henri de Ferrieres

The probable author of  Les livres du roi Modus

Henri Ferrieres sleeping on a strawmat in the woods

Henri Ferrieres sleeping on a strawmat in the woods

et de la reine Ratio is Henri de Ferrieres. There are some possible persons this might be. The most probable was born in the first decades of the 14:th century. in 1347 there is a note about a Henri de Ferrieres being a captive of the English. In 1369 a Henri de Ferrieres is reported as being commander of the fortress Pont de l’ Arche.  The Ferrieres owned the Breteuil forest north of Paris, a forest mentioned in the book. The author also say he saw  Charles IV hunt as a child. So it seems he was a man that was an active part of the hundred years war. A thing that is verified in some parts of the book (the dream of pestilence is insightful and refers to tactical situations in 1374)

 

King of pratice

This book is one of our favourites since it is very good at explaining things. There are several copies (21 copies is known) ranging from 1380 to 1486. This means that the book was popular and recopied for a long time. The copies we use is mostly Paris 1 for pictures, the oldest existing copy. We also use the  Copenhagen ex as this is translated into Swedish and interpreted by Gunnar Tilliander, considered one of the best in Medieval French of his time. It has very nice illuminations showing a wide range of hunting.

 

Livre de chasse

c29_616

Musée national du Moyen Âge, Musée de Cluny copy 1407-10

Livre de chasse is possibly the most well known of all huntbooks. No small part of this is that some of the copies sports beautiful, detailed, illuminations (illustrations). It is written in 1387-89 and exists in 46 known copies. The most well known and used are the copy in Musée national du Moyen Âge, Musée de Cluny from 1407-10 (Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris Ms. fr. 616) and the Morgan library copy, also from 1407.

Gaston Phoebus

Livre de chasse is written by Gaston III/X of Foix-Béarn. He is more known as Gaston ‘Phoebus’, Phoebus being another name for the Greek god Apollon, and Gaston being known for being a very handsome

Gaston 'phoebus'

Gaston ‘phoebus’

man which earned him this nickname. He recorded the three “special delights” of his life as “arms, love and hunting”. Jean Froissart, the author of “Chronicles de France” visited his Court in Pau and was impressed with its splendour. Gaston was born 30 of April in 1331 and died while washing his hands after a bearhunt in 1391.  He had a son, but he stabbed him to death in a quarrel after the son had tried to poison him. Another of his sons, illegitimate, was one of the poor souls that died in the infamous Bal des ardent

Gaston was widely acclaimed to be a great hunter and

a reindeer

A reindeer from livre de chasse

even travelled to the far Sweden to hunt reindeers, possibly in connection to when he was fighting pagans in Prussia. He also fought in the Hundred years war, so it is quite possible he met Henri de Ferriers in person.

 

 

 

Book of the hunt

Livre de chasse is an excellent book, but hard to get hold of a copy as it only exists in French and that is a language I am regrettably bad in. The pictures are very good though and very informative. As the Livre de chasse follows King modus in its layout many of the pictures can get explained in other versions. Also, the Morgan library has some nice  informative text abstracts. We use the Morgan library and the French one mostly.

The master of game

The master of game is a English translation of Livre de chasse made in between 1406 and 1413 of Edward of Norwich. He also added some new chapters of his own and edited it for English hunters (for example he skipped Gastons descriptions of reindeers as he did not think it had any relevance for an English audience)

Edward of Norwich

Edward_of_Norwich_Duke_of_York

Edward Langely of Norwich, Duke of York

Edward of Norwich was born 1373 and is also known as Edward of Langley. He was the second Duke of York. He took a prominent part in the hundred years war and served there under both king Henry IV and Henry V. He also took part in some important emissaries to the French Court, amongst one in negotiating the wedding between Henry V and Catherine of Valois. When he was there Gaston Phoebus was already dead, so the chance that they met might have been slim. Edward was only 18 when Gaston kicked the bucket (presumably, as he was washing his hands at the time of his demise). Edward partook at the siege of Harfleur and commanded the right wing at the Battle of Azincourt. At Azincourt he became the highest ranking casualty when he met his fate on St. Crispins day.

Has also was, and this is more to our point, the master of harthounds for Henry IV.

The book

The master of game is a good book, but it is abit more amateurish in appearance then Livre de Chasse and King modus. It is written in a straightforward and matter of factly way. Even if there is some passages that are somewhat rambling in nature. Some parts (the ones Edward was not interested in) is put forward to others (he directs the hunting of otters to the kings otterhunter). For example he does not go into the disembowling of the animal as he say this is more of a woodsmans discipline then a hunters. It has some translation errors from Gastons original, but I think it deserves to be judged as a book of its own. It is after all written by a master of harthounds and therefore an experienced hunter. He would not put anything in there that he did not agree with (indeed there is some alterations to fit English hunters). There is a edition of this book with a foreword by Ted Roosevelt from 1909 that holds a high class. The appendix in the book is a very good read to get started with the medieval hunt. It exists in a on-line version here. I have not seen any pictures from this book.

The books amongst themselves

As we can see the Les livres du roi Modus et de la reine Ratio is the first and the one that sets the trend in what a huntbook should contain. Gastons book follow the same pattern, but is more direct in its tone and the Master of hunt is, of course, like Livre de chasse. But all books are written by active and highly valued hunters. We can be fairly sure that what they write is things they agree with and condole the practise of. Edward writes in some places about how things are done, and that he does not think it is good. This shows that he knows what he is talking about (or at least thinks so). Many medieval books are written by clerics that do not always have the practical experience of what they are writing about and therefore might not show a correct description of the actual practise used in the middle ages.

Books of the middle ages where copied by hand. This meant that errors was made. When a copy was copied the error was duplicated, and more errors might occur. This results in that often the book closest to the original is the most accurate. It is good to know what copy it is you are working from, and preferable to know how far removed from the original it is.

How we use manuscript sources.

WE use the manuscripts both as written sources detailing how they where thinking about the hunt and how it was conducted.
We also use the illuminations (pictures) as a source for equipment. These hands on books are very good in a interpretation viewpoint. We don’t have to guess what the pictures show and if it is allegorical or not. The text is explaining the pictures (and the pictures the texts). When you do not have the text available, you can often use the text from another book. As they deal with mostly the same you can identify the stages of the hunt as long as you know the other texts. Correlation between the texts can be done to see changes in the hunting equipment. It is harder to see changes in tactics as you do not know if these show individual preferences or a common overall change. Pictures can be used right as they are, to ensure you get an outfit of a hunter consisting of clothes that was actually worn together. Not to easy to know for modern people and could result in what would be in modern day someone wearing shorts and tuxedo. 1797515_10152160197582765_4688588845508775182_n-e1405598589505

In conclusion

The huntbooks are very fun to read. They are hands on and often rather funny. If one is interested in the hunt it is often a revelation to read them. Getting explanations to odd looking  pictures one have gleaned on the wide interwebz. With such good books, and easily obtained, on a subject I would say that it is very hard to try and reenact the hunt without reading at least the master of game or looking at the excellent illuminations of the Morgans copy of Livre de chasse. If you read those you might even be able to base a whole blog on them….

/Johan