A hunter in Green

A hunter clad in green, with his pointed hat jauntly cocked on his head. That is the common perception of the medieval hunter, but does it hold sway?

I used to say that “a hunter wore what was in fashion in its day”, referring to all the gaudily coloured hunters I have seen in the huntbooks in their red, blue, yellow and pink clothing. But in the same books there are also hunters wearing all green, in a way that suggests they have a reason for it – in some pictures all hunters are clad in green. But of course, hunters wear different clothes in different style of hunts…

Clothes that fit the purpose


Hunters afoot

As I look abit closer on the issue of clothing in research of this article I see that it is not really mentioned in “Master of game”. “Les Livres du roy Modus et de la royne Ratio” does not dwell on it, but in a summary of a text I find that Gaston Pheobus declares that hunters should wear green, and in winter grey.

Now, on a fastpace hunt, with dogs barking and horses running, the aim to chase the prey until exhaustion, the colours of the clothes matters little. In this case the animal is supposed to see you and run from you. Also the relays on the sides serves to herd the animal into the desired path. Clothes of colour also helps the other hunters to locate each other. One could compare it to the modern hunters orange if one likes. Most pictures in a huntbook concerns this kind of hunt.


stalking deer, clad in green

When stalking prey and trying to get within bowrange we have a whole other situation. Here it is desirable that the deer does not see you, and hunters are advised to wear green. When standing in wait for deer driven to you, it is also advised that the hunters should wear green in “Les livres du roi Modus et de la reine Ratio”. Even Gaston Phoebus advices the use of green. Gaston Phoebus allegedly even advocates painting the bow green. When looking more closely, you see that when hunting deer, notoriously skittish animals, they usually wear green. Edward of Norwich also advocates that the best hunting horns is waxed green. He say this is for the better sound in them, but as he has misunderstood a couple of things in his translation of Gaston Phoebus, he might also have missed the point of why they where green.



Green and dagged clothes on hunters in Livre de Chasse

As seen above the reason to wear green is to melt into the woods better, or at least to be less visible to the animals. But did the medieval hunter use camouflage? As in camouflage in a modern sense?

Well, yes, and no.

The use of green is a camouflage in it self, it melts into the environment. Also Phoebus stated that, when hunting a boar in winter, grey, not green, was to be worn. But there is no proof of use of mottled or patterned clothing in order to break up silhouettes. There might be some use of dagges to look more….. bushy.  (“Dagges” are decoratively cut hemlines, in shapes of tounges, leafes, roundels, points and so on). At the least in ‘Livre de chasse’ there is alot of dagged open garments, but this might also just reflect the fashion of the time.

this hunter uses branches on his head

this hunter uses branches on his head

The use of branches and greenery is advised though.”Les livres du roi Modus et de la reine Ratio” advices you to ‘Wear a branch between your teeth to hide your face” when stalking deer. The use of branches on a wagon to hide its occupants is a clever trick from King Modus, and it appears in “Livre de chasse” also. As seen to the right, evidently one could cammouflage your head in such way tovagn

 Shoes, and the lack thereof

Hunters are shown wearing a variety of shoes. The ankle-high being in prominent use.  Most show no buckles.

Many riders sports a high boot. They seem to be of the fold closure sort and fastened with hooks and eyelets. These are very good in protecting the leg from burrs and twigs catching in the hose and ripping them while chasing through the woods. They appear to be above the knee.

Some high boots from “Livre de chasse”


Even hunters afoot could use this, judging from these pictures in “Livre de chasse“, Sporting a leash hanging on his horn and therefore one of the berners, doghandlers. The second shows a rider and a lymer, a doghandler handling the scenthound. The third showing a regular venator, hunter. There are several more pictures of high boots in the book.

naalbound sock

Hunter in socks

Another thing that seems prominent amongst hunters are the habit of using no shoes. Strikingly often we see hunters plodding along in just hosen. This happy fellow seems to be out and about in just his naalbound socks.

There is a possibility that they are using ‘soled hoses’, hosen with a leather sole on, but there is no way of really knowing. I have used soled hoses and I have been walking around in hoses with ordinary soles. I can say that soled hoses works rather well in a dry forest. Regular hoses is very dependant on what kind of wool they are made off, but in general they do tend to make you abit more vulnerable to pebbles and pinecones.

a few of all the pictures of hunters not using shoes

shoeless modus

There is no reason stated in the huntbooks or anywhere else that I have seen, as to why they scamper about shoeless. My own experience shows that it a little easier to sneak in hosen as you get more ground-feeling. Possibly you also get abit more grip with a wool soles then you get with a leather one. especially in wet grass. These are mostly speculations.

Of course, there are pictures of non-hunters not wearing shoes also, but looking at the average, it sure looks like hunters liked being shoeless for some reason.

The bycocket, a hat for a hunter?

Collection of bycockets. early to late 14:th cent

The robinhood hat, hunters cap or as we jokingly call it the “unicorn” (threepointed hat=tricorn, twopointed=bicorn… onepointed=unicorn) is possibly called a ‘bycocket’ during 14:th Century (or they mean something totally different…. the sources are abit shady here).

This hat seems to be favoured by hunters. Its is featured on them frequently in 14:th Century. It is also a hat that seems to be used by both men and woman, possibly this strengthens its position as associated  with the hunt and not gender (few other head wear is not gendercoded). When seen on other nobles in outside hunt situations it is a theory I have that these are fellows that has their interest in hunting as personifying their character. As some hunters these days wear their camouflage and old hat to the supermarket to show that they hunt. But this is only my personal musings on the subject.

There is no bad weather

In Sweden we say “there is no bad weather, only bad clothing”.

Now and then the question about bad weather clothing, and especially rain clothes comes up in the reenacting community. Even though this might not fit in this post, I thought I would address it here, in wait for a post later on on how to reenact outdoorsy type things.

In medieval times they don’t seem to have the same obsession about being dry all the time. One can perhaps understand this as being dry is an utopia when being active in the woods. If you don’t get wet from the outside, marshes, dew, rain or moss, you get wet from the inside (commonly known as sweating). One might Think that they had a mindset that tolerated a higher degree of uncomfort before they started feeling downcast. Living a life where starvation, plague, and untimely death was never far away, a little wet was possibly not much to be concerned about. As a rule people are not made out of salt and hence do not dissolve from water.

What is problematic when getting wet is getting cold. Its the cold that is dangerous and what makes up most of the discomfort. Wool is naturally fat unless it is washed. If it is also fullered it withstands rain quite well. Wool is also a material that warms even when wet (as opposed to cotton that cools 150 times better when wet). Using wool clothing and keeping away from cotton undergarments (I usually keep away from linen as well, going all wool) will keep you warm even when wet.

The most common garment for protection against the weather is therefore …. Another tunic, possibly fullered

In conclusion, and some speculations

As I already had a nagging feeling would be the case, I was both right and wrong. Hunters did dress as fashion dictated, but there where several times where green was the preferred colour. There is also nothing stating you can not wear green on other hunts so I am guessing that many wore their ‘hunting clothes’ on hunts, and that these often where green , as they where supposed to be that on some of the more popular hunts. Also, green is not all that common amongst other people. Sure it exists, but it is not THAT popular if one looks at its percentual representation with other colours. It might surely be that green was a colour connected with hunters. In Canterbury tales the yeoman is described as having a hood and jacket of green, and that he was indeed a woodsman. This also could point towards the colour green being connected to people of the woods.

So… a hunter in green, with his bycocket jauntly on his head. Yes. It is not a faulty perception of the medieval hunter. Sometimes the middleages are so cliché. errol-flynn-robin-hood/Johan

Using the hunters horn.

The sound of the horns and the barking of the dogs, the excitement of that experience, is often described as the most joyful thing in hunting. 1176193_10152147330522926_384463484_n

Communication with the other hunters is most important use of the hunters horn. In the medieval huntbooks different signals are described that should be sounded in different phases of the hunt. You blow a certain signal when you are going out on a hunt and another when you are riding back home. There is a signal for when the game is sighted or the hounds are to be released or to call them back and finally after a kill you blow the “mort”.

What not everybody knows is that the horn also plays an important role before the hunt, used in a way that may seem strange to us today. The huntbooks describe how some hunters are sent out in advance to track up animals and suggest appropriate game.

NamnlösThey return to the merry gathering of the hunters and report their findings to the Master of the Hunt, informing him about where the animals are, what their tracks look like and bring back fumes for him to judge them by.

When found, the fumes are stuffed into the hunters horn and he seals it with some grass to keep the fumes from falling out.

Here the hunters are seen pouring “fumes” out of their hunting horns. Judging by the shape, size and quality of the fumes from different animals, the master of Hunt decides for the most appropriate game.


Hunter pouring fumes out of his horn.

Edward of Norwich teaches us in his book Master of Hunt from early 15th century, how a to know a Great Hart by the Fumes:

“I shall teach you to know a great hart by the fumes of the hart, for sometimes they crotey in wreaths, sometimes flat and sometimes formed. Sometimes sharp at both ends and sometimes pressed together.

If he find the fumes that are formed and not holding together as it is from the beginning of July into the end of August, if they are great and black and long and are not sharp at the ends, and are heavy and dry without slime, it is a token that it is a hart chaceable.

If the fumes are faint and light and full of slime, or sharp at both ends, or at one end, these are the tokens that he is no deer chaceable. If they be slimy it is a token that he has suffered some disease.”

Edward elaborates quite a bit on the subject of fumes so I took the liberty of shortening his advice slightly. Read more about our hunting horns and how Edward of Norwich thinks they should be made here. Johan is as always one step ahead and provides an informative video about the use of the hunters horn.

/ Emil

Making a hunters horn.

Rolands horn

Rolands horn Olifant as seen in Santiago de Compostella

How should a hunters horn look like?  A great hunters horn was traditionally made in ivory, carved decoratively and they are called “olifant’s”, just like Rolands horn Olifant in La Chanson de Roland.

In the late Norse 13th century Karlamagnussaga it is said that Olifant actually was the horn of a unicorn.

If you’d like to see it, you can either visit the famous pilgrim site of Santiago de Compostella in Spain or the Vitus cathedral in Prague who both claim to be in possession of it.


Hunters with their hunting horns in wide baldrics. Livre de chasse 1407.

My horn is not ivory, nor is it from a unicorn. But it is sort of monumental, none the less. 10635871_10152625159850708_1425179991131912415_n

Johan has carved it beautifully for me and today I finished a new pompous baldric in the style of Livre de chasse. A baldric is the sholder strap in which the horn is carried.

The baldrics in Livre de chasse are often very wide, mostly of a straight cut but sometimes dagged in the edges (as seen above). Both coloured and undyed baldrics appear. Typical for this manuscript is that they often are decorated with what looks like little round-ish metal mounts.

I choose to interpret them as little brass flowers on my baldric. Then I filled up the space between the mounts with a floral pattern inspired by what I’ve seen in period illuminations, picking up the shape of the leafs that Johan carved in to my horn. I’m happy with how it turned out, especially the brass fittings I’ve made myself, stepping slightly outside my comfort zone as a craftsman.











Johan made his own horn over 10 years ago and has been wearing it on events in Sweden and around Europe since then. IMAG2398The age and patina adds to its beauty, but his baldric is new. The brass letters on it says “venator”, meaning hunter, and “veltrahus” is one in charge of greyhounds.10430477_819255604786371_4273931695073881414_n














Edward of Norwich teaches us about hunting horns in his book Master of Hunt from early 15th century:

“There are diverse kinds of horns, that is to say bugles, great Abbots, hunters horns, ruets (trumpets) and meaner horns of two kinds. That one kind is waxed waxed with green wax and greater of sound, and they be best for good hunters, therefore I will devise how and in what fashion they should be driven.

First a good hunters horn should be driven of two spans in length, and not much more nor much less, and not too crooked neither too straight, but that the flute be three or four fingers upper more than the head, that unlearned hunters call the great end of the horn.

And also that it be as great and hollow driven as it can for the length, and and that it be shorter on the side of the baldric than at the nether end. And that the head be as wide as it can be, and always driven smaller and smaller to the flue, and that it be well waxed thicker or thinner according as the hunter thinks that it will sound will sound best.

 And that it be the length of the horn from the flute to the binding, and also that it be not too small driven from the binding to the flute, for if it be the horn will be too mean of sound. As for feweterers and woodsmen, I speak not for every small horn and other mean horn unwaxed be good enough for them.”

I’ve also written a short article about the medieval hunters use of his or her horn. Johan is as always one step ahead and provides an informative video.

/ Emil


The two Saints

The most famous saint of the hunt is St: Hubertus. Although all our videos starts “In the glory of St: Eustace” why is that?

… Well, imaginary questioner, I’m glad you asked.

Sanctus Eustace

According to legend Eustace was born as Placidius in the second millennia and became a general under Trajan, the victorious. One day he was out hunting in Tivoli and saw a hart with a blazing crucifix between its antlers. He prostrated himself before the beast and became christened on the spot, and so was the rest of his family later on.
A series of calamities in the fashion of Job now ascended upon his family and Eustace was severely tested. His trials ended when he refused to make a pagan sacrifice under the rule of Hadrianus. For this he was sentenced with his family to be cooked inside a copper bull, the infamous “brazen bull“.


Reliquary of St. Eustace British Museum


In the Byzantine church Eustace was venerated early on, and during the 11:th century he is gaining cult also in the west.

Abbot Suger (dead 1151) mentions the first relic of St: Eustace in St Denise, France.  In 1260 the Golden legend  by Jacobus the Voragine becomes popular. It depicts the saint kneeling before the Hart, an image of the saint that becomes iconographic.

The feast of St: Eustace is September 20, but as the cult of the saint declined he was taken out  of the calendar in 1969 (the main reason being the trouble of verifying the acta of the saint).

Eustace became the patron saint of hunters and firefighters. He was also one of the fourteen holy helpers, Saints venerated as being close to god and therefore very potent in their intercession. Eustace was believed here to be extra helpful for healing ‘family troubles’.

Sanctus Hubertus
Hubertus lived between 656 and 727 and became the Bishop of Liege in 708. He was of noble birth and as most of the nobles a big sportsman and partaker in the chase. At one time he had a spiritual revelation and went to study under Lambert, a Christian scholar who was to become a saint after his murder. After his teachers death Hubertus went spread the word of God to the heathens in the Ardennes. He was never martyred himself and died peacefully in 727 (or 728). Its hard to find anything about the nature his cult before 15:th century.

In the 15:th century however, in Bibliotheca hagiographica latina he suddenly expropriates the legend of St: Eustace with hart and cross and the whole shebang. Here this religious experience is claimed to be the reason why he travelled to Lambert.

It is not unusual that saints share a story, but it is rather uncommon that they overtake an older saints story.

St: Hubertus is patron of archers; dogs; forest workers; hunting; huntsmen; mathematicians; metal workers; smelters; and trappers, so he seems to have a full plate. In the Rhineland he was also part of “the four holy marshals”.

St. Hubertus or St. Eustace? The illumination has been attributed to both. But judging from the dating, Eustace seems more probable.


Why change?
Why does this appear? Why does St: Hubertus all of a sudden acquire St: Eustace’s story?

This is a matter I have no answer to. Perhaps Hubertus was more interesting because he was of noble birth, and the chase was a sport for nobles?

Or it might have been as simple as while the cult of St: Eustace was strong in northern France with the old reliquary in St: Denise and a church formerly of St: Agnes, but redesignated to St: Eustace in Paris, Hubertus was actually from that region. He was born in Tolouse but was bishop in Liege and active in the Ardennes. His family might have had some interest in promoting his cult on the expense of the old eastern Eustace.
These are just speculations, the truth is that popularity of saints seems as fickle as the cut of the cotte in the middle ages.

To sum this up, as we mostly portray the hunt of the 14:th century we use St: Eustace since the cult of St: Hubertus is of a later date.

Our use of saints

Some of you might also wonder about why we use a saint in such a prominent way when we are not active Christians, and certainly not catholic? If anything we are both Lutherans in upbringing.

The use of saints is a part of our reenacting. As religion permeates most of daily life in the middle ages, it would be both hard for us and misleading towards others to leave it out.

“Can I wear this?”

I and other reenactors often get questions about how we find information, period pictures for inspiration and if there are evidence in the archaeological material for this or that. This is a huge topic, I’m learning still and I cannot possibly cover it with a single post. But I’d like to share some of my thoughts on it, in order to help you answer the recurring question “Can I wear this?” yourself.

Reenactment is about recreating things as close as we can get to the real thing. I believe it is really important to do your best to achieve that. For me this ambition is what makes it challenging but also fun and rewarding. To get as close to the real thing as possible with your medieval gear, you’ll need to start in the right end. Even if an attempt to research may feel intimidating for beginners, it is much easier to first look for proof among period pictures, in historical sources, contemporary art and archaeological material rather than the other way around.

If you first decide what you want, make it or buy it and afterwards try to find proof that things were actually done that way – you are bound to be disappointed. Working that way is an anachronism based on how you decide what you next fashion item will be in your modern everyday wardrobe. Especially as a beginner at reenactment you need to free yourself of this mindset or you risk finding yourself in lack of evidence and thus have to abandon your project or re-do it.

"Can I wear this?" This illumination from Les livres du roi Modus is my main source of inspiration for my next outfit.

“Can I wear this?” This illumination from Les livres du roi Modus is my main source of inspiration for my next outfit.

However, finding information and evaluating it is a craft in it self. You have to have some feel for period art expression, knowledge about the geography, religious life, economy, politics and social strata of the society you are studying just to formulate a question. It helps a lot if you have some understanding for medieval crafts and materials, their value and production.

As I hope you understand, it is not possible for anyone to be an expert on all of this at once. That is why we have professional historians, archaeologists and art specialists. I’ve read my share of history and archaeology but it is in no way sufficient to make me an expert. That is why we need our friends, other blogs, museums and a living network of historical enthusiasts. On the left here in our blog you’ll find a list of links to some of the resources we use for inspiration and information.

The best tool for learning is a healthy combination of curiosity and scepticism. In time, you’ll build up a bank of experience and a reference material among period texts and pictures, it does not come over night. So start to nose around, ask others, visit museums, look at pictures and read, but keep up a sound sceptical approach. Never stop questioning what others say, what you see and what you think you know. Anyone can be mistaken, misinterpretations of old are still around and new ones are discovered all the time.

But then how are you ever to know if a source is reliable, if something is appropriate to recreate and right for you? I’ll give you an example of the process of trying to finding out. Let’s say that I’d like to make a new bag for my hunting outfit. I’ve been looking around for a picture to base my bag on and I’ve finally found one. This white little purse, doesn’t it seem excellent for carrying my phone while I’m out hunting? And it appears in a handbook on hunting, Les livres du roi Modus et de la reine Ratio from late 14th century. Perfect!

Hunters and falconers fighting.

Or is it? What is actually happening on the picture…? They are fighting! Some of you will recognize the scene from Johans post about the conflict that seems to have been between hunters and falconers. There was bad blood between falconers and hunters about which was the noblest and most true kind of hunt – that with birds of prey or that with dogs. The bird-like thingy on the whipping piece of string is a decoy for training falcons, a tool for falconers. Here the hunters are portrayed with horns and the falconers are the ones wearing the little white bags.

What I want to say is this – you’ll need an idea of what you are reenacting, who you are in the medieval world and society in order to know what equipment you’ll need. Are you a hunter or a falconer, or in other words – a dogturd or fleapicker? If there is a conflict between hunters and falconers during the time you are reenacting and you want to be a hunter – don’t wear a falconers bag.

You’ll want to be sure to use the right attributes signalling who you are. You should aim for everything to go together in your ensemble of gear. Ask yourself – are you reenacting a man or a woman, poor or rich? When and where? What are your privileges in society and how do you express them? Where do you imagine that the person you are portraying live? What tools or characteristics are typical for your trade?

As I lift my eyes from the first picture of the purse I soon find that the little white bag perhaps could be attributed to falconers to set them apart from hunters. In Les livres du roi Modus et de la reine Ratio only falconers seem to wear them. Why is this? Interesting!


Could it be that his type of bag is signalling the falconer’s trade in illustrations or has some sort of special use for a falconer? Such a hypothesis calls for further investigation. If I’m right, it makes this bag inappropriate for me to wear as a hunter. But in order to start calling this a falconers bag, I’d have to have stronger proof. I’d like to see the connection in other manuscripts as well or have some other attribution of the little white bag to this specific use. But once you start looking, you’ll see little white bags everywhere…



The fact that not only falconers are wearing little white bags does not contravene the hypothesis that falconers maybe did as a mark of their trade. What I need is proof from other manuscripts or sources that show falconers carrying the same type of bag. The more pictures or historical evidence, the stronger the connection is.

Here is one from Codex Manesse, early 14th century. 721_10151593492456161_1601862695_nI’d prefer to have support from at the least three different manuscripts or other sources roughly from the same period of time before I conclude anything or decide to make something new. As I only have pictures from two sources and because Les livres du roi Modus is late 14th century and Codex Manesse is early, I’ll either have to keep looking or accept that my hypothesis is invalid.

When I started looking around in other sources, I got curious about what the falconers use the bag for. Knowing that could help me find more information and puzzle the pieces together. The little I know about falconering makes me wonder if it could be a easy-access-bag with meaty treats for the falcons? Little purses are commonly pictured in period illuminations and plenty of them are preserved, but they are rarely white. Why is this bag always white? Could it be a bag of linnen? I know that flax is hard to dye with period methods but very suitable to proof with wax and as such for storage of fresh food.

Mind you, it is not always possible to tell what material it is supposed to be just by looking at a picture. Also, don’t settle with a single picture of a funny looking bag found in just one manuscript before you decide to make one just like it, unless you are in to recreating that single scene exactly as it is. Ask yourself what the context tells you – the text that your picture illuminates, if you can read it or have it translated – what is it about? Does this type of bag occur anywhere else? Release your curiosity, start to ask and look around!

lovesmenotHere for instance is a picture of another bag or purse. It is not of the same type as the one I’m looking for but it is a good example of problems you’ll run into as a reenactor. Can I consider a bag like this one for my medieval hunters outfit?

Notice how big it is, almost like a modern backpack. From this period of time, mid- to late 14th century I know not of any others like it in size. Why is that? I haven’t seen everything, so I had to ask others who are more experienced. When I did, I was told that the text that this illumination belongs to is about the trouble that meets a man courting ungrateful and greedy women. Then I notice that the lady has a grumpy frown upon her face. I see the rejecting hand gesture and her very fancy dresses. I guess that she is not happy with her lovers gift, it is not good enough for her. How ever large and valuable, it is not what she wants from him.

From other texts and pictures as well as from interpreting the motifs on purses from the 14th century, aumônières, or alms purses seems to have been common gifts between lovers. I conclude that it is possible that the purse above is pictured as a large one in order to emphasize its importance, illustrating the great generosity of this man courting his ungrateful lady. Enlarging the most important thing in a picture is a common technique in contemporary art during this time but it can be misleading for us who look at the pictures some 650 years later…

To sum things up – as I am reenacting a 14th century hunter, none of the bags in my examples so far seems to be entirely appropriate. I’m still looking for something suitable, but I hope that sharing my searching strategy can be of help for others.

You will not always find what you are looking for and that is my last tip to you, don’t be to sure that you will. Don’t jump to conclusions to soon, look around, compare pictures from different sources and read the texts that go with the illuminations. Question what you think you know and try to see the bigger picture. As you do, you’ll get more skilled at analysing period art and you’ll learn more about the medieval world.

Good luck!

/ Emil


The javelin

Although the javelin is out of fashion on the battlefield in the 14:th century, it still is in use in hunting. Livre the chasse shows javelins being carried while hunting several kinds of  game.
It is somewhat unclear if the javelin was used for actually killing the prey, or more of a ‘bleeder’, hurting game while on the chase so they will bleed out and tire faster, letting the hounds get to the prey and pull it down.

As the mort was usually done with a sword or dagger, I lean towards that theory.
The usual javelin in the manuscript dont have barbs. Barbs would be useful as it keeps the point in the game and the game will be considerably slowed from the shaft. Maybe the purpose was to bleed the game, as the heads are rather wide, and drop the javelin, leaving an open wound, and possibly leave the javelin to be picked up and used again. Blood-trails would also help the hounds to keep on the parfait (the right line, close on the game). We must remember that the chase of the hounds, not the actual kill was often the point of hunting, hunt-descriptions often relaying the thrill of the chasing hounds as the core of the hunt.

This is just speculations about the use of the spear… But since its my blog, I can speculate all I want.  You are also welcome to speculate in the comments, or on our facebookpage.


Fleapickers and dogturds!

Of Falconers and hunters

 In the huntbooks there is sometimes pictures that makes you wonder what the heck is really going on here. One that I often get giggles and comments about when posting huntbookpictures is this one.

The picture is from Les livres du roi Modus et de la reine Ratio and shows hunters and falconers in a fisticuff about rank.
The story that relates to the picture is this (translated first from medieval French to Swedish… and then to english by me)

” Some hunters and falconers, being lodged in the same inn, where they ate and drank together, happened once in dissagreement about which way of hunting that would be considered the most noble, that with hound or with birds of prey. Each one held forth their own way, and heated argument ensued both with namecalling and fisticuffs. The hunters called the falconers fleapickers, for each time they came home from a hunt they sat in the sun to pick fleas from the falcons. The falconers in their turn mocked the hunters because they always walked around smelling of dogturds. None wanted to give in, but finally one of the present managed to barter peace by making the two factions listen to a poem of learning, featuring a disputation between two fair ladies about which of the way was to be seen as the most noble.

Diskussion om jakt

the two noble ladies in the garden

In the poem we are told about a knight and his lady who where out hunting stag and during the chase of the prey they came close to a castle on who’s land another knight and his lady where hunting partridge with sparrowhawk. Not until late in the evening the stag was killed in a river close to to the castle. When the lord and lady of the castle heard the sound of the horns, they hurried there and was very happy to see their neighbours. And since it was late in the day, they offered the staghunters to sleep over. But then the ladies engaged in a polite wordfeud about which hunt was the most noble. It was agreed then that a disputation would take place between the two the next day in the castle gardens. Here both held forth their huntideal one after the other. In the poem the feud now evolves to a philosophical feud of ranking or ‘paragonne’: which is to bee seen as the biggest joy -to see the flight of the falcons or listen to the bay of the hounds, or in other words which is the most noble sense, sight or hearing. As they could not meet in this matter  the decision was left to the great hunter the count of Tankarville. A messenger was dispatched to his castle and returned with the following judgement. It is true that the eyes are the mirror of the soul, the most noble sense and therefore the falconhunt should be considered the most noble, but the hunt with hounds must be given the prize, since that one alone gives the hunter opportunity to get joy from sight and sound at the same time. ”

its a recurring theme in the huntbooks, the argument about what is the most noble way of hunting. Edward of Norwich weighs in on the matter thusly in “the master of Game“:

“…For though it be that hawking with gentle hounds and hawks for the heron and the river be noble and commendable, it lasteth seldom at the most more than half a year. For though men find from. May unto Lammas (August 1st) game enough to hawk at, no one will find hawks to hawk with. But as of hunting there is no season of all the year, that game may not he found in every good country, also hounds ready to chase it.”

So.. to conclude:
It seems that falconers are fleapickers and that the true hunt is that with dogs.


Woman hunters



When talking about hunters in medieval times one easily get into the assumption that it was a male domain. When we look closer that theory does not appear to hold water.

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

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

The medieval literature is ripe with women hunting, they appear in illustrations doing all kinds of hunt. It is always a possibility in cases of illuminations, that the pictures are meant to be allegorical. But most of them seems to just depict women out hunting. It would seem that this is nothing unusual in the eye of the 14:th century person.  So if this post gets quite pictureheavy, it is because I wanted to show the plethora of pictures of women hunting, that its not just in one odd book, but a wide representation.

The most well known picture of a woman riding out on a hunt is of course from Lorenzettis fresco ‘The good rule’ the good rule

Here we se a confident noblewoman riding out with her raches afoot and the typical hunterscap on her head. A squire carries her falcon. This is indeed a caption of the good rule.
What kind of hunting did they do?

A well placed shot in Queen Marys psalter

thaymouth curre

Blowing the Mort and disemboweling the kill in the taymouth hours

Looking at the pictures it seems that hawking and rabbithunting was a preferred method of hunting for women, although it does not seem to be exclusive in any way.  Females are depicted as doing all parts of the hunt and all kinds of hunt. In Les livres du roi Modus et de la reine Ratio two women argue witch hunt is the most noble; Hawking or Hunting with dog. Both women holding forth their way of hunting. So, it doesn’t look like the women favoured the less ‘dangerous’ hawking before the more dangerous hunt with horse and dogs.

Taymouth hours 1

fast riding and shooting in the Thaymouth hours


Although its oddly enough just in Hawking you see parties of mixed men and woman. In texts though there is mentioning of man and woman riding the hunt together.

one exception being this lovely ivory panel from Paris 1350. showing a woman in the midst. Also shows falconers riding together with hunters. Possibly this is a general celebration of the joy of hunting. Currently in the Metropolitan museum.

1350, Paris, From metropolitan Museum.

Not even the most dangerous hunts, boarhunting, seems to have been excluding woman (as there is no reason it would)

All in all, it seems that hunting was one of those few sports in medieval times where men and woman was allowed to participate on equal terms.

kvinna mot svin cut

boarhunting from unknown manuscript


boarhunting from Taymouth hours








 The women in the huntbooks

In the huntbooks themselves the representation of women are halting. Les livres du roi Modus et de la reine Ratio there are some women depicted (more in some versions then others) and they appear in the text. Also half of the book is the allegorical Queen Ratio talking (granting that this is mostly a semantic feature).

In Livre de chasse there are no women to my knowlege, and also not in Master of Game.

But then we have the book of st. Alban.

Dame Juliana having opinions on the never ending discussion amongst hunters on with hounds to have in witch relay…

This book is printed in 1486 and consists of  Hawking, Hunting, and Blasing of Arms. It consists of treatises of the subjects written at an earlier date. The part about hunting is widely attributed to Dame Juliana Berners, who herself probably based it on Le Art de Venerie of the huntsman Guillaume Twici. Being a prioress of Priory of St. Mary of Sopwell she is believed to have kept to her love of hunting (hunting clerics seems to be nothing odd…If we see to the monk in Canterbury tales for example). So, women are not invisible in the huntbooks, they are writing them.


Social strata of female hunters


Slipping the greyhound relay

This is a hard nut to get into as most pictures display noble hunters, or at least seems to do so. It is not always easy to guess their class from the pictures. But the hunts that are mostly depicted are the hunts that nobles enjoy.  Although, some of the actions taken, as slipping the hounds, was commonly done by huntsmen. In one version of Les livres du roi Modus et de la reine Ratio the part of the poor farmer that has only a small net, is depicted as a female waiting on the hare. It could be argued that if there is nothing stopping noble women from hunting, the same might apply for the less fortunate. Or the roles of the lower classes are less mobile. I have found no hard evidence, but lean towards the first.



Dressed to kill



Just as male hunters, female hunters dress in the same clothes as is the fashion of the time. One thing that strikes you when looking at the illustrations though is that many women lack whimples. Some have donned the hat of the hunter (the Robin Hood classic) but most seems to prefer hunting with their hair snuggly braided.

kvinnor jagar hare  crop

rabbithunting with flying whimples and snuggly braided hair


Helena sporting our take on the preferred braiding

Whimples will of course be in the way of both hearing, and catching onto branches, so the preference is understandable. When riding the hunt I expect it might be outright dangerous to get caught in underbranches with a whimple.


There is no depiction of a woman wearing hose and Cotte though, even if one could argue that a dress is as hindering as a whimple out in the woods.


Some mentioning should be made about some pictures in British Library’s MS royal 10 E IV.

Here we see a dress with an odd hem. It shows furdepiction and on the top of the tips there are some kind of round…things.

kvinna med horn crop

British Library’s MS royal 10 E IV Odd upturn. Also look at above pictures

We have mused around this dress quite alot and have had an idea that it is an uppturned overdress. If we look at the picture to the left we see that the dress has tippets in the same furlining. This might show that the inside of the dress is furlined at that it has been uppturned and fastened in those round things. It could also mean that it just have a wide fur brim with some round ornaments on top.  We think it might be the first option tough, as the dress seems to be shorter then the one under it. If this has any practical use or if it is just a fashionstatement, I can not say as of yet. maybe some testing in the field will answer that.



We tested using fimbula clasps to upturn the Dress of Helena on our photoshoot, and the result is rather alike the illuminations, even if she lacks the fur lining


Helena sporting uppturnIf you want to see more pictures of women hunting we collected all of the pictures we collected for this article on our facebookpage




This post about the medieval dog was written for ‘the dogdays’ of Bohus Fästning and therefore regrettably in Swedish. For a more extensive article in English, click here.



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



Den medeltida hunden.


Det vi vet om den medeltida hunden kommer främst från handböcker i jakt. Den mest kända av dessa är Gaston Phoebus ”livre de la chasse” från sent 1300/tidigt 1400-tal och Kung modus ”Kung praktik och drottning teoris jaktbok” från 1300-talet. Dessutom har vi Edward av Norwich bok, som är en engelsk översättning av Gaston Phoebus, men omgjort något för Engelskt bruk. Just hetsjakten med hund var den som ansågs som den mest ädla jakten.

Kort sagt kan man säga att hundar avlades efter funktion, och inte utseende. Att avla efter funktion ger dock ett visst utseende.

Namnen på de olika rasena var mer generella på den tiden. I alla fall vad vi vet, de var mera indelade i användningsområden.

Ett nutida problem är att många tar ett hundsnamn som är en beskrivning av hundens funktion och/eller ursprungs område, som bevis på att just den hunden är en gammal ras. Lanthund från korpilombolo (en fiktiv ras…) betyder bara lanthundar från den regionen. Att de har haft hundar för det ändamålet där. Men deras utseende och vad vi kallar ‘ras’ nu är troligen väldigt löst korrelerat.

De vanligaste ‘raserna’ var:


c34_616 Lymer

Livre de Chasse 1407


En spårhund. Den gick alltid i lina (lymes) och hade därför detta namn. Dessa hundar var goda spårare och kan till användning liknas vid en blodhund. De ser dock inte riktigt ut så även om de är ganska stora och har hängande öron. Ståndöron är för övrigt väldigt ovanligt under denna tid. De användes till att spåra upp bytet i början av jakten när det ligger i sin lega. Efter att de har  skrämt upp bytet släppte man lös sina…


Livre de Chasse 1407


(Kommer faktiskt av det gamla fornskandinaviska ordet Racka, som lever kvar i t.ex. ‘byracka’ och betyder liten hund)
Raches var ‘mängdhunden’ under 1300-talet. Det är en mellanstor hund som släpps efter bytet när en Lymer hittat det. De är packhundar som släpps i grupper runt 12 eller 21 stycken. ”The more dogs the merrier the music they make” som Edward of Norwich säger. Dessa var oftast ihopkopplade två och två, ”coupled” eller släppta helt fritt. När de släpps tas ofta halsbandet av och man ser deras förare avbildade med ett antal halsband hängande på armen. De var hundar av medelstorlek till mindre, släthåriga och med hängande öron. Till kroppsbyggnaden liknar de en labrador ungefär, men de fanns i alla möjliga färger. Deras jobb var att driva bytet och hålla kontakten med det. De fick inte byta byte om ett annat skulle komma upp, utan skulle hålla sig till det utvalda. Längs med vägen stod sedan, vanligen tre,  ‘relays’ med:





mjöhundarUnder benämningen greyhounds döljer sig alla sorters vinthundar, från stora varghundar till små Italienska vinthundar. Greyhounds hölls vanligen i grupper om tre som placerades ut på olika ställen efter jaktspåret. När raches drev bytet förbi deras ‘relay’ så släpptes vinthunden på det för att dra ner det. För det mesta jobbade man med tre relays.

På bilder dominerar den vanliga släthåriga vinthunden, men t.ex. Edward of Norwich beskriver dem som att de ska ha ”Ett fullt hår under käken, som ett lejon” vilket passar mer in på en strävhårig hund som, t.ex. Irländsk varghund.




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

Spaniels kommer från Spanien. De användes till jakt på vattenfågel redan då och Edward har inte mycket gott att säga om dem. Detta beror antagligen mest på att han tycker att fågeljakt är en tråkig jaktform som han inte har något till övers för.

Han säger att de nog är bra hundar men att de tyvärr delar kynne med sina landsmän spanjorerna. De kan dock bli bra Berclettis (Berclettis är skjuthundar, hundar man har med sig när man är ute ensam och jagar med båge, den typ av medeltida jakt som kanske mest liknar dagens jakt). Spaniels är avbildade med vågigt, ganska långt hår,  inte olikt en modern spaniel.




Mastiffen kallas för en ‘blandras’, en mongrel. Den var dålig till jakt eftersom den gärna anföll både kor, hästar och även sin egen förare. Den var dock en bra hund för en slaktarbutik. Edward tycker att man kan ha den till att rota ut vildsvin som sprungit in i buskar ”så slipper man riskera en av sina dyra hundar”

Vi vet också att mastiffer använts av adelsmän som har hundar med sig ut i krig. Det verkar som att mastiff var en form av aggressiv gårdshund. Använd till att bevaka och angripa. Den behöver inte nödvändigtvis varit lika stor som nu utan kan ha varit allt från Staffordshire terrier till vad som nu kallas mastiff.



En talbot, som blivit känd inom heraldiken, var under medeltid ett ganska vanligt egennamn på hundar. Senare blev det mer synonymt med större ‘lufsiga’ hundar. En ‘riktigt’ Talbot skulle vara vit.


Van Eyck, 1435



Något engelskt namn har jag inte på dessa. Men diverse små hundar som hölls bara för deras sällskaps skull fanns också. På van Euyks berömda bröllopsmålning finns tex en liten hund som ganska mycket ser ut som en Bichon pour la Frissé.


Tyvärr vet jag inte så mycket om herdehundar då det är svårt att hitta information om dem i källorna.Men herdar verkar ofta ha haft med sig större hundar som skydd och framförallt som upptäckare av, rovdjur.

Utöver dessa kan det mycket väl funnits andra raser som använts till olika saker men vars namn inte kvarlevt till eftervärlden.



Man kan säga att medeltida hundar kunde se ut ungefär hur som helst. De vanligaste hundarna verkar ha varit släthåriga av medelstorlek och ha hängande öron. Men alla möjliga sorter däremellan fanns. Då man främst avlar på användning och inte utseende blir rasgrupperna större och variationen inom dem mer spridd. Man kan därför inte tala om raser på samma sätt som idag och att spåra en ‘ras’ bakåt kan bli svårt.



Den medeltida hunden i Sverige

I Skånelagen (bl.a.) finns en uppteckning om hur mycket man skall böta om man har ihjäl en annans hund. Där står de olika raserna upptecknade.

De är:
Gårdsvar (en gårdshund. En alltiallo hund för gården)

Mjöhund (alla vinthundsraser, Mjö kommer av fornnordiskans Mio som betyder smal)

Bärsaracka (samma som Raches. Bärsa är ett gammalt ord som betyder jakt/jägare)

Köffren ( en knähund. Små hundar som ”en man kan omsluta runt halsen med en hand” )


Av dessa fick man böta mest om man hade dräpt en köffren, men bara om ägaren kunde intyga att den aldrig bitit någon

Den vanligaste hunden här i norden sedan bronsåldern verkar ha varit spetshundar. Jämthund och Älghund och andra inhemska raser är väldigt gamla. Utgrävningar i Gamla Uppsala visar dock på högreståndsgravar från vikingatid med stora hundar. Jag har ännu inte pratat med osteologerna så jag vet inte vilken sort dessa är.


Förhållandet till hunden

Ett medeltida ordspråk säger ”Hunden skall tjäna mannan och kattan tjänar kvinnan”.
Hunden verkar ha varit en kär och omhuldad varelse. I Sverige finns en historia om en kvinna som dödar en mans Bärsaracki ”som är han väldigt kär” och han blir mycket ledsen. Andra historier som visar på en man och hans kärlek till sin hund är relativt vanliga. Ett annat Exempel är Tristan och hans kära hund Husdent. Hunden är frekvent en symbol för trohet.

c23_616 Kennel

Kennel, från Livre de chasse

De medeltida jaktböckerna beskriver hur man skall ta hand om sina jakthundar.


De ska ha en kennel med uppvärmning i.

Deras sovplatser skall var upphöjda från marken så de är skyddade mot drag

De skall ha sex stora stenar att kissa mot och väl dränerat med diken från dessa.

En liten dräng skall sova med dem så de inte blir oroliga om de vaknar mitt i natten.

Varje morgon skall de tas ut till en grön äng där de kan springa och leka och om de vill äta gräs.

Ny halm skall de ha varje dag och efter att de varit på ängen skall de gnuggas rena med halm.

Hunden utfodrades som bas med en sorts hårt bröd på engelska kallat ‘Brombread’ . De fick också tillägg av slaktrester och ibland kunde de tas ut på jakt bara för att hållas i trim och få kött för sig själva.

För fina bilder på jakthundar se gärna  ‘livre de la chasse

Som avslutning bjuder jag på denna dam från 1400-talet med en liten taxliknande hund… med spikkrage


Johan Käll