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.
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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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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).

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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)

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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

 

 

 

Hunting for signs of spring

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This year spring is unusually early in Sweden. The meteorological definition of spring here is that the average temperature must be rising and lie between 0 and 10 degrees Celsius for seven whole days in a row. This happened in mid February where we live, more than a month earlier than expected.

My personal definition of spring is different, it craves a close inspection of the signs in nature that the season brings with it. When I see it, I believe it. That is why our first spring outing is so important and it was about time we got out in the forest this weekend. Johan and I was also extra glad that our friend Helena joined us, bringing her energetic boarbaiter Bullen.

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Early spring outings in medieval gear means that you will have to deal with a lot of melting snow and expose yourself to a serious risk of getting very cold and soggy feet. It will take at the least another month before the forest dries up and the melting water is just above freezing temperature.

But few things are as medieval as cold and soggy feet due to walking in thin leather shoes or as effective to make you toughen up a little. At the least I suppose that is why Johan insisted that this was the perfect time to cross a bog flooded with icy water from the melting snow. He also claims that it is a lot of fun to make your way where there is no paths and the more challenging, the more fun. I will definitely agree on that point. (More about dressing for the season here.)
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Brave bogtrotters.

But I don’t expect that the “toughening” effect is measurable after only occasional events of uncomfortable experiences, just like I very much doubt the validity of single attempts on experimental archaeology when taken out of context. To gather valid knowledge based on experience is a long time project, it takes years. But every outing we do makes a little difference, we always learn something new.

For me, this outing was not about handling getting cold and wet, even if I did that as well. Instead I mostly focused on observing and bonding with my dog, Basilard. He came to me only five months ago and I haven’t had him off the leash much, worrying that he would go off hunting and get in some kind of trouble or another.
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Now I watched him run happily with the other dogs and he was never out of sight for long. He only reacted to the scent of game once or twice, as when we found massive boar-marks in the ground. I learnt that I had to take a chance more and trust him a bit to see the result of all the training we have done.
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After walking through the marches all of us had achieved the expected status of wet shoes and cold soggy hose-feet, but with a varying degrees of experienced discomfort. However I think we all equally enjoyed our little sit-down as we made up a fire and had a light meal including wine, cheese and some extraordinary tasty sausages.
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Making a fireplace by folding up the moss.

The subject of fire makes me think of our next project. This year we have decided to make an effort to better ourselves as fire-makers. We will practice to use traditional tools and methods to a further extent than we have done so far. I used to be proficient at using flint and steel but that was a very long time ago and I am looking forward to pick it up again. I imagine I’ll do a short video or an article about our progress with this project.
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As for signs of spring except for wet feet on wanderers in the woods, there was birdsong, budding leaves and little rivulets flooded with water. There still was occasional heaps of snow and the moss crackled with frost on some places, but also sprouting tufts of green on the ground. Most importantly, there was a few extra hours of daylight available for us now compared to when we did our last outing. All in all, what I saw was well enough for me to decide that spring is truly here.
/ Emil
You can see all the pictures from our outing in our Facebook-album here.
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Winter is upon us.

10922461_903329519712312_2446594680176877832_nYesterday I woke up to a snow white landscape. I knew it would be one of those precious winter outings, my favourite. All seasons in the woods have their charm and beauty, but I have come to especially like cold weather because of how snow and ice really puts my kit and my skills to the test. I like to use my gear in different weather conditions to see if my craft and gear hold water, sometimes quite literally.

This was not only our first outing in snow for a long good while and Basilards first one ever. It was also première for our new grey kirtles, the winter clothing for hunters as recommended by Gaston Phoebus.

IMAG4615We had a heavy snowfall the day before but it was not very cold, just about -5°C/23°F. That means cold enough for nice dry snow, but not so cold it hurts if you dress accordingly. Dry snow is lovely to be out in, but wet snow can be difficult. Thaw is soon absorbed by our thin leather shoes and becomes freezing water. It makes your hose soggy and your feet hurt with cold until they numb. After some time walking in this state of misery, the damp permanently damages the shoes as well.

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Dry feet in dry snow.

You can never know if the weather will change when you are out, so I always grease my boots the day before a planned outing and it helps a little. As long as you keep moving it is usually alright, but even in dry snow our shoes absorb some water after a while. The thin leather sole is then half frozen, constantly warmed by the foot and cooled by contact with the ground. This gives you a better grip than you might expect if you are used to walking in rubber soled shoes on ice.

Boots with many buckles like mine are not the most common ones in period pictures. When they appear they seem to be worn only by the most wealthy in society. I had mine made for me three years ago after archaeological findings of shoes from 14th century Stockholm. I too feel that they are a bit luxurious, but usually I’m very happy with them.

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Before.

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After!

However, on previous winter outings I’ve sometimes had trouble with snow getting trapped in the shaft and slowly melting there to my discomfort. It happens when the shaft is too low or not tight enough around the ankle. Recently I had a friend who is a really good shoemaker help me put on an extra pair of buckles to solve the problem. It worked out very well, kept the snow at bay and I think it looks great. Thank you Sofia!

I had been looking forward to this outing for some time, longing for snow. Now I plunged my way through it with childish delight and Basilard seemed to enjoy it as well. He was on his best behaivour all day, but I doubt he has ever seen so much snow. This was really good training for him and I’m glad that he goes so well together with Johans Boudica.

10917330_902327219812542_6400472687767569062_nThe forest was so heavy with snow on some places that young trees arched down over the track just like the ceiling in a gothic cathedral. Stunningly beautiful, but also treacherous as the forest dropped little icy surprices over us when you expect it the least…

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Fur lined hood makes one happy hunter.

Both Johan and I had put on our hoods lined with rabbit fur for this occasion and agreed that it is the best winter garment you can get. It is easy to regulate the warmth by pulling the hood up or down and it protects your neck from snow dropping from the trees. The fur gives you that instant warm fuzzy feeling that makes you all glad when your ears are nippy.

Except for my hood for warmth I also wore fur lined mittens and three layers of wool kyrtils. The most thin and soft one closest to the skin to keep me dry and then increasingly more thick and coarse fabrics on top to keep the snow out. The new grey kirtle got heavily felted when I dyed it and turned out almost water-proof. The massive width makes it drape nicely and the folds of the fabric make little pockets of air, soon warmed by the body. I didn’t freeze one bit.

IMAG4598_1Johan was happy with the extra long sleeves on his new kirtle. Gloves and mittens are sometimes a bother when you are out and about, holding horns and spears and dogs and whatnot. But folded down, the sleeves keep the warmth around the hands even without gloves, and you will not likely loose them in the snow.

We stopped for a light meal as usual, but this time we skipped making10354590_10152571715607765_3887943407287273709_n a fire.  We were both warm enough anyway and most wood was deep frozen. If there had been a need for it, we could probably have found usable branches up under firtrees, but we didn’t feel the need to scavenge half an hour for it. Instead we gave the sausages meant for cooking to two very happy dogs and just had the wine and cheese for ourselves.

The tracks we saw told us that we were alone in the woods that day, apart from its inhabitants of wild boar, hare and roe deer. All in all, it was a lovely day out.

Want to see more? Check out our FB-album.

/ Emil

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