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