Just Your Average 14th Century Dog

Cats might rule the internet, but dogs come a close second. The same is true in Medieval manuscripts. Well, it might be a photo finish with the monkeys, snails, and rabbits (yes, snails), but more on that later.

You can find dogs doing lots of things in Medieval manuscripts: playing instruments, reading books, working as scribes, break-dancing, and riding goats into battle (don’t ask). They’re also portrayed as frequent and faithful companions on the hunt and in battle. The devotion of the Medieval dog to his master is never in question.

But, you can also find dogs doing regular dog things.

For example, they never really did accept the cat. However, my money is still on the cat to kick all their asses.

Medieval dogs
4 of Hounds, from The Stuttgart Playing Cards, ca. 1430. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Landesmuseum Württemberg, Stuttgart (KK grau 34) |

There’s also you traditional domestic standoff. Dog wants to play. Cat wants no part of it. Dog gets huffy. Cat prepares to kick ass.

To Agree Like Cat and Dog----French (Artist) PERIOD ca. 1490 MEDIUM ink on paper. (Manuscripts & Rare Books) The Walters Museum
To Agree Like Cat and Dog—-French (Artist) PERIOD ca. 1490 MEDIUM ink on paper. (Manuscripts & Rare Books) The Walters Museum

The dog on the right is clearly just waiting for the cat to leave the safety of the bench, and then it’s ON.

«Regnault de Montauban», rédaction en prose. Regnault de Montauban, tome 1er Date d'édition : 1451-1500 Contributeur : Paulmy (Antoine-René d'Argenson, marquis de). Ancien possesseur Contributeur : Philippe III le Bon, duc de Bourgogne. Ancien possesseur Type : manuscrit Langue : Français
«Regnault de Montauban», rédaction en prose. Regnault de Montauban, tome 1er Date d’édition : 1451-1500 Contributeur : Paulmy (Antoine-René d’Argenson, marquis de). Ancien possesseur Contributeur : Philippe III le Bon, duc de Bourgogne. Ancien possesseur Type : manuscrit Langue : Français

Dogs will be Dogs, Mostly.

Has your dog ever given you side eye? Like when you need to take them outside in the rain to do their business or mentioned the b-a-t-h or the v-e-t? Or even worse, asked them to move from their (your) spot on the couch? These hounds clearly disapprove of you, the monks who drew them, and whoever is reading the manuscript.

Grumpy dog - Psalter, Flanders 13th century. (Bodleian Library, MS. Douce 49, fol. 64v)
Grumpy dog – Psalter, Flanders 13th century. (Bodleian Library, MS. Douce 49, fol. 64v)

 

Hours of Joanna the Mad (Add MS 18852), a Book of Hours produced for Joanna of Castile (more frequently, and somewhat unfairly, known as Joanna the Mad) in Bruges between 1496 and 1506. Nearly every folio has marginalia, unrelated to the text, including many animals and hybrids.
Hours of Joanna the Mad (Add MS 18852), a Book of Hours produced for Joanna of Castile (more frequently, and somewhat unfairly, known as Joanna the Mad) in Bruges between 1496 and 1506. Nearly every folio has marginalia, unrelated to the text, including many animals and hybrids.

 

Wolf As Monk (in a monk's cowl): in the margins of a Book of Hours, Utrecht, c 1460 - Reynard the Fox
Wolf As Monk (in a monk’s cowl): in the margins of a Book of Hours, Utrecht, c 1460 – Reynard the Fox

You know that sound? *That* sound? The glunngh glunngh glunngh that comes right before dinner is reproduced all over the carpet/bed/sofa? Medieval peeps were apparently familiar with that sound, too. To the point where they were moved to show these dogs vomiting in manuscripts.

Vomiting dog. 'li chiens qui est de teil nature que quant il a womit si repaire à son womitte et le remengue de rechief jou eusse volontiers ma proiere renglotie cent fois...' Richard de Fournival, Bestiaire d’Amour, Lorraine 14th century (Bodleian Library, MS. Douce 308, fol. 89r). Discarding images
Vomiting dog. ‘li chiens qui est de teil nature que quant il a womit si repaire à son womitte et le remengue de rechief jou eusse volontiers ma proiere renglotie cent fois…’ Richard de Fournival, Bestiaire d’Amour, Lorraine 14th century (Bodleian Library, MS. Douce 308, fol. 89r). Discarding images

 

PERRO: El perro que devora su propio vómito es como el hombre que, tras la confesión, regresa al pecado. Bestiaire d'amour, Richard de Fournival, s. XIV-XV. Bibliothèque Nationale de France, fr. 1951
PERRO: El perro que devora su propio vómito es como el hombre que, tras la confesión, regresa al pecado. Bestiaire d’amour, Richard de Fournival, s. XIV-XV. Bibliothèque Nationale de France, fr. 1951

Mostly, though, dogs spent the Middle Ages just being dogs. Doing the things they do best…like…

Begging at the table.

Medieval Manuscript Images, Pierpont Morgan Library, Book of hours (MS M.6). MS M.6 fol. 3r
Medieval Manuscript Images, Pierpont Morgan Library, Book of hours (MS M.6). MS M.6 fol. 3r

Being annoyed by/chasing insects.

Marginalia painting of flies surrounding a dog, from the Maastricht Hours, Netherlands (Liège), 1st quarter of the 14th century
Marginalia painting of flies surrounding a dog, from the Maastricht Hours, Netherlands (Liège), 1st quarter of the 14th century

Fighting over bones.

Dogs from Hours of Catherine of Cleves. Circa 1440. Morgan Library MS M 945 ff 142v 143r
Dogs from Hours of Catherine of Cleves. Circa 1440. Morgan Library MS M 945 ff 142v 143r

And, the perennial favorite, hogging the bed…

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Which leads to the other favorite, being kicked out of the bed.

103 [50r] - Ms. germ. qu. 12 - Die sieben weisen Meister - Page - Mittelalterliche Handschriften - Digitale Sammlungen
103 [50r] – Ms. germ. qu. 12 – Die sieben weisen Meister – Page – Mittelalterliche Handschriften – Digitale Sammlungen
But the best things that dogs have always been – and will always be – are a girl’s best friend.***

Taymouth Hours, 1325-40 English.
Taymouth Hours, 1325-40 English.

See more fun dogs on my Pinterest board: Marginal Dogs.

***This post is Denny Basenji-approved.

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