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We Interpret 7 Wacky Medieval Dog Illustrations

Medieval scribes doodled some odd things in the margins of manuscripts. Dogs playing cat-bagpipes, anyone?

 |  Apr 16th 2013  |   9 Contributions


The wonderful site Discarding Images is a Tumblr of weird illustrations, mostly featuring animals, taken from the manuscripts of medieval books. We found some with dogs in them. We wondered what the heck they were doing there. 

1. Bagpiping dog

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Hours, England ca. 1300.

This is a bagpiping dog. We have no idea why the bag of his pipe is made of a cat, or why he seems so enthralled with his song -- or why the cat seems to be attached to his stomach -- but we do know that he's starving. Look at those ribs! He's also playing the wrong instrument. He has the fingers of a pianist.

2. Killer rabbit and praying dog

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La Somme le Roy, France ca. 1290-1300.

This appears to be a dog pleading for his life to a rabbit with an axe. This was drawn shortly after rabbits learned to use weapons to defend themselves against dogs, who chased them throughout the Dark Ages with impunity. We'd like to think this dog came out okay. Have you ever seen a dog this cute pray? Surely the rabbit gave him a Milk Bone and sent him on his way.  

3. Fish-rabbit and fish-dog

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Summer volume of the Breviary of Renaud/Marguerite de Bar, Metz ca. 1302-1305.

Ah, the other side of the coin, with the fish-dog chasing the fish-rabbit. Why are they half-fish? Looks like some happy-go-lucky scribe was partaking of the herbal remedies a wee bit too much.

4. Ye gods! Another savage rabbit!

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Gorleston Psalter, England 14th century.

Goddamned rabbits again! Look at this heathen, preparing to slice this poor dozing dog to pieces with a knife -- or maybe that is a length of cow intestine, knowing these disturbed medieval scribes. (We're only showing you the dog pictures, but based on some of the other pictures, these people would rule today's horror industry.)

5. Breast-dog

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Book of Hours, Paris ca. 1480.

I suppose it had to come to this. A dog with two legs, a woman's breast sprouting from his back, and the tail of a lizard. Breast-dog must have been quite popular in disreputable taverns in the wee hours of night. (Sorry.)  

6. Just awful

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‘Tristan de Léonois’. Arras ca. 1285-1290.

Just a dog on a ram's back, holding a sword, heading off to joust an unknown assailant, probably the Mountain That Rides, terrified. Look at the way he's holding that sword. Somebody certainly never taught this dog to joust. This will not end well. I hope milady is happy.

7. Ye royal food taster 

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Richard de Fournival, Bestiaire d’Amour, Lorraine 14th century.

Ah, some things never change. A vomiting dog. Perhaps he had just tasted the night's soup? They couldn't even microwave a hot dog properly back then. 

Photos via Discarding Images

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