It’s obvious from the amount of depictions of dogs from the medieval period they were highly prized by our ancestors, both for work and play. They are everywhere! Their delightful little figures pop up on tombs, heraldry and manuscripts regularly.
Some think, when depicted on a tomb effigy of a lady especially, they represent fidelity. Of course..that figures..but casting that aside I believe that actual pets were being represented unlike the lions, representing strength, that were found at the feet of the effigies of males. Indeed some of their names are on the tombs. Lady Cassy’s little dog, ‘Terri’ was shown and named on her brass at Deerhurst, Gloucestershire and since the brass was commissioned by Lady Cassy after the death of her husband ‘it is likely that the name of the dog represents personal initiative on her part'( 1 ). Another dog named on an effigy at Ingham was “Jakke”.
Lady Cassy’s little dog, Terri, wearing a collar of bells. Deerhurst, Gloucestershire.
Many wore collars festooned with bells such as the dogs on Bishop Langham tomb instead of the usual lions found on a male’s tomb. Richard Willoughly specifically requested that bells adorn the collar of the dog at the bottom of his wife’s effigy.
Richard Willoughby specifically requested the dog on his wife’s effigy to be adorned with bells. Wollaton, Notts.
Blanche Mortimer’s effigy has a little dog, now sadly headless, peeping out of her spread skirts on her tomb at Much Marcle, Herefordshire.
Blanche Mortimer‘s little dog, still with her on her monument. Much Marcle, Herefordshire.
And there they are, for all posterity at their mistresses and masters feet, looking for all the world as if they are about to roll over for a belly scratch at any time.
The dogs that lived in upper class households undoubtedly were extremely lucky and led pampered lives but hopefully even the poorest households valued their dogs or ‘mungrell curres’ as a 13th century writer put it. For the many other aspects of medieval doggies lives see this article, covering everything you ever wanted to know about our canine friends…. I must say I feel for the poor ‘dog boy’ who had to be in the kennels at all times, even nights, to prevent the dogs fighting – Good luck with that! – to monks complaining that dogs and puppies ‘oftentimes trouble the service by their barkings, and sometimes tear the church books’..
Piero della Francesca – detail of the dogs from St Sigismund and Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta
Dogge eyeing up a cat…14th century manuscript..
Alaunt with a posh collar…
- English Church Monuments in the Middle Ages p307 Nigel Saul