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How did medieval highlanders treat their pets?

June 24th 2019
Dear Dabneyites,
You might associate lapdogs with Instagram models but they've been a popular thing for far longer than you might think. Some medieval people kept animals just for practical reasons, dogs for guarding, horses for transportation, sheep for wool and meat, hawks for hunting.

Dogs as found in the stars, Canis Major and Canis Minor

But more exotic pets were surprisingly common. Three types of birds were raised as companions. Passeriformes (sparrows, canaries, and finches), Columbiformes (pigeons and doves), and Psittaciformes (parrots.)

Possession of a parrot meant you were moving up in the world as they needed consistent warmth all year round and fresh food, not easy to provide in a world without Walmart or central heating! 

Not everyone approved of the keeping of pets. People often took their animals to church services, the sound of the pets causing such raucous noise that one guide to nuns from the 14th century forbid the sisters from taking their parrots into church any longer, writing:

"Unless need compels you, my dear sisters, and your director advises it, you must not keep any animal except a cat…Now if someone needs to keep one, let her see to it that it does not annoy anyone or do any harm to anybody, and that her thoughts are not taken up with it."

Medieval nun with pet dog
Merchants and shepherds tended to keep mongrel dogs but purebreeds were the domain of the upper classes. 14th century hunter Gaston de Foix wrote:

“I speak to my hounds as I would to a man…and they understand me and do as I wish better than any man of my household.” Lords might even employ dog-boys, servants who lived with the dogs in special kennels, cleaning them out daily and keeping fires lit to keep them warm. The dogs themselves were required to be taken out twice daily for walks and allowed to play “in a fair medow in the sun.”

An illustration from Gaston's guide to hunting

Lapdogs were also common in the Middle Ages, though some saw such dogs as sinful. One 16th century writer accused lapdogs of:

“being instruments of follie to play dailies withal in trifling away the treasure of time, to withdraw women’s minds from more commendable exercises.”

Medieval writer, Christine de Pizan with laptop by her side

The 13th century scientist and philosopher Albertus Magnus wrote a book On Animals that tells us dogs must not be fed the food right off the dinner plate or be petted constantly else:

"these canines will keep one eye on the door and one on the generous hand of the master.”

If you'd like to learn more about medieval pet keeping, this paper contains about as much information as you could ever need! 

I've a daft as a brush border collie who might fail to pass medieval guard dog standards but does keep me entertained nonetheless.

Do you have any pets at home? Feel free to share a pic on my Facebook page. I'd love to meet them!

With love until next time,

Blanche Dabney


The Key to Her Heart - July 5th, 2019

Not long to go until Book 3 in the Clan MacGregor series goes live.

Coming July 5th, 2019

Add to your 'to read' list on Goodreads here.

If you're on my ARC team, I'll be sending ARCs out at the end of this week.

The Key in the Loch audiobook!

The Clan MacGregor series began with The Key in the Loch.

Soon, you'll be able to get hold of a copy as an audiobook on Audible.

Hopefully by the next newsletter I should have a sample for you, and as soon as I have a release date organized, I shall let you know!

I've never produced an audiobook before but am looking forward to listening to the finished article. Watch this space!

Previous Newsletters

June 10th 2019 - Want to see inside the home of the Lords of the Isles?

May 24th 2019 - Who and what were the clans of Scotland?
May 14th 2019 - What was marriage like in medieval Scotland?
April 19th 2019 - Easter Sale

March 26th 2019 - What is medieval marginalia?
March 11th 2019 - Why was a castle taken down stone by stone?
Feb 22nd 2019 - What links King Arthur and Jamie Fraser?

Feb 8th 2019 - How did an Earl steal an abbey?
Jan 25th 2019 - Happy Burns Night
Jan 15th 2019 - What happens in a Highland New Year?

Dec 20th 2018 - Ten things I love about Christmas
Nov 28th 2018 - Knights in armor could hardly move, right?
Nov 14th 2018 - Seen Outlaw King yet?
Books by Blanche Dabney

The Medieval Highlander Trilogy

Highlander's Voyage
Highlander's Revenge
Highlander's Battle

Highlander's Time Trilogy

Held by the Highlander
(Bonus chapter - free download mobi or epub)
Promised to the Highlander
Outlaw Highlander

(Bonus chapter - free download mobi or epub)

Clan MacGregor Series

The Key in the Loch
(Bonus chapter -free download mobi or epub)
The Key in the Door
(Bonus chapter - free download mobi or epub)
The Key to Her Heart
(Coming July 5th 2019)
Copyright © 2019 Knock Knock WHOIS Not There, LLC, All rights reserved.

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