Search Results for: bull


Bull passant (Period)

Bull passant (Period)

This beast is the male bovine, noted for its size, strength, and temper.  The term here includes such bovines as the “ox”, the “steer”, and the “bison” or “buffalo”; though the buffalo is usually drawn with larger horns (as in the arms of Desenberch or Wezenborg, d.1393 [Gelre 53]), the exact term is often chosen for the sake of a cant.  As a charge, the bull dates from at least c.1370, in the arms of von Plessen [Gelre 100v]; in mundane armory, it is often drawn with a ring through its nose, even when this is not explicitly blazoned.

There is also the “cow”, the female bovine, drawn with prominent udders; and the “calf”, the young bovine, drawn without horns (as in the canting arms of Vele, 1275 [ANA2 166]).  Finally, Society armory includes the “yak”, the hairy wild bull of Asia.

None of the bovine family seems to have a default posture; the illustration shows a bull passant.  See also pelt.

The Baron of Stierbach bears:  Per fess embattled argent and gules, three bulls courant counterchanged, that in base within a laurel wreath argent.

Eadmund de Tonge of Arkengarth bears:  Pean, a bull passant to sinister argent.

Angus Murdoch Stewart bears:  Argent, a cow rampant purpure within a bordure gules.

Clifford of York bears:  Or, a yak statant guardant sable armed argent.

This entry was posted on December 11, 2013, in .


Sphere, or armillary sphere (Period)

Sphere, or armillary sphere (Period)

Terrestrial sphere (Period)

Terrestrial sphere (Period)

A sphere, more fully termed an “armillary sphere”, is an astronomical instrument representing the sky.  The name comes from the Latin armilla, “hoop, ring”; the instrument consists of a set of rings, forming the framework of a sphere, with the Earth at its center.  The rings represent the ecliptic, tropics, celestial equator, &c, of the sky.  The armillary sphere is a period heraldic charge, found in the arms of the Worshipful Company of Joiners, 1571 [Bromley & Child 153].

There is also the “terrestrial sphere”, a globe of the Earth showing the lines of latitude and longitude, and perhaps a vague suggestion of continents.  It too is a period charge, found in the crest of Sir Francis Drake, 1581 [Wagner 72].

Celestial sphere (Period)

Celestial sphere (Period)

Finally, there is the “celestial sphere”, showing the constellations and the band of the Zodiac:  what the sky would look like from the “outside”, as it were.  The celestial sphere is found in the crest of Bull, watchmaker to Elizabeth I [Parker 547].

For related charges, see astrolabe, clock, orb, roundel.

Brian Caradoc Walsh bears:  Gules ermined, an armillary sphere Or.

Romas the Mapmaker bears:  Per fess gules mullety Or and vert, a dance and in base a terrestrial sphere Or.

Aurelia Saturnina bears:  Purpure, a celestial sphere argent between three bees proper.

This entry was posted on June 3, 2014, in .


Panther rampant guardant (Period)

Panther rampant guardant (Period)

Continental panther rampant (Period)

Continental panther rampant (Period)

The unmodified term “panther” refers to a kindly monster, described in medieval bestiaries as beautiful and amiable, whose sweet breath drives away evil.  Heraldically, the panther comes in two widely differing forms; current Society practice grants heraldic difference between them.

In English armory, the panther is depicted as a maneless lion, “incensed”, i.e., with flames spewing from its mouth and ears (a misrendering of its “sweet breath”), and the coat strewn with roundels (frequently multi-colored).  This form is usually found guardant in period armory, as with the badge of Henry VI, d.1471 [HB 110]; the illustration shows a panther rampant guardant.  This is considered the default panther in Society armory.

In Continental armory, the panther is depicted with a lion’s body and an eagle’s forelimbs; it usually has the head of a horse or bull, and occasionally has horns as well.  Like the English form, it is incensed.  In Society armory, this form is blazoned a “Continental panther” or “German panther”; the illustration shows a Continental panther rampant.  As an heraldic charge, it dates from c.1340, in the arms of Styria [Zurich 31].  Some authors speculate that it might have been the precursor of the monster now called a “male griffin” or “keythong”.

Over the years, the Society has changed its default postures for panthers, of both sorts.  Current practice is that both types of panther are not guardant by default; the guardant English panther can be so blazoned.

When blazoned a “natural panther”, the term refers to the great feline beast as found in nature; it may also be blazoned by the period term “ounce”, or the Society term “catamount”.

Elspeth Colquhoun bears:  Purpure, in pale two panthers passant counter-passant guardant argent spotted of diverse tinctures and incensed proper.

Talon the Bastard bears:  Pean, two panthers rampant addorsed Or spotted sable.

Alrick von Baeker bears:  Or, a Continental panther passant bendwise azure incensed gules.

William the Silent bears:  Or, a natural panther passant guardant sable.

This entry was posted on May 23, 2014, in .

Horn, animal’s

An animal’s horn is a hard, pointed projection that grows from certain animals’ heads.  The type of animal must be specified in the blazon.  The most common forms in medieval armory are deer’s horns, ram’s and goat’s horns, and bull’s horns, each discussed below.

Attire (Period)

Deer’s attire (Period)

Deer's massacre (Period)

Deer’s massacre (Period)

Deer’s horns, or antlers, have special terms to describe them.  A single deer’s antler is termed its “attire”, and is found in German heraldry as early as c.1275, in the arms of the Counts of Württemberg [ANA2 476].  Its default orientation is fesswise, with the stump to dexter, but there are numerous period examples of a deer’s attire in other orientations, or even bent in a circle.  The deer’s full rack of antlers may be termed a “deer’s attires”, or a “massacre”; if joined to a scrap of flesh, these may also be called a “deer’s scalp”.  The set of attires is shown as found on a deer guardant:  spread symmetrically with points to chief.  The exact number of points is not blazoned, but left to the artist.

Ram's horn (Period)

Ram’s horn (Period)

Pair of ram's horns (Period)

Pair of ram’s horns (Period)

Ram’s horns are found in German armory as early as c.1340, in the arms of Frowenvelt or Frauenfeld [Zurich 136].  They could be depicted singly, or in pairs; when in pairs, they tended to be shown curving away from one another.  A single ram’s horn could be oriented in one of several ways; the illustration is taken from the arms of von Widerspach, 1605 [Siebmacher 82].  Goat’s horns were drawn very similar to ram’s horns, but tended to have less curl, as in the arms of Kotwitz von Aulenbach [Siebmacher 107].


Pair of buffalo's horns (Period)

Pair of buffalo’s horns (Period)

Unicorn's horn (Accepted)

Unicorn’s horn (Accepted)

Bull’s horns, or buffalo’s horns, are found in German crests as early as the 14th Century [Gelre], and as charges in the arms of von Pfiltz, 1605 [Siebmacher 51].  They are drawn in a highly stylized manner; indeed, the German stylization sometimes caused the charge to be blazoned by French and English heralds as “elephant’s trunks”!  Horns that are intended to be drawn more naturalistically would be better blazoned “cow horns”, the English practice.  Society armory also has an example of a “bison’s massacre”, two short horns issuant from a scalp, as seen in the arms of von Sachsennhein, 1415 [Conz.Const. clxxx].

Of horns unique to the Society, the most common is the “unicorn’s horn” or “alicorn” (also sometimes blazoned a “narwhal’s horn” or “narwhal’s tooth”).  No period examples have been found of it as a separate, independent charge.  The unicorn’s horn is palewise, point to chief, by Society default.

Andreas Lucernensis bears:  Per pale argent and sable, in pale three stag’s attires reversed gules.

Guinevere Whitehorn bears:  Per bend azure and sable, a stag’s attires argent.

Hafr-Tóki bears:  Sable, a stag’s antler in annulo conjoined to itself Or.

Ellen of Two Lines bears:  Vert, a ram’s horn Or.

Angelica de Boullanger bears:  Vert, a unicorn’s horn couped bendwise argent.

Otmar von Erhingen bears:  Quarterly argent and sable, a pair of bull’s horns counterchanged.

This entry was posted on February 11, 2014, in .

Head, animal’s

Boar's head couped (Period); boar's head couped close (Period)

Boar’s head couped (Period); boar’s head couped close (Period)

Fox's mask (Period)

Fox’s mask (Period)

Animal’s heads are an ancient heraldic motif, dating from at least 1255:  the boars’ heads in the canting arms of Swinburne [Asp2 220].  Almost any beast found in heraldry may have its head used as a separate charge; indeed, in several cases (e.g., the boar), the use of the head predates the use of the whole animal.

Most animal’s heads face dexter by default; the exception is the owl’s head, which is guardant by default.  The line of division is specified, i.e., whether the head be couped or erased; the head is usually severed where the neck meets the shoulders.  A head “couped close” is severed just behind the ears, with no neck included; the illustration compares a boar’s head couped with a boar’s head couped close.  The exact manner of severance is worth no heraldic difference.

A head “cabossed” or “caboshed” is guardant, with no neck showing.  Some animals have special terminology for this posture:  Fox’s heads cabossed are called “fox’s masks”, cat’s heads cabossed are “cat’s faces” (ditto leopards).

Pelican's head erased (Period)

Pelican’s head erased (Period)

Lion's head jessant-de-lys (Period)

Lion’s head jessant-de-lys (Period)

A pelican’s head includes its neck and part of its breast, distilling blood.  A lion’s head “jessant-de-lys” is a lion’s head cabossed, with a fleur-de-lys issuant from the mouth and back of the head; this is an ancient usage, found in the arms of Cantelupe c.1298 [ANA2 473].  Other beasts’ heads jessant-de-lys are found in Society armory, but such usage is considered a step from period practice.

In other respects, the characteristics of any animal’s head are those of the animal, and may be found under the entry for that animal.

The Baron of Coeur d’Ennui bears:  Argent, a laurel wreath vert within eight boar’s heads couped in annulo gules.

The Order of the Lions of Atenveldt bears:  Per pale azure and argent, a lion’s head cabossed and a bordure Or.

Sabina de Lyons bears:  Gules, three lion’s heads cabossed argent.

Adelaide Walcheman bears:  Azure, a peacock’s head couped Or.

Malak Boga bears:  Quarterly Or and ermine, four bull’s heads cabossed sable.

Aénor d’Anjou bears:  Purpure, a lion’s head jessant-de-lys Or.

Hanor Blackwolf bears:  Or, three wolf’s heads couped contourny sable.

Ursula Messerschmitt bears:  Vert, a bear’s head cabossed argent.

Fandral Silverfox bears:  Sable, a fox’s mask argent.

Lianor de Matos bears:  Or, three stag’s heads erased gules.

This entry was posted on February 9, 2014, in .


Boreyne passant (Period)

Boreyne passant (Period)

The boreyne is a monster vaguely similar to a bull, but with a horse’s mane, a lion’s forelegs and tail, an eagle’s hindlegs – to which are added curled horns, spear-headed tongue, and a fin spouting from its crupper.  It was used as a canting badge by Borough (or Burgh) c.1466 [Dennys 152].  The boreyne does not seem to have a default posture; the illustration shows a boreyne passant.

Iago of Winged Hills bears as a badge:  Or, a boreyne passant to sinister gules.

This entry was posted on December 2, 2013, in .


Beasts in Society heraldry tend to follow the same conventions as those in mundane heraldry.  Any special Society usages for a given beast will be found in the entry for that beast.

Any beast known to period Europeans may be used in Society armory – though, if the beast is not itself European, its use may be considered a step from period practice.  (An exception is made for non-European beasts actually used in period European armory:  the elephant is probably the best-known example.)

For specific beasts, see:  antelope (natural), ape, badger, bat, bear, beaver, boar, bull, camel, cat, deer, dog, elephant, ermine, fox, goat, hedgehog, horse, hyena, ibex (natural), lion, mole, mongoose, mouse, panther (natural), rabbit, rhinoceros, sea-lion (natural), sheep, squirrel, tyger (natural), wolf.  See also demi-beast.

Gareth the Russel bears:  Azure, a skunk statant proper.

David of Staffa bears:  Or, a hippopotamus statant azure, a base engrailed vert.

Sven Örfhendur bears:  Argent, a sloth pendant contourny vert from a rod fesswise sable.

Rosatrude the Shrew bears:  Or, a water shrew statant to sinister sable marked argent.

This entry was posted on November 27, 2013, in .