Lion (Period)

Lion (Period)

The lion is a feline beast whose pride and strength have made it the King of Beasts and the noblest of animals.  It is thus a frequent charge in medieval armory, dating from the earliest heraldic records:  e.g., the canting arms of the Kingdom of Leon, c.1275 [ANA2 529].


The lion is rampant by default, as in the illustration.  When depicted passant guardant, as in the arms of England, medieval heralds often blazoned him a “leopard”.  To avoid confusion, Society blazons don’t use the unmodified term “leopard”:  instead, the term “natural leopard” denotes the beast found in nature, and lions passant guardant are explicitly blazoned as such.


Lion passant guardant (Period)

Lion passant guardant (Period)

Ounce (Period)

Ounce (Period)

Period heraldic depictions of the lion were highly stylized, with pinched waist and exaggerated tufts and tail.  Society heraldry also includes great cats, related to the lion, which tend to be drawn more naturalistically:  the “Bengal tiger”, the “cheetah”, and the “natural leopard”, also called an “African leopard”.  These cats differ trivially in outline; only their markings change.


There is also the “ounce”, a generic maneless lion, which is found (so blazoned) as the supporters of the Worshipful Company of Salters, 1591 [Bromley & Child 215].  The Society has also used more modern terms to blazon the ounce, such as “catamount”, “cougar”, “mountain lion”, or “natural panther”.  All of these great cats, like the lion, are rampant by Society default.


Lion bicorporate (Period)

Lion bicorporate (Period)

Lion tricorporate (Period)

Lion tricorporate (Period)

Lionesses and lion cubs are rarely if ever found.  More frequent are the variant forms:  the lion “queue-fourché” or split-tailed; the “double-headed lion”; the “lion bicorporate”, with two bodies attached to a single head, as in the arms of John Northampton, Mayor of London in 1381 [Dennys 137]; and the lion “tricorporate”, with three bodies attached to its head [Legh 47].  For related charges, see cat, panther, tyger.




The King of An Tir bears:  Checky Or and argent, a lion rampant, tail forked and nowed sable, crowned gules, grasping in dexter forepaw a laurel wreath bendwise vert.

Flóki hvítskeggr Lambason bears:  Argent, a lion rampant sable, armed, orbed and langued gules.

Cyrus Aurelius bears:  Counter-ermine, three lions Or.

Guillaume de Saint Jacques bears:  Sable, a lion sejant ermine.

Arianwen ferch Arthur bears:  Quarterly argent and azure, four ounces sejant counterchanged.

Roger Fitzlyon bears:  Per pall inverted azure, vert, and sable, a tricorporate lion argent.

This entry was posted on April 19, 2014, in .


Ibex rampant (Period)

Ibex rampant (Period)

Natural ibex statant (Period)

Natural ibex statant (Period)

The ibex is a monster similar to the antelope, but with forward-sweeping horns; it’s also called an “ebeck” in some period grants [Woodcock & Robinson pl.9].  The ibex was found in period armory as the badge of Audley, Lord Audley, d.1544 [Siddons I pl. 8; Woodcock & Robinson pl.19], and as the crest of Carill or Carrell, 1588 [Gwynn-Jones 104].  There doesn’t seem to be a default posture for the ibex; the illustration shows an ibex rampant.

When blazoned a “natural ibex”, the term refers to a beast, a species of mountain goat with distinctive circular horns.  It too is found in period armory, most commonly in German armory, as in the arms of Windegg, c.1340 [Zurich 325]; the illustration shows a natural ibex statant.  Since the two creatures have little in common but the name, Society heraldry grants difference between the ibex and the natural ibex.

Mary Taran of Glastonbury bears as a badge:  An ibex rampant Or armed argent.

Cainder of Loch Suilli bears:  Per pale ermine and sable, two natural ibexes rampant addorsed counterchanged.

This entry was posted on February 12, 2014, in .


Hyena statant (Period)

Hyena statant (Period)

The hyena is a beast known for its cruelty and madness.  It is distinguished by the ridge of hair down its back, and its lion-like tail.  The hyena is described in period heraldic tracts [Bossewell II.49], but no examples are known of its actual use in period heraldry.  It doesn’t seem to have a default posture; the illustration shows a hyena statant.

Though not biologically a canine, the Society classes the hyena as a canine for conflict purposes.  For related charges, see dog, fox, wolf.

Oriel Gibberish bears:  Purpure, a hyena statant contourny argent semy of roundels purpure, a chief argent.

Andras le Lâche d’Armorique bears:  Azure, a hyena salient to sinister ermine, charged on the shoulder with a heart sable.

Damian Mortmain bears:  Per saltire azure and sable, a hyena passant argent marked sable maintaining in its mouth an arm proper, a bordure wavy argent.

This entry was posted on February 12, 2014, in .

Horse; Ass

Horse rampant (Period)

Horse rampant (Period)

The horse is a large, strong equine beast used for riding, drawing loads, and other burdens.  As the chivalry’s special beast, it was considered among the noblest of animals; it was also the medieval archetype of virility and passion.  The horse is an ancient charge, found (bridled and saddled) in the arms of an early King of Norway, c.1275 [ANA2 57].

The default horse is the stallion, the adult male.  Period armory includes examples of the young horse, blazoned a “colt” or “foal” (the latter in the arms of Falyngbrome, 1465 [DBA1 204]).  Society armory includes the female horse, or “mare”.  No difference is granted for these distinctions.

The horse is sometimes blazoned “forceny”, literally “enraged”:  the term denotes a posture halfway between rampant and salient.  Since the posture is too easily confused with rampant and salient, and since the term seems to have been first used in the 18th Century, “forceny” currently is not used in Society blazons.  (Some of the Society’s early blazons use the term.)  There doesn’t seem to be a default posture for the horse; the illustration shows a horse rampant.

Horses may be shown bearing a rider, as in the arms of Lithuania, c.1413 [Conz.Const. cxlix]; saddled; bridled; or “caparisoned”, i.e., wearing barding and fully equipped.  These circumstances must be blazoned.

Ass statant (Period)

Ass statant (Period)

Similar to the horse is the “ass” or “jackass”, found in the arms of Riethiem, 1605 [Siebmacher 30].  Society blazons have also used the modern term “donkey” for this beast.  Like the horse, the ass doesn’t seem to have a default posture; the illustration shows an ass statant.

Society armory also has examples of the “mule”, a hybrid of the horse and ass, and the “onager” or Asian wild ass; these are heraldically indistinguishable from the ass, but no explicit examples have been found in period armory.

Instances are found in Society armory of the “Trojan horse”, a horse statant upon a wheeled platform; and of the “eight-legged horse”, a monster representing Odin’s horse Sleipnir.  The latter is not encouraged for Society use, because of the visual confusion from its limbs.

For related charges, see centaur, pegasus, sea-horse, unicorn.  See also hobbyhorse.

The Order of the Cheval d’Or, of Artemisia, bears:  A horse courant contourny Or.

The College of Scola Metallorum bears:  Azure, a donkey rampant contourny argent within a laurel wreath Or.

Anne Pomeroy of Woodswell bears:  Countervair, a mare courant reguardant Or.

Elena Catalina Santangelo y Fernandez bears:  Purpure, three horses rampant argent.

Fionnghuala Gliobach Mael Ailbe bears:  Gules, a horse passant contourny with a maintained female rider Or.

Troy of Nodham Whyre bears:  Purpure, a Trojan horse between three decrescents argent.

Halla Brandsdottir bears:  Or, an eight-legged horse passant contourny within a bordure sable charged with dolphins naiant argent.

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


Hedgehog (Period)

Hedgehog (Period)

The hedgehog is a small insectivorous beast, also called an “urchin” or “herrison”.  When faced with danger it would roll itself into a ball, exposing only its spines; so it came to be a symbol of caution.  It is a period charge, found in the canting arms of Herries, c.1275 [ANA2 120].  The hedgehog is statant by default, as in the illustration; its “proper” tincture is brown, with a white face and belly.

Of the period depictions of hedgehogs in armory, one curious example shows it with grapes impaling its spikes, rather like an animated hors d’oevre tray!  It’s found this way as the crest of Claxton, 1561 [Gwynn-Jones 33].

Similar to the hedgehog is the “porcupine”, with longer and fewer quills which were held to be poisonous.  It too is a period charge, dating to 1445 in the arms of Eyre [Parker 473].  A crowned porcupine was the badge of Louis XII, d.1515 [Neubecker 210].

Rúadnat ingen Diarmada bears:  Or, three hedgehogs statant gules.

Volodimir Ezhov bears:  Sable, a hedgehog passant contourny Or.

Judhael de Cornouailles bears:  Argent, a chevron gules cotised, in base a porcupine statant sable.

Mergriet van Edelare bears:  Gules, a hedgehog statant argent its quills impaling grapes purpure.

This entry was posted on February 10, 2014, in .


Goat clymant (Period)

Goat clymant (Period)

The goat is a horned, hooved beast famed for its lasciviousness (and, strangely enough, its eyesight).  The most common depiction is long-horned and bearded, with longer hair at the throat.  It’s a common charge, found as early as c.1320, in the arms of Obaerloh or Obaerlon [Zurich 366].

Special terms applied to goats include “clymant”, meaning rampant.  The goat doesn’t seem to have any default posture; the illustration shows a goat clymant.  For related charges, see ibex (natural), musimon, sheep.

Kozima la Pellegrina bears:  Sable, a goat clymant to sinister Or.

Eoghan MacCionna BaileArd bears:  Or, a brown goat erect playing a bagpipe proper, bagged gules.

Ottokar von Ehrenfels bears:  Argent, a goat clymant azure.

This entry was posted on January 30, 2014, in .


Fox courant (Period)

Fox courant (Period)

The fox is a canine beast with a narrow snout and bushy tail; its reputation is one of slyness and craft.  It is found in the canting arms of Fuchs, c.1450 [Ingeram 149].  If blazoned a “vixen”, the female fox is intended.

The fox seems to have no default posture; the illustration shows a fox courant.  Society heraldry defines a “fox proper” as red, with black “socks” and a white tip on the tail.  For related charges, see dog, hyena, wolf.

Ciara Sinikettu bears:  Or ermined vert, a fox courant azure.

Wakeline de Foxley bears:  Per pale azure and gules, three foxes rampant Or.

Ynhared Dewines y Glyndu bears:  Sable, a vixen rampant proper.

This entry was posted on January 29, 2014, in .


Ermine statant (Period)

Ermine statant (Period)

The ermine is a skinny beast of the mustelid family.  It’s technically a “stoat” or “weasel”; and it is sometimes so blazoned, as in the canting arms of Birtwistle, 1478 [Woodcock & Robinson 81].  In heraldry, the term “ermine” refers to the stoat in its winter coloration, pure white with a black-tipped tail; this is its “proper” coloration.  It’s found in this form as the badge of the Dukes of Brittany [Gayre, Heraldic Standards, p.93].

The ermine was valued for its silky white fur, which in time became the ermine furs of heraldry.  It was also one of the symbols of the Virgin, not only because of its pure white fur, but because of a medieval legend that the ermine conceived through its ear.

Similar in form to the ermine are such beasts as the “otter”, found in the canting arms of Ottyr, c.1460 [RH]; the “marten”, found in the arms of von Muggenthal, 1605 [Siebmacher 81]; and in Society heraldry, the “ferret”, the “mink”, and the “polecat”.  Though zoologically distinct, they are heraldically equivalent to the ermine.  All ermine-like beasts seem to be statant by default; this is uncertain, so it’s best to blazon the posture explicitly.  (The illustration shows an ermine statant.)  For related charges, see mongoose.  See also ermine spot.

Rima of Rockridge bears:  Gules, an ermine statant guardant proper.

Friedrich von Waffen bears:  Argent, three ferrets statant guardant in pale sable.

Lorimel the Gentle bears:  Vert, an otter sejant erect Or.

Donatien Delaborde bears:  Per fess argent and azure, two weasels statant counterchanged.

Alrik Eriksson Mård bears: Gyronny azure and argent, a marten rampant coward contourny sable.

This entry was posted on January 26, 2014, in .


Elephant (Period)

Elephant (Period)

The elephant is a gigantic beast characterized by its tusks, ears, and prehensile trunk; some early emblazons show it with cloven hooves as well.  It was considered a symbol of modesty and chastity by the medievals.  As an heraldic charge, the elephant dates from c.1340, in the canting arms of the Grafs von Helfenstein [Zurich 79].

The elephant is statant by default; its “proper” tincture is grey with argent tusks.  It is sometimes shown with a castle or tower on its back, such as recorded in the Visitation of Wales, 1530 [Woodcock & Robinson 149]; in such a case, the fact must be explicitly blazoned.  The castle is said to recall war elephants with howdahs, described by Alexander the Great when he tried to conquer India; if the elephant’s tower is actually drawn as a howdah, its use carries a step from period practice.

Tristan d’Alsace bears:  Azure, three elephants statant argent.

‘Abd al-Hakim ibn ‘Abd al-Rahman Shaddad al-Tomüki bears:  Argent, an elephant rampant sable maintaining in its trunk a coronet gules.

Edmund Foxe bears:  Sable, an elephant argent maintaining atop its back a tower, a bordure embattled Or.

Katherine Meade bears as a badge:  An elephant rampant ermine bearing on its back a howdah gules.

This entry was posted on January 16, 2014, in .


Talbot passant (Period)

Talbot passant (Period)

The dog is a domesticated beast bred for herding, hunting, and guard duty; it was the medieval archetype of loyalty and fidelity.  The most common breed of dog found in period heraldry, dating from 1285, is the floppy-eared hunting hound:  this breed is variously blazoned a “kennet” (in the canting arms of Kennet c.1285 [DBA1 293]), or more famously as a “talbot” (in the canting arms of Talbot c.1450 [DBA1 202]).  It might also, more simply, be blazoned a “hound”, as in the canting arms of Hondgate, temp. Henry VI [DBA2 295].  The illustration shows a talbot passant.




Greyhound courant (Period)

Greyhound courant (Period)

Alaunt statant (Period)

Alaunt statant (Period)

Another breed frequent in period heraldry is the “greyhound” or “levrier”, a fast slender breed (here shown courant).  As a charge, it dates from c.1285, in the canting arms of Maleverer [ANA2 111].  (We also have a period example of the greyhound blazoned as a “gower” – i.e., a goer, a fast dog – in the canting arms of Gower, c.1460 [DBA2 295].)

Period armory also gives us the “alaunt” or “alaund”, a short-eared mastiff, in the arms of Woode c.1460 [RH]; the illustration shows an alaunt statant.

The terms “cur”, “mongrel”, &c, (and of course “dog”) may also be used, to refer to a generic dog; such terms are often chosen for the sake of a cant.  In Society heraldry, while any demonstrably period breed of dog may be registered, the use of specific breeds beyond those found in period heraldry carries a step from period practice.

For related charges, see fox, hyena, wolf.

Mary of Tamar bears:  Or, two levriers rampant addorsed, tails couped sable.

Otta the Terrible bears:  Gules, two talbots combattant Or.

Evan Hawkins bears:  Or semy of arrows gules, an alant rampant collared azure.

This entry was posted on January 12, 2014, in .