Chien d’oysel (bird dog) is the name Gaston Phoebus gives in his 14th century Livre de chasse to a type of hound that came from Spain and was able to set partridges, quails, and other small birds so that they could be caught with a net. It is one of the first descriptions of the current bird dogs or gun dogs before guns were even invented. Bird dogs emerged in the Late Middle Ages as the result of the evolution of running hounds. They were selected and bred for their skills to smell the game in the wind and keep still and quiet in front of it so that it could be captured with a net. Documentary sources, hunting manuals, and medieval images report the apparition of this new kind of dogs in the Late Middle Ages. As a medieval art historian I will analyse the first images I have found of bird dogs in Italy, France, and Spain and contrast them with contemporary literary sources.
Participation of the clergy in the hunt was strictly prohibited by the medieval canon law. Engagement in this kind of secular entertainment was also very negatively evaluated in contemporary theological treaties as well as narrative sources. However, we have many testimonies that despite the prohibitions bishops maintained hunting service and personally attended hunting. Was this motivated only by a desire of entertainment or was it a significant sign of exercising secular power? This paper will attempt to assess the scale of this phenomenon and explain the motives guided by the hierarchy.
In the late medieval period, both hunting manuals and imaginative literature constantly refer to the deduits (‘delights’) of the courtly hunt. The noble hunt was defined by its expression and exhibition of ‘delight’. Yet, what exactly was meant by deduit is unclear. This paper argues that the ‘delight’ of the hunt combined the pleasures of performing elite status, of conquering animal ‘opponents’, and of appreciating the beauty of nature. The paper also illustrates how the delights of the courtly hunt supported the notion that the potential for aesthetic appreciation was solely an aristocratic trait.