A Manual of Heraldry



It is certain, that several of these animals owe their place among heraldic ensigns, solely to the Crusades. They are, in few instances, emblazoned "proper," or of their natural hue; but are commonly subject, like other bearings, to all the variations by metal or colour. The form of them is seldom accurate, according to Nature; nor is it expedient to copy them from the delineations made in the rude and early state of the arts. Those which are very ancient are certainly too grotesque to be strictly copied, and are curious only to antiquaries. In the later centuries, they have acquired a more definite form, and to such, heralds of intelligence and good taste will adhere; without attempting to make any sacrifice to the propriety of natural history. These forms are no less peculiar to heraldry than its language; and we might as well attempt to modernize the hieroglyphics of Egypt.

The first to be noticed are the Heads of Saracens and Saxons couped or cut off. Hands, couped or erased. Jambs, legs couped.

Heraldic Heads

The heads and shoulders of young women and children are of singular occurrence, and appear principally in Welsh coats of arms.

Lion. - From primaeval usage, the lion has been considered as the genius of courage, or as the emblem of royalty, and is doubtless the first, as well as the most frequent of armorial delineations of an animal. His attitudes, anciently, were passant, passant guardant, and regardant rampant: to which the moderns have added issuant or naiant, saliant, and combatant.

Heraldic Lion Postures

When two are introduced as rampant, they are termed combatant, on account of their instinctive valour.

Heraldic Lion Postures

In the legends of the Crusades, the single combats of lions with heroes are particularized; and several ancient seals, in which both are represented, seem to confirm this fact. Lions are sometimes placed back to back, called addorsed. When more than two are exhibited on a shield, they should be styled Lioncelles. When with two tails, double-queued.

Parts of a lion are, the head erased; the tail furché or forked, and double, in some few instances; and the jamb, or paw. The front is called a Leopard's face; and from this circumstance a certain confusion has arisen. In ancient blazonry such heads have the shaggy hair of the lion, but by an innovation they sometimes represent those of Leopards.

Lions are in some instances crowned, collared, and chained; sometimes they hold different devices in their paws, but such are inventions of comparatively a late date. The heraldic Tyger, in ancient blazonry, is drawn as passant, having the head like a wolf, and the tail like a lion, thrown over the back.

Leopards. - The arms of England were very anciently called "Three Leopards Passant," instead of three Lions. The Leopard as in nature, is almost unknown in heraldry; the Mountain Cat in some degree resembling it.

Unicorns, although originating in Palestine, are of modern usage, even when the head only is borne. Probably it was suggested by the horse-head armour in tournaments, which had a projecting spike.

Bears are very rarely introduced but as crests: they are chained and muzzled, and sejant, that is, sitting upright; or passant.

Horses. - Of these, there are few examples on the shield: their heads are sometimes represented couped: both are often used as crests.


Stags, or Harts, are the principal. The attitudes of this animal are, couchant, as in a thicket; statant, standing at gaze; trippant, as in a park; courant, as when pursued in the chace.

Heraldic Animals

The head only is borne, either cabossed, that is, the front with the horns, cut off behind the ears, or in profile, couped at the neck. When the antlers only are emblazoned, they are called Stags' attires.

Wild Boars - not common, when intire; but the head couped or erased, is most frequent.

Wolves - of similar usage, but much less common.

Foxes - in like manner.

Squirrels - sejant on a bough.

Moles - as dug up from the earth.

Talbots and Alands - hunting dogs.

Heraldic Animals

Greyhounds are seen in early and frequent examples, courant. The head is sometimes erased.

Bulls - the head affronté or cabossed with the horns, or erased at the neck.

It would be superfluous to enumerate all the beasts which have been applied to heraldic bearings; I have therefore omitted such as appear only in solitary instances.


Eagles. - The eagle is ranked with the lion, as the king of birds. It was the ensign of the Roman Empire, and became afterwards the emblem of imperial sovereignty. When the legs and wings are stretched out, they are termed in heraldry Eagles displayed; and when drawn with two heads, are called Eagles with two heads displayed.

Parts of eagles claim as great antiquity. The head erased, - and the leg torn off at the thigh, or á la Quise.

When more than one are introduced, they are Eaglets.

The Allerion, Merlion, or Martlet, is the eagle when in the eyry or nest, and is always described as without legs, or with short legs covered with feathers. The last mentioned is a very common bearing, and is said to denote families of Norman extraction.

2. Falcons, Hobbies, or Hawks. - They afforded one of the most favourite sports to our ancestors of the higher ranks, and in which the ladies partook, who were deterred from the chace, by its great fatigue and danger. Falcons are represented rising, or with wings elevated, but not in full flight, - sometimes the wings closed, when sitting on a perch. Their heads may be erased or couped.

Hawks bells are drawn of a globular form, and tied to the legs with jesses or thongs or red leather. The hawk's lure was composed of feathers fixed in a tassel, and appended to a string, by throwing out which, the falconer could entice the bird to him, at pleasure, when soaring in the air. Falcon's wings conjoined are said to be in Lure.

Owls, as being a bird of prey, appear in ancient armouries

The Corbeau, or Raven, is of very early assumption.

Heraldic Birds

The Cornish Crow, which is always depicted with a black body and red beak and legs, is almost peculiar to the gentry of Cornwall.

Hirondelles, or Swallows with legs, are of the highest antiquity, borne by the family of Arundel, and, like that of Corbeau to Corbet, confined to a single name. The Martlet has been frequently confounded with the swallow in heraldry.

The Pelican is from the Holy Land, used as an emblem of maternal affection, and wounding herself to feed her young; but this is a legendary notion. The Pelican of heraldry is very unlike the pelican of the wilderness. It is figured more like an eagle than the real bird.

The feathers of the Ostrich form as part of coat- armour, but rarely.

The Parroquet, an Eastern bird, is used with a nearer resemblance to nature.

Several other birds, and their parts, are comparatively of modern application, which have been adopted, at first only as crests, cognizances or supporters, and have been gradually introduced as bearings. It would be tedious to enumerate them all; and they are now drawn from nature, a sufficient proof that they are not of long usage.


Are by no means a common bearing; but there are two very ancient exceptions.

The Dolphin. - When chivalrous expeditions were made, by crossing the ocean, the Dolphin attracted much notice, being, according to fabulous opinions, addicted to the society of man. It may be considered, in an heraldic point of view, as analogous to other monsters. It is depicted with scolloped fins and upright, or embowed as sporting upon the surface of the sea, with a distant resemblance to the natural fish.

The Lucy, or Pike, is emblazoned haurient, or gasping as when caught in a lake; and was the ensign of the barony of Lucy from its first foundation.

Heraldic Fish

Salmon, Trout, Herrings, and Sprats, are known perhaps in single instances where the bearing is designed to indicate the name. Archbishop Herring and Bishop Sprat, for instance, both of whom had arms so granted to them. Yet such are known in antiquity, - Corbeau for Corbet, and three calves for Le Vele and Calverly.