Of the sheep The sheep, a gentle animal, its body clad in wool, harmless, placid by nature, gets its name from oblatio, an offering, because men of old offered as a sacrifice not bulls but sheep. Some are called ‘bidents’, having two teeth among their eight which are more prominent than the others; the pagans dedicated these, in particular, as a sacrifice. As winter approaches, the sheep is ravenous for food and devours grass insatiably, because it senses the coming severity of the season and seeks to stuff itself with fodder before the grass fails in the sharp frost. Of the wether, or ram The wether gets its name, vervex, either from its strength, vires, because it is stronger than other sheep, or because it is a man, vir, that is, male, or because it has worms, vermes, in its head; irritated by the itching which these cause, wethers strike each other, butting their heads together in combat with great force. It is also called a ram, aries, from the Greek, Ares, that is, the god of war; in Latin, Mars; that is why we call the males in a flock mares. Or because, once upon a time, this animal was offered as a sacrifice by pagans on their altars: thus, aries, because it is laid upon an altar, ara. From which we get: ‘the ram is sacrificed at the altar’ (see Exodus, 29:18). Of the lamb The lamb is called agnus possibly from the Greek word agnos, pious. Some think that it gets the Latin form of its name because, more than any other animal, it recognises, agnoscere, its mother, so much so that, even if it strays in the midst of a large flock, it recognises its mother’s voice by her bleat and hurries to her. It seeks out also the sources of mother’s milk which are familiar to it. The mother recognises her lamb alone among many thousands of others. Lambs in large numbers make the same baa-ing noise and look the same, yet she picks out her offspring among the others and by her great show of tenderness identifies it as hers alone.
Of the he-goat The he-goat is a wanton and frisky animal, always longing for sex; as a result of its lustfulness its eyes look sideways – from which it has has derived its name. For, according to Suetonius, hirci are the corners of the eyes. Its nature is so very heated that its blood alone will dissolve a diamond, against which the properties of neither fire nor iron can prevail. Kids, hedi, take their name from the word for eating, edendum, for the young ones are very fat and taste delicious. As a result their name means ‘eat’ and ‘eatable’.
Of the boar The boar gets its name, aper, from its wildness, a feritate, the letter f being replaced by a p; for the same reason, it is called by the Greeks suagros, meaning wild. For everything which is untamed and savage we call, loosely, agreste, wild. [The boar (aper) is named after ferocity (feritate, with the F removed and a P added). – Isidore of Seville, 7th Century.]
Bartholomaeus Anglicus [13th century CE] (De proprietatibus rerum, book 18): The boar is so fierce a beast, and also so cruel, that for his fierceness and his cruelness, he despiseth and setteth nought by death, and he reseth full piteously against the point of a spear of the hunter. And though it be so that he be smitten or sticked with a spear through the body, yet for the greater ire and cruelness in heart that he hath, he reseth on his enemy, and taketh comfort and heart and strength for to wreak himself on his adversary with his tusks, and putteth himself in peril of death with a wonder fierceness against the weapon of his enemy, and hath in his mouth two crooked tusks right strong and sharp, and breaketh and rendeth cruelly with them those which he withstandeth. And useth the tusks instead of a sword. And hath a hard shield, broad and thick in the right side, and putteth that always against his weapon that pursueth him, and useth that brawn instead of a shield to defend himself. And when he spieth peril that should befall, he whetteth his tusks and frotteth them, and assayeth in that while fretting against trees, if the points of his tusks be all blunt. And if he feel that they be blunt, he seeketh a herb which is called Origanum, and gnaweth it and cheweth it, and cleanseth and comforteth the roots of his teeth therewith by vertue thereof.
Of the bullock The bullock is called iuvencus because it undertakes to help man in his work of tilling the ground, or because among pagans it was always a bullock which was sacrificed to Jove – never a bull. For in selecting sacrificial victims, age also was a consideration. The word for bull, taurus, is Greek, as the word for ox, bos. The bulls of India are tawny in hue and so swift-footed that they seem to fly. Their hair grows against the nap of their coat, their mouth opens to the size of their head. They also move their horns in whatever direction they wish, and the toughness of their hides turns aside all weapons. So fierce and savage are they …
[After f.21v two leaves are missing which should have contained ox, camel, dromedary, ass, wild ass, part of horse.] I’ll do my best to fill in on those tomorrow.