Cat, Mice, Weasel.

The cats gambol and hunt.

The cats gambol and hunt.

The mouse carries grain.

The mouse carries grain.

Portrait of weasel.

Portrait of weasel.

Text and Translation:

Of the cat The cat is called musio, mouse-catcher, because it is the enemy of mice. It is commonly called catus, cat, from captura, the act of catching. Others say it gets the name from capto, because it catches mice with its sharp eyes. For it has such piercing sight that it overcomes the dark of night with the gleam of light from its eyes. As a result, the Greek word catus means sharp, or cunning.

Of mice The mouse is a puny animal; its name, mus, comes from the Greek, the Latin word deriving from it. Others say mures, mice, because they are produced ex humore, from the damp soil, of the earth; for humus means earth and from that comes mus, mouse. Their liver grows bigger at full moon, like the tides rise then fall with the waning of the moon.

Of the weasel The weasel is called mustela, ‘a long mouse’, so to speak, for theon [telos] in Greek means ‘long’. It is cunning by nature; when it has produced its offspring in its nest, it carries them from place to place, settling them in a series of different locations.

It hunts snakes and mice. There are two kinds of weasel. One, of very different size from the other, lives in the forest. The Greeks call these ictidas; the other roams around in houses. Some say that weasels conceive through the ear and give birth through the mouth; others say, on the contrary, that they conceive through the mouth and give birth through the ear; it is said, also, that they are skilled in healing, so that if by chance their young are killed, and their parents succeed in finding them, they can bring their offspring back to life. Weasels signify the not inconsiderable number of people who listen willingly enough to the seed of the divine word but, caught up in their love of wordly things, ignore it and take no account of what they have heard.

Folio 23v – the horse continued. De musione; the cat. De muribus; mice. De mustela; the weasel.


  1. Ice Swimmer says

    The mouse liver thing has to be one of the most random ones ever.

    Has the mouse hoarded communion wafers?

  2. says

    Hell if I know. The only other stuff I have is from Pliny:

    Some kinds of mice gnaw at iron by instinct; in the country of the Chalybes they also gnaw at gold in mines, and when their bellies are cut open stolen gold is always found. The appearance of white mice is a good omen. Shrew-mice do not associate with mice from another forest, but fight with them to the death. When their parents are old, they feed them with remarkable affection. Mice hibernate in winter; this is the time when the old ones die. (Book 10, 85): Mice are the most prolific of animals; they conceive by licking rather than by coupling, or by tasting salt. The mice in Egypt walk on two feet, as do the Alpine mice.

  3. says

    Oh, I think those might be bags of grain in the illustration; or maybe they are just giant grains. Depending on the artist, a lot of these depictions had more to do with imagination or whim than reality.

  4. Raucous Indignation says

    I find it hard to believe that people who lived close to the land, and therefore observed every manner of animals engaged in coitus, truly believed that any animal conceived trough the ear. I think these texts should be read as comedy.

  5. says

    I doubt people paid much attention to weasels, they weren’t exactly farm animals, and most people wouldn’t pay much attention if they did happen to see one. I don’t know jack shit about weasels, and I’ve never seen one in the wild.

  6. Ice Swimmer says

    AFAIK, it isn’t very easy to see (least) weasels, they are small and quick, they move in the underbrush and in tunnels made by voles and moles and they have white fur in the winter on areas with snow.

  7. says

    I have seen living weasel Mustela nivalis in nature as a child. They are lovely, tiny animals, but also fierce and merciless predators. The one I saw was dragging half dead mouse through fallen leaves. First thing I noticed was the rustling, and only afterwards I saw it.

  8. Raucous Indignation says

    I’m just saying that every animal you see engages in coitus, sometimes quite loudly. Why would one think that the animals one doesn’t see would do anything else??

  9. says

    You must have missed the bear birthing and the horses impregnated by wind. Unusual conception and birthing myths abounded about many an animal.

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