The Age of Vikings
By now we are all aware of who the Vikings were and how their lifestyle was. Many historians made several assumptions about their existence but no one was quite sure with the truth. However, the most common word which is attached to the Vikings is seafarers. During the 8th Century to 11th Century, the Vikings were known as the people who travel across seas for various reasons. Usually, they go out for trade but sometimes if possible they invade another place with better financial conditions. There were many speculations about their occupation. Some said they were traders, some said they were explorer while said they were warriors. Some even mentioned that they were pirates of the sea.
The term “Vikings” comes from “Viking” which is a Scandinavian word for “pirate”. The historians who were studying the behavior of the Viking collectively agreed with the name “Vikings”. On the other hand, the Vikings were also come to know as mercenaries. They used to explore the finest coast across the world and raid them for the goods and products. Although were said to be the toughest persons in the world during that time but they do have a soft spot for various kinds of animals.
Pets Owned by Vikings
Vikings were said to own pets for several purposes. Apart from usual cats and dogs, there were several others kinds of animals whose existence was recorded by the historians. These animals do not only act as a companion but at the same time, they used to act as farm animals. A large number of animals were present during Vikings region.
Some of the animals, owned by the Vikings as pet animals or farm animals are:
• Goats, etc
Cats were probably one of the most preferred pets of all the time. There is practically hundreds of evidence from the past showing Vikings were directly in contact with the cats. As cats are not farm animals hence the only assumptions made by the historians was that the cats were the among the favorite pets of Vikings. However, cats do come in handy on many occasions such as catching a mouse. As most of the time in a year, Vikings used to travel in their boat across seas; they had this problem with the mouse. Such pity animals used to eat or destroy their foods and other items. Thus to prevent it, the Vikings usually take along their cats to the ship. Thus, acting as both companion and the protector for them. Again, cats had a religious significance during Viking period. They were directly associated to Freyja, the Goddess of Love. Hence, the Viking people used to give a kitten to a new bride so that she could successfully establish a happy household with her husband. Freyja too had great importance in Viking lifestyle. She was believed to have ridden down a cart pulled by only cats. Although it might seem like an absurd thing to many of the people but to some extent, this might have been possible.
The cats that pulled Freyja’s cart were no ordinary cats. At first, you might consider them as domestic cats but no, they were not at all ordinary cats which we own. They were completely different breeds. According to the historians, Vikings used to call them “Skogkatt” which literally means mountain cats in Norwegian. These species of cats are found in the northernmost regions of Norway and Denmark. The bone structure and strong muscle form made such breed of cats are completely different from our domestic cats.
Norwegian Forest Cat and the Vikings
The Vikings had a completely different relation with the forest cats during that time. Not because they were held as Freyja’s companion but such breed had completely different values in their lives. Vikings were strong and sharp. The immense power that the Vikings people had is what we know about them. The forest cats, on the other hand, were also known for their strength and sharpness. Both the people and the cats were meant to survive harsh Norwegian climate. A lot of similarities between the Vikings and the forest cat might be the possibility why the Vikings liked the cats so much.
The Norwegian forest cats are still loved and owned as a pet the people of Norway and Denmark. They still have a huge importance in the life of modern-day people. Now a day, a wide range of cats looking similar to the Norwegian forest cats can be seen across various countries. As Vikings used to travel with their cats on board their ships as mouse catcher, they may have spread to different parts if the world or their genes may have been transferred through breeding process. As since the Norwegian forest cats have so much importance in Norway, they were given full national recognition in the 1970s. They are now being called as “The Official Cat of Norway”.
The next most common type of pets owned by the Vikings is ‘dogs’. Huge numbers of evidence have been found by the historians who shows that Vikings do have a tendency to own dogs as a pet. The dogs used to serve many purposes at the same time. They were considered as working animals, pets, and companions. There is even another illustration mentioning a Goddess riding in her chariot which is being pulled by dogs.
Frigga, the Goddess of Fidelity and Marriage, wife of Odin said to travel in her chariot pulled by a bunch of dogs. Thus according to Vikings, the dogs represent a perfect symbol of loyalty and faith towards their owner. Hence, dogs are also part of Norwegian society till date. But it was with the Vikings who started to keep dogs as pets. According to the Viking artifacts, the historians have found out that the dogs and owners were used to be so attached to each other that they both were put to grave side by side.
Lots of pictures drawn in Viking Age show that the Viking people had a good relationship with their dogs. The most common breed owned by Vikings is somewhat related to spitz. Such dogs were hybrids of Arctic Wolf and Southern Domestic dogs. Again, there were several other dog breeds which were found later on by the historians stated that a wide range of dog breeds was present during that time.
Some of them which were identified by the experts were:
- Hunting dogs
- Norwegian Elkhound
- Karelian Bear Dog
These were some of the dog breeds owned by the Vikings during 8th to 11th century. Each of which is specialized in their own skills. Such as hunting dogs acts as a good assistance when Viking go out for hunting Elkhound were better used for hunting deer and small animals. These animals are till date praised by all the dog owners across the world. The type of bond that we are experiencing with our pet dogs is the same that the Vikings felt for their dogs.
There are lot other animals which the Vikings used to own during that time. Animals such as hawks, cattle’s, sheep and several others other record have been found by the historians over the period of years. Vikings also had a tendency to make any wild animals their pet. It usually happens with bears. For instance, they went out for hunting and found out a baby bear got stuck in a trap. Then they take the bear as a pet for their own.
Again, there are hawks and falcons which come under wild animal group but still, such animals were kept as a pet by Vikings. They considered falcons as the kings of the bird. This might be the possibility why the Vikings, kept such predator bird as their pet.
Cattle or Farm Animals: Among the pets that the Scandinavians had.
These animals were usually owned by the Vikings to aid them in farming and other heavy-duty works. Historians have found the pictures of cattle plowing the field. There are many similar other pictures and engraving found by historians working on them which states that Vikings were not only seafarers but they knew how to socialize among themselves and with other living species around them.
One of the interesting things about Vikings people is that when they are not on seas and taking their time off at homes, they used to spend their most of the free time farming. It might be the reason, why Vikings had so many pets and cattle to support them at agricultural land and other activities. Apart from cats and dogs, a wealthy Viking family will definitely have in possession of cattle such as sheep, goats, and cows.
Historians are still working on finding the exact lifestyle of Vikings and types of animals they owned. There is still some complexity as what type of breeds of animals was present during that time and how the Vikings managed to get hold of such animals for their own use.