Introduction to the Beasts

The beast list includes all of the beasts found in Bestiaries and the Physiologus, as well as many from Medieval encyclopedias and some from other sources. It does not include beasts from non-European sources unless those beasts are the basis of Bestiary, Physiologus, or other Western beast legends.

Many beasts had no fixed name; different sources often used slightly or radically different names for the same beast. In addition to the most common name for each beast (as used on this site), all variants seen from Medieval sources are listed in the Cross Reference. The variants are sometimes different spellings, but are often from other languages, including Latin, French, German, Icelandic, Catalan and Castilian, among others. The beast cross reference list therefore serves as an index for the many forms of the beasts' names.

Click one of the tabs above to view the beast index by...

Alphabetic: Sorted alphabetically by the beast name. This list includes only the common names, and is much smaller than the Cross Reference.

Cross Reference: Sorted alphabetically by the beast name. This list includes the common names, plus the Latin name, variations in spelling, and alternate names used in some texts.

Category: Sorted alphabetically by the beast name, and grouped by beast category (mammal, bird, fish, etc.). The categories are based on how medieval writers generally classified animals.