We know the Mediaeval way of justice could be cruel and unjust to our modern way of thinking...but they didn't confine their judgement to people.

France was not a good place to be an animal in the 1300 and 1400's...there are several well reported trials which featured pigs being put on trial for injuring or murdering people. The best known being the pig who killed a child left unattended in its cradle during the Easter period of 1494. The pig was said to have entered the house and bitten the child about his face and neck and the child died as a result of its injuries...on June 14th of the same year the pig was arrested and put on trial for murder.

After listening to the evidence the Judge said...The pig should be hanged and strangled on a gibbet of wood near and adjoining to the gallows and the place of high execution....

Now, this is another example of how we pour scorn upon a practice we see as ludricous...but Mediaeval art is full of depictions of animals behaving in human ways and dressed as humans performing human actions...when you see animals so portrayed it is easy enough to endow them with the same levels of rationality and morality which people have...not quite so far-fetched then to put a pig on trial for murder.

Pigs were the most common animal to face justice in a human court but there was another case of a Rooster in Switzerland in 1474 who was sentenced to be burnt at the stake for laying an egg...and a Bull who escaped from his pen and fatally injured a passer by was sentenced to be hung for the crime...

Holding animals responsible for crimes was also tied up in the belief of Witchcraft and Magick...after all, what Witch worthy of the name didn't have a Black cat and a Toad as her familiars, who took an equal part in her casting of spells and making of potions...and religion came into it as well...as it invariably does somewhere...the animal could act as a Scapegoat for a crime or a sin committed by a human...and the Bible clearly states that men have dominion over the Beasts of the Earth...faced with that logic, it is easier to understand why a pig should go to trial.

We don't put an animal into the dock in a court of law...but we do authorise it to be euthanized if it isn't the 'right' breed or has injured or killed somebody...

And the case of the Rooster laying an egg isn't as far fetched as it sounds because chickens do sometimes change their sex...a chicken who has laid an egg for the past six months might well begin crowing and develop a cockerels comb and wattles...likewise a cockerel might take on the characteristics of a hen and begin to lay eggs...it's simply a quirk of nature, but the Mediaeval people would not have known that. We still refer to the soft-shelled eggs laid by young hens as 'Cocks eggs'...I say it myself as an almost automatic reaction...

And pigs are known to have killed small children and babies...they certainly did in rural Ireland, especially during the Great Famine when the animals were as hungry as the humans and found food wherever they could...there are many first hand reports of people barricading themselves inside their cottages to avoid being attacked by starving pigs...

Much of my interest in Mediaeval history is because so many of my ancestors lived during those turbulent times...the Victorians have been done to death...the Georgians with their fancy clothes and expensive perfumes and mad King bore me rigid...but those who lived in the time of endless wars...who fought and died in historic battles ...who married cousins and had endless children both sides of the marriage bed...who may well have been present at a trial for a pig accused of murder...who thought an afternoon at a hanging was a good time out and were frightened half witless by black cats...they struggled with long held Pagan beliefs colliding with Christianity...saw animals as having the same attributes of morality and compassion as humans...they'd have seen nothing wrong nor odd about putting a Rooster on trial...but then they set off for the Holy Land determined to make a pilgrimage...they were intensely savage towards priests but believed in the Holy Grail...

They were people of contrasts,who appeared to be struggling to make some sense of their world...much as we do.