How were cattle slaughtered?

Moderator: Moderators

User avatar
Alan E
Posts: 327
Joined: Tue Jul 19, 2005 10:18 am
Location: Somewhere in Southern Wales now (unless elsewhere)

How were cattle slaughtered?

Postby Alan E » Thu Apr 24, 2014 12:46 pm

Got into a bit of a conversation the other day: ISTR an image (?from a commonplace book? elsewhere?) of farmwork which showed amongst other things (stews, fruit trees etc) a cow or bullock being killed with a blow (from a poll-axe?). I was told (by a farmer with experience of slaughter) that this would not have been done as the meat will not bleed out properly and in any case, it would be easier to slit the throat. My argument was that as they got a fair proportion of meat from hunting, they were obviously less concerned about blood retention in meat than modern practice.

I can find lots of images of pigs being slaughtered, usually by a blow:
Image
Image
Image

but also potentially by bleeding out
Image

But I can now find no medieval images of cattle slaughter, some later though:
Image

Can anyone show me contemporary (say, C13 - C15 preferred) evidence of how cattle in particular were slaughtered before being dismembered?


'till whispers fill the tower of memory...
The Exiles Company of Medieval Martial Artists: http://the-exiles.org.uk/

Now teaching Fiore's art in Ceredigion (Felinfach) - pm for details

40/- freeholder
Posts: 123
Joined: Tue Oct 12, 2010 9:59 am
Location: Tow Law
Contact:

Re: How were cattle slaughtered?

Postby 40/- freeholder » Thu Apr 24, 2014 5:07 pm

Go to Karen Larsdatter's wonderful website and go through the autumn images in the Books of Hours Labours of the Seasons. Also A book by Higuera The Art of Time.
The pole axe acts like the modern captive bolt gun. The purpose is to stun the animal, not kill it. Then you use a pithing rod to destroy the brain, but the heart is still beating. THEN you slit the throat and the heart pumps all the blood out. And yes, I have assisted with this several times on my cattle.
The other way is seen in the Roman Tauroctony and the Spanish bull fight where the down thrust of the blade severs the aorta behind the scapula and the animal dies of internal bleeding. Not good quality beef by British standards but sells for lots of dosh outside the bullring, I'm told.



User avatar
latheaxe
Posts: 445
Joined: Sun Jul 17, 2005 9:42 pm
Location: LANCASHIRE

Re: How were cattle slaughtered?

Postby latheaxe » Thu Apr 24, 2014 6:19 pm

Agreed, they would use the blunt end of an axe or hammer to stun or kill the animal. I cant see them using the sharp end for this task...



User avatar
Brother Ranulf
Post Centurion
Posts: 949
Joined: Thu Sep 20, 2007 7:46 pm
Location: Canterbury

Re: How were cattle slaughtered?

Postby Brother Ranulf » Thu Apr 24, 2014 6:32 pm

Another element to mention is that bulls in particular were slaughtered in a highly frenzied state. At Canterbury this was done in the street, starting in the "Bull Stake" immediately outside the cathedral gate; dogs were used to bait the bulls until they were sufficiently excited, then they were slaughtered in in nearby Butchery Lane and the meat sold in the various shops. The idea was that the meat tasted better from an animal killed in his way and this type of slaughter continued up to the 1650s.

Later the area was re-named the Butter Market to conceal its truly gory origins (no butter was ever sold there).


Brother Ranulf

"Patres nostri et nos hanc insulam in brevi edomuimus in brevi nostris subdidimus legibus, nostris obsequiis mancipavimus" - Walter Espec 1138

User avatar
Alan E
Posts: 327
Joined: Tue Jul 19, 2005 10:18 am
Location: Somewhere in Southern Wales now (unless elsewhere)

Re: How were cattle slaughtered?

Postby Alan E » Mon Apr 28, 2014 3:11 pm

Thanks for the replies. The pointer to how to navigate Karen Larsdatter's site was very useful (no cattle in the animal list); I didn't find the illustration I remembered, but found this one:
Image
Which is enough to say 'it wasn't just pigs they slaughtered by first clubbing them' (loads more imags of pigs being clubbed too).

So the heart pumps after stunning and pithing? Interesting as I'd have thought the destruction of the nerve origins of sympathetic and parasympathetic system in pithing would have an unsystematic effect (sometimes stimulating one or the other with unpredictable results); that this is observed not to happen shows how theory has to bow its head to practical observation!


'till whispers fill the tower of memory...
The Exiles Company of Medieval Martial Artists: http://the-exiles.org.uk/

Now teaching Fiore's art in Ceredigion (Felinfach) - pm for details

40/- freeholder
Posts: 123
Joined: Tue Oct 12, 2010 9:59 am
Location: Tow Law
Contact:

Re: How were cattle slaughtered?

Postby 40/- freeholder » Mon Apr 28, 2014 4:15 pm

All this happens very quickly Alan. The pole axe or captive bolt gun drops the animal straightaway without it thrashing about as when a chicken is killed. Pithing rod straight into the hole, in and out a few times, open neck. Also the blood vessels in the neck are opened longitudinally, not a transverse cut across. If you look at older butchery beef cutting charts, the head end of the neck was known as the clod or sticking piece, sticking being the blood letting.
As to game, the idea of the barbed arrow is to leave a blood spoor for the hounds to follow and the animal is weakened by blood loss, so little left to drain from the carcase. Again using the heart to pump the blood out.



User avatar
Alan E
Posts: 327
Joined: Tue Jul 19, 2005 10:18 am
Location: Somewhere in Southern Wales now (unless elsewhere)

Re: How were cattle slaughtered?

Postby Alan E » Mon Apr 28, 2014 5:59 pm

Thanks, yes the longitudinal cut is clear on several of the pig-killing illustrations.
So to be clear, in the medieval method of slaughter, would pithing be done at all? Or just stunning before a slit is made in an artery?

On the separate subject of hunting and bleeding out: True as far as bow-hunting is concerned, but smaller game taken with nets or birds would not be bled out surely?


'till whispers fill the tower of memory...
The Exiles Company of Medieval Martial Artists: http://the-exiles.org.uk/

Now teaching Fiore's art in Ceredigion (Felinfach) - pm for details

40/- freeholder
Posts: 123
Joined: Tue Oct 12, 2010 9:59 am
Location: Tow Law
Contact:

Re: How were cattle slaughtered?

Postby 40/- freeholder » Mon Apr 28, 2014 10:37 pm

The classic complete poleaxed cattle skulls tend to be structured deposition on RB sites. The med ones I see are really smashed up during removal of the horns. Going by the RB ones, sufficient damage is done by the poleaxe that pithing would probably be unnecessary.
As to smaller game, not bled as otherwise no jugged hare!



User avatar
Alan E
Posts: 327
Joined: Tue Jul 19, 2005 10:18 am
Location: Somewhere in Southern Wales now (unless elsewhere)

Re: How were cattle slaughtered?

Postby Alan E » Tue Apr 29, 2014 1:17 pm

Thanks!


'till whispers fill the tower of memory...
The Exiles Company of Medieval Martial Artists: http://the-exiles.org.uk/

Now teaching Fiore's art in Ceredigion (Felinfach) - pm for details

Mark Griffin
Absolute Wizard
Posts: 4238
Joined: Wed Jul 20, 2005 2:28 pm
Location: Wales. Only just!
Contact:

Re: How were cattle slaughtered?

Postby Mark Griffin » Thu May 01, 2014 8:46 am

I know some towns had bylaws stating bull meat could not be sold unless slaughtered, the belief that the more blood was pumping through the flesh the better it tasted. The debate on that one rumbles on. Chelmsford certainly had that law in place until the whole practice was banned in 1835 nationwide, it falls under the cruelty to animals act. I did a project on the town for its charter anniversary and the shambles, known as Blood Alley, was still so called until mid 19th cent. Just a few steps away was Shitte/Shyttecart Street, the route from the market waste dump to the river. Now called Waterloo street....

I was told at a lecture that in London animals were often slaughtered on wooden jetties into the thames so that the waste could be disposed of into the river, the biggest open sewer in the world. How you get an enraged bull with a mastiff on its nose onto a rickety part pontoon I don't know and I'm pretty sure the only bit of waste in medieval times would have been the stomach content, the umbles and all being utilised.

There is a lovely quote from a medieval bishop saying that the thames was so sluggish and foul with muck he can cross from south to north on turnip tops and dead puppies.


http://www.griffinhistorical.com. A delicious decadent historical trifle. Thick performance jelly topped with lashings of imaginative creamy custard. You may also get a soggy event management sponge finger but it won't cost you hundreds and thousands.

guthrie
Absolute Wizard
Posts: 2346
Joined: Sun Aug 14, 2005 8:54 pm
Location: Polmont-Edinburgh

Re: How were cattle slaughtered?

Postby guthrie » Thu May 01, 2014 1:19 pm

Griff - re. London, what I do recall reading (In a real paper book) is that the butchers etc got into trouble for throwing the waste bits into the river and were supposed to use jetties so it floated off down river, or something like that. I can easily see this developing into a story about doing the slaughtering on the jetties themselves.



Mark Griffin
Absolute Wizard
Posts: 4238
Joined: Wed Jul 20, 2005 2:28 pm
Location: Wales. Only just!
Contact:

Re: How were cattle slaughtered?

Postby Mark Griffin » Thu May 01, 2014 1:36 pm

cant find my medieval trades book by Salzman, bet its in there. Way it was told to me was they were taken onto the jetty and slaughtered to let the waste drop through holes... but that sounds like a load of pants worthy of a re-enactor! :o :? :wink:


http://www.griffinhistorical.com. A delicious decadent historical trifle. Thick performance jelly topped with lashings of imaginative creamy custard. You may also get a soggy event management sponge finger but it won't cost you hundreds and thousands.

User avatar
Grymm
Post Centurion
Posts: 594
Joined: Fri Aug 05, 2005 9:18 pm
Location: The Chilterns

Re: How were cattle slaughtered?

Postby Grymm » Fri May 02, 2014 8:15 am

Alan E wrote: My argument was that as they got a fair proportion of meat from hunting...



Farming animals for food was fairly well established by the muddyevil period, even bunnies were farmed.
Hunting is a rich mans game where, if you catch kill something you can eat it, 'snot a reliable way of feeding people. Hunting rights, especially large game, were a privilege 'owned' by land holders.


Futuaris nisi irrisus ridebis.

User avatar
Brother Ranulf
Post Centurion
Posts: 949
Joined: Thu Sep 20, 2007 7:46 pm
Location: Canterbury

Re: How were cattle slaughtered?

Postby Brother Ranulf » Fri May 02, 2014 11:40 am

Meat was very much linked to social status, which is still preserved in our language today.

The animal names (deer, cow, sheep, pig, calf) are all from Old/Middle English since the people looking after the animals were muddy English-speaking peasants. The meats (venison, beef, mutton, pork, veal) are without exception Anglo-Norman words since it was mainly the nobility who got the end product on their tables on a daily basis. Yes, peasants did get to eat meat occasionally, but not as regular part of their diet.


Brother Ranulf



"Patres nostri et nos hanc insulam in brevi edomuimus in brevi nostris subdidimus legibus, nostris obsequiis mancipavimus" - Walter Espec 1138

User avatar
Alan E
Posts: 327
Joined: Tue Jul 19, 2005 10:18 am
Location: Somewhere in Southern Wales now (unless elsewhere)

Re: How were cattle slaughtered?

Postby Alan E » Fri May 02, 2014 2:49 pm

Indeed Brother, as pointed out in 'Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England' (in a section showing how difficult to interpret these comparisons are) it mentions that if the price of chickens had increased at the same rate as that for saffron since 1391, a chicken would cost £38 in 2008(ish), but if they had increased at the same rate as a carpenter's wages they would cost £154! Meat was farmed and available, but certainly nothing like the default option for most (western) people as it is now.

The gentry (used as a 'catch-all' for those who could afford easy access to meat) would have contacts who had facilities to keep game for hunting (forests at the highest end, parks, warrens) therefore access a higher proportion of hunted meat than most do now; whether these are regarded as 'farming' is moot IMO. Deer could be regarded as being 'farmed' for hunting, they were certainly herded for the drive. Illustrations of ladies hunting rabbits with ferrets and nets doesn't mean they are not farmed rabbits (they most likely are). The difference between farming and hunting might be whether 'sport' is involved.

In any case, freeholder has pointed out that hunted animals often bled out (which was the point of my comparison), but agreed (I think) that smaller ones may well not have (which would disgust many farmers around here, whose mothers traditionally killed the Christmas goose by slitting its tongue - or so Im told).


'till whispers fill the tower of memory...
The Exiles Company of Medieval Martial Artists: http://the-exiles.org.uk/

Now teaching Fiore's art in Ceredigion (Felinfach) - pm for details

guthrie
Absolute Wizard
Posts: 2346
Joined: Sun Aug 14, 2005 8:54 pm
Location: Polmont-Edinburgh

Re: How were cattle slaughtered?

Postby guthrie » Fri May 02, 2014 10:25 pm

Mark Griffin wrote:cant find my medieval trades book by Salzman, bet its in there. Way it was told to me was they were taken onto the jetty and slaughtered to let the waste drop through holes... but that sounds like a load of pants worthy of a re-enactor! :o :? :wink:

INdeed it does.
My copy of Salzman mentions butchers once, and nothing about the slaughtering.
(for extra geek points its a 1970 re-print by H. Pordes)

Unfortunately I can't recall where I read it and the only book I have on medieval london doesn't mention it either.



User avatar
Merlon.
Post Centurion
Posts: 594
Joined: Sat Jan 26, 2008 7:31 pm
Location: under a pile of cables in a server room

Re: How were cattle slaughtered?

Postby Merlon. » Sat May 03, 2014 6:41 am

"In 1343, however, before there had been any outbreak of plague whatsoever, the city authorities 'for the decency and cleanliness of the city' granted to the butchers of St Nicholas Shambles a segregated spot in the suburbs at Seacoal-lane near Fleet Prison, where they might clean and dispose of the entrails of beasts.2 Filth there thrown into Fleet Stream would, for the most part, have been swept down into the Thames River by the force of the swift stream combined with that of the ebb-tide. The citizens of London seem to have considered the arrangment satisfactory, for they made no complaint of any nuisance being created thereby, even during the appalling outbreak of plague in 1349. But complaint did come soon after from a quite different quarter. In 1354 the king sent a writ to the mayor and city authorities protesting against the stench arising from the cleaning of entrails on this wharf, formerly owned (so the writ stated) by the Prior of St John of Jerusalem, who had petitioned for the removal of the nuisance on the ground that it was so near to Fleet Prison as to be injuri- ous to the health of the prisoners. Naturally the Prior had petitioned the king, because Fleet Prison was under the latter's jurisdiction. (The city prisons were all within the city limits.) The king therefore ordered removal of the nuisance.3 The city authorities, in their answer to the king, stated that they had assigned this place to the butchers so that they might wash the entrails in the tidal water of the Thames, instead of throwing them on the pavement by the House of the Gray Friars; and contended that the place in 'Secolane' belonged to the city and not to the Prior of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem, as the latter asserted.4 Clearly the intentions of the city authorities, even at this time, were to mitigate, as much as possible, the nuisance caused by butchers' filth."


Butchering in Mediaeval London
Author: Ernest L. Sabine:
Speculum, Vol. 8, No. 3 (Jul., 1933)



guthrie
Absolute Wizard
Posts: 2346
Joined: Sun Aug 14, 2005 8:54 pm
Location: Polmont-Edinburgh

Re: How were cattle slaughtered?

Postby guthrie » Sat May 03, 2014 10:22 pm

Thanks Merlon. Yet another example of "Someone told me that..." which has turned out to be wrong.



Mark Griffin
Absolute Wizard
Posts: 4238
Joined: Wed Jul 20, 2005 2:28 pm
Location: Wales. Only just!
Contact:

Re: How were cattle slaughtered?

Postby Mark Griffin » Tue May 06, 2014 8:26 am

Nice one merlon.

I see by my faded notes from that lecture I had put a big ? next to my scribbles. Thought it was dodgy at the time, and that was about 96....


http://www.griffinhistorical.com. A delicious decadent historical trifle. Thick performance jelly topped with lashings of imaginative creamy custard. You may also get a soggy event management sponge finger but it won't cost you hundreds and thousands.

40/- freeholder
Posts: 123
Joined: Tue Oct 12, 2010 9:59 am
Location: Tow Law
Contact:

Re: How were cattle slaughtered?

Postby 40/- freeholder » Tue Oct 07, 2014 1:15 pm

Since I'm looking at these images for another project, I thought I might as well add them to this thread too.
Bartlett, R. (ed) 2001. Medieval Panorama. Thames & Hudson. P. 183 November slaughtering cattle & pigs. C. 1170 south rose window Lausanne cathedral Switzerland
Perez-Higuera, T. 1998. The Art of Time. Weidenfield & Nicholson. p. 17 Swabian calendar c. 1180 slaughtering ox November; p. 63 Missal 1446-82 slaughtering ox December



40/- freeholder
Posts: 123
Joined: Tue Oct 12, 2010 9:59 am
Location: Tow Law
Contact:

Re: How were cattle slaughtered?

Postby 40/- freeholder » Mon Dec 29, 2014 9:41 am

Another addition to the list, leaf 39 of the Maciejowski Bible, where cattle are being sacrificed.




Return to “1100-1500”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests