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A caged pig. Source: Jasmine / Adobe Stock

Medieval Justice: Pig Was Tried in Court, Sentenced and Executed for Murder


In the Middle Ages, animals were put on trial just like human beings. A wide range of crimes could be committed by these animals including murder, being an accomplice in bestiality, and damage of crops and property. If found guilty, larger animals would be punished with execution or exile, while smaller ones would be excommunicated or denounced by a church tribunal.

One of the most well-recorded animal trials took place on January 9, 1386, in Falaise, France.  A young pig had been detained for attacking a 3-month-old baby in its crib, biting and tearing at its face, which eventually resulted in the infant’s death. The pig was arrested for murder and taken to prison. It was then placed on trial in a court, the same as that used for people!

The pig was found guilty and sentenced to be “mangled and maimed in the forelegs”, followed by execution by hanging. On the day of the execution, the pig was dressed in a waistcoat, gloves, and a pair of drawers, and taken to the gallows in the market square. The executioner was provided with new gloves so that he would leave the execution with clean hands, thus showing that he incurred no guilt in the shedding of blood.

Illustration depicting a sow and her piglets being tried for the murder of a child. The trial allegedly took place in 1457, the mother being found guilty and the piglets acquitted. (InverseHypercube / Public Domain )

Illustration depicting a sow and her piglets being tried for the murder of a child. The trial allegedly took place in 1457, the mother being found guilty and the piglets acquitted. (InverseHypercube / Public Domain )

Based on the documented evidence, the pig was the most commonly tried animal during the Middle Ages. This was mainly due to the fact that pigs were given greater freedom to roam around the streets than other animals and that they existed in much greater numbers. Nevertheless, many other animals were tried for various offences, including bulls, dogs, goats and roosters.

Many scholars have attempted to make sense of this bizarre phenomenon. One explanation, for instance, is that some animals were believed to have moral agency and therefore, like human beings, could be held responsible for the crimes they committed. However, the exact reason for these strange happenings may never be fully understood.

Read more: Strange But Serious Medieval Animal Trials Were No Kangaroo Court!

Top image: A caged pig. Source: Jasmine / Adobe Stock

By Joanna Gillan



This brings two issues immediately to mind.
Is there ever real justice? Or is it all trial by media or masses.
Second, if we think we are so advanced beyond this, why do we practice murder of the unborn, legally?
Clearly to have laws to convict anyone of, we must ask, are these God's natural laws ? Or simply man's laws.
In the Bible, 1Samuel God ordained that the people only needed judges to settle their squabbles. But the people were not satisfied, as the judges were all corrupt. So they asked for a King. The Lord was angry. He warned them that would be even worse for them, but to show them their error, he cursed them with their wish. It wasn't until a new covenant was made by the Puritan colonists of the New World that we would live by God's natural laws and settle our differences according to his laws, that this curse of kings was broken. Today, few even know this truth, and our laws have become man's law not God's. Judgement is sayeth the Lord. The covenant is broken.

Joanna Gillan's picture


Joanna Gillan is a Co-Owner, Editor and Writer of Ancient Origins. 

Joanna completed a Bachelor of Science (Psychology) degree in Australia and published research in the field of Educational Psychology. She has a rich and varied career, ranging from teaching... Read More

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