Antelope
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Source: British Library Images Online Copyright Copyright 2004 British Library / Used by permission Manuscript description British Library, Harley MS 4751, Folio 5v


 

Antelope

Latin name: Antalops

Other names: Antula, Antule, Aptalon, Aptalops, Autalops, Autula, Entulla

An animal so wild no hunter can approach it

 

 
General Attributes

The antelope is so wild that hunters cannot catch it, except in one instance: When the antelope is thirsty it goes to the Euphrates River to drink, but as it plays in the thickets of herecine trees there, its horns get caught in the branches and it cannot free itself. The hunter, hearing its cries, comes and kills it.

Its horns are like saws, and with them it can cut down trees.

The antelope of the Physiologus and the bestiaries is not the animal now called antelope. Medieval writers were unsure of its identity, hence its many names.


Allegory/Moral

The antelope's two horns represent the biblical Old and New Testaments, with which people can cut themselves free of vice. People are also warned not to play in the "thickets of worldliness" where pleasure kills body and soul.


Illustration

Antelope illustrations vary considerably, depicting the animal as anything from dog-like to horse-like. They are almost always given horns; in some cases the saw-like nature of the horns is minimal, while in others it is greatly exaggerated.


Heraldry

The antelope was not much used in heraldry, though the antelope head alone was more common. On his badge King Henry IV used a white antelope with gold horns, tusks and hooves. Kings Henry V and VI also used the antelope. It is thought that this beast was the badge of the Bohun family in England.


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