As you already know, photography wasn’t a thing in the Middle-Ages. This made reporting on wildlife from other continents much less accurate, as it was impossible to bring back a direct depiction of the animals observed.

In this post, you will see some drawings and paintings created by artists based on the oral or written description made by travellers. As one could expect, the results are not very precise and often hilarious.

This “Hippopotamus” by Jacob van Maerlant sometime around 1350
A 12th Century tiger by an unknown artist.
Probably the most agressive snail ever, by Jacob van Maerlant around 1350.
Weird elephants by unknown artist from the late 13th Century.
Another elephant, without ears this time. Fromt he Bestiary of William the Clerk.
The tornado trunk elephant of Jacob van Maerlant. Year unknown.
A whale that looks pretty much like a dragon, from the 13th Century.
Lions and bears, by an unknown artist of the early 13th Century.
A crocodile that can walk on water, by an unknown artist from the late 13th Century.
Another crocodile, by Eward Topsell in 1658.
A weird looking leopard, funny to see this gracious animal being represented with such a “square” head shape. From the Aberdeen Bestiary.

About the Author

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Mirko Humbert

Mirko Humbert is the editor-in-chief and main author of Designer Daily and Typography Daily. He is also a graphic designer and the founder of WP Expert.