Horses and dogs sailed with Vikings to Britain, say scientists

By Georgina Rannard
Climate and science reporter
BBC News

Vikings sailing from Scandinavia to England brought horses, dogs and perhaps even pigs with them, according to analysis of bone remains.

Invading Vikings were previously thought to have largely stolen animals from villages in Britain.

The findings also provide evidence Viking leaders had a close relationship with animals and travelled with them, the lead scientist says.

The 9th Century bones were found in burial mounds in Heath Wood, Derbys.

Cremated animal and human remains had been found buried together, suggesting the creatures had special meaning and been burned on the same funeral pyre as humans, doctoral researcher Tessi Löffelmann, from Durham University and Vrije Universiteit Brussels, told BBC News.

“They were treated more like companion animals rather than just for economic purposes,” she said.

“I find it really touching and it suggests we underestimate just how important animals were to Vikings.”

The horses and dogs would have travelled on Viking longboats across the North Sea, a journey that could take several weeks.

“Horses back then were smaller than horses are now, which could have made the journey a little bit more accommodating, but it was still probably wet and uncomfortable,” Ms Löffelmann said.

Prof Julian Richards, from the University of York, who co-directed the excavations, said: “The Bayeux Tapestry depicts Norman cavalry disembarking horses from their fleet but this is the first scientific demonstration that Viking warriors were transporting horses to England 200 years earlier.”


Story source and image: BBC News »

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