The Alaunt: Hunting Dog of the Middle Ages

Alaunts at the kill of a wild boar from The Grimami Breviary 1490

In the Middle Ages the warrior-class when not engaged in war spent a great deal of their time and resources hunting.

The hunting dog used to seize a running beast was the alaunt. The alaunt, originally a herd and war dog of the Alani warriors of central Asia was cross bred with sight and and scent hounds in the west to produce the alaunt gentil and the bulldog alaunt. The alaunt gentil resembled a greyhound but were heavier and their their heads were broader and shorter.¬† In his Book of the Hunt, Alfonso of Castile (1311 – 1350) describes the alaunt’s head as being broader than that of the greyhound and more like the conger eel’s head. The bulldog alaunt¬†was heavier again and and looked more like a mastif.

The other important aspect of the alaunt was its temperament. The quarry pursued by hunters of the middle ages and later was large and dangerous. Wild boar, bear and wolf were particularly fierce and the alaunt needed to be fearless and aggressive when it came to the kill. Some of the modern day bull terrier breeds look like smaller versions of the bulldog alaunt and they certainly manifest a fearlessness that is unfortunately exploited by some unscrupulous people.

In the Middle Ages the dog handlers, were very important members of the aristocratic household staff. They were called fewterers.

We can get a good idea of what the alaunt looked like from paintings of the period. There are also modern versions of the alaunt being bred.

 

Modern Alaunt Gentil

American Alaunt Mastif