Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles Medieval art of animals often looked… a little different from the real world species. And this mismatch was compounded with any animal the artist had clearly never seen before. European texts from this period are full of hilarious attempts to depict of far-off species, So lets take a look at some of the most inaccurate — bearing in mind it would be difficult to know what, say, a elephant would look like if you'd never seen one before. And speaking of Elephants, they're a good place to start when it comes to inaccurate depictions. Medieval artists seemed to struggle with the concept of the trunk, often rendering it in bizzare ways. Many illustrations also depict elephants supporting entire stone castles on their backs, spurring from myths elephants were mighty enough to carry around entire buildings. This is, of course, incorrect. Another large African animal medieval artists struggled to portray is the hippopotamus, possibly to an even greater extent than the elephant. Most illustrations of hippos from the era are way off, with an assortment of aquatic traits like tails and dorsal fins actual hippos don't possess. Other depictions almost make hippos like strange horses, perhaps due to misunderstandings surrounding the animals name, which means 'river horse' in Latin. Up next we have the giraffe, an animal medieval artists portrayed with less frequently than the hippo or elephant. Compared to the hippo at. The very least, some pieces of art actually get the giraffe's general appearance… mostly right, emphasizing the long neck. Well, most of the time. Moving on to African predators, we have the hyena, an animal with rather inconsistent interpretations across different paintings. In some illustrations the hyena features horns and almost resembles a carnivorous cow, while others are more dog like. One curious trend is in many images, hyenas appear to be consuming the dead. This is because of a common myth that the animals dug up cemeteries to eat human remains, a concept which is inaccurate. Moving to a different part of the world, another large predator which gets the short end of the stick in medieval art is the tiger. Far from the massive predatory felines of the real world, medieval tigers were small, dog-like creatures lacking the animal's trademark stripes. Strangely enough, in many illustrations the tiger is drawn looking in a mirror. This stems from a legend that a hunter could steal a tiger's cubs if they distracted the mother with her reflection, as the mother would mistake it for her cub. A pretty grim legend, and one which would more than. Likely result in imminent death if tried on a real tiger. Moving on to the world of birds, the ostrich is a species medieval artists seemed to find particularly challenging. Most images of ostriches lack many of the animals defining features, including their long neck and flightless nature. Indeed, many depictions of the ostrich just look like standard birds. One unusual trend is the ostrich of mideval art is often shown abandoning it egg in roast in the sun. Although real ostriches do leave their eggs in exposed ground nests, this isn't because they're neglectful parents — their eggs do just fine in the open. Another odd trend is illustrating the bird eating an iron horseshoe. This comes from another myth that the ostrich could digest anything — even metal. Once again, this is distinctly false. Another unique bird missing many of it's most notable features. Is. the Pelican, which in medieval art is a shot beaked organism missing it's trademark throat-pouch. A highly unusual theme is most depictions show pelican families eating each other. The bizarre cannibalism comes from a legend pelican babies try to eat their parents when fully grown, prompting the parents to eat them in return. This is an obviously inaccurate notion, as any real species would die in a few generations using such a behavioral model. Diving into the ocean, the next animal worth touching on in the whale, an aquatic leviathan which rarely looks anything like the real species in medieval art. In most depictions, the animal looks less like what we know of as a whale and more like a giant fish, to the point where some versions are even covered in fish-like scales. Some whales in medieval illustrations go a step further away from the real animal and seem to have legs. While we're dealing with the ocean, the dolphin is another interesting, albeit incorrectly portrayed marine mammal when it comes to medieval art. Like the whale, the dolphin usually just resembles like a giant, slightly goofy looking fish. One aquatic organism which deviates even further from it's real-life counterpart, however, is the sea turtle, which for some reason is often portrayed as bipedal with a massive tail. Sea turtles in medieval paintings also usually feature curiously shaped shells and segmented toes. One depiction of a sea turtle seems to look more like a hedgehog, with the artist likely hearing the animal was armored and assuming the species were equivalent. Going further inland, a semi-aquatic predator medieval artist took serious liberties with is a crocodile, with many images of the animal being borderline unrecognizable. To be fair, some illustrations at least look more or less like a reptile, while others really deviate from crocodilian features, displaying hair, paws, bushy tails, and short, dog-like snouts. Then again, some of the drawings of crocodiles don't include fur don't look all that better. Nearing the end of our list and truly veering into bizarre territory, we have the scorpion, another animal given fur and mammalian features without any clear explanation. There's something about giving a scorpion a non-arachnid face which makes it look so fundamentally absurd. At least some depictions give it more legs than a standard quadruped. Well, some depictions. At the very end of our journey, an animal you'd never be able to identify just by looking at mideval portrayals, the chameleon. Although in real life the animal is a lizard, mideval artists sometimes portrayed it as a horse-like organism, and sometimes more like a cat. In either case, one thing is for sure — it looks nothing like the animals it's based on. The error might come from phonetic similarities between chameleon and 'leon' or lion, but truthfully the reason why chameleons are so inaccurate in art from the period is anyone's guess.. And that's where our list comes to an end. I hope you enjoyed this video — if you did, I have another one like it on the strangest fictional medieval monsters. Please consider subscribing and leaving this video like if you appreciated the content. Thank you so much for watching, and I'll see you in the next video.