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animal-prices-msg – 3/27/00


Lists of the prices/value of various animals in period.


NOTE: See also the files: p-prices-msg, cattle-msg, dogs-msg, livestock-msg, p-thts-animls-msg, pets-msg, horses-msg, hunting-msg, falconry-msg.





This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.


This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


I have done a limited amount of editing. Messages having to do with separate topics were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the message IDs were removed to save space and remove clutter.


The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make no claims as to the accuracy of the information given by the individual authors.


Please respect the time and efforts of those who have written these messages. The copyright status of these messages is unclear at this time. If information is published from these messages, please give credit to the originator(s).


Thank you,

   Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                         Stefan at florilegium.org



Subject: Re: [SCA-U] Medieval vs modern economics was Re: [SCA-U] cotton


Date: Mon, 27 Dec 1999 10:54:35 -0800

From: Heather Rose Jones <hrjones at SOCRATES.BERKELEY.EDU>



On Sat, 25 Dec 1999, sunshinegirl wrote:

> > From: Heather Rose Jones <hrjones at SOCRATES.BERKELEY.EDU>

> snip

> The Welsh laws

> > also list common domestic animals -- their use, their valuation, and so

> > on.  They mention horses, cattle, sheep, goats, chickens, pigs, geese,

> > dogs, cats ...

> snip


> I would be interested in a comparative value on some things.

> For example - what would a cow cost in the middle ages (take your pick as

> to time)  How many days labor would that be?  What would be the equivelent

> (days labor, etc) in modern terms?

> I read someplace that a nutmeg was worth its weight in gold. What would be

> the modern $ of that?


Here's a brief summary of the value of domestic animals in medieval Welsh

law.  Note that the age of the animal affects its value.  Values are given

in "legal pence" -- i.e., using a standard reference amount, although

actual payment would most likely be in kind rather than coinage.




fetus - 14 days old = 4 p

15 days - 1 year = 24 p

2-3 year = 48 p

4 year until trained = 60 p

destrier = 240 p

palfrey = 120 p

sumpter = 120 p

draft horse = 60 p

untrained horse = 60 p


(there follows the value of various equine body-parts)






birth - Winter Kalends = 6 p

>from Winter Kalends, 2p more for each season until first pregnancy

at first pregnancy + 4p

while pregnant, 2p more for each season until calving

after calving 40p total

then until the 2nd calving, 2p more for each season

then through the 5th calf 60 p total

afterward, by appraisal




(similarly to female, except the mile-stones are based on ploughing rather

than calving)




birth until "it goes grubbing" = 1p

from then until weaned (3 mo. old) = 2p

then until St. John's Day = 4p

St. John's Day until New Year = 15p

New Year until following St. John's Day, + 4p

afterward = 30 p total


Sheep and Goats


birth to Winter Kalends = 1p

Winter Kalends until 1 year old = 2p

after that = 4p

a ram = twice that (8p)_



birth until eyes are open = 1p

thence until it kills mice = 2p

after it kills mice = 4p




goose = 1p

gander = 2p

brooding goose = 1/2 p for each chick

hen = 1p

cock = 2p

chick, until it can fly = 1 farthing

after than until sexual maturity = 1/2 p




(Here we hit another facet of the Welsh legal system: value was affected

by social status as well as by inherent worth.)


The King's Dogs


- birth to opening eyes = 15 p

- thence until it leaves the kennel = 30 p

- one year old = 60 p

- an unskilled adult hound = 120 p

- a skilled adult hound = 240 p

Lapdog = 240 p


A Nobleman's Dogs

Staghounds -- half the value of a king's hound (at any given stage)

Greyhound -- ditto (although the value of a king's greyhound wasn't given)

Lapdog = 240 p


A Free Man's Dogs

Lapdog = 120 p


A Villein's Dogs

Lapdog (or any other type of dog) = 4 p


Misc. Dogs (owner unspecified)

Herding dog = the value of the most valuable beast it guards

Guard Dog = 24 p if on duty, if not there is no value



the nest = 240 p

a "red" chick (before fledging?)

- king's = 120 p

- nobleman's = 60 p

a "white" bird (after fledging?)

- king's = 240 p

- nobleman's = 120 p

a tiercel (i.e. male falcon) = 24 p



nest = 24 p

"red" chick = 12 p

"white" = 24 p


Any bird of prey belonging to a villein = 1 p



- an old colony = 24 p

- first swarm (of the year?) = 16 p

   - a swarm from that one = 12 p

- a "bull" swarm (meaning unclear) = 12 p

   - a swarm from that one = 8 p

- a swarm that occurs after August = 4 p

the values of swarms hold until Winter Kalends and after that they cound

as "old colonies" at 24 p, except for a post-August swarm which doesn't

attain full value until May Day.

- a queen bee = 24 p



- Winter Kalends to St. John's Day = 60 p

- St. John's Day to Winter Kalends (the hunting season) = 780 p [sic]


Misc. Wild Animals

- badger -- no value

- hare -- no value

- wolf and fox -- no value

- any wild animal kept as a pet

   - of the king or queen = 240 p

   - of a nobleman = 120 p

   - of a villein = 1 p

- beaver = 120 p

- marten = 24 p


It's hard to set up a comparison scale for these values based on, for

example, a day's skilled labor, because the value of labor depends on the

status of the person doing it.  For example, a value of a day's ploughing

in the spring is set at 1p.  One comparison scale might be found in the

nature and value of the "food render" -- i.e., the "tax" in kind paid

twice yearly by each manor in a lord's control.  The winter render due

from a "free" manor consists of:


- a horse-load of the best flour

- a meat steer

- a vat of mead

- seven thraves (bundles) of oats for fodder

- a 3-y.o. pig

- a salted flitch of bacon three fingers thick

- a tub of butter three fist-breadths deep and three wide


and for this 240 p can be substituted, with the expectation that half will

go for bread, a quarter for drink, and a quarter for everything else.


One other thing to keep in mind about the legal values of things noted

above is that these amounts are set for compensation, not for purchase

(although presumably the two are related).  So these amounts are what you

would have to pay if you caused the destruction of an animal (or its

usefulness) rather than being what you would pay to buy one. A comparison

can be seen if you look up the individual legal values of the components

of the food render, to the extent that they can be found listed:


- a horse-load of the best flour = ?

- a meat steer = 60p

- a vat of mead = ?

- seven thraves of oats  at  4p/thrave = 28p

- a 3-y.o. pig = 30p

- a salted flitch of bacon = ?

- a tub of butter = ?


It isn't clear where the oats go in the accounting of the 240p money

equivalent, but the steer and pig alone add higher than the theoretical

60p "everything else" category.  So if the cash alternative for the food

render is intended as what it would cost to purchase the components, then

it's clear that the "legal value" of animals is set _higher_ than their

actual market value.


And furthermore, the law texts as we have them were compiled over a period

of several centuries.  It is unclear to what extent actual market

prices/costs remained stable over that period or to what extent the legal

valuations eventually became disconnected with reality.


Economics is _not_ one of my specialties.




Heather Rose Jones         hrjones at socrates.berkeley.edu



<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org