Exploring the Hidden Meanings Behind Animal Heraldry

Heraldry is a complex and enigmatic art form that has been used for centuries to convey messages of power and prestige. One of the most fascinating aspects of this tradition is the use of heraldic animals to embody specific qualities and ideals. From the regal lion to the mythical unicorn, each animal has its own distinct symbolism and significance. In this article, we will delve into the world of heraldic animals and explore their meanings, depictions, and historical examples. So, let’s embark on a journey of discovery and unravel the mysteries of these fascinating creatures.

What is Heraldry?

Heraldry is the practice of designing and displaying coat of arms on shields, banners, and other objects for the purpose of identification, recognition, and status in medieval times. The coats of arms were originally used by knights to distinguish themselves on the battlefield, but later became a symbol of family or individual identity. The symbols and colors used in heraldry hold significant meaning and are regulated by strict rules and traditions. Understanding heraldic terms, the symbolism of colors in heraldry, the types of heraldic shields, and the meaning behind coat of arms divisions are all essential to understanding the complexities of heraldry.

What are Heraldic Animals?

What are Heraldic Animals?

Heraldic animals are animals that are commonly used in heraldry for their symbolic meanings. These animals are usually depicted in a stylized manner and have specific characteristics that represent certain traits or virtues. Heraldic animals are typically found on coats of arms, crests, and other heraldic devices.

Here are some of the most commonly used heraldic animals with their respective symbolic meanings:

Heraldic Animal Symbolic Meaning
The Lion Representing strength, courage, and bravery, the lion is one of the most common heraldic animals.
The Eagle Symbolizing power, freedom, and vision, the eagle is often associated with nobility and royalty.
The Unicorn Representing purity, innocence, and virtue, the unicorn is a legendary creature that is often depicted in heraldry.
The Dragon Symbolizing strength, power, and dominance, the dragon is commonly used in heraldry to represent a warrior or conqueror.
The Griffin Combining the traits of the lion and the eagle, the griffin represents courage, wisdom, and leadership.
The Stag Representing purity and virtue, the stag is often found in coats of arms associated with royalty or nobility.
The Bear Symbolizing strength, courage, and endurance, the bear is commonly used in heraldry to represent protection and guardianship.
The Boar Representing courage, aggression, and ferocity, the boar is often used in heraldry to represent a warrior or fighter.
The Wolf Symbolizing courage, strength, and loyalty, the wolf is often used in heraldry to represent a hunter or tracker.
The Fish Representing abundance, wealth, and fertility, the fish is commonly used in heraldry for its association with the sea and fishing.
The Horse Symbolizing speed, grace, and nobility, the horse is often used in heraldry to represent a warrior or rider.
The Phoenix Representing rebirth, resurrection, and eternal life, the phoenix is a mythical bird that is often found in heraldry.

Heraldic animals are an important part of heraldry and convey powerful symbolic meanings. Understanding the meanings behind these animals is crucial for interpreting coats of arms and other heraldic devices.

The Meaning of Heraldic Animals

The Meaning Of Heraldic Animals
The animals in heraldry carry great symbolic meaning. Each creature has its unique significance, which served as a source of identification and conveyed the values of the bearer. Below are some of the most popular animals and their meanings used in heraldry:

Animal Meaning
The Lion The lion represents strength, courage, and majesty. It is often depicted as the king of beasts, and its golden color is associated with wealth and power.
The Eagle The eagle signifies freedom, courage, and keen eyesight. It is a revered bird of prey associated with power and strength. It can also represent the head of the family guarding his domain.
The Unicorn The unicorn is a mythical creature with a single horn on its head. It represents purity, gentleness, chastity, and strength. In medieval times, it was believed that only a virgin could capture a unicorn, and thus it became a symbol of the Virgin Mary.
The Dragon The dragon is a mythical creature that signifies power, strength, and protection. It is often depicted holding a sword, a shield, or a banner. The dragon’s fire-breathing abilities may represent a fierce defender or a symbol of a fiery temper.
The Griffin The griffin is a legendary creature with the head and wings of an eagle and the body of a lion. It is a symbol of courage, vigilance, and strength. Its combination of two powerful animals signifies it as a representation of a unique blend of traits.
The Stag The stag, or deer, is a majestic animal that represents peace, harmony, and spiritual purity. It can also signify the spiritual elevation and represents a link between heaven and earth.
The Bear The bear represents strength, bravery, and cunningness. It’s a powerful animal often associated with warriors and is a symbol of protection.
The Boar The boar represents strength, courage, and ferocity. It is a fierce animal that symbolizes the determination and bravery in battle or contests.
The Wolf The wolf signifies loyalty, vigilance, and courage. It is an animal that is associated with loyalty, often being portrayed in a pack or with its family. In heraldry, the wolf also represents the wisdom of a leader who can command the respect and loyalty of their followers.
The Fish The fish symbolizes the Christian faith and abundance. In heraldry, a fish represents a valorous act and a person who is prepared to take risks for a higher goal.
The Horse The horse represents speed, agility, and freedom. It is a graceful animal often associated with nobility, strength, and chivalry. Horses can also represent a military leader.
The Phoenix The phoenix represents rebirth, immortality, and renewal. It is a mythical bird that rises from the ashes of its predecessor, thus becoming a symbol of hope and the renewal of life.

Each animal in heraldry carries a unique meaning, reflecting the values and characteristics of the bearer. When designing a coat of arms, it’s important to choose the right animal to represent the intended message. Understanding the symbolism behind the animals used in heraldry can guide the choices for a suitable design. You can learn more about the meanings behind other elements of a coat of arms, including tinctures, charges, and mantling, to further enhance the message it portrays.

The Lion

The lion is one of the most recognizable and commonly depicted animals in heraldry, symbolizing courage, strength, and royalty. In heraldic terms, lions can be found in various tinctures, with the most popular being gold and red. When depicted, lions can be rampant, passant, statant or other positions, with additional traits such as a crown or claws additive to the design’s meaning. They can be seen in the crests and coats of arms of many countries, including England, where they represent monarchy and power. To learn more about the symbolism of colors and other important heraldic terms, check out the heraldic terms meaning page.

The Eagle

is a revered and majestic animal in heraldry, symbolizing a variety of traits, including courage, nobility, and strength. The bird’s keen sight and sharp talons represent vigilance and dominance, making it a popular choice for coat of arms designs. Eagles can be depicted in several different positions or attitudes, each of which conveys a distinct meaning. An eagle with wings expanded signifies protection, but an eagle with its head turned or wings partially closed can indicate a more aggressive posture.

One well-known example of the eagle in heraldry is the emblem of the United States, which features a bald eagle grasping arrows and an olive branch in its talons. Similarly, the Russian coat of arms prominently features a double-headed eagle, representing the country’s strong religious and political influence. In German heraldry, the eagle is often depicted with two heads or crowned, emphasizing the animal’s power and authority.

The eagle’s color and tincture can also play a significant role in the symbolism of the coat of arms. A black eagle may represent wisdom, while a gold eagle can suggest wealth or royalty. Additionally, an eagle accompanied by other elements, such as armor, a shield, or even a crown, can further enhance the meaning of the design.

The eagle is a powerful symbol in heraldry, representing strength, courage, and protection. Its presence on a coat of arms can convey a sense of honor and pride in one’s lineage.

The Unicorn

The mythical Unicorn is another popular figure in heraldry. With its single horn, it is considered one of the most mystical and powerful creatures. Though the Unicorn has a strong association with Christianity, it commonly represents purity, chastity, and strength. Historically, the Unicorn was believed to be so powerful that it could only be tamed by a virgin. As a result, it also came to symbolize the virtues of loyalty and trust in legends and stories.

In heraldry, the Unicorn is often depicted with a golden horn, a white body, and a red mane and tail. It is often shown as rampant, standing on its hind legs with its forelegs raised in a regal stance. The Unicorn is also characterized by its grace and beauty, often accompanied by floral, ivy, or wreath embellishments in heraldic imagery.

A notable example of the Unicorn in heraldry is its appearance in the royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom. The Unicorn is one of the two supporters of the shield, accompanying the Lion, and symbolizing the sovereignty of the Kingdom. The Unicorn is depicted as chained, representing the taming of its wild and powerful nature.

Interestingly, the legendary Unicorn has been depicted in heraldry long before it was established as a purely mythical creature. The supposed Unicorn horn, also known as the alicorn, was believed to possess magical properties, and was often sold as goods for use in medicine and other fields. The Unicorn horn’s rarity and supposed mystical properties also made it a highly valuable treasure.

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Heraldic achievements are an integral part of the Unicorn’s depictions in heraldic imagery.

The Dragon

The dragon has been used widely in heraldry to depict power, wisdom, and ferocity. It is one of the most commonly used mythical creatures in heraldry and is often displayed as a fierce, fire-breathing creature with sharp talons and teeth. In many cultures, dragons are considered immensely powerful and are often associated with royalty or divine power.

In heraldry, dragons can be depicted in a number of different poses and colors, each signifying a different meaning. The most common depiction shows the dragon with wings, holding a sword or other weapon, standing atop a mound of treasure. This type of dragon symbolizes warlike and protective qualities, representing strength, courage, and fearlessness.

However, there are other variations of the dragon in heraldry, including the wingless dragon which signifies wisdom, the coiled dragon which signifies vigilance and protection, and the dragon with human-like characteristics which represent intelligence. Additionally, the color of the dragon in heraldry is also significant, with the red dragon being a symbol of fierceness and passion, the blue dragon for wisdom and protection, and the green dragon symbolizing wealth.

In some cultures, dragons are also associated with water, and this is reflected in the way some dragons are depicted in heraldry. These dragons are shown with scales that resemble fish, and this symbolizes their connection to water and the sea.

It is fascinating how a single mythical creature can have so many varied meanings and symbolism in heraldry. By having a deeper understanding of the meaning of heraldic animals and symbols, one can decipher the hidden messages and stories behind coat of arms designs from centuries ago.

The Griffin

One of the most fascinating creatures in heraldry is the Griffin. This fabulous beast has the body and hind legs of a lion, and the head, wings, and front talons of an eagle. The griffin is a symbol of courage, vigilance, and strength. It represents powerful and majestic qualities that are often associated with royalty. The griffin is often depicted as a protector of treasure or valuables and is considered to be a guardian of the divine.
The griffin is usually depicted with wings displayed, similar to an eagle’s, but occasionally it is shown with only the forelegs of an eagle. Its body is covered with the fur of a lion, often depicted as golden. Its beak and talons are of an eagle. It is portrayed as both fierce and noble; it is the embodiment of a creature that is ready to attack yet dignified and brave. In some cultures, the griffin is also associated with healing powers and the ability to see into the future.

The griffin is commonly seen as a charge, where it is presented in profile facing the left. One of the famous uses of the griffin is in the coat of arms of the Duke of Westminster. The griffin is often used in heraldry to describe someone who is brave and loyal. It is considered a very noble beast, and those who bear it on their coats of arms are thought to be very distinguished.

In terms of color, the griffin can be depicted in any colors, but most often appears in shades of gold and brown. The griffin can also be found in combination with other charges such as a sword or a book. The griffin can be used to decorate helmets, crests, and flags.

To sum up, the griffin is a fascinating creature in heraldry that represents courage, strength, and vigilance. Its unique body makes it a powerful and majestic symbol that has been used in many cultures throughout history. Whether depicted in profile or with its entire body, the griffin remains one of the most popular and important charges in heraldry.

The Stag

In heraldry, the stag is often associated with royalty, passion, and purity. As a symbol of royalty, the stag was often seen as a representation of the hunt, which was one of the most popular pastimes of European aristocrats. Despite their popularity with the nobility, stags were also associated with commoners. In medieval stories, commoners were often depicted as hunting stags, which may have been a way to show that everyone, regardless of social status, could participate in the hunt.

The stag’s antlers are one of its most prominent features, and in heraldry, antlers have a range of different meanings. They can symbolize strength and virility, as well as independence and intelligence. Additionally, the number of antlers is significant, with even numbers being associated with balance and harmony, and odd numbers being seen as more dynamic and powerful.

The position of the stag in heraldry can also convey different meanings. A rampant stag (standing on two legs) can represent courage, while a passant stag (walking with one foot raised) suggests a sense of direction and progress. A lodged stag (lying down) symbolizes rest and tranquility, while a trippant stag (running with one foot in the air) suggests speed and agility.

The colors used to depict the stag can also have significance. In general, stags are depicted in natural colors, such as brown, but they can also be depicted in other colors to represent specific virtues. For example, a white stag can represent purity and innocence, while a black stag can represent mourning or death.

The stag is a powerful and versatile symbol in heraldry, representing both aristocracy and commoners, as well as a wide range of virtues and characteristics. Whether depicted in motion or at rest, with antlers raised or lowered, the stag is a majestic and enduring symbol that has played an important role in heraldry for centuries.

Coat of arms divisions help to identify the uniqueness of each stanza. They’re called “Divisions of the Shield, and each of them has its particular meaning and symbolism. Stag can be depicted on different shields and with different positions and tinctures.

The Bear

is a popular figure in heraldry and is often depicted in a fierce and powerful stance. In heraldry, the bear represents strength, courage, and protection. It is a common symbol in coats of arms of royal or noble houses and can also represent a person’s bravery in battle.

The bear can be depicted in different poses, including rampant, passant, and statant. When a bear is rampant, it is standing on its hind legs, ready to attack, which symbolizes aggression and strength. When a bear is passant, it is shown walking with one paw raised, symbolizing vigilance and wariness. A bear can also be depicted statant, standing on all four legs, which represents protection and defense.

In terms of color, the bear is usually depicted in brown or black, although it can also be shown in white. The bear can also be accompanied by other heraldic symbols, such as a crown or a sword, to further enhance its meaning of power and protection.

The bear is a prominent symbol in heraldry, representing strength and bravery. Its depiction and accompanying heraldic symbols can add layers of meaning to a coat of arms.

The Boar

The boar has long been associated with bravery and determination. With its sharp tusks and tough hide, it was considered a formidable opponent in the hunt and on the battlefield. In heraldry, the boar is often used to represent fierce protection of one’s home and family.

The boar is depicted facing forward, with its head held high and its sharp tusks prominently displayed. Its fierce expression and muscular build evoke a sense of strength and power. It is often depicted in the rampant position, standing on its hind legs with its forelegs raised and ready for attack. This position symbolizes strength, courage, and aggression.

In terms of tinctures, the boar is usually depicted in natural colors such as brown, black, or gray. These colors convey a sense of the boar’s wild nature and toughness. The boar can also be depicted with accoutrements such as a chain or collar, symbolizing captivity or subjugation.

One of the most famous examples of the boar in heraldry is the coat of arms of the House of Percy, which features a blue shield with a gold lion rampant, and a red boar passant. The red color of the boar symbolizes courage, while the passant position denotes watchfulness and readiness to attack.

The boar is a powerful symbol in heraldry, representing strength, bravery, and protection. Its ferocity and determination make it a popular choice for coats of arms and crests, particularly among families or individuals who value these qualities.

The Wolf

The wolf is undoubtedly one of the most contentious animals in heraldry. Some heraldry scholars argue that the wolf’s appearance in coats of arms was merely an indication of its habitat and nothing more, while others believe that the animal represented valor and bravery in battle. Either way, the wolf was a common motif in heraldic designs throughout Europe.

In heraldry, the wolf is depicted with a snarling expression and bared teeth, ready to pounce. Its ferocity makes it an ideal symbol for military might and strength, and when used as a charge in a coat of arms, it is often seen in combat with another animal or even a human.

In terms of its color in heraldry, the wolf was typically portrayed as sable (black) or argent (white). Sometimes it was depicted in red or other colors, depending on the coat of arms it was being used in.

One famous example of the wolf in heraldry is the coat of arms of the Earls of Chester, which dates back to the 11th century. The shield features three gold wolf heads on a red background, with a gold border featuring alternating blue and red lions. The wolf heads are positioned so that they are all facing forward with their mouths open, creating an intimidating image.

Another famous example is the coat of arms of the French municipality of Tollevast, which features a wolf rampant (standing on its hind legs) on a field of azure (blue) with stars argent (silver/white). The wolf is a powerful symbol for this town, as it is said to have been established by Vikings who worshiped the god Odin, who was often associated with wolves.

The wolf is a significant animal in heraldry due to its symbolization of strength and power. Its appearance in coats of arms has been both admired and criticized throughout history, but its significance cannot be ignored.

The Fish

The fish is a popular heraldic symbol particularly in coastal regions. Fish are often depicted as upright, vertical, and with their heads facing dexter (the right side of the shield). The symbol of a fish in heraldry has been used since ancient times, and was often used as a symbol for Christianity.

In Catholicism, the fish was a popular symbol used by early Christians to recognize their faith without fear of persecution. Fish were seen as a symbol of faith, as well as a source of food and sustenance. This symbolism is still used today in coat of arms designs.

Fish can also be depicted with other attributes that can provide further meaning. For instance, a fish may be represented with a crown to represent royalty, or with a hook to represent fishing. The color of the fish can also carry meaning – a golden fish may represent wealth or prosperity, while a silver fish can symbolize purity.

Fish can be represented with the concept of shield shapes. The fish can be a charge on different types of shields like heater shields, which have pointy tops, or kite shields, which have a diamond shape.

The fish remains a popular heraldic symbol and its use continues to endure in present-day heraldry. Its various meanings and significance make it a versatile symbol that can be incorporated in different heraldic designs.

The Horse

is one of the most common heraldic animals found in coats of arms. In heraldry, the horse is a symbol of speed, agility, and courage. It also represents nobility, loyalty and freedom. Horses can appear in various poses, such as rampant, passant or courant, each with its own meaning.

The rampant horse symbolizes courage and valor, and is often depicted in a rearing position with its front legs raised off the ground. This pose signifies a horse ready for battle, ready to charge into the fray. The passant horse, on the other hand, is depicted walking with one front leg raised, and represents a peaceful personality. It is a symbol of readiness for action but is also a sign of caution and thought. Lastly, the courant horse is depicted running, and symbolizes quickness and agility.

In heraldry, tinctures and heraldic mantling can also affect the meaning of a horse. For example, a white horse on a black background can represent victory in battle, while a black horse on a white background can represent grief and mourning.

The horse can also be portrayed in different poses, heads up or down, saddled or unsaddled, bridled or unbridled, which all impact the overall meaning. For instance, an unsaddled horse with a broken bridle symbolizes a lost cause or a rebellion.

The horse is often seen as a supporter in a coat of arms, where it is used to support the shield of the bearer. As a noble animal, it is not uncommon to see a horse as a primary charge in a coat of arms. Beginners can find a variety of horse-related charges to decorate their coat of arms.

The horse in heraldry is a powerful symbol of strength, speed, nobility, and loyalty. It has a long historical legacy in armorial designs and is seen as a majestic animal that has always inspired awe and admiration.

The Phoenix

The Phoenix is a mythical bird that is said to rise from its ashes every time it dies. It is a symbol of renewal, resilience, and immortality. In heraldry, the Phoenix is depicted with wings outstretched and its body surrounded by flames. The bird’s tail is typically elongated, curved upwards, and often has a tuft of feathers at the end.

The Phoenix is a popular symbol in heraldry, often used to represent resurrection, transformation, and renewal. Its association with fire and rebirth also make it a symbol of the sun and the new dawn.

In medieval times, the Phoenix was often used as a symbol of Jesus Christ, who was believed to have risen from the dead. It was also adopted by the alchemists, who used it to represent the cycle of death and rebirth in their pursuit of transmutation.

The Phoenix is typically depicted in bright, fiery colors such as red, orange, and gold. Its feathers are often shown in intricate detail to emphasize their beauty and embellish the bird’s graceful form.

One interesting fact about the Phoenix in heraldry is that it is often depicted holding a banner or scroll in its beak, which is inscribed with the Latin word “Resurgam” meaning “I will rise again”. This further emphasizes the symbolism of renewal and the idea that even in the face of death and destruction, new life and hope can emerge.

The Phoenix is a powerful symbol in heraldry, representing resurrection, transformation, and the cyclical nature of life. Its association with fire and rebirth make it both a symbol of the sun and the new dawn, as well as a powerful spiritual symbol of hope, renewal, and everlasting life.

How Heraldic Animals Are Depicted

Heraldic animals are depicted in a distinct manner with specific characteristics that denote their symbolic meaning. There are three main elements that are used to portray a heraldic animal: attitude and position, color and composition, and accompaniments and attributes.

Attitude and Position: The attitude of a heraldic animal refers to its pose or stance. This can convey different meanings, depending on the animal. For example, a lion rampant (standing on its hind legs with its front paws raised) signifies courage and strength, while a lion passant (walking with one paw raised) represents peacefulness and readiness to defend. The position of the head, wings, tail, or fins can also indicate different traits, such as aggression, loyalty, or grace.

Color and Composition: The color of a heraldic animal is also significant. The most common colors used are gold, silver, black, white, red, green, and blue. Each color has its own symbolism; for instance, gold signifies generosity, silver represents purity, black denotes constancy, and red symbolizes courage or martyrdom. The composition of the image may also indicate certain characteristics of the animal. For example, a stag with a broken antler may signify loss, while a horse with a winged saddle may represent swiftness or freedom.

Accompaniments and Attributes: Heraldic animals may also be accompanied by other elements that provide additional meaning. These can include crowns, swords, banners, or other animals. Such attributes can indicate loyalty, victory, or other attributes associated with the animal. For example, an eagle with a burning torch in its talons may symbolize knowledge or enlightenment.

Heraldic animals are depicted in a specific way that conveys their symbolic meaning. The attitude and position, color and composition, and accompaniments and attributes all work together to create a unique representation of the animal. By understanding these elements, it becomes easier to decipher the meaning behind these ancient symbols. Here is the table that summarizes the main attitudes and positions used in heraldry:

Attitude Position Example Meaning
Rampant Standing on hind legs with front paws raised Lion Rampant Courage and Strength
Passant Walking with one paw raised Lion Passant Readiness to defend
Dormant Lying with head raised Bear Dormant Sleeping or waiting
Statant Standing on four legs Greyhound Statant Watchfulness and loyalty
Salient Leaping Stag Salient Haste and righteousness

Attitude and Position

In heraldry, the attitude and position of a heraldic animal can convey important symbolism. For example, a lion rampant, standing on its hind legs with forepaws raised, is often associated with courage and bravery. On the other hand, a lion passant, walking with one paw raised, is often associated with watchfulness and caution. Similarly, an eagle with wings displayed and its head facing left (known as an eagle sinister) is associated with evil and war, while an eagle with wings displayed and its head facing right (known as an eagle dexter) is associated with good and peace. The placement of the animal within the coat of arms can also convey additional symbolism, such as a lion passant guardant (facing forward) appearing as a sentinel or watchman. These subtle differences in attitude and position highlight the attention to detail and complex symbolism often found in heraldry.

Color and Composition

When it comes to depicting heraldic animals, their color and composition are important factors that can convey deeper symbolism and meaning. Here are some ways in which color and composition are used in heraldry:

Color Meaning
Gold/yellow The color of the sun and therefore represents light and purity. It can also represent generosity and wealth.
Red Usually represents courage and valor. It can also symbolize blood and sacrifice.
Blue Represents loyalty, truth, and piety. It can also symbolize peacefulness and calmness.
Green Symbolizes hope, joy, and loyalty in love. It can also represent youth and springtime.
Purple Traditionally represents royalty, sovereignty, and justice. It can also symbolize mourning and penitence.
Black Can represent grief, humility, and constancy. It is also often used to represent wisdom and knowledge.

In terms of composition, the way that a heraldic animal is depicted can also convey meaning. For example:

  • Rampant: an animal depicted in a standing position with one foreleg raised represents courage and readiness for battle.
  • Paschal: an animal depicted with both front legs in the air represents the Resurrection of Christ.
  • Salient: an animal leaping represents a readiness for action or springing forward in defense.
  • Statant: an animal standing on all four legs with the head facing forward represents steadfastness and stability.
  • Couchant: an animal resting, with the head up and gaze alert, represents watchfulness.

By using different colors and compositions, heraldry is able to convey a variety of meanings and symbolism through its depictions of animals.

Accompaniments and Attributes

Accompaniments and Attributes are a crucial aspect of heraldic animals, providing further insight into their symbolism. These features are additional images or symbols that are often depicted alongside the main figure, adding further meaning to the coat of arms. Here are some examples of common Accompaniments and Attributes for Heraldic Animals:

The Lion

  • Rampant – Standing on hind legs with paws raised
  • Regardant – Looking backwards
  • Crowned or double-tailed – Representing royalty or bravery

The Eagle

  • Displayed – Wings outspread
  • Volant – In flight
  • Double-headed – Representing empire or dominion

The Unicorn

  • Collared and chained – Representing captivity or control
  • With a horn – The unicorn’s most iconic attribute, representing purity and strength
  • Crowned – Representing authority and sovereignty

The Dragon

  • Rampant – Standing on hind legs with wings outspread
  • Wreathed in flames – Representing passion and fury
  • Tongue extended – Representing fierceness and aggression

The Griffin

  • Segreant – Standing on hind legs with wings outspread
  • The Head of an Eagle – Representing courage and freedom
  • The Body of a Lion – Representing nobility and strength

The Stag

  • Attacking or Springing – Representing aggression and strength
  • Collared – Representing captivity or control
  • Bearing a cross or crucifix – Representing spirituality and Christianity

The Bear

  • Rampant – Standing on hind legs with paws raised
  • Muzzled – Representing courage under constraint
  • Armed – Wearing armor or armed with weapons, representing strength and protection

The Boar

  • Transfixed by an arrow – Representing mortality and the hunt
  • Rampant – Standing on hind legs with paws raised
  • Tusked – Representing ferocity and strength

The Wolf

  • Rampant – Standing on hind legs with paws raised
  • Passant – Walking with one paw raised
  • Holding a bone – Representing greed and selfishness

The Fish

  • Naiant – Swimming horizontally
  • Hauriant – Leaping out of the water
  • Urinant – Facing upward and spouting water from its mouth

The Horse

  • Passant – Walking with one paw raised
  • Statant – Standing with all four feet on the ground
  • Rampant – Standing on hind legs with paws raised

The Phoenix

  • Rising from Flames – Symbolizing rebirth and renewal
  • Regardant – Looking backwards, symbolizing the past
  • Wreathed in flames – Representing passion and the divine

Accompaniments and Attributes are a great way to add depth to heraldic symbolism and better understand the meaning behind these iconic images.

Examples of Heraldic Animals in History

Throughout history, many cultures and countries have used heraldic animals as symbols of power and prestige. These symbols have been depicted in various forms including statues, paintings, and coats of arms. One example is the English coat of arms, which features a red lion on a yellow background. The lion represents courage, strength, and bravery. Another example is the Scottish coat of arms, which features a unicorn and a lion on either side of a shield. The unicorn, known for its grace and purity, represents Scotland while the lion represents England. The German coat of arms features a black eagle on a yellow background, symbolizing strength, majesty, and power. The Russian coat of arms features a double-headed eagle, symbolizing the unity of East and West. Lastly, the French coat of arms features a golden fleur-de-lis, representing the French Monarchy and royalty. These examples show how heraldic animals have been used throughout history to represent various cultural values and ideals.

The English Coat of Arms

The English Coat of Arms is one of the most well-known heraldic emblems in history. It consists of three strong and powerful lions standing on their hind legs, a symbol of bravery and might. The lion has been a symbol of England since the 12th century, when Henry II used it on his coat of arms. Over time, the depiction of the lion has evolved, with some versions showing the lion with a crown on its head, representing the royal family.

The English Coat of Arms also features a unicorn, an animal that is rarely seen in heraldry. The unicorn represents purity, virtue, and grace, and it is often shown in a fierce stance with its hooves and horn prominently displayed. The use of this mythical animal is a nod to the legend of King Arthur and the medieval tales of knights, chivalry, and courtly love.

In addition to the lion and the unicorn, other heraldic animals can also be found on the English Coat of Arms. The red dragon, symbolizing Wales, has been a part of the emblem since the 16th century. The white horse, representing Kent, is also included. The crowned golden lion on the top of the Coat of Arms is the official symbol of England.

The English Coat of Arms has a rich history that dates back to the Middle Ages and has been used by monarchs for centuries. It is a symbol of power, strength, and unity in England and is recognized around the world. Today, variations of the English Coat of Arms can be seen on flags, coins, and government documents throughout the United Kingdom.

The Scottish Coat of Arms

The Scottish Coat of Arms is a powerful symbol of the nation’s heritage and values. The arms feature a red shield with a rampant lion in gold. The lion represents courage, strength, and generosity. The shield is supported by two unicorns, which are believed to be a symbol of purity and grace.

One interesting fact about the Scottish Coat of Arms is the use of the unicorn. In heraldry, the unicorn is considered a powerful symbol of good luck and purity. In the Scottish Coat of Arms, the two unicorns symbolize Scotland’s association with the United Kingdom, with one unicorn standing for Scotland and the other for the United Kingdom. The unicorn is also said to represent Scotland’s independence and freedom. It is said that the unicorn is so strong that no hunter can capture it, which may represent Scotland’s resilience and power.

Another feature of the Scottish Coat of Arms is the motto, “Nemo me impune lacessit,” which means “No one attacks me with impunity.” This motto is a powerful message that Scotland will not stand idly by when threatened and will defend its sovereignty and rights. The phrase is also associated with the Order of the Thistle, Scotland’s highest order of chivalry.

The Scottish Coat of Arms is an important symbol of the country’s identity and heritage. It is used by the Scottish Government, the Scottish Parliament, and many other Scottish institutions. The Coat of Arms can be seen on many official documents, including passports and banknotes. The Scottish Coat of Arms is a celebrated symbol of Scotland’s strength, resilience, and long history.

The German Coat of Arms

The German Coat of Arms features several heraldic animals that hold significant meaning. The eagle, depicted in gold, symbolizes strength, courage, and freedom, and has been associated with Germanic culture and history since the Holy Roman Empire. The bear, another prominent animal in the German Coat of Arms, represents strength, resilience, and bravery.

Additionally, the lion is frequently used in regional coats of arms, representing power and protection. The use of a heraldic animal in a coat of arms was not limited to nobility, but guilds and towns also incorporated them.

The city of Nuremberg, for example, uses an eagle on its coat of arms, paying homage to the strong presence of the Holy Roman Empire. The city of Frankfurt also uses an eagle, but with a unique twist – it is depicted with two heads, symbolizing the division of power between the Holy Roman Empire and the Papacy.

Another well-known example of a heraldic animal in German culture is the Bavarian lion. This lion, which is depicted in vibrant blue, represents strength, bravery, and valor, all of which are deeply rooted in Bavarian culture.

The German Coat of Arms also features symbolism beyond just animals, such as the colored shields which represent the various regions and states of Germany. These shields have distinctive designs and colors that have been used for hundreds of years.

The German Coat of Arms with its rich history and symbolism, is a fascinating and important aspect of German culture and history. The use of heraldic animals and other elements has long been a way to depict the values and identity of a region or state and continues to be an important tradition.

The Russian Coat of Arms

The Russian Coat of Arms has gone through several changes throughout its history. In 1472, the Russian Coat of Arms was first introduced by Ivan III as a two-headed eagle painted on a red shield. Later on, Peter the Great introduced a new emblem that showed the image of a single-headed eagle.

The eagle is an important symbol in Russian heraldry. It represents power, strength, and ambition. The eagle has its wings spread, symbolizing the vast territory of Russia. The eagle is usually depicted holding a scepter and orb, denoting its royal power and authority.

On the eagle’s chest is a shield with St. George and the Dragon, a famous Christian legend. St. George is the patron saint of Russia and is known for his bravery and victory over evil. The shield is divided into four quadrants, each with a different pattern. The Kievan coat of arms is depicted in the upper right, the Novgorod coat of arms in the lower right, the Tver coat of arms in the upper left, and the Pskov coat of arms in the lower left.

The Russian Coat of Arms has undergone several modifications since its inception. In 1993, a new coat of arms was introduced which depicted the same two-headed eagle but with a different design. The eagle was placed on a red shield with a golden border. The eagle was also depicted without the orb and scepter, which have been replaced with olive and oak branches as symbols of peace and strength.

The Russian Coat of Arms is a unique representation of Russian history and culture. It has undergone many changes over the years but still holds significant importance in Russian heraldry. Even today, the coat of arms can be seen on many official documents in Russia and is a symbol of the country’s strong heritage and traditions.

The French Coat of Arms

The French coat of arms is a display of the heraldic animals that have played an important role in French history. The coat of arms combines several heraldic animals that symbolize different aspects of French culture and history.

One of the most prominent animals on the French coat of arms is the Gallic Rooster. This proud bird has been a symbol of France since the Gallic era and represents bravery, strength, and vigilance. It is often depicted standing on one leg with its head turned back and crowing.

Another animal that features on the French coat of arms is the Fleur de Lis. This stylized lily has been used as an emblem of French royalty since the 12th century and symbolizes purity, honor, and perfection. It is often depicted in a repeating pattern on a blue background.

The French coat of arms also includes the Lion, which has been a symbol of French monarchy since the 11th century. This powerful and majestic animal represents royalty, courage, and strength. It is often depicted in a rampant position, standing on its hind legs.

Finally, the French coat of arms features a Unicorn. This mythical creature has long been associated with purity and grace and represents the qualities of chivalry and nobility. It is often depicted with a twisted horn and a lion’s tail.

Together, these animals on the French coat of arms represent the unique history and culture of France, from the bravery of its people to the royalty of its monarchy. They are depicted in a variety of positions and colors, emphasizing their individual qualities and the important role they have played in French history.

It is worth noting that the French coat of arms has undergone several changes throughout history, with different animals being added or removed depending on the reigning monarch or political climate. However, the Gallic Rooster, the Fleur de Lis, the Lion, and the Unicorn have remained constant features, standing as symbols of the enduring spirit of the French people.


In conclusion, the use of heraldic animals in coat of arms has a long history and rich symbolism behind it. Each animal carries a unique meaning that often relates to the values and traits that its owner wishes to convey. Whether it is the strength and courage of the lion, the wisdom and freedom of the eagle, or the purity and grace of the unicorn, each heraldic animal has its own story to tell.

Furthermore, the way in which these animals are depicted in the coat of arms also carries a symbolic meaning. The attitude and position, color and composition, as well as any accompanying attributes, all contribute to the overall message that is being conveyed. A lion depicted rampant, for example, would be seen as more aggressive and powerful than one in a passant position.

Throughout history, different countries and cultures have utilized heraldic animals in their coat of arms, each with their own unique spin on the symbolism. From the majestic lion of England to the mystical dragon of China, these animals serve to represent the identity and values of their respective nations.

Overall, uncovering the symbolism of animals in heraldry is a fascinating and illuminating study, shedding light on the power of symbolism and its importance in human culture. Whether it is a coat of arms for a family, a company, or a whole country, the heraldic animals within it carry with them a great deal of meaning and history.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the significance of heraldic animals?

Heraldic animals have been used for centuries in coat of arms and heraldry. They represent strength, courage, loyalty, and nobility.

Where did heraldic animals originate from?

Heraldic animals have their roots in medieval Europe, where knights used them as symbols on their shields and banners.

What is the most common heraldic animal?

The lion is perhaps the most commonly used heraldic animal, and it represents courage, strength, and royalty.

What does the unicorn represent in heraldry?

The unicorn symbolizes purity, chastity, and virtue. It is also believed to have the power to heal sickness and wounds.

What does the eagle symbolize in heraldry?

The eagle represents strength, courage, and freedom. It is also associated with the sun and the element of air.

What is the significance of the griffin in heraldry?

The griffin is a mythical creature that symbolizes courage, strength, and vigilance. It is also said to be the guardian of treasure and sacred places.

What does the bear represent in heraldry?

The bear symbolizes strength, courage, and ferocity. It is also associated with protection and maternal love.

What is the meaning of the stag in heraldry?

The stag represents regeneration, purity, and beauty. It is also associated with the forest and the natural world.

What is the significance of the fish in heraldry?

The fish symbolizes transformation, regeneration, and abundance. It is also associated with the element of water and the Christian faith.

What is the meaning of the phoenix in heraldry?

The phoenix is a mythical bird that represents transformation, resurrection, and renewal. It is also associated with fire and the sun.


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