40 Unusual Laws in History
40 Unusual Laws in History

40 Unusual Laws in History

Tim Flight - November 14, 2019

40 Unusual Laws in History
1869 depiction of a sow and her piglets put on trial at Lavegny. Wikimedia Commons

1. In the middle ages, animals could be tried in courts for criminal offenses

Our final item may well be the stupidest of our weird laws. Across Europe in the middle ages, people sometimes tried animals in court. Small animals, such as mice and insects, got ecclesiastical trials for destroying grain or damaging churches. Such small-fry usually got excommunicated. Larger creatures like pigs and horses faced secular prosecution for injury or murder and usually got a death sentence. One man in France, whose pig killed a young child, got convicted of negligence, but the animal was hanged for murder. Though we treat animals better these days, we thankfully don’t treat them this much like humans!


Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

My London News – The Remarkable Reason Why The Queen Owns All Of The Swans In England

National Geographic Channel – Wacky Texas Laws: Guess Which of These 4 Are Real

Library of Congress – Odd Laws of the United Kingdom

Slater Gordon Lawyers – 14 Of The Most Obscure Australian Laws You’ve Never Heard Of

USA Today – Weirdest Laws Passed In Every State

The Connexion France – Women Wearing Trousers Was Illegal In France Until 2013

AEON – Why The Trial By Ordeal Was Actually An Effective Test Of Guilt

JSTOR Daily – When Societies Put Animals on Trial

Medium – 10 Animals That Were Put on Trial

Bartlett, Robert. Trial by Fire and Water: The Medieval Judicial Ordeal. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986.

Bratskeir, Kate. “The Craziest Laws That Still Exist In The United States”. The Huffington Post, January 22, 2016.

Cawthorne, Nigel. The Strange Laws of Old England. London: Piatkus, 2004.

Davies, Lizzie. “French Woman Marries Dead Partner”. The Guardian, November 17, 2009.

Hutton, Ronald. The Witch: A History of Fear, from Ancient Times to the Present. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2017.

Karras, Ruth Mazo. Law and the Illicit in Medieval Europe. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008.

Lauter, Deborah. “Women in Paris Finally Allowed to Wear Trousers”. The Daily Telegraph, February 3, 2013.

Riello, Giorgio, ed. The Right to Dress: Sumptuary Laws in a Global Perspective, c. 1200-1800. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019.