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Sunday, December 9, 2012

Heraldry Part 3

In this third part of my series on heraldry I will start defining animal positions.   This topic is split up into 2 posts due to the volume of information and graphics presented.  Over the next two posts I will discuss the most common positions of animals as well as the positions that occur in only certain fauna.  The following is by no means a complete listing of all the positions, or heraldic postures, an animal could have.  By this point I am sure you have realized that heraldry can be very complicated and in-depth.

Heraldic fauna fall into 6 classifications: beasts, birds, fish, insects, monsters, and reptiles.  In early heraldry there were very few animals used, mainly the lion, but over the years the selection grew to several dozen animals that were popular to use.  The tables below show the different postures you may find when looking at arms. 

Four Legged Animals, Beasts, or Monsters
Four legged creatures are some of the more common charges found.  Examples of these are: bear, dog, dragon, lion, stag, and tiger.

Rampant (rearing)
Body erect, forelegs apart and out, back rear leg off ground
Salient (leaping)
Body erect and elongated, forelegs out and together, rear legs together on ground
Courant (running)
Body elongated, head erect, all four legs extended
Passant (walking)
Body horizontal, head angled or erect, three feet touching ground with right foreleg raised
Statant (standing)
Body horizontal, head angled or erect, all four feet touching the ground
Sejant (sitting)
Body angled, head erect, all four legs touching the ground, rear legs tucked, front legs straight
Sejant Erect (sitting upright)
Body and head erect, rear legs tucked, forelegs apart and out
Couchant (lying down)
Body horizontal, head erect with legs tucked under body
Dormant (sleeping)
Body horizontal, legs tucked under body, and head down in a sleeping position
There are also two head potions that are common with four legged animals or beasts: gardnat and regardant.  If the beast is looking at you, the viewer, he is known as being gardant.  On the other hand regardant refers to the beast looking backwards over their shoulder.

Birds or Avians
There are three divisions of avians within this category: raptors, general birds, and special birds.  The three most common raptors are the eagle, falcon, and owl. Each have a position that is commonly associated with them:  displayed for the eagle, rising and close for the falcon, and close guardant for the owl.  In the general bird group you will find commonly the crow, duck, and martlet.  The default position for these birds is close.  Special birds have positions that are unique to them and no other birds.  These would pride for the peacock, vigilance for the crane, and piety for the pelican.

Birds have wing positions like beasts have head positions.  They can be used by themselves or combined when explaining the position of the bird’s wings.  I listed the wing positions first because they can be used to define the body posture of the bird as well.


Both wings on same side of body
Wings on either side of body
Wingtips away from body
Wingtips tucked back towards body
Wings and legs splayed
Wings close against the body and feet on the ground
Feet invisible, wings outstretched, wings may or may not be displayed
Feet on ground, wings elevated or displayed, addorsed or not
Close affront (close guardant)
Normally only for owls also known as close guardant
Seen only with Peacocks, close affront with tail feathers displayed
Seen only in cranes, close with one leg raised, stone in claw
Piety (or vulning)
Seen only in pelicans, normally with nest and chicks

In the next post I will go through fish, insects, and reptiles.  These are very interesting because there are specific terms associated with each that are not used to describe other animals.



Heraldic Clipart from “Free Heraldry Clipart Site

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