History of Animals

Author: Aristotle  | Date: 350 BC


Rennet then consists of milk with an admixture of fire, which comes from the natural heat of the animal, as the milk is concocted. All ruminating animals produce rennet, and, of ambidentals, the hare. Rennet improves in quality the longer it is kept; and cow’s rennet, after being kept a good while, and also hare’s rennet, is good for diarrhoea, and the best of all rennet is that of the young deer.

In milk-producing animals the comparative amount of the yield varies with the size of the animal and the diversities of pasturage. For instance, there are in Phasis small cattle that in all cases give a copious supply of milk, and the large cows in Epirus yield each one daily some nine gallons of milk, and half of this from each pair of teats, and the milker has to stand erect, stooping forward a little, as otherwise, if he were seated, he would be unable to reach up to the teats. But, with the exception of the ass, all the quadrupeds in Epirus are of large size, and relatively, the cattle and the dogs are the largest. Now large animals require abundant pasture, and this country supplies just such pasturage, and also supplies diverse pasture grounds to suit the diverse seasons of the year. The cattle are particularly large, and likewise the sheep of the so-called Pyrrhic breed, the name being given in honour of King Pyrrhus.

Some pasture quenches milk, as Median grass or lucerne, and that especially in ruminants; other feeding renders it copious, as cytisus and vetch; only, by the way, cytisus in flower is not recommended, as it has burning properties, and vetch is not good for pregnant kine, as it causes increased difficulty in parturition. However, beasts that have access to good feeding, as they are benefited thereby in regard to pregnancy, so also being well nourished produce milk in plenty. Some of the leguminous plants bring milk in abundance, as for instance, a large feed of beans with the ewe, the common she-goat, the cow, and the small she-goat; for this feeding makes them drop their udders. And, by the way, the pointing of the udder to the ground before parturition is a sign of there being plenty of milk a-coming.

Milk remains for a long time in the female, if she be kept from the male and be properly fed, and, of quadrupeds, this is especially true of the ewe; for the ewe can be milked for eight months. As a general rule, ruminating animals give milk in abundance, and milk fitted for cheese manufacture. In the neighbourhood of Torone cows run dry for a few days before calving, and have milk all the rest of the time. In women, milk of a livid colour is better than white for nursing purposes; and swarthy women give healthier milk than fair ones. Milk that is richest in cheese is the most nutritious, but milk with a scanty supply of cheese is the more wholesome for children.


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Chicago: Aristotle, "21," History of Animals, trans. D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson Original Sources, accessed September 30, 2023, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=CPM37GP1WJFX4GB.

MLA: Aristotle. "21." History of Animals, translted by D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson, Original Sources. 30 Sep. 2023. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=CPM37GP1WJFX4GB.

Harvard: Aristotle, '21' in History of Animals, trans. . Original Sources, retrieved 30 September 2023, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=CPM37GP1WJFX4GB.