History of Animals

Author: Aristotle  | Date: 350 BC


Of insects that are not carnivorous but that live on the juices of living flesh, such as lice and fleas and bugs, all, without exception, generate what are called ’nits’, and these nits generate nothing.

Of these insects the flea is generated out of the slightest amount of putrefying matter; for wherever there is any dry excrement, a flea is sure to be found. Bugs are generated from the moisture of living animals, as it dries up outside their bodies. Lice are generated out of the flesh of animals.

When lice are coming there is a kind of small eruption visible, unaccompanied by any discharge of purulent matter; and, if you prick an animal when in this condition at the spot of eruption, the lice jump out. In some men the appearance of lice is a disease, in cases where the body is surcharged with moisture; and, indeed, men have been known to succumb to this louse-disease, as Alcman the poet and the Syrian Pherecydes are said to have done. Moreover, in certain diseases lice appear in great abundance.

There is also a species of louse called the ’wild louse’, and this is harder than the ordinary louse, and there is exceptional difficulty in getting the skin rid of it. Boys’ heads are apt to be lousy, but men’s in less degree; and women are more subject to lice than men. But, whenever people are troubled with lousy heads, they are less than ordinarily troubled with headache. And lice are generated in other animals than man. For birds are infested with them; and pheasants, unless they clean themselves in the dust, are actually destroyed by them. All other winged animals that are furnished with feathers are similarly infested, and all hair-coated creatures also, with the single exception of the ass, which is infested neither with lice nor with ticks.

Cattle suffer both from lice and from ticks. Sheep and goats breed ticks, but do not breed lice. Pigs breed lice large and hard. In dogs are found the flea peculiar to the animal, the Cynoroestes. In all animals that are subject to lice, the latter originate from the animals themselves. Moreover, in animals that bathe at all, lice are more than usually abundant when they change the water in which they bathe.

In the sea, lice are found on fishes, but they are generated not out of the fish but out of slime; and they resemble multipedal wood-lice, only that their tail is flat. Sea-lice are uniform in shape and universal in locality, and are particularly numerous on the body of the red mullet. And all these insects are multipedal and devoid of blood.

The parasite that feeds on the tunny is found in the region of the fins; it resembles a scorpion, and is about the size of a spider. In the seas between Cyrene and Egypt there is a fish that attends on the dolphin, which is called the ’dolphin’s louse’. This fish gets exceedingly fat from enjoying an abundance of food while the dolphin is out in pursuit of its prey.


Related Resources


Download Options

Title: History of Animals

Select an option:

*Note: A download may not start for up to 60 seconds.

Email Options

Title: History of Animals

Select an option:

Email addres:

*Note: It may take up to 60 seconds for for the email to be generated.

Chicago: Aristotle, "Book 5, Chapter 31," History of Animals, trans. D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson Original Sources, accessed April 1, 2023, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=KPM6VG6IBK2NMUM.

MLA: Aristotle. "Book 5, Chapter 31." History of Animals, translted by D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson, Original Sources. 1 Apr. 2023. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=KPM6VG6IBK2NMUM.

Harvard: Aristotle, 'Book 5, Chapter 31' in History of Animals, trans. . Original Sources, retrieved 1 April 2023, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=KPM6VG6IBK2NMUM.