History of Animals

Author: Aristotle  | Date: 350 BC


We now proceed to discuss the properties of marrow; for this is one of the liquids found in certain sanguineous animals. All the natural liquids of the body are contained in vessels: as blood in veins, marrow in bones [and other moistures in membranous structures of the skin or gut].

In young animals the marrow is exceedingly sanguineous, but, as animals grow old, it becomes fatty in animals supplied with fat, and suet-like in animals with suet. All bones, however, are not supplied with marrow, but only the hollow ones, and not all of these. For of the bones in the lion some contain no marrow at all, and some are only scantily supplied therewith; and that accounts, as was previously observed, for the statement made by certain writers that the lion is marrowless. In the bones of pigs it is found in small quantities; and in the bones of certain animals of this species it is not found at all.

These liquids, then, are nearly always congenital in animals, but milk and sperm come at a later time. Of these latter, that which, whensoever it is present, is secreted in all cases ready-made, is the milk; sperm, on the other hand, is not secreted out in all cases, but in some only, as in the case of what are designated thori in fishes.

Whatever animals have milk, have it in their breasts. All animals have breasts that are internally and externally viviparous, as for instance all animals that have hair, as man and the horse; and the cetaceans, as the dolphin, the porpoise, and the whale- for these animals have breasts and are supplied with milk. Animals that are oviparous or only externally viviparous have neither breasts nor milk, as the fish and the bird.

All milk is composed of a watery serum called ’whey’, and a consistent substance called curd (or cheese); and the thicker the milk, the more abundant the curd. The milk, then, of non-ambidentals coagulates, and that is why cheese is made of the milk of such animals under domestication; but the milk of ambidentals does not coagulate, nor their fat either, and the milk is thin and sweet. Now the camel’s milk is the thinnest, and that of the human species next after it, and that of the ass next again, but cow’s milk is the thickest. Milk does not coagulate under the influence of cold, but rather runs to whey; but under the influence of heat it coagulates and thickens. As a general rule milk only comes to animals in pregnancy. When the animal is pregnant milk is found, but for a while it is unfit for use, and then after an interval of usefulness it becomes unfit for use again. In the case of female animals not pregnant a small quantity of milk has been procured by the employment of special food, and cases have been actually known where women advanced in years on being submitted to the process of milking have produced milk, and in some cases have produced it in sufficient quantities to enable them to suckle an infant.

The people that live on and about Mount Oeta take such she-goats as decline the male and rub their udders hard with nettles to cause an irritation amounting to pain; hereupon they milk the animals, procuring at first a liquid resembling blood, then a liquid mixed with purulent matter, and eventually milk, as freely as from females submitting to the male.

As a general rule, milk is not found in the male of man or of any other animal, though from time to time it has been found in a male; for instance, once in Lemnos a he-goat was milked by its dugs (for it has, by the way, two dugs close to the penis), and was milked to such effect that cheese was made of the produce, and the same phenomenon was repeated in a male of its own begetting. Such occurrences, however, are regarded as supernatural and fraught with omen as to futurity, and in point of fact when the Lemnian owner of the animal inquired of the oracle, the god informed him that the portent foreshadowed the acquisition of a fortune. With some men, after puberty, milk can be produced by squeezing the breasts; cases have been known where on their being subjected to a prolonged milking process a considerable quantity of milk has been educed.

In milk there is a fatty element, which in clotted milk gets to resemble oil. Goat’s milk is mixed with sheep’s milk in Sicily, and wherever sheep’s milk is abundant. The best milk for clotting is not only that where the cheese is most abundant, but that also where the cheese is driest.

Now some animals produce not only enough milk to rear their young, but a superfluous amount for general use, for cheese-making and for storage. This is especially the case with the sheep and the goat, and next in degree with the cow. Mare’s milk, by the way, and milk of the she-ass are mixed in with Phrygian cheese. And there is more cheese in cow’s milk than in goat’s milk; for graziers tell us that from nine gallons of goat’s milk they can get nineteen cheeses at an obol apiece, and from the same amount of cow’s milk, thirty. Other animals give only enough of milk to rear their young withal, and no superfluous amount and none fitted for cheese-making, as is the case with all animals that have more than two breasts or dugs; for with none of such animals is milk produced in superabundance or used for the manufacture of cheese.

The juice of the fig and rennet are employed to curdle milk. The fig-juice is first squeezed out into wool; the wool is then washed and rinsed, and the rinsing put into a little milk, and if this be mixed with other milk it curdles it. Rennet is a kind of milk, for it is found in the stomach of the animal while it is yet suckling.


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Chicago: Aristotle, "20," History of Animals, trans. D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson in Library of the Future ® 4th Edition Ver. 5.0 (Irvine, CA: World Library, Inc., 1996), Original Sources, accessed August 21, 2019, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=QBJ3HBSX8UPZZRW.

MLA: Aristotle. "20." History of Animals, translted by D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson, in Library of the Future ® 4th Edition Ver. 5.0, Irvine, CA, World Library, Inc., 1996, Original Sources. 21 Aug. 2019. www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=QBJ3HBSX8UPZZRW.

Harvard: Aristotle, '20' in History of Animals, trans. . cited in 1996, Library of the Future ® 4th Edition Ver. 5.0, World Library, Inc., Irvine, CA. Original Sources, retrieved 21 August 2019, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=QBJ3HBSX8UPZZRW.