Human history has been known for many bizarre episodes even among those who seem to be learned. One of such episodes is the trial of animals for certain crimes. Animal crimes were divided into two, cases of vermin handled by ecclesiastical courts and criminal cases handled by the regular criminal courts. Dogs, cows, pigs, insects were all tried for several crimes often having their own defendants. Here are some of the craziest animal trials in history;
1. Katya the bear
In Kazakhstan in 2004, a female brown bear was imprisoned for allegedly mauling two people. It was charged to court and was found guilty. The bear was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment at the Arkalyk prison in kostanay. After serving its term, it was released and allowed to associate with other bears.

2. Monkey hanger
During the Napeolonic wars, a French ship was wrecked by a storm off the coast of Hartlepool, England. The only survivor, a monkey was rescued. It was dressed in a French army uniform as a source of amusement for the ship’s crew. Unfortunately for the monkey, the locals deduced that it was likely a french spy. They held an impromptu trial and since none of them had seen neither a Frenchman nor a monkey before, the monkey was found guilty of spying. It was sentenced to death and hanged on the beach. The name ‘monkey hanger’ has since then been used as a colloquial for citizens of Hartlepool.


3. The Basel ‘Cockatrice’ case
In 1474, a cock was put on trial for the ‘strange and unnatural crime’ of laying an egg. The people of Basel believed that the egg was spawned by Satan and would hatch into a cockatrice, a mythical creature that could turn people to stone by looking at them. The cock was sentenced to death while the egg was thrown over the rooftop of the owner’s home, smashing it in the process.

4&5. Pig trials
In 1836, a pig was put on trial in the Norman city of Falaise and was found guilty of the crime of eating infants on the street. On the day of its execution, it was dressed in a new suit for the occasion. It had been sentenced to be maimed in the head and legs prior to hanging.


In December 1457, a sow and her six piglets were arraigned and imprisoned after attacking and killing a five year old. The sow and her piglets faced trial on charges of murder. The owner being their defendant was also accused of negligence though he faced no actual punishment. The sow was found guilty and was sentenced to hanging by her hind legs. The six piglets were set free as there was no evidence against them for having participated in the murder.

6. Vermin trials
In the 15th and 16th century, pests were put on trial in ecclesiastical tribunals for acts of outrageous destruction of property. Rats, flies, beetles, locust, grasshoppers, ants, you name them were all tried and executed if found guilty. Strangely enough, even the church got involved, excommunication of vermin when found guilty was common. In Switzerland, a law suit was filed against beetles in the 15th century for destruction of crops, in 1422 rats were summoned to face a tribunal for destruction of property in France. The same century, flies were also charged to court. The flies were summoned but refused to appear before the jury. They even had their own defense counsel. In 1659, several Italian communities persecuted caterpillars for trespassing and damaging their fields. These trials were taken as seriously as murder cases.


7. The Jacques Ferron case
In Vanvres, a man and a female donkey were charged with the crime of bestiality. They were found guilty by the jury and sentenced to death. Respected citizens of the town pleaded on behalf of the donkey and signed a certificate attesting that “they had known the she-ass for four years and that she had always shown herself to be virtuous and well behaved both at home and abroad and had never given occasion of scandal to anyone”. Their testimony persuaded the jury and the donkey was acquitted. Unfortunately, Jacques wasn’t so lucky and probably served his sentence later on.

Attribution: The featured image in this post was gotten from Pixabay.


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