Doctors and coverers - veterinary medicine in the museum

Doctors and coverers - veterinary medicine in the museum

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In 1765 the first university of veterinary medicine was founded in Vienna in the German-speaking region, and in 1778 the TIHO Hannover was founded as a rosier school. The Veterinary Medicine Museum of the Hanover Veterinary University Foundation is located here today. Prof. Dr. Johann Schäffer has headed it since 1991 and also the specialist area "History of Veterinary Medicine and Pets" as well as the "University Archives" of the TIHO. Since 1992, he has also led the Veterinary History Group.

First, it researches the "History, Theory and Ethics of Veterinary Medicine" and "History of Pets", promotes this work at the national level and improves further training in content and methods. Secondly, the specialist group professionalizes the history of veterinary medicine through interdisciplinary cooperation in order to anchor the subject as well as the history of human medicine - in science and as an institution.

Linking historical research and teaching

This museum was the first of its kind in the world and sparked the day for around 40 such specialist museums. The university's old pharmacy house now houses the exhibition, is directly linked to TIHO through Schäffer's professorship and also provides information for non-specialist visitors. No other place in Europe has such a connection between history research, teaching and service in veterinary medicine.

Doctoral students present the results of their research at the conferences of the DVG history section, and the conference reports have become indispensable for the historiography of veterinary medicine.

The museum shows more than 650 exhibits, in the magazines around 6500 objects are stored: devices, instruments, documents, writings and pictures from all areas of veterinary science. In 1995 a department for military history was added.

The concept is based on the principles of scientific museums: collecting, preserving, exhibiting, researching and teaching; it is open to the public, but not public. Veterinary students gain insights into museum work; Visitors and school classes benefit from guided tours - both in general and on specific topics.1

Veterinary medicine - an old story

The history of veterinary medicine not only sheds light on historical methods of healing, but also on how people, animals and the world are thought. Since humans domesticated animals, they have probably taken care of their diseases and treated wounds. For example, the ancient Egyptians depicted the birth and reproduction of animals.

Bull bones provide the first evidence of veterinary medicine: They show that cattle have been neutered. An Egyptian papyrus from Kahun from 1850 BC Chr points out that the Egyptians practiced veterinary medicine, knew diagnoses, symptoms and therapies, and treated several animal species: cattle, geese and even fish.

Hippocrates (460 to 377 BC) founded empirical medicine and thus also gave the "thinking tools" to heal animals.

Aristotle (384-322 BC) designed a hierarchy: at the top were the gods, then people, including animals, including plants, and finally inorganic matter.

This evaluation determined the thinking of the West - until today; Schäffer explains this in terms of the position of veterinarian: “Medical personnel can achieve the rank of general in the military, veterinarians can only rank as colonel to this day. The doctor treating man was on the Aristotle scale between man and God, the veterinarian between man and animal. ” 2

Aristotle described rabies, foot gout like anthrax and gave instructions on neutering. In his historia animalum, he explicitly devoted himself to animal diseases.

The Roman poet P. Vergil (70-19 BC) also wrote about veterinary medicine in his georgica. He outlined sheep mange, claw disease, anthrax, cattle disease and pig disease. The last two are not clear what diseases are involved.3

The juice theory

Animal and human medicine were based on humoral therapy, the teaching of body fluids. Hippocrates had founded it. Accordingly, there were four juices, namely blood (sanguis), mucus (phlegma), yellow bile (chole) and black bile (melanchole), which were assigned to the four elements fire, earth, air and water and corresponded to four states: hot, cold , moist and dry. To be healthy means that these juices are in balance (eucrasy) - in humans and animals. To this day, we use these terms to describe types of people: choleric, melancholic, phlegmatic, and sanguine.

Bloodletting (phlebotomy) was used to restore balance and the blood was drawn close to the diseased area of ​​the body. The burning (cauterization) also came from the theory of juices: The juices that caused illness should emerge from the "hot" wound. In the case of fever, the “fire” had to be cooled - using damp cloths or ice.4

Horse doctors and stable masters

The Arabs had conquered their empire on horseback and specialized in equine medicine: the migration of peoples in Western Rome brought ancient (veterinary) medicine into oblivion; this knowledge was preserved in Byzantium, and later the Muslims translated the sources of the Romans and Greeks into Arabic. The Arabic baitar took the place of the Greek hippiatros (horse doctor). The Arabs wrote books on diseases of horses, cattle, camels and sheep.

In Christian Europe, meanwhile, the superstition that demons trigger animal diseases was mixed with useful medicine. Hildegard von Bingen (1098 - 1179) described animal diseases for which she blamed the mythical animal Basilisk, which hatched from a snake egg that a rooster had hatched. Potions made from bison thorn and lynx blood were said to cure epidemics. For sick pigs, she recommended snail shells, dill and cooked nettle.

Scientific veterinary medicine in the Middle Ages of Europe began with the German Emperor Friedrich II von Hohenstaufen (1194-1250). He had doubted the immortality of the soul and equated the power of the emperor with that of the pope; Pope Gregory had therefore sent him to repent on a crusade to Jerusalem in 1227. Instead of fighting the Muslims, the critical emperor made friends with them, studied the ancient philosophy preserved by the Arabs, learned the empirical method, reconciled with the Sultan Al Khamil and returned to Europe with a menagerie.

This early enlightener wrote books on the healing of horses, falcons and hunting dogs and is considered a pioneer of veterinary medicine that draws conclusions from observations and rejects magical explanations. Friedrich introduced the falcon hood in the West and wrote the standard work "De arte venandi cum avibus". ("About the art of pickling"). His writings on ornithology amaze with realistic images of the animals that are not inferior to today's identification books.

Jordanus Ruffus, one of his stable masters, wrote a book on horse medicine; Bloodletting and cauterization show him as an advocate of juice teaching. Master Albrant also worked for Frederick II as a horse doctor and wrote another manual on their medicine. Like his emperor, he renounced the spells that were common at the time. His "horse medicine booklet" remained in circulation until the 18th century and became the most important manual for equine medicine.5 Ruffus and Albrant founded the professional veterinary medicine of the stable masters of the court stud farms.

The health of horses was a decisive factor in power: horse diseases and the collapse of the cavalry decided wars. The equine doctors were high officials of the farm; this privilege shaped the conservative mentality of these specialists until the 20th century.

The high time of the cavalry was over with the First World War; But it was then that the realization prevailed that dentistry was given top priority for horses, since horses did not struggle with toothache. A few decades ago, equine medicine had little to do with private affection; It was only around 1950 that the tractor gained acceptance among farmers - until then the horse was an existential workhorse.

Animal diseases and dirty medicine

Animal diseases such as worm infestation, snot and anthrax were also known in the Middle Ages; however, the treatment often seems contradictory, due among other things to the lack of knowledge about viruses and bacteria. So one suspected the rabies, a tongue muscle of the dog, as a trigger of the rabies and cut it out. Pork prayers, written on slices of bread, should protect against snot and fever.

The misinterpretation of the symptoms of rabies led to the idea that the sick turned into dogs or wolves, and so presumably fertilized the belief in werewolves.6 St. Hubertus, the patron saint of hunting, was supposed to cure the "dog rage". "Hubertus key", placed on humans and dogs, should help against the disease. A common "therapy" was to kill the infected dogs and humans. Sometimes the sick people were tied to the bed and suffocated with blankets, or their veins were cut.7

The so-called "dirty medicine" for animals and humans was the pharmacy of ordinary people. Animal and human droppings, blood, hair, ear wax and rotten fruit formed the basis. There were also medicinal plants that we still use today: valerian, chamomile or sage. Boiled horse meat, the ashes of burned frogs and verbena should help against diseases of the pigs.

The farmers knew that sick animals infected the healthy and isolated them. However, they were powerless against livestock epidemics: From the 16th to the 18th century, almost all of Europe's livestock took off again and again: cattle plague, anthrax, sheeppox, snot, foot and mouth disease and rabies. Clergy and rural people firmly believed that epidemics were God's punishments and eyed more rational therapies with suspicion - this quickly became a witchcraft process in the early modern period.

Petrus de Crescentiis (1230-1321) suggested for sick pigs to give them crushed laurels, bran and sourdough. His advice on cleanliness was groundbreaking: the stables had to be cleaned daily and the pigs bathed in salt water. Diseases spread in the Middle Ages mainly because of the horrible hygiene.8

Sauschneider and executioner

Veterinary medicine, like human medicine, expanded widely. Studied treated animals of the rulers such as hunting falcons, hunting dogs and riding horses. Medical practitioners such as executioners, butchers, coverers and shepherds, on the other hand, looked after the farm animals of the people.

Neutering was used to fatten the animals. The meat of oxen and capons was considered tender; the meat of uncastrated boars is inedible. Geldings and oxen are tamer than uncastrated stallions and bulls. Emasculating was brutal, but easy. Grooms and shepherds cut the spermatic cord with knives or scissors, crushed the testicles with stones or tongs. There were also tongs and clamps. But Sauschneider also neutered sows to prevent fertilization by wild boar - so they understood surgery.

Veterinary medicine was subject to professions that we hardly associate with it today: butchers, executioners, maskers, blacksmiths, shepherds, foresters and hunters. Foresters and hunters treated injuries to the hunting dogs. Butchers were responsible for the meat inspection and live diagnosis. Coverer (Wasenmeister) and animal healer was often the same profession. The Munich Wasenmeister Bartholomäus Deibler, for example, enjoyed such a reputation that he also cured the horses of the urban upper class; Executioner Hans Stadler treated horses like people with herbal tea.

No one knew the diseases of animals better than the maskers who removed the carcasses of animals who had died from these diseases. These carcasses also did business with the carrion. Until meat inspection by official veterinarians, the edibility of meat was a matter of the wallet. As late as 1789, the masker Adam Kuisl reported that the meat from "kranck Vieh" was delivered to the taverns.9

The shepherds faced the stable masters on the social animal healer scale. Like the maskers and executioners, they were suspicious of black magic, handling carcasses. Shepherds led the cattle outside in nature, where the wolves and robbers of reality, and the night ghosts of fantasy were at home. They not only lived outside the control of the authorities, but also met death, recovered and buried dead animals. Shepherds retained experience of the healing powers of nature at a time when the Church was banning empirical research into the realm of the devil.

In addition to rational means, the shepherds sold the wolfsbane, so they put a protective spell on the herds so that the wolves stayed away. With the witch-craze, magic entered the realm of the devil: the wolf banner became a werewolf, the helping shepherd a sorcerer, who ate animals in the form of animals. The outsider's counter-medicine, through its success, questioned the omnipotence of the church, and shepherds who had been tortured to have raged in wolf form died at the stake.

It was easy to find “evidence” like witch's ointment because the animal healers had enough ointments. The shepherd Henn Knie from the Westerwald admitted that the devil had rubbed him with a harsh ointment, put on a white fur, and that he was "so made with his senses and thoughts (...) as if he had to tear everything down." The wolf he thought to drive out, by baking a bread with the formula "The suffering forest dog, I conclude to his mouth that he does not bite my cattle, or does not attack it."

For example, 1600 Rolzer Bestgen was executed as a werewolf: in addition to the wolf spell, the shepherd also used magic to heal tumors in horses and pigs. However, the old man did indeed threaten: he made his living by reading the gospel to pigs. If he didn't get any money for it, he swore to chase the wolf on foals.10

The evil reputation of those who worked with dead animals persisted for centuries. King George III wrote the founding document of the TIHO in 1778 as the "Roß-Arßney School". He wrote: "When in such a school (...) it is inevitably necessary to dissect the bodies of fallen animals in order to achieve the benefits, (...) and teachers (...) of the Roß - und Vieh-Arßney-School were once accused of this ; So we want to hope that well-mannered and sensible people (...) of which arise and contain themselves. "11

Veterinarians in the war

The military history exhibition is dedicated to veterinarians in the army. There they played an essential role in supplying the troops. The First World War had shown that the time of the cavalry as a weapon of war was over. But horses in mass of the German Wehrmacht served as riding, pack and draft animals in 1939. Horses pulled machine guns and lighter guns, carried cable reels and radio sets. On the Eastern Front, horse-drawn carriages were often the only means of transport after the engines failed - the Wehrmacht deployed a total of 2,800,000 horses. By 1941, over 1,500,000 of them had died.

Veterinarians looked after injured and sick horses. They brought them from the troop to a collection point a few kilometers behind the front, with horse transporters to the veterinary company, and, in severe cases, to the horse hospital.

War veterans of the Wehrmacht fought epidemics, provided gas protection for the army animals, cared for and looked after sick and injured animals of the Wehrmacht as well as cared for the animals of civilians in the area of ​​the troops; they shod the hooves; they checked the feed; they observed the cattle and meat of the soldiers; they disposed of and recycled carcasses in the operating area, and they housed the troop's animals.

History research on veterinary medicine in Hanover

The history of veterinary medicine was already a subject of instruction in Hanover in 1881. Today, a lecture introduces the "History of Veterinary Medicine" and a "Veterinary Medicine History Seminar" into the methods of the humanities.

The topics are diverse: From veterinary medicine in the ancient Near East to the human-animal relationship in ancient Egypt to contemporary history: veterinary medicine under National Socialism or the GDR. The history of domestic and farm animals is a separate block. Schäffer's works alone range from "Equine medicine in the hand of a ranger and hunter" to "The role and veterinary treatment of dogs in World War I" and "With snake and skull - veterinarians in the SS".

Researchers can draw on a rich stock in the museum magazine, university archive and the military history collection. This includes cropping stencils placed in dogs 'ears and representations of mice in horses: horses' ears were also cropped - because of the wrong idea that this would reduce air resistance.

The embryo tone for cattle was pushed onto the cow's cervix to pull the calf out of the birth canal. Casting tongs and casting clamps can be seen as well as vaginal tensioners for cattle and birth pincers for pigs. It becomes clear from instruments that veterinary medicine was often hard work: a pair of pliers for pulling the teeth of horses, for example, weighs several kilograms, and the veterinarian had to hold them freely in the hands because the horse stood during the operation.

Historical illustrations show the old methods: Fontanelles, small pieces of leather with holes were the counterpart to cupping heads in humans. The doctor inflicted small wounds on the animal and made it fester; in the teaching of the four juices, the bad juices flowed from the wound. This method, known as superstition, actually works: it stimulates the immune system. The farriers and cure smiths in the stable master period from 1250-1800 burned wounds out of horses, let them bleed and instilled water into them.

Original manuals such as "The well-experienced Ross doctor, who made himself famous through his happy cures at various farms" from 1712 are on display in showcases. Diagrams such as the "fault horse" from 1820 were, according to Schäffer, the "Power Point presentations of their time". The picture of the “bug horse” shows all diseases known at that time on a horse.

A re-enacted practice from the early 20th century shows the veterinarian as an all-rounder, how he still haunts the imagination today, but is a thing of the past. This classic country veterinarian helped the cow calving as much as he pulled the dog splinters out of the ball of his foot. He made his medication himself.

Today practical veterinary medicine specializes more and more. There are not only large and small animal practices, but reptile experts, veterinarians for ornamental and those for commercial fish. On the one hand, this is due to technical progress, but on the other hand it is due to changing habits such as the flood of exotic birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish: a small veterinarian 30 years ago might get a Greek tortoise, but he would be overwhelmed with infections of an arrow poison frog. A booming market with exotic animals today requires specialists who are familiar with their diseases - veterinarians become “tropical doctors”. New cuddly toys bring competence problems: A mini-pig as a cuddly toy legally remains a pig, even if it sleeps in a double bed, and a small veterinarian is not allowed to treat it.12

Animal ethics have also changed: not only are pets getting older, according to the Animal Welfare Act it is also forbidden to kill a vertebrate without a reasonable reason - and age is not a reasonable reason. "Courts of grace" are no longer subject to grace - therefore arbitrary - but are a right, and the number of hospices for animals rose from ten to 130 within a few years.

The ethical problem with borderline cases has always been a problem for veterinarians: relieving an animal of suffering is a veterinary duty, and here too, technical progress is pushing the boundaries: are wheelchairs appropriate for dogs with paraplegia, for example, or do they cause avoidable suffering ?

The museum and the archive also take on services: historical instruments of veterinary medicine are scientifically examined, questions from authorities and experts are answered. The History Department has been holding scientific conferences and publishing the conference reports since 1992, including "Veterinary History in Socialism", "Veterinary Medicine in the Third Reich" and "Veterinary Medicine in the Postwar Period", and most recently "Veterinary Medicine and Museology".

Students of veterinary medicine get to know the museum in four teaching blocks - in block 1 in general. This includes methods such as laying fontanelles, phlebotomy and cauterization. In block 2, you determine how you document new objects and arrange them in the magazine. Block 3 is used to research the origin of the objects in the history library and the university archive. In Block 4, the students present individual objects, explain and discuss them in a historical context.13

Research without funding

The Veterinary Medicine Museum, the University Archives, the History of Veterinary Medicine section, and thus Prof. Johann Schäffer, enjoy an excellent international reputation - and rightly so. Applied veterinary medicine has no footing if the historical basis is not known; these shape how people and animals are thought, and this thinking determines which methods veterinarians use. The importance of the department also goes far beyond veterinary medicine, because sources from the past can provide answers to questions of the present: For example, no debate in nature conservation is as violent as the return of the wolf. Documents in the archive could provide information on how great the risk was that wolves transmitted rabies, or whether wolves would ever attack humans.

Human-animal relationships are becoming increasingly important in the humanities and social sciences; this is accompanied by a criticism of the construction of animals in the West. The history of veterinary medicine, as applied medicine as well as animal ethics, would be at the intersection of this pioneering research: livestock, house and zoo animal husbandry, animal protection, healing and killing, the exploration of the border between animals and humans meet in veterinary medicine.

The institutional basis is in contrast to the outstanding performance of Johann Schäffer and his colleagues, to the relevance of the department and the immense potential that the archive, museum and library offer: The library with 5000 books, the university archive with 600 running meters is so far only partially computerized. Additional staff is imperative to deepen the scientific and archival work. For future doctoral theses, there are surely hidden treasures. Johann Schäffer's tasks, which he fulfills in addition to his professorship, would have to be divided between several full-time positions. At least one archivist, one museum educator, and one employee for the press and the public are missing. There would also be museum guides on a fee basis. The museum now lives exclusively from donations.

The museum and archive complex currently consists of 1.5 positions, Johann Schäffer and half a secretary. The museum is said to be open from Tuesday to Thursday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. - due to a lack of staff, this is currently only possible by arrangement. This lacks the infrastructure to drive the necessary research, teaching and public education - for example, the interdisciplinary collaboration with historians for studies in the archive. Even “special events” on current occasions, such as are standard in subsidized museums, cannot be carried out in this way - starting with campaigns for children, the history of keeping pets from a hobby, and ethical questions about the human-animal relationship.

"Those who do not know the past gamble away the future," says a Jewish proverb. The Hochulleitung “appreciates” the museum, archive and historical research in the manner of city administrations or companies: lectures are required for anniversaries, after which the museum is left to its own devices. The museum work at TIHO thus shares the lot of many university museums and important, but not economically profitable branches of historiography. "Unfortunately, the institutional basis will remain a desideratum forever," concludes Schäffer.14(Dr. Utz Anhalt)

First published in the Museum in July / August 2015

Utz Anhalt: The werewolf. Selected aspects of a figure in the history of myths with special reference to rabies. Master's thesis history. E-text in historicum net under witch research.
Alfred Martin: History of the fight against rabies in Germany. A contribution to folk medicine. From the Hessische Blätter für Volkskunde. Volume XIII. Casting in 1914.
Jutta Novosadtko. The everyday life of two "dishonest" professions in the early modern period. Paderborn 1994.
Joseph Claudius Rougemont: Treatise on Hundswuth. Translated from French by Professor Wegeler. Frankfurt am Main 1798.
Anja Schullz: The history of animal diseases with a special focus on piglet flu. Inaugural dissertation on obtaining the degree of a doctor of veterinary medicine at the Free University of Berlin presented by Anja Schulz veterinarian from Neustadt / Holst. Berlin 2010
Rita Voltmer and Günter Gehl (eds.): Everyday life and magic in witchcraft processes. Weimar 2003.


1http: //

2 Oral. Information Johann Schäffer. June 9, 2015.

3Anja Schulz: p. 15

4 Ibid. P. 15.

5 From: Ruth M. Hirschberg.

6Joseph Claudius Rougemont: p. 168.

7 Alfred Martin: p. 52

8 Anja Schulz: pp. 24-26; Pp. 60-64.

9 See the history of executioners and coverers: Jutta Nowosadtko. Paderborn 1994.

10 Cf. on shepherds in the witch trial: http: // and Elmar Lorey: from wolf blessing to werewolf. Witch trials in the Nassauer Land. In: Rita Voltmer: pp. 65-73.

11 TIHO founding certificate. Copy of the original. 1.

12 Oral. Information Johann Schäffer, June 14, 2014.


14Univ.- Prof. habil. Johann Schaffer. Flyer of the German Veterinary Society e.V.

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