Among the most prevalent charges to be found are beasts. It is important to remember that the heraldic depiction of an animal does not always match the natural appearance of the beast. A good example of this is the tiger: in ancient armorial examples one will find only the heraldic tyger, a stylized creature which bears little resemblance to a tiger's natural appearance. In more recent coats-of-arms, however, one finds the Bengal tiger, a much more naturalistic presentation of the animal.
When describing an animal it is necessary to blazon not only the creature's type but also the position in which it is presented. These positions are illustrated by the lion and by the stag, for which the various positions are differently named.
Other animals which are occasionally encountered in heraldry but for which we have no illustration currently include:
- cows or calves
- dogs: bloodhound, foxhound, mastiff
- panther (rarely found other than as a supporter)
- sprinbok (or South African antelope)
(Note: If a dog is shown chasing another animal it is said to be "in full chase" or "in full course." A dog with it's nose to the ground is described as "on scent.")
heraldic antelope statant
ape collared & chained
bear's head erased & muzzled
brock or badger
cat-a-mountain passant guardant
elephant and castle
chevalier on horseback
ram's head caboshed
heraldic tyger passant
Bengal tiger passant
Most other animals use the same descriptive terms for their positioning as do lions. The primary exceptions are stags, other members of the deer family, and horses.
passant guardant (top); passant reguardant (bottom)
rampant with two heads
two lions rampant combatant
rampant double queued
rampant, tail nowed
Other animals for which the positioning is described with these terms include other members of the deer family and horses.
stag's head caboshed