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A Note on the Role of Dogs in Anglo-Saxon Society: Evidence from East Anglia


  • The research on West Stow was carried out at the Archaeology Department, Southampton University. The Brandon research was carried out at the Faunal Remains Unit, Cambridge University. The Icklingham research was carried out at the Suffolk County Archaeological Unit in Bury St. Edmunds and Ipswich.


This paper examines the roles that dogs played in Anglo-Saxon (420–1066 CE) society in East Anglia, drawing on data from the Late Roman site of Icklingham and the Anglo-Saxon sites of West Stow, Brandon and Ipswich in Suffolk, England. The archaeological context of these dog finds is described, along with zooarchaeological data on dog sizes, ages at death and paleopathology. The data indicate that Early and Middle Anglo-Saxon dogs are less varied than Late Roman dogs. Ageing and paleopathological data indicate that the West Stow dogs, in particular, had hard lives. Early and Middle Saxon dogs from East Anglia were relatively large, with an estimated withers height of about 60 cm. They may have served as guard dogs and herding dogs. The West Stow dogs may also have been involved in hunting and fighting. Late Saxon dogs from Ipswich reveal an increasing morphological diversity, suggesting that they played multiple roles in Late Anglo-Saxon urban sites. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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