The Vikings were not considered very squeamish in their medieval raids. However, their relationship with animals may have been more empathetic than previously known. Researchers from the Universities of Durham, Brussels and York report this based on bone analyzes from England in the journal “PLOS One”.

According to the study, the Scandinavian conquerors brought animals across the North Sea to Britain on their ships and had them cremated with human remains in cremation. That’s according to strontium analysis of horse and dog bones found at a burial site in Derbyshire. The element is deposited in bones through food intake and can provide information on the origin of long-dead humans and animals. The animals came from the part of Scandinavia known in geology as the Baltic Shield.

Study director finds results “touching”

It was previously assumed that the Vikings stole animals from the local population when they arrived in England. The researchers see the fact that horses, dogs and possibly other animals also traveled on board the Viking longships as an indication of a close relationship between owners and animals.

“It shows how much Viking chiefs valued their personal horses and dogs, that they brought them from Scandinavia and that the animals were sacrificed to be buried with their keepers,” says co-author Julian Richards of the University of York British news agency PA quoted. Study leader Tessi Loeffelmann from the University of Durham told the BBC that she found the results “really touching and they suggest that the importance of animals to Vikings has been underestimated”.