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The Horse: A Mirror of Man: Parallels in Early Human and Horse Medicine banner in red lettering.

Disease Man and Disease Horse

A common chart from medieval and Renaissance medical texts is “Disease Man,” wherein the diseases that can affect different parts of the body are laid out schematically around the body. Horse veterinarians adopted this chart, creating a “Disease Horse”; this chart often served as an index to the book, stating the page on which a particular horse disease could be found.



Woodcut disease man chart showing nude male figure facing front but looking to the left with right arm uplifted with lines leading from different body parts to disease names arranged around the edge of the page, from Johannes de Ketham’s Fasiculo de medicina. (Venice: Gregori, 1493).  NLM Call number: WZ 230 K43fI 1494. Disease horse chart showing horse uplifted on its two hind legs with index lines leading from different parts of the horses body to disease names arranged around the edge of the page, from Jacques de Solleysell’s The Compleat Horseman. (London: M. Gillyflower, 1696).  NLM Call number: WZ 250 S688pE 1696.

Astrology and Health

An important ingredient to medieval and Renaissance human healing was Astrology, whereby the influence of the stars on the body was studied and carefully charted. Veterinarians did the same with horses. In these two charts, the signs of the zodiac are associated with different parts of the body: for example, don’t treat the head while Aries is in the sky.



Woodcut disease man chart showing male figure facing front with the twelve symbols of the zodiac placed over the body parts which are ruled by each constellation with boxes of text by each zodiac figure describing possible interactions, from Johannes de Ketham’s Fasiculo de medicina. (Venice: Gregori, 1493).  NLM Call number: WZ 230 K43fI 1494. Woodcut horse zodiac chart showing a horse in the middle of the page facing right with uplifted right foot, with the twelve symbols of the zodiac surrounding it with lines pointing from each to parts of the horses body which are ruled by those constellations, from Martin Arredondo’s Obras de albeyteria (Zaragossa: P. Bueno, 1704). NLM Call number: WZ 260 A781o 1704.

Bloodletting and the Four Humors

Central to early theories of human health was keeping the four humors (blood, bile, black bile, and phlegm) in balance, which involved the practice of bloodletting. Veterinarians followed suit and created bloodletting charts and systems which were similar to those created for human healing.



Woodcut bloodletting chart showing a man facing forward with torso and chest open with internal organs splayed out and 48 index lines pointing to different parts of the body indicating points for bloodletting, from Hans von Gersdorff’s Feldtbüch der Wundartzney. (Strassburg: H. Schotten, 1528).  NLM Call number: WZ 240 G381f 1528. Woodcut bloodletting illustration showing a horse facing left with cuts releasing blood from its face, neck and back hip, all surrounded by text, from Filippo Scacchi’s Opera di Mescalzia. (Rome: P. Blado, 1591).  NLM Call number: WZ 240 S2772o 1591. Copperplate engraved bloodletting illustration showing a man, sitting on a bench having his right arm bled with the surgeon applying the lancet, and an assistant is ready with a bowl, from Cintio d’Amato’s Nuoua et vtilissima prattica di tutto quello ch’al diligente barbiero s’appartiene. (Naples: G. Fasulo, 1671). NLM Call number: WZ 250 A488n 1671.


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| Introduction | Disease, Zodiac, & Bloodletting Charts | Anatomy: Art & Science |
| Physiognomy & Physiology | Embryology & Fetal Development | Gallery of Images |