Horses for Courses? Religious Change and Dietary Shifts in Anglo-Saxon England
The evidence for horse consumption in Anglo-Saxon England is examined with regards to the spread of Christianity from the late 6th century onwards. It is argued that the negative attitudes of Church leaders to hippophagy relate largely to the perceived links of this practice with pagan beliefs and were closely allied to attempts at establishing greater religious orthodoxy. In considering the effects of such attitudes, previous studies have made little attempt to relate textual sources to the physical remnants of such activities; horse bones themselves. By combining these sources, this paper suggests that horses were likely eaten by at least some people before, during and after the Conversion period, but that Christianity may have had some effect on these practices. However, the impact varied according to social identity and perhaps also regions of the country.