For a long time they had the same rights. During the middle ages they were allowed a part in religious ceremonies. At Milan they figured in the festivals of the kings; and processions of animals appear in the bas-reliefs of the cathedrals of Strasburg, Mans, and Vienne (Isère). On Holy Wednesday all the clergy of the church of Rheims went to Saint Remi to make a station there; the canons, preceded by the cross, were arranged in two lines, each drawing a herring after him with a cord; and each one was intent upon saving his own fish, and stepping upon that of the canon in front of him (Anquetil, "Histoire de Reims"). At Paris, the procession of the fox was as much enjoyed as the festival of the ass. The animal, dressed in a kind of surplice, wearing the mitre, had his place in the midst of the clergy: a fowl was put within his reach; he often forgot his pious functions to spring upon the bird and devour it in the presence of the faithful. Philip the Fair was very fond of this procession (Sanval, "Antiquités de Paris"). Only a few years ago, the procession of the fat ox remained, a survival from the pagan feasts, a real piece of wreckage from vanished civilizations.
While the rights of animals were thus recognized, their duties toward man did not escape the earlier legislators, who severely punished their crimes and attempts upon human life. The law of Moses (Exodus xxi, 28, 29) recites: "If an ox gore a man or a woman, that they die: then the ox shall be surely stoned, and his flesh shall not be eaten; but the owner of the ox shall be quit. But if the ox were wont to push with his horn in time past, and it hath been testified to his owner, and he hath not kept him in, but that he hath killed a man or a woman; the ox shall be stoned, and his owner also shall be put to death."
Judgments based on this principle are recorded at Athens and Rome. According to Pierquin, Democritus wished an animal, which had occasioned some major damage, to be punished with death. Under Domitian, according to the report of Martial, the ingratitude of a lion toward its master was severely punished. Columella and Varro say that the ancient Romans regarded the ox as the companion of the labors of man, and that the act of killing one was regarded as a homicide and punished in the same way; and the ox enjoyed the same privilege in Attica and the Peloponnesus. It is also said that the Arabs in the mountains of Africa formerly crucified lions, guilty of murders, upon trees, as warnings to others.
In the middle ages they prosecuted animals which committed murder, those which had become dangerous to have at large, and females which, having given birth to monsters, were suspected of criminal cohabitations. Père Théophile Raynaud, Ayrault, Gaspard Bailly, and more recently M. Benoist Saint-Prix and M. Louandre ("Epopée des Animaux," "Revue des Deux Mondes," 1854), have cited some extremely curious examples of such condemnations.