The was supposed to be the product of a very old cock and to furnish the most active ingredient of witch ointment. When hatched by a serpent or a toad, or by the head of the sun it brought forth a cockatrice or basilisk, which would hide in the roof of the house and with its baneful breath and “death- darting eye” destroy all the inmates. Many naturalists believed this fable as late as the 18th century, and in 1710 the French savant Lapeyronie deemed this absurd notion worthy of serious refutation, and read a paper, entitled “Observation sur les petits oeufs de poule sans jaune, que l’on appellee vulgairement oeufs de Coq,” before the Academy of Sciences in order to prove that cocks never lay and that the small and yolkless eggs attributed to them owe their peculiar shape and condition to a disease of the hen resulting in a hydropic malformation of the oviduct. A farmer brought him several specimens of this sort, somewhat larger than a pigeon’s egg, and assured him that they had been laid by a cock in his own barnyard. On opening one of them, M. Lapeyronie was surprised to find only a very slight trace of the yolk resembling “a small serpent coiled.” He now began to suspect that the cock might be an hermaphrodite, but on killing and dissecting it discovered nothing in support of this theory, the internal organs being all being all perfectly healthy and normal. But although the unfortunate chanticleer had fallen a victim to the scientific investigation of a popular delusion, the eggs in question continued to be produced, until the farmer by carefully watching the fowls detected the hen that laid them. The dissection showed that the pressure of a bladder of serous fluid against the oviduct had so contracted it, that the egg in passing had the yolk squeezed out of it, leaving merely a yellowigh discoloration that looked like a worm. Another peculiarity of this hen was that she crowed like “a hoarse cock’ (un coq enroue), only more violently; a phenomenon also a source of terror to the superstitious, but ascribed by M. Lapeyronie to the same morbid state of the oviduct and the consequent pain caused by the passage of the egg .
Legal proceedings against animals were not confined to France. At Basle, in 1474, a cock was tried for having laid an egg. For the prosecution it was proved that cocks’ eggs were of inestimable value for mixing in certain magical preparations; that a sorcerer would rather possess a cock’s egg than be master of the philosopher’s stone; and that, in pagan lands, Satan proceeded animals most injurious to all of the Christian faith and race. The advocate for the defence admitted that facts of the case, but asked what evil animus had been proved against his client, what injury to man or beast had it effected? Besides, the laying of the egg was an involuntary act, and as such, not punishable by law. If the crime of sorcery were imputed, the cock was innocent; for there was no instance on record of Satan ever having made a compact with one of the brute creation. In reply, the public prosecutor alleged that, though the devil did not make compacts with brutes, he sometimes entered into them; and though the swine possessed by devils, as mentions in Scripture, were involuntary agents, yet they, nevertheless, were punished by being caused to run down a steep place into the sea, and so perished in the waters. The pleadings in this case, even as recorded by Hammerlein, are voluminous; we only give the meagre outlines of the principal pleas; suffice it to say, the cock was condemned to death, not as a cock, but as a sorcerer or devil in the form of a cock, and was with its egg burned at the stake, with all the due form and solemnity of a judicial punishment.
Kicked Out of Heaven Vol. I
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Fox News: Killer French farm chickens gang-up to kill fox that sneaked into henhouse.