The Surprising Animal The Vikings Kept As Pets

Cute, cuddly cats probably aren't one of the first things to come to mind when considering the things the Vikings couldn't live without, but according to Science magazine, kitties were a common pet for the Scandinavian warriors. They were a good form of pest control, and useful for their warm fur, as well. And, funnily enough, rather than getting smaller — as has happened with ever other animal humans have domesticated — cat bones found in archeological sites in Denmark tell scientists that felines actually got bigger during their time with the Vikings, most likely due to better access to food in the form of waste from their human owners.

Vikings were also known to keep dogs as pets, because they were human, after all. And according to illustrator Jack Tite's book "Viking Voyagers," more well-to-do Vikings also kept exotic birds like hawks, falcons, and peacocks as symbols of status and wealth. But they also kept another animal in their homes that is more befitting of our larger-than-life perception of them.

The Vikings also kept a fiercer animal as pets

The Vikings wouldn't really live up to their ferocious reputation if they'd just kept dogs and cats as pets. So, as the World History Encyclopedia notes, they also kept bears — yes, bears — as pets. And it wasn't just a few exceptionally badass Vikings. It was actually quite common for people to keep brown bear cubs in their homes, raising them as fully domesticated pets that they called their "house bears." But it wasn't just brown bears, either. Vikings who had settled in Iceland and Greenland were known to have domesticated polar bears and sent them back to Europe to trade for royal favors and other valuable items.

However, hardcore as it is to be able to say you have a pet bear, in the end, the pets were often more trouble than they were worth. Since a bear is a bear, and will sometimes leave home to go rummage around in other people's things, authorities placed large fines on such incidents. Still, the bears served an extra purpose that other pets don't in general. When they died, they were eaten and their bones buried — so Viking bear owners at least got a decent meal out of the situation.