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Vikings Didn’t Conquer The World Alone. They Had Cats.

A study revealed that there were, in fact, Viking cats.

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Cats were said to be on Viking ships. Pazhyna/iStock/Thinkstock
Cari Jorgensen

Ah, the Vikings. Scandinavia was full of them. When I was in Denmark, I visited a town called Ribe. It’s where, in 700, the Vikings formed a marketplace and it is now home to a Viking museum. Inside are recreations of the Vikings, their tools, their ships, their lives… and their cats?

According to a recent study presented Sept. 15, 2016, in Oxford, United Kingdom, at the International Symposium on Biomolecular Archaeology, these ancient seafarers had cats on board their ships. The study “sequenced DNA from more than 200 cats that lived between about 15,000 years ago and the 18th century,” Nature reports. The researchers analyzed the ancient cats from archaeological sites in Africa, Europe and the Middle East, in an effort to learn more about cat domestication.

“We don’t know the history of ancient cats. We do not know their origin, we don’t know how their dispersal occurred,” says Eva-Maria Geigl, an evolutionary geneticist at the Institut Jacques Monod in Paris, told Nature.

This cat is looking back on his ancient people. Via a sun/Flickr

This cat is looking back on his ancient people. Via a sun/Flickr

Geigl, along with Claudio Ottoni and Thierry Grange, found that cats that descended from Egypt spread throughout Europe and Africa and that seafaring people, such as Vikings, likely kept cats to rid the ships of rodents. During the research, Geigl and her team found remains of cats that had that lineage at a Viking site in Germany, which dated between the 8th and 11th century A.D.

Geigl hopes to continue to sequence feline DNA to learn more about cats’ lineage and domestication. It should be noted, however, that the team has not yet published their findings in a peer-reviewed journal, according to Science Alert, and the results could change based on what the research reveals.

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  • Most interesting! Thanks.

    Allen Vergakis October 5, 2016 1:44 am Reply
  • I’d be interested in following this investigation, too.

    Bill October 5, 2016 5:08 am Reply
  • That IS fascinating! I’d love to follow this investigation!

    J. David Scott October 5, 2016 7:16 am Reply
  • Thanks, I look forward to an update on this investigation.

    Margaret October 5, 2016 7:46 am Reply
  • they were most likely not treated very well

    Mary Massey October 5, 2016 8:21 am Reply
  • The Norwegian Forest Cats that were kept by the Vikings are the ancestors of our Maine Coons. I think that’s more proof that the Vikings got to the Americas before others. Sorry, Colombus 😉
    The Vikings aslo kept cats in their Great Halls. They understood the value and companionship of those big beautiful cats.

    KatWrangler October 5, 2016 10:35 am Reply
  • Hmmm. That may explain the tendency of some of my cats to raid, pillage and wreak havoc.

    annielaurie98524 October 5, 2016 11:10 am Reply
  • That’s easy. Cats are angels directly given to us by the hand of God! Duh!

    Susan Rooney October 5, 2016 5:54 pm Reply
  • Although I wouldn’t totally conclude that our Maine Coon Cats are directly related to Norwegian Forest Cats, the Scandinavian felines of the Vikings (Norwegian Forest Cats breeders would heartily disagree!) , there must have been some of their DNA mixed in with other domesticated cats that brought us the sturdy Maine Coon. This is a most fascinating investigation which came help us understand the migrations of Vikings as far a the New World and beyond!

    Nancy J. Olds October 25, 2016 8:19 am Reply

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