Werewolf Fact of the Day

Vampire Book 3e
ISBN: 9781578592814

How is the vampire's special relationship to the animal kingdom manifested?

  • Animals, especially cats and horses, were believed to be able to sense vampires.
  • Dracula had supernatural command over many creatures.
  • Bats were discovered to drink blood.

The vampire's relationship to the animal kingdom is manifested in its ability to achieve transformation into various animal shapes; its command over the animal kingdom, especially the rat, the owl, the bat, the moth, the fox, and the wolf; and to a lesser extent its prey upon animals for food. Also, on rare occasions, animal vampires have been reported.

Animals in Vampire Folklore:

In the older folklore, the vampire's command of animals or the ability to transform into animals was a minimal element at best. However, the vampire was often associated with other creatures, such as werewolves, who were defined by their ability to transform themselves. Among the vampires who did change into animals were the chiang-shih vampires of China, who could transform into wolves.

More importantly, the vampire, especially in western Europe, saw the animal world as a food supply and would often attack a village's cattle herd and suck the animals' blood. Sudden, unexpected, and unexplained deaths of cattle would often be attributed to vampires. For example, Agnes Murgoci noted that one of the first tests in determining if a recently deceased man had become a vampire would be the sudden death of his livestock. Sir James Frazer observed that in Bulgaria, where the cattle suffered from frequent vampire attacks, people treated such attacks by having their herds pass between two bonfires constructed at a nearby crossroads known to be frequented by wolves. Afterward, the coals from the bonfires were used to relight the fires in the village. In Japan, the vampire kappa lived at the water's edge and would attack cows and horses and try to drag them into the water.

A few animals, particularly cats and horses, were also believed to have a special relationship to vampires. It was thought in many Eastern European countries that if one allowed an animal such as a cat to jump over the corpse of a dead person prior to burial, the person would return as a vampire. (This belief emphasized the necessity of the deceased's loved ones to properly mourn, prepare, and care for the body.) The horse, on the other hand, was frequently used to locate a vampire. Brought to the graveyard, the horse would be led around various graves in the belief that it would hesitate and refuse to cross over the body of a vampire.


Stoker first hinted at Dracula's ability to transform himself into animal form when the imprisoned Harker looked out of his window to see Dracula crawling down the castle wall. "What manner of man is this, or what manner of creature is it in the semblance of man?" Harker wondered (chapter 3). Dracula traveled to England aboard a ship, the Demeter, which he caused to be wrecked upon the shore at Whitby. Dracula escaped the wreckage in the form of a dog. Through the rest of the novel Dracula made few appearances, however, he constantly hovered in the background in the form of a bat. Observed outside of R. N. Renfield's window at the asylum, Dr. John Seward noted the strange behavior of a large bat. "Bats usually wheel and flit about, but this one seemed to go straight on, as if it knew where it was bound for or had some intention of its own" (chapter 11).

Stoker's characters were, of course, familiar with the vampire bats of Central and South America and understood the vampire's close association with the bat. At one point Seward examined one of the children bitten by Lucy who had been admitted to a hospital. The doctor attending the boy hypothesized that the wounds on his neck were caused by a bat. "'Out of so many harmless ones,' he said, 'there may be some wild specimen from the south of a more malignant species. Some sailor may have brought one home, and it managed to escape; or even from some Zoological Gardens a young one may have got loose, or one be bred there from a vampire'" (chapter 15).

During the last generation, as the vampire became the hero or at least the sympathetic figure with whom the reader identified, the question of the vampire feeding off of humans rose to the fore. If a vampire renounces the taking of blood from human victims, there are few nutritional options remaining: purchasing blood from various sources, finding willing donors, artificial blood substitutes, or animals. Animals were the most frequently chosen objects, and novels frequently include reflections on the adequacy of animal blood. In Rice's Interview with the Vampire, Louis was unable to bring himself to attack a human for the first four years of his vampiric existence and lived off the blood of rats and other animals.

From The Vampire Book: The Encyclopedia of the Undead, Third Edition by J. Gordon Melton, Ph.D., (c) 2011 Visible Ink Press(R) This exhaustive guide to vampires will quench your thirst for facts, biographies, definitions, and more.

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