Why Heraldic Beasts Look Left

LionessOne of the first questions new Heralds and Artists ask me is, why does every animal look off to the left? Why is this direction the default position?

The answer comes from Heraldry’s Original Purpose: to distinguish a noble and their followers from everyone else on the battlefield. Heraldry is literally the oldest form of Identifying Friend or Foe, and Heraldic Displays were created for shields on the battlefield.




This Viking Shieldmaiden displays my registered heraldry, Azure, a winged ounce within an orle argent. The shield is on her left arm, with the axe in her right hand. The fierce Ounce Lioness looks like it is ready to jump off of the shield and attack!




I joined the Society as a fencer because I wanted to learn to fence just like Tamora Pierce‘s Lady Knight Alanna the Lioness. As a fencer, I fought with my right hand.

About six months into the Society, I discovered I preferred Heavy List combat to Fencing. As I studied Heavy, I realized I am a much stronger fighter with my left hand than my right. So I re-strapped my shield to be worn on my right arm.

As you can see, a left-looking Lioness is not fierce when wielded in the opposite hand. The Lioness looks like she is going to fart in your general direction.



Here is my repainted left-handed shield, with my Lioness facing to Sinister and fiercely threatening my opponents. Yes, the Sinister Lioness looks right. The default position, called Dexter, features a feline looking left.

The Heralds don’t care if your beasts face Dexter or Sinister. If a device is in conflict, making the beast face Sinister gives one Distinct Change of difference.

3 thoughts on “Why Heraldic Beasts Look Left

  1. I like your post and examples. Thank you. Somewhere in the back of my brain I seem to remember a medieval beast that decimated it’s enemies with…ah…windage from it’s bum. I have to see if I can find it. It’s one of those things that you see and don’t quite forget. I really don’t want to see it as a device. I don’t think I could keep from laughing at the thing.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s