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Blessing of animals

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Blessing of the Animals Mural, Mexican Consul, Los Angeles

Blessing of animals can be either of the animal or of the human-animal relationship, and can apply to pets and other companion animals, or to agricultural animals and working and other animals which humans depend on or interact with.

Blessing of animals, or of the slaughtering process, before slaughter, is a key element of some religions.

Ceremonial blessing of companion animals occurs throughout the world,[1] for example, Australia,[2] Canada,[3] Scotland,[4] Spain,[5] and the United States.[6]

Blessing of animals is a religious activity, and occurs broadly across most religions in some form, including, for example, across Christianity,[7] Islam, Judaism,[8] Shinto,[9] Unitarian Universalism,[10] amongst others.

Secular respect for animals is also strong, for example, World Animal Day, an international day of action for animal rights and welfare celebrated annually, but is still held on 4 October, the feast day of Francis of Assisi, a Christian patron saint of animals.[11]


Blessing of the Animals on St. Francis' Day at an Episcopal church in Lincoln, Nebraska

Annually now, on or around October 4, Christians worldwide celebrate the Feast of Saint Francis with a blessing of animals and prayers for creation.[7]

Catholicism[12] has specific liturgies for the blessing of animals, highlighting creation and interdependence.[13] United Methodists also have a specific liturgy highlighting creation and mutual interdependence.[14]

Separate variants of Christianity will sometimes combine to hold joint, ecumenical, animal blessing ceremonies, for example Catholic and Episcopal Church (United States) churches.[15]


Many synagogues now have ceremonies for the blessing of animals, and some say the idea may have originated in ancient Judaism. The Jewish ceremony is often performed on the seventh day of Passover (in the spring) as a celebration of the Hebrews’ (and their animals’) emancipation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,000 years ago. Many Jewish congregations schedule blessings of the animals after the High Holy Days, with ceremonies around the second weekly Torah portion of the Jewish Year, the Parashat Noach, the portion about Noah and the ark, the saving of both humans and other animals, they also being gifts from God.[16]

Other Jewish ceremonies are derived from the Christian ceremony and are not derived from traditional Judaism, which gives some concern for more traditional followers of Judaism.[8]

Elvis Best "read" the Torah at his Bark Mitzvah in 2007.

Ritual slaughter

For meat to be kosher, a ritual blessing to God is required for the animals about to be slaughtered, shechita.[17]

Coming of age

A Bark Mitzvah is an observance and celebration of a dog's coming of age,[18][19] analogous to the Jewish traditional Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah terminology. The term has been in use since at least 1958.

The bark mitzvah ceremony is not universally well regarded in Judaism.[20]


Ritual slaughter

Islamic dhabiha requires that God's name be pronounced before each slaughter.[21]


Blessing of cars, horses, and vehicles in front of the church of San Pedro de Santa Bárbara de Heredia, Costa Rica

Some towns and cities have the blessing of animals as a cultural event, for example:

  • San Juan del Río, on January 17, feast day of San Antonio.
  • Unterammergau, the site of the 11th-century Chapel of St Leonhard, patron saint of horses, which is the terminus of the annual Leonhardritt and Blessing of the Animals.
  • Blessing of the Animals at Olvera Street, an event from 1930, is held every Sabado de Gloria (Holy Saturday). It is an all-day event with vendors, performers, and a procession where participants bring their animals to be blessed by religious authorities and others.[22]
  • Madrid, where the festival has been celebrated largely uninterrupted since the 19th century. It is also held in other parts of Spain, such as the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean and the northern city of Burgos.[5]
  • During the latter part of the 20th century, the blessing of animals and pets in the United States has become mainstream cultural activity, with services occurring in 48 states and districts in 2008.[7]

Culturally significant animals

Rare animal instances can have great significance in belief systems and may be ritually blessed as part of that tradition, for example the white buffalo, Kenahkihinén, in North America.[23]

In popular culture

Saint Anthony Abbot Blessing the Animals, the Poor, and the Sick

In art

In film

Places blessing animals

The blessing of a pet dog.

There are now a very large number of places blessing animals, in particular pets and companion animals, regularly on an annual basis. A very small sample of these include:

Historical animal blessing and prayer


The Lorscher Bienensegen, believed to date back to the 9th century, is a Christian bee-keeping prayer written in Old High German to bring honey bees back to their hives in good health, and may arise from earlier Anglo-Saxon and apparently pagan "For a Swarm of Bees" in pre-Christian Germanic areas.[30][31]


Saint Francis of Assisi is associated with the patronage of animals and it has become customary for Catholic and Anglican churches to carryout animal blessing ceremonies on his feast day of 4 October.[1]

Saint Dwynwen is more known for being a Welsh patron saint of lovers but she is also lesser known as being the patron saint of sick animals which she would bless.

Legend has it that in the 4th century, whole herds of wild animals would come for the blessing of Saint Blaise.[32]



According to legend, a cat saved Muhammad from a snake.[33] In gratitude, Muhammad stroked the cat's back and forehead, thus blessing all cats with the righting reflex.[34]

Animal chaplaincy

Animal chaplaincy is typically associated with veterinary work. Veterinary chaplains minister in regard to the spirituality associated with animals and the human-animal bond and responsibilities, and perform animal blessings as part of a broad range of services.[35]

Types of animals blessed

The blessing of a working animal, a military dog.

Any animal can be blessed and a wide variety have been blessed during blessing ceremonies. It depends on what people bring on the day. Included have been:

  • Australia: dogs, cats, tropical birds, reptiles, rodents, native Australian bees,[2] goldfish, ferrets, hermit crabs, mounted police horses, rabbits, mice[1]
  • Spain: dogs, rabbits, iguanas, doves[5]
  • Canada: horses, dogs, cats, birds, donkeys, sheep, hawks, parrots, weasels, skunks[26]
  • Working animals, for example military or police dogs.

Practical issues

The safety of animals and people is important. Due consideration also needs to be given to any mess some animals may make.[26]


PETA have an alternative view on animal blessing events, and proffer the following points:[36]

  • Cats are terrified and should be left at home. The blessing is for the animals so do not sacrifice the animals' welfare for the ceremony.
  • Many animals, all created by God, miss out on the blessing, and are mutilated and abused for our sake. PETA states St. Francis would be appalled by the degree of suffering that we inflict on animals to indulge our acquired taste for their flesh.
  • PETA suggest two Franciscan Animal Blessings.

See also

Further reading

  • Guerrero, Diana L. (2007). Blessing of the Animals: A Guide to Prayers & Ceremonies Celebrating Pets & Other Creatures. Sterling Publishing Company, Inc., 2007. ISBN 9781402729676.


  1. ^ a b c Laughlin, Shaya (5 October 2017). "St Francis of Assisi Church inviting pet owners to get animals blesses". WENTWORTH COURIER. News Limited. Retrieved 28 October 2017.
  2. ^ a b c Eyers, Paul (6 October 2016). "Six legged followers bring a unique buzz to a blessing service". Southern Star Quest Community News. Courier Mail. Retrieved 27 October 2017.
  3. ^ a b Block, Irwin (17 September 2007). "Canon Baugh's pet blessings live on". Montreal Gazette. Retrieved 18 November 2017 – via PressReader.
  4. ^ a b
  5. ^ a b c d "Spain's pet blessings see tails and scales flock to church on Day of Saint Anthony". ABC News. 18 January 2016. Retrieved 27 October 2017.
  6. ^ Holak, Susan L. (2008-05-01). "Ritual blessings with companion animals". Journal of Business Research. Animal Companions, Consumption Experiences, and the Marketing of Pets: Transcending Boundaries in the Animal-Human Distinction. 61 (5): 534–541. doi:10.1016/j.jbusres.2007.07.026.
  7. ^ a b c "St. Francis of Assisi - A profile of the patron saint of animals and ecology". THE HUMANE SOCIETY of the United States. Retrieved 28 October 2017.
    • United States figures from American Catholic, "St. Francis of Assisi: Pet Blessings 2008".
    • United States culturisation from Laura Hobgood-Oster, Holy Dogs & Asses: Animals in the Christian Tradition (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2008), 106-116.
  8. ^ a b c Meiser, Rebecca (10 October 2013). "THE RABBI WHO BLESSES JEWISH PETS". Tablet Magazine. Nextbook Inc. Retrieved 19 November 2017.
  9. ^ a b Web Staff (4 June 2017). "Celebration of human-animal bonds at annual Shinto pet blessing". KHON2. Retrieved 19 November 2017.
  11. ^ Dekok, Wim. "THE ORIGIN OF WORLD ANIMAL DAY" (PDF). World Animal Net. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 September 2018. Retrieved 28 October 2017.
  12. ^ "Catholic Prayer: Saint Francis and the Blessing of Animals". Catholic Culture. Trinity Communications. 1989. Retrieved 28 October 2017.
    • (Prayer Source: Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers by Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy, National Conference of Catholic Bishops, NCCB/USCC, 1989)
  13. ^ "Catholic Prayer: Book of Blessings: Order for the Blessing of Animals". Catholic Culture. Trinity Communications. 1989. Retrieved 28 October 2017.
    • (Prayer Source: Book of Blessings by Prepared by International Commission on English in the Liturgy A Joint Commission of Catholic Bishops' Conferences, The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota, 1989)
  14. ^ "A SERVICE FOR THE BLESSING OF ANIMALS". Discipleship Ministries - The United Methodist Church. Retrieved 28 October 2017.
  15. ^ Liebenson, Donald (29 September 2014). "Calendar: Pets of all stripes due for blessing". HIGHLAND PARK NEWs. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 28 October 2017.
  16. ^ Sweeney, Jon (2 December 2011). "Blessing Our Pets: In The Spirit Of St. Francis And Judaism". THE BLOG. Oath - HuffPost MultiCultural/HPMG News. Retrieved 28 October 2017.
  17. ^ Maimonides Laws of Slaughter 1:2 and commentaries ad loc[non-primary source needed]
  18. ^ Lily Koppel (20 December 2004). "Today He Is a Dog; Actually He Always Was". The New York Times.
  19. ^ Shari Cohen and Marcelo Gindlin. Alfie's Bark Mitzvah. Chandler: Five Star Publications, 2007. Book with audio CD. ISBN 1-58985-055-6, ISBN 978-1-58985-055-2. ASIN 1589850556.
  20. ^ Rabbi Charles A. Kroloff (19 January 1997). "A Rabbi's View Of a 'Bark Mitzvah'". The New York Times.
  21. ^ "Islamic Guidelines Slaughtering Animals". Retrieved 2 December 2011.
  22. ^ Rondeau, Ginette Calendar Archived 2014-10-28 at the Wayback Machine Olvera Street Website Accessed 15 November 2014.
  23. ^ "White buffalo gets tribal blessing in Fayette County". The Herald-Standard. April 15, 2007. Retrieved 14 January 2010.[permanent dead link]
  24. ^ Jeffers, Glenn (4 October 2004). "Parishioners' Pets are Blessed". Chicago Tribune. All Saints' Episcopal Church. Archived from the original on 25 April 2012. Retrieved 31 October 2013.
  25. ^ Mott, Maryann (6 October 2006). "Pets Gaining Recognition in Places of Worship". National Geographic News. National Geographic Society. Archived from the original on October 18, 2006. Retrieved 18 November 2017.
  26. ^ a b c Olafson, Karin (29 September 2016). "Bring Your Pet to the 20th Annual Blessing of the Animals". avenue. RedPoint Media & Marketing Solutions. Retrieved 27 October 2017.
  27. ^ "Blessing of the Animals at four-day Fiesta de San Gabriel at San Gabriel Mission, Calif., 1960 - UCLA".
  28. ^ "San Gabriel Mission Church".
  29. ^ "San Gabriel Mission Fiesta".
  30. ^ Grendon, Felix (15 March 2019). "The Anglo-Saxon charms". New York : [s.n.] – via Internet Archive.
  31. ^ Reuber, Brant (2015). 21st Century Homestead: Beekeeping. ISBN 9781312937338. Retrieved 18 November 2017.
  32. ^ Vollet, E. H., Grande Encyclopédie s.v. Blaise (Saint); published in Bibliotheca Hagiographica Graeca "Auctarium", 1969, 278, col. 665b.
  33. ^ Campo, Juan Eduardo (2009). Encyclopedia of Islam. Infobase Publishing. p. 131. ISBN 978-1438126968.
  34. ^ Gulevich, Tanya (2005). Understanding Islam and Muslim traditions: an introduction to the religious practices, celebrations, festivals, observances, beliefs, folklore, customs, and calendar system of the world's Muslim communities, including an overview of Islamic history and geography. Omnigraphics. p. 232. ISBN 978-0780807044.
  35. ^ "Animal chaplains teach that animals have spiritual nature". Ahwatukee Foothills News. 23 April 2013.
  36. ^ "Saint Francis of Assisi Day: Bless All Animals!". People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. 23 April 2009. Retrieved 28 October 2017.
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