alopecuros, which resembles the tail of a fox



alopecuros, which resembles the tail of a fox;

Original French:  Alopecuros, qui ſemble a la queue de Renard:

Modern French:  Alopecuros, qui semble à la queue de Renard:

Among the plants named by similitude.



Volpes. van Maerlant, Der Naturen Bloeme (c. 1350)

van Maerlant, Jacob (1230/1235-c.1291), Der Naturen Bloeme. Flanders or Utrech: c. 1350. 72v. Nationale bibliotheek van Nederland


The woodcut doesn’t depict fox tails, but the tails of dogs harrying them in their dens.

Magnus, Olaus (1490–1557), Historiae de gentibus septentrionalibus. (History of the Northern Peoples). Antverpiae: Ioannem Bellerum, 1557. p. 384. Internet Archive


An example of the plants which have a spike is the plant which some call ‘dog’s eye’ (rib-grass), which comprises several forms; we have also ‘foxbrush,’ stelephuros (plantain), which some call ‘lamb’s tongue’ and some ‘quail-plant’; and somewhat similar to this is thryallis. These are simple plants and uniform in character, having a spike which is not pointed nor bearded; while in ‘fox-brush’ it is soft and somewhat downy, in that it actually resembles the brush of a fox, whence also it has obtained its name. Similar to this is stelephuros (plantain), except that it does not, like that plant, flower here and there, but all up the spike like wheat.

Theophrastus (c. 371-c. 287 BC), Enquiry into Plants. Volume 2: Books 6 – 9. Arthur Hort (1864–1935), translator. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1926. 7.11.2, p. 121. Loeb Classical Library


Aliud rursus spicatarum genus, ex quo est achynops, alopecuros, stelephuros,—quam quidam ortygem vocant, alii plantaginem, de qua plura dicemus inter medicas—, thryallis. ex his alopecuros spicam habet mollem et lanuginem densam non dissimilem vulpium caudis, unde et nomen. proxuma ei est et stelephuros, nisi quod illa particulatim floret. cichorion et similia circa terram folia habent germinantia ab radice post vergilias.

Eared plants are yet another kind, to which belong achynops, alopecuros, stelephuros—by some called ortyx, by others plantago, about which I shall speak more fully in the section on medicinal plants—and thryallis. Of these alopecurus has a soft ear and thick down, not unlike the tail of a fox [Alopecurus = fox-tail]; hence too its name. Stelephuros is very like it, except that it blossoms bit by bit. Chicory and the plants like it have leaves near the ground, budding from the root after the Pleiades.

Pliny the Elder (23–79 AD), The Natural History. Volume 6: Books 20–23. William Henry Samuel Jones (1876–1963), translator. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1951. 21.61. Loeb Classical Library


D’ἀλώπηξ, renard, et οὐρά, queue.

Rabelais, François (1483?–1553), Œuvres de Rabelais (Edition Variorum). Tome Cinquième. Charles Esmangart (1736–1793), editor. Paris: Chez Dalibon, 1823. p. 270. Google Books


Pliny xxi. 17, § 61.

Rabelais, François (1483?–1553), The Five Books and Minor Writings. Volume 1: Books I-III. William Francis Smith (1842–1919), translator. London: Alexader P. Watt, 1893. Internet Archive


Αλωπεχουροζ (Théophraste, H.P., VII, 10) — de αλωπηξ, renard, ουρα, queu; allusion à la forme de l’épi. « Spicam habet mollem et lanuginem densam, non dissimilem vulpium caudis ». Pline, XXI, 61. Il s’agit évidemment d’une graminée : Saccharum cylindricum, Lmk? si on l’interprète comme Dalechamps, ou Polypogon monspelliense, Desf.? pour Fée. Pena et Lobel appellent Αλωπεχονροζ Theophrasti et Cauda vulpis Monspellliensium notre Lagurus ovatis, L. — Le nom d’Alopecurus désigne aujourd’hui un autre g. de Graminées, le Vulpin.

Rabelais, François (1483?–1553), Oeuvres. Édition critique. Tome Cinquieme: Tiers Livre. Abel Lefranc (1863-1952), editor. Paris: Librairie Ancienne Honoré Champion, 1931. p. 355. Internet Archive


thus alopecuros or foxtail grass…

Rabelais, François (1483?–1553), Complete works of Rabelais. Jacques LeClercq (1891–1971), translator. New York: Modern Library, 1936.

pas similitude

Toutes ces plantes, dans De latinis nominibus, sauf pour le delphinium.

Rabelais, François (1483?–1553), Le Tiers Livre. Edition critique. Michael Andrew Screech (1926-2018), editor. Paris-Genève: Librarie Droz, 1964.


De ἀλωπήξ, «renard», et οὐφά, «queue» (Pline, XXI, lxi).

Rabelais, François (1483?–1553), Œuvres complètes. Mireille Huchon, editor. Paris: Gallimard, 1994. p. 505, n. 2.


alopecia. [Latin alopecia, adopted from Greek alwpeki a fox-mange, also baldness in man, formed on alwphc a fox.]

A medical term for baldness.

1398 John de Trevisa Bartholomeus De proprietatibus rerus v. lxvi. (1495) 184 By that euyll callyd Allopicina nourysshynge of heer is corrupte and fayllyth, and the fore party of the heed is bare, suche men fare as foxes.

1585 Lloyd Treas. Health B viij, Burne the heade of a great Ratte and myngle it wyth the droppynge of a Beare or of a hogge and anointe the head, it heleth the desease called Allopecia.



Posted 27 January 2013. Modified 18 April 2020.

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