Drawings of animals and other types of wildlife are common motifs used in the decoration of medieval manuscripts. A bestiary, however, is a text exclusively filled with illustrations of beasts and birds which are designed to make a connection between the image and a Christian allegory. These texts were widely popular during the medieval period. They were used as a means to impart concepts to the illiterate and served as a didactic tool as well as a record of popular tradition.
The precursor to the medieval bestiary was the Physiologus. This text contained depictions of real and imaginary creatures which were used to illustrate points of Christian dogma and morals. The Physiologus most likely originated in Alexandria in the second century CE. Many of the stories included in the Physiologus came from pre-modern religions and were familiar to the populace.