Some of the earliest use of animal heads in blacksmithing date back to the late iron age, one particular example is the Capel Garmen firedogs which have decorated stylised horse heads with damatically forged manes , they date form 50 BC-50AD and were found in north wales.
Animal heads were also found on early medieval,viking and saxon church doors mostly as the termination of the hinge, but also the spaces in-between with other symbolic elements, they were actually telling a story of folk law or biblical stories often having the symbol of the cross and animal heads offering protection from evil .
Examples of these doors nationwide use similar symbols to tell the story, the tree of life depicting the gates of heaven , lattice work depicting the garden of eden , human figures and noahs ark- the fall and redemption, there are serpents , birds , dragons and fish, they all varied to some degree though , probably due to local pagan myths and illiterate blacksmiths misunderstanding biblical texts or his own variation on beliefs.
Today animal heads are still a popular embellishment for handforged work, mainly finding their place on fire side sets, gate finials and door knockers.
Below are a selection that I have made over the last twenty years.