Blain (animal disease)

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Entry for Blain from Ephraim Chambers' 1728 Cyclopædia

Blain was an animal disease of unknown etiology that was well known in the eighteenth- and nineteenth centuries. It is unclear whether it is still extant, or what modern disease it corresponds to.

According to Ephraim Chambers' eighteenth-century Cyclopaedia, or an Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences, blain was "a distemper" (in the archaic eighteenth-century sense of the word, meaning "disease") occurring in animals, consisting in a "Bladder growing on the Root of the Tongue against the Wind-Pipe", which "at length swelling, stops the Wind". It was thought to occur "by great chafing, and heating of the Stomach".

Blain is also mentioned in Cattle: Their Breeds, Management, and Diseases, published in 1836, where it is also identified as "gloss-anthrax".[1] W. C. Spooner's 1888 book The History, Structure, Economy and Diseases of the Sheep also identifies blain as being the same as gloss-anthrax.[2]

Modern scholarship suggests that "gloss-anthrax" was not the same disease as modern-day anthrax, but instead could have been foot-and-mouth disease, or a viral infection with a secondary Fusobacterium necrophorum infection.[3] It has also been suggested that it may have been due to a variant strain of true anthrax that is no longer in existence.[3] Other sources also report epizootics known as "blain" or "black-blain" in the 13th and 14th centuries,[4] but it is not clear if the disease involved was the same as "gloss-anthrax".


  1. ^ ed. William Youatt (1836). "Cattle: Their Breeds, Management, and Diseases". Retrieved 2012-10-05.  page 326, page 386
  2. ^ W. C. Spooner (1888). "The History, Structure, Economy and Diseases of the Sheep". Retrieved 2012-10-05.  page 310
  3. ^ a b Jones, Susan D. (2010). Death in a Small Package: A Short History of Anthrax. JHUP. p. 22. ISBN 9781421402529. 
  4. ^ Jones, Susan D. (2010). Death in a Small Package: A Short History of Anthrax. JHUP. p. 27. ISBN 9781421402529.