The yale, also known as a centicore, is one of the Royal Beasts, those creatures imaginary and real that have been used in the heraldic symbolism of the British royal family. The name may be derived from the Hebrew ya-el, meaning mountain goat.
Apparently a composite creature, the yale’s parts vary with the source. The Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder described it as being black or tawny, with the tail of an elephant and the tusks of a boar.[a] Other depictions of yales as heraldic symbols depict them with the body of a deer or a goat, sometimes covered in gold spots, as can be seen in the arms of Margaret Beaufort (1441/3–1509), mother of King Henry VII, above the gatehouses of the two Cambridge colleges she endowed, St John’s College and Christ’s. All accounts agree on one thing however, that the yale is armed with two long horns that can be swivelled independently to meet an attack from any direction. Perhaps as a result, the heraldic meaning of the yale is “proud defence”.
The yale appeared in the majority of Latin bestiaries until the 17th century, but has never been identified with any living or extinct animal. Although it is typically dismissed today as mythical, the researcher Wilma George has suggested that the yale may be based on a somewhat fanciful description of the Indian water buffalo.
- Pliny called the creature an eale, the Latin version of its name.