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Pliny speaks of a creature, which he calls the bonasus, of Paeonia (in Asia), having the mane of a horse, but in all other respects the look of a bull, with horns so curled as to represent no danger, but capable of emitting excrement whilst running away, of such noxiousness that pursuers were scorched as if by fire. Subsequent accounts have added a horse's tail to the mane, and poisonous gas to the excrement, and the variant name of bonacon. Another beastiary spelling is bonnacon.

The bonacon appears in English heraldry and only from the mid-16th century. Its sole apparent appearance is as a crest granted to Richard Chandelor in 1560, with the head the only depicted part. There seems to be no other heraldic use outside of that instance.

A second instance of a bonacon used in English heraldry occurred a year after the first in 1561 when Sir Gilbert Dethick, Garter King of Arms granted Hugh Hollinshead of Heywood Hall, Nether Alderley Cheshire, a crest with a bonacon head on it. Roughly the crest was A bonacon erased gules, horned and maned, gorged a (ducal) coronet or.

Bonacons in the SCA

In 1980, Wilhelm von Schlussel ruled that the bonacon was too offensive to be used as an heraldic charge in the SCA. More recent speculation about the charge implies that a single use as a partial monster in a crest does not set a pattern of heraldic use appropriate for its inclusion in SCA heraldry, although no specific ruling has been made on this.