The Most Bizarre Laws from History Still on the Books Today

By Sophia Maddox | June 3, 2024

Tipsy Trails: Britain's Boozy Bovine Ban

Imagine waking up one morning and discovering that you could be fined for whistling on a Sunday, or that it's illegal to wear a fake mustache in church to make people laugh. These are not figments of a whimsical imagination but real laws still on the books today, relics from a bygone era that somehow slipped through the cracks of legal reform. From the absurd to the downright hilarious, these bizarre laws offer a window into the quirks and peculiarities of historical societies. They tell tales of past values, odd priorities, and the sometimes inexplicable ways our ancestors tried to regulate behavior. Journey with us as we explore these strange statutes that, despite the march of time, remain part of our legal landscape, a testament to the enduring eccentricity of human civilization.

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Max Fosh

Picture this: you're stumbling home after a night out, perhaps a bit worse for wear. Suddenly, you spot a cow and think, "Why not take it for a stroll?" Well, in the UK, that's been a no-go since 1872. Yep, it's actually illegal to lead a cow while drunk. While the logic behind this law might seem as fuzzy as a hangover, it likely aimed to prevent accidents and ensure the welfare of both the tipsy individual and their four-legged companion. So, if you find yourself tempted to take Bessie for a walk after one too many pints, think again—your intentions may be udderly noble, but the law won't be amused!

Eternal Vows: France's Peculiar Posthumous Pledge

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Hold onto your hats, because in France, the phrase "till death do us part" takes on a whole new meaning. Since the 19th century, marrying a deceased individual—yes, you heard that right—has been perfectly legal. But fear not, this isn't as eerie as it sounds. This practice, rooted in historical contexts, emerged during a time when societal norms around legitimacy were stringent. This bizarre yet compassionate measure ensured that children born out of wedlock could inherit rights and legitimacy. How does it work? Well, the deceased's consent is established through family members or a pre-existing engagement. The law, in its current form since 1959, saw a poignant resurgence in 2017 when a victim of terrorism exchanged vows with his partner posthumously, showcasing the enduring power of love, even beyond the veil of death.