8 More of History’s Weirdest Jobs

  • Want to be a badger, a whipping boy, or a gong farmer? No, no you don’t.

There are a lot of weird jobs out there. But as strange as today’s professions can be, they have nothing on the jobs that don’t exist anymore.

We’ve taken a look at the most bizarre jobs from history before. But let’s be real here — a list of eight entries couldn’t possibly cover all the strangeness of the ancient world.

So, let’s do this again. Here are another eight ancient jobs that luckily don’t exist anymore.

1) Badger

From medieval Europe all the way up to Civil War-era America, you could find a job as a badger. But don’t get too excited — this job didn’t involve dressing up as a cute black-and-white critter and digging holes into hillsides.

Badgers were an important part of the food supply chain, though. It was their job to buy produce from farmers, haul it to markets, and then sell it to hungry customers.

Although similar jobs still exist all over the world, nobody seems to call these people badgers anymore. Fun fact, this profession is probably from where we get the phrase “to badger someone.”

Oh, and the name most likely derives from the word “bagger.” It’s a shame that the job had nothing to do with the animal.

2) Whipping Boy

Being a whipping boy sucked. On one hand, it was a way for a young boy to earn a decent living. On the other, he’d get beaten possibly on a daily basis.

You see, in medieval Europe, teachers and other authority figures couldn’t punish royal youths. That was only acceptable for their father the King and the Lord Almighty.

The solution was for the royal family to get a whipping boy. He was a young boy of similar age to the prince and his job was to suffer every lashing, beating, and other punishment his attached royal got.

Sometimes the whipping boy would get a kingly reward of land and riches once the royal youth grew up. But you have to wonder if it was worth it.

3) Barber

You might wonder what’s so weird about a barber. You probably go see one on a regular basis.

But today’s barbers are nothing like those of old. Or would you let your barber perform surgery on you?

The barbers of old did much more than cut hair. They pulled teeth, did minor and major surgeries, and even amputated limbs.

Why would people go to a barber for that? Well, there weren’t many doctors around back in the day, and barbers already knew how to use scissors and razors.

Clearly, their expertise must extend to all bladed instruments — like a surgeon’s scalpel.

4) Flatulist

But soft; what wind through yonder window breaks? That’s a line you may have heard at flatulist’s show.

Flatulists are pretty much what they sound like. They were people who performed for the public, entertaining them with their well-rehearsed farts and toots.

It was serious entertainment that could help you strike it big in the pre-Hollywood world. For example, one Roland the Farter in medieval England was so skilled that King Henry II rewarded him with a manor and 30 acres of land.

Flatulism isn’t an entirely dead profession, though. Even to this day, you can find comedians whose routine is entirely based around their farts.

5) Pure Finder

The job title “pure finder” is very ironic. These people didn’t find anything pure — quite the opposite.

A pure finder’s job was to collect dog turds littering the streets of 18th and 19th-century Britain. Why do so many of these weird jobs come from England, anyway?

Unsurprisingly, pure finding wasn’t exactly a popular job. It was usually done by the urban poor who had literally no other job to do.

But at least they could make some money out of it. Dog poop was in high demand because tanners used it in making leather for bookbinding.

Hey, a living is a living. At least you weren’t a gong farmer. Speaking of which…

6) Gong Farmer

Despite what the name sounds like, a gong farmer didn’t grow musical instruments. No, the job was much more disgusting.

Whereas a pure finder collected dog poop, gong farmers sought a much more humanoid variety. That’s right, these were the people who would empty human waste from the privies and cesspits of Tudor England.

Before vacuum sealing and other modern technologies, the job was absolutely horrendous. Just imagine the filth and stink of spending your work-day waist-deep in human s***.

As a result, gong farmers were only allowed to work at night when they wouldn’t bother more respectable people. They earned a very good salary for the time, but the job still couldn’t have been worth it.

Modern sanitation and sewage processing eventually made gong farmers obsolete. Although they lost their jobs, we can’t imagine any of them complaining about it.

7) Petardier

Petardier was both a profession and a military designation. The name stems from petards — primitive Renaissance-era explosives used to destroy fortifications during sieges.

Petardiers were the soldiers whose job was to haul petards as close as possible to the castle walls. And it was a job you really didn’t want to do.

The petards could weigh more than a hundred pounds and it took up to seven petardiers to move one. As the soldiers slowly trudged toward the fort, they were sitting ducks for the defenders to shoot at.

Oh, and the petards could simply blow up on their own at any moment. Know that famous saying, “hoisted by one’s own petard?”

Yeah, this is where that comes from — when petardiers own bomb exploded in their faces.

8) Sin-Eater

Your dear loved one has passed away, but you’re afraid they might have outstanding sins preventing them from entering the Kingdom of Heaven. What could you do to help?

Simple — just place a piece of bread and some beer on the corpse’s chest for a while. Let them absorb the deceased’s sins and then get the local sin-eater to take them upon themselves.

The sin-eater would symbolically consume and bear a dead person’s sins. There have been similar professions worldwide, but the most famous examples are — again — from England and Wales.

Sometimes the sin-eaters were treated like scum because of their sin-riddled nature. But some were luckier and got hailed as heroes for helping others get into heaven at the cost of their own souls.

The practice survived until the early 20th century in parts of England and Wales. Today, you probably won’t find a sin-eater — which means there’s a business opportunity nobody’s exploiting.