Different peoples had different beliefs. The people of Madagascar, for instance, were strictly forbidden to kill, within a house, a creature of male sex, be it a tom-cat, a rooster or a male rat. It was believed that such a killing might cause the death of a warrior, incidentally, warriors on Madagascar never ate the meat of hedgehogs, which were considered cowardly animals.
It was believed, and not only on Madagascar either, that after eating the meat of a cowardly animal one would become cowardly himself. And on the contrary, eating the meat of a strong and brave animal made one also strong and brave.
People also believed that there were other ways, through dance, song and incantation, to acquire useful properties of animals. For instance, by hiding a peace of rat skin in the hair and pronouncing a corresponding incantation or dancing a relevant dance, one could acquire the rat's nimbleness.
There were also numerous healing magics connected with animals. It was believed, for example, that an owl preserved one from insanity. Even mad dogs presented no danger to one who carried in his armpit an amulet containing an owl's heart and right foot. (This superstition persisted in Germany right to the end of the nineteenth century! )