This German surname of KOTLOFF is a nickname from the animal the cat, and rendered in medieval documents in the Latin form CATTUS. The word is found in similar forms in most European languages from very early times. Domestic cats were unknown in Europe in classical times, because weasels fulfilled their functions, for example in hunting rodents. They were first introduced into southern Europe in the 1st century AD, and they were known to the Romans by the Greek name AILOUROS, meaning 'wavy-tail'. They seem to have come from Egypt, where they were regarded as sacred animals. The name has numerous spellings which include KOTZE, CHATT, KATTE, LECHAT, GATTO, KATER, KATTE, DE KAT, KOTT, KOTAS and KOTEV, to name but a few. A notable member of the name was Sir John Gilbert KOTZE (1849-1940) the South African judge, born in Cape Town. After studying law in London, he practised at the Cape Bar. In 1877 when the South African Republic was annexed by Britain he was appointed first judge of the new Supreme Court of the Transvaal, and became chief justice in 1881. He was an outstanding judge with a thorough knowledge of Roman-Dutch law, and was a vigorous advocate of codification. It was not until the 10th century that modern hereditary surnames first developed, and the use of fixed names spread, first to France, and then England, then to Germany and all of Europe. In these parts of Europe, the individual man was becoming more important, commerce was increasing and the exact identification of each man was becoming a necessity. Even today however, the Church does not recognise surnames. Baptisms and marriages are performed through use of the Christian name alone. Thus hereditary names as we know them today developed gradually during the 11th to the 15th century in the various European countries. In the Middle Ages heraldry came into use as a practical matter. It originated in the devices used to distinguish the armoured warriors in tournament and war, and was also placed on seals as marks of identity. As far as records show, true heraldry began in the middle of the 12th century, and appeared almost simultaneously in several countries of Western Europe.
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