The Dogs of Ancient Egypt
by Jimmy Dunn
We, and everyone else it seems has given homage to the cats of ancient Egypt, but dogs too were important, both as symbols of gods and as domesticated animals. Certainly they were pets, but it is difficult to say whether dogs were as beloved by their Egyptian owners as cats. They were never shown as animals to be petted. But as in modern times, their uses were much more diverse. Nevertheless, they were mummified and they were often buried with owners, or sometimes in their own coffins. At Abydos, part of the cemetery was set aside for dogs near the graves of women, archers and dwarfs.
Egyptian probably first domesticated the cat, but dogs were most likely domesticated in other parts of the world. Notably, the first domestication of dogs from wolfs occurred in Persia, North America and possibly Northeast Africa.The earliest reference to dogs in Egypt comes to us from the predynastic period.
Bones of domesticated dogs have been discovered dating to the fifth millennium BC in Egypt, and we find the first representation of domesticated dogs on the Moscow cup from the Badarian age (4000-4500 BC). We begin to find natural representations of dogs with collars on the Asmolean Palette and the Hunting Palette. These palettes date from the predynastic era during the Naqada II (3500-3000 BC). But we find many more domesticated dogs in murals starting in the Old Kingdom.
The ancient Egyptian word for dog was "iwiw", which referred to the dog's bark. They served a roll in hunting, as guard and police dogs, in military actions and as household pets.
They are well known to us from ancient Egyptian paintings, but their breed is still difficult to discern completely. However, these pictures show resemblance to basenji, saluki, greyhounds, mastiffs others.
Some of the possible breeds derived from ancient Egyptian Dogs
We even know many ancient Egyptian dog's names from leather collars as well as stelae and reliefs. They included names such as Brave One, Reliable, Good Herdsman, North-Wind, Antelope and even "Useless". Other names come from the dogs color, such as Blacky, while still other dogs were given numbers for names, such as "the Fifth". Many of the names seem to represent endearment, while others convey merely the dogs abilities or capabilities. However, even as in modern times, there could be negative connotations to dogs due to their nature as servants of man. Some texts include references to prisoners as "the king's dogs".
Anubis is often referred to as the jackal headed god, but Egyptians seem to have identified other dogs with this god, and at times domestic dogs were buried as sacred animals in the Anubieion catacombs at Saqqara. Anubis (Inpew, Yinepu, Anpu) was an ancient Egyptian god of the underworld who guided and protected the spirits of the dead. He was generally depicted as a black jackal-headed man, or as a black jackal. The Egyptians would have noticed the jackals prowling around the graveyards, and so the link between the animal and the dead was formed in their minds.