Egyptians Loved and Honored Their… Dogs!

According to Herodotus (and other sources), while the Ancient Egyptians loved their Cats, Dogs were even more loved and honored.

It has been written that when a pet cat died, all those who lived in the home shaved their eyebrows. However, in a home in which a dog died, all would shave their entire head and body. (Herodotus, Histories II, 66).

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Dogs were often depicted as watch dogs or hunting companions. They had names (unlike Cats who were generally called “Mau”) and the dogs were often buried with their masters. There are many dogs buried with their ancient Egyptian masters such as the dog Neb, whose stela (a sort of gravestone) dating to the 1st Dynasty bears his name and a drawing of his appearance. In Abydos, part of the cemetery was set aside for dogs near the graves of women, archers and dwarfs.

Ancient Egyptian dog’s names have been found on leather collars inside excavated tombs as well as on tomb reliefs. Some of their names were Brave One, Reliable, Good Herdsman, North Wind, Antelope, and Blackie. Some other dogs were given numbers like “Dog the Fifth.” Many of the names represent endearment, while others convey the dogs’ special abilities or capabilities.

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At Giza, the dog Abuwtiyuw, who reportedly looked somewhat like a modern greyhound, received a fine and wondrous burial. Egyptologist, George A. Reisner found and wrote about “The dog which was honored by the king of Upper and Lower Egypt.” Bulletin of the Museum of Fine Arts 34, no. 206 (1936): 96-99:

The dog which was the guard of His Majesty. Abuwtiyuw is his name. His Majesty ordered that he be buried, that he be given a coffin from the royal treasury, fine linen in great quantity, incense. His Majesty gave perfumed ointment and [ordered] that a tomb be built for him by the gang of masons. His Majesty did this for him in order that he might be honored.
~ Dating to the 5th or 6th dynasty (2500 BCE)

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Various breeds were popular in Ancient Egypt. The greyhound, Basenji, and Pharoah type were depicted on tomb reliefs during the pre-Dynastic and Old Kingdom eras. Short legged dogs were popular during the Middle Kingdom.

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At the Hathor Shrine

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I would like to think our new Temple Dog with his short legs and curled tail  would have been embraced in Ancient Egypt.

Dogs were very important, both as symbols of gods and as domesticated animals. They were rarely shown as animals to be petted however they were always depicted close to and working with their owners.

While Anubis is often referred to as the Jackal headed god, Ancient Egyptians identified dogs with jackals and therefore Anubis was called “the dog that eats the minions.” Dogs were believed to help with the passage of their owner to the afterlife. Sometimes they would be mummified and placed within statues or shrines to Anubis. Also, recent excavations at Saqqara found an estimated 8 million dog mummies were placed in the Anubis (Anubeion) catacombs. The dogs were placed there as a religious act. The animal’s owner would hope that by placing their dog in these catacombs, it could help intercede with Anubis on behalf of the owner or family member who recently passed away.

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