Egyptians and Their Dogs


Posted by Schnoodle Mummy | Posted in Dog Oddities | Posted on 11-08-2012

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Egyptians and Their Dogs

Egyptians and Their Dogs

To the ancient Egyptians dogs were much more than either assistants in the chase or household pets. They were objects of veneration and worship. They appear in the friezes of the temples and were regarded as divine emblems.

Herodotus tells us that when a dog belonging to an Egyptian family died, the members of the household shaved themselves as an expression of their grief, and adds that this was the custom in his own day.

An interesting explanation of this veneration associated it with the annual over flowing of the Nile. The coming of the great event, on which depended the prosperity of Lower Egypt, was heralded by the star Sirius. which appeared above the horizon at this time. And as soon as this star was seen the inhabitants began to remove their flocks to the higher pastures, leaving the lower ones to be fertilized by the rising waters. The warning was so timely and unfailing that the people called Sirius the “dog star.” because it seemed to show the friendly watchfulness and fidelity of a dog.

A feeling of gratitude for this service was no doubt gradually replaced by the stronger feeling of veneration and worship. The dog came to be regarded as a god — the genius of the river — and was  represented with the body of a man and the head of a dog, Anubis, it became a great figure in Egyptian mythology, and its image was placed on the gates of the temples.

At a later period Cynopolis, the city of the dog, was built in honour of Anubis, to whom priests celebrated great festivals and sacrificed earthly dogs — black ones and white ones alternately. These dogs and others of a reddish colour, were embalmed, and many dog mummies have been found.

Dog worship spread from Egypt to many other countries, where it took different forms. The Romans sacrificed dogs to Anubis to the lesser dog star, Procyon. and to Pan, and the Greeks made similar offerings to propitiate Proserpine, Mars, Hecate, and other imaginary beings of whom they stood in fear.

Plutarch says : “The circle which touches and separates the two hemispheres, and which on account of this division has received the name of horizon, is called Anubis. It is represented under the form of a dog because this animal watches during the day and during the night.”

Out of this idea it seems there arose two mythical personages — Mercury, or Hermes, and Cerberus, the three-headed dog supposed to guard the gates of hell.

But there were humbugs even in those days, and they humbugged the dog worshipers even as charlatans often humbug Christians today. Perhaps the limit of deception was practiced on a certain nation in Ethiopia, which is said to have been bamboozled into actually setting up ‘a dog for its king. Clad in royal robes and with a crown upon his head, he sat upon his throne and received the homage of his subjects. He signified his approval by wagging his tail and his disapproval by barking. He conferred honors upon a person by licking his hand, and a growl might condemn a man to captivity or death.

Even so, since he was a dog, his subjects might have expected justice and possibly mercy had it not been for the “advisers” by whom he was surrounded.   These gentlemen, of course, had their own interests to serve, and no doubt served them by skilfully juggling the interpretations of the “king’s” commands.


Egyptians and Their Dogs

Egyptians and Their Dogs


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