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dogs in ancient egypt

Dogs in Ancient Egypt: Anubis to Companionship

Did you know that dogs in ancient Egypt were more than just household pets? They played a significant role in ancient Egyptian society, religion, and even the afterlife. From their association with the god Anubis to being mummified alongside their owners, these loyal companions held a special place in the hearts of the ancient Egyptians. But what exactly was the significance of dogs in ancient Egypt? Let’s explore the fascinating world of dogs in ancient Egyptian culture and uncover the secrets behind their enduring importance.

Ancient Egyptians and Their Canine Companions

Ancient Egyptians held a special bond with dogs, considering them as companions even before Egypt became a civilization. These loyal animals were among the first domesticated animals and played an essential role in the lives of the ancient Egyptians.

The domestication of dogs in ancient Egypt happened in various ways. Some dogs arrived from the Middle East, where they were domesticated around 10,000 BCE, while others were brought by people migrating from North Africa into the Nile Valley.

Saharan hunters frequently depicted dogs on rock overhangs, indicating their presence in the region during the Pre-Dynastic Period. These depictions reveal the existence of an early connection between humans and dogs in the Nile Valley.

The domestication of jackals, also known as African wolves, also played a role in ancient Egyptian society. These animals were attracted to early settlements in search of food, further solidifying their bond with humans.

Saharan Hunter with Dogs

In ancient Egyptian culture, dogs were highly regarded for their loyalty, companionship, and practical usefulness. They accompanied their human counterparts on hunting expeditions, provided protection, and offered unwavering loyalty.

The presence of dogs in ancient Egyptian society, even before the establishment of Egypt as a civilization, showcases the deep and enduring connection between humans and these domesticated animals.

The Diverse Breeds of Ancient Egyptian Dogs

Ancient Egyptian dogs were not a homogeneous group but consisted of various breeds, each serving specific purposes. Depictions in ancient Egyptian artwork showcase the prominence of certain breeds, including the Basenji, Greyhound, Ibizan, Pharaoh, Saluki, Whippet, and Molossian.

The Basenji and Ibizan are believed to have originated in Egypt, while the others were North African breeds. These dogs played crucial roles in ancient Egyptian society, primarily as hunting companions for both small and large game. They were known for their agility, speed, and keen sense of smell, making them excellent at tracking and capturing prey.

In addition to their hunting abilities, these breeds also served as loyal and protective guard dogs, ensuring the safety of their owners and their property. Their presence in Egyptian households extended beyond their functional roles, as they were also valued as beloved family pets.

While these breeds featured prominently, it is important to note that there were also wild and mixed-breed dogs referred to as “pariah dogs” that lived on the outskirts of settlements, often roaming freely and scavenging for food.

Egyptian Dog Breeds

Breed Description
Basenji A small, agile breed known for their intelligence, hunting prowess, and characteristic vocalization.
Greyhound A swift and athletic breed recognized for their speed and endurance, making them ideal for hunting fast game.
Ibizan An elegant and versatile breed known for their athleticism, long legs, and acute hearing, making them excellent hunters.
Pharaoh A noble and regal breed, often associated with Egyptian royalty and commonly depicted in ancient Egyptian art.
Saluki An ancient breed revered for their grace, speed, and loyalty, often used for hunting gazelles and hares.
Whippet A smaller version of the Greyhound breed, valued for their speed and agility in hunting and racing.
Molossian A powerful and robust breed with a strong protective instinct, often used as guard dogs.

These breeds of ancient Egyptian dogs exemplified the diversity and adaptability of canines in ancient Egypt, playing integral roles in the lives of the people through hunting, guarding, and companionship.

Egyptian dog breeds

Dogs and the Divine: Anubis and Canine Worship

Dogs held a significant place in ancient Egyptian religion, particularly in connection with the god Anubis. Anubis, often depicted as a canine or a man with a canine head, was the guardian of graveyards and tombs. Dogs, including the Basenji, Greyhound, Ibizan, and jackals, inspired the imagery of Anubis. The cult center of Anubis, known as Cynopolis or “City of the Dog,” was filled with dogs that freely roamed the temple and streets.

Dogs were believed to be divine vessels, serving as intermediaries between humans and gods. Temple dogs were even bred in a specialized facility, known as a puppy mill, for the purpose of ritual sacrifice to gain Anubis’ favor. The bond between ancient Egyptians and their dogs transcended mere companionship, as the dogs were revered as sacred beings and integral to religious practices.

dog worship

Through their association with Anubis, these divine creatures were believed to have the power to guide souls to the afterlife and offer protection and assistance along the journey. Their divine status and significance in ancient Egyptian culture solidified their role as symbols of loyalty, devotion, and protection.

Beloved Companions: Dogs in Daily Life

Dogs in ancient Egypt held a special place as beloved companions in the daily lives of the people. They were not just mere animals but cherished members of the family, often given individual names that were affectionately written on their collars.

These loyal canine companions were frequently depicted in tomb scenes, where they were shown sitting under chairs or accompanying their owners on hunting expeditions. This portrayal highlights the intimate bond and close relationship between humans and their dogs.

In ancient Egyptian society, the loss of a family dog was deeply mourned. Family members would go to great lengths to express their grief and sorrow, including the ritual act of shaving their eyebrows. This mourning ritual reflected the immense love and attachment people had for their canine companions.

Even in death, dogs were honored and revered. Just like humans, they were mummified and given elaborate burials. Some dogs were even placed in their own coffins, demonstrating the high regard in which they were held in the afterlife.

Dogs also played a significant role in ancient Egyptian artwork. They were depicted in various scenes, showcasing their importance and presence in daily life. These artistic representations further emphasize the deep connection between humans and their canine companions.

To give you a visual representation of this bond between ancient Egyptians and their dogs, take a look at the image below:

dog burials

Dogs in Ancient Egypt: Enduring Symbols of Loyalty

Dogs played a significant role in ancient Egyptian society, serving as enduring symbols of loyalty, companionship, and protection. They were esteemed not only for their practical roles as hunting partners and guards but also for their unwavering loyalty to their human companions. Ancient Egyptians recognized the special bond between dogs and humans, appreciating their steadfast devotion.

These faithful creatures held such significance in ancient Egypt that they were often given elaborate burials, alongside their human counterparts. Dog burials, complete with their own coffins and grave goods, speak to the deep reverence Egyptians had for these loyal companions. The act of mummifying dogs and placing them in tombs reflected the belief that dogs would continue to be loyal even in the afterlife.

Ancient Egyptians’ admiration for dogs extended beyond their practical uses and into the realm of religious beliefs. Dogs were associated with several deities, including Anubis, the god of mummification and afterlife. Anubis himself was often depicted with the head of a jackal, a type of wild dog native to Egypt. This connection between dogs and the divine further reinforced their symbolic importance in ancient Egyptian culture.

Even after the Roman annexation of Egypt, dogs remained highly regarded as “man’s best friend” in the land of the Pharaohs. Their enduring presence in daily life, religious rituals, and beliefs about the afterlife highlights the lasting significance of dogs in ancient Egyptian society. Their loyalty and companionship continue to be celebrated throughout history, making them timeless symbols of devotion.


Q: What roles did dogs play in ancient Egyptian society?

A: Dogs in ancient Egypt served various roles, including as household pets, hunting companions, and even sacred animals associated with the god Anubis.

Q: Were dogs the first domesticated animals in ancient Egypt?

A: Yes, dogs were the first domesticated animals in ancient Egypt and held a special place in society.

Q: Did dogs have a religious significance in ancient Egyptian culture?

A: Yes, dogs held a significant place in ancient Egyptian religion, particularly in connection with the god Anubis.

Q: What breeds of dogs were depicted in ancient Egyptian artwork?

A: The most common breeds depicted in ancient Egyptian artwork were the Basenji, Greyhound, Ibizan, Pharaoh, Saluki, Whippet, and Molossian.

Q: How were dogs mourned and honored in ancient Egypt?

A: The death of a family dog was mourned in ancient Egypt, with family members even shaving their eyebrows as a sign of grief. Dogs were mummified and given elaborate burials, indicating the high regard in which they were held even in the afterlife.

Q: What did dogs symbolize in ancient Egyptian society?

A: Dogs in ancient Egypt symbolized loyalty, companionship, and protection.

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