Dog History With Human Civilization

Dog History with Humans – A study of how dogs have evolved while in contact with Human Beings on planet Earth.


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Dogs and Humans Through Time

By James St. John - https://www.flickr.com/photos/jsjgeology/31471259054/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=55125245
Ancient Dog Skeleton Picture By James St. John – https://www.flickr.com/photos/jsjgeology/31471259054/, CC BY 2.0,

First, let’s take a quick glance back, way back. To the first known records of man and dog history of working together.  According to JJ. Mark (ref. Bibliography note 2.), one of the first known accounts of man and dog existing in some form together dates back to 36,500 years ago. As per evidence found in the Goyet Caves of Belgium.  The dog was of a Paleolithic origin. It was likely resembling something along the lines of a Husky. 

There have been accounts of dog history in human civilization ever since and dogs were around people. The closer we get to the modern era, when researching the connection between dogs and men, we find more and more accounts of dogs. Wait for a second thought, hang on to your horses (or dogs).  Let’s back it right up to the first known dogs. 

Dogs originated in North America, or so it is believed.  The earliest canid evolution took place in North America with the Pseudocynodictis, approximately 37 to 24 million years ago (Savage and Long 1886:77).  We’ve all seen Game of Thrones, correct?  Well, the Dire Wolf did actually exist (although it was likely much different from that in GOT) as Canis dirus circa 125,000–9,440 years ago.

  As we can see, the evidence of ancient wolves evolving into modern-day dogs is fairly conclusive:  Dogs have been with us a long time and may even pre-date humans.  Who is who’s a best friend now?

Ancient Peoples And Dog History

Chinese Dog History

Ancient Chinese peoples (c. 12,000 BCE) had domesticated dogs for various purposes.  Not only did they use dogs as a food source, but they also kept them as companions. Dogs often played many roles in society. The role of hunting aide was often assumed by a dog.

Dogs were also used for sacrifice to the gods.   Dog blood was believed to be sacred. This is because it was believed that the dogs had been provided by the gods for the purpose of helping humanity. The blood of the dog was used in rituals and was an important part of sealing oaths due to being sacred in nature. 

Before accepting using replications of dogs for sacrifice, dogs were killed and buried outside of towns and houses to ward off disease and bad luck.  The dog had found its way into a culture on other levels as well with jade jewelry made in time around 3000 BCE, to be used as a talisman for personal protection.

Indian Dog History

Twilight Dog
Twilight Dog

It’s not only the Twilight Zone that’s had an interest in dogs (I’ll explain in a minute).  The Indian Pariah Dog, which is still around today, was a noble and quite regarded creature in Ancient India. 

Around the time of 400 BCE, the dog must have had a significant place in society. There were dogs in literature and theater. The great cultural epic entitled Mahabharata that featured a dog as a part of the tale was one such cultural epic. 

In some versions, the dog is later revealed to be a god. Therefore, it was not that far out to think of dogs as being linked to the divine.  In the epic, a king is accompanied on his journey to his final resting place by loved ones and his dog. 

By the end of the journey, it is but his dog who remains with him.  When he reaches the gates to heaven, he is told his dog may not accompany him. Thus he refuses to enter as he wishes to remain with his loyal friend.  He then discovers the question was a final test.

The whole episode was a test to see if he was truly suited to enter the gates of heaven, and of course, the noble dog was granted entry.  The Twilight Zone made a skit of the same basis of the tale, hence the earlier reference.

Europian Dog History

A temple to Nehalennia was erected in the town of Domburg, Netherlands, around the 7th century AD.

Egyptian Dog History

Have you ever seen the movie Stargate?  Stargate is a 1994 film written by Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin. The movie is about an Egyptian styled alien masquerading as the god Ra. 

In the film, we also see an alien masquerading as Anubis – the god of (the dead), mummification, embalming, protector of tombs, and guide of the newly dead. Both guiding them and ‘weighing of the heart’ or basically judging whether or not they were worthy to enter the realm of the dead. 

Anubis Mask from Ancient Egypt
By Einsamer Schütze – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17590317

With such a prominent role, a god-dog-man character who judges man, similar to the Christian creator God’s role, is it any wonder that ancient Egypt, approximately 3000 BCE, may very well have made dog houses to keep their sacred friends shielded from the sun’s scorching heat of Egypt’s day? 

Some accounts of dogs being mummified have been verified by archeological evidence found. However, it was likely only the rich and powerful who were able to afford such practices.  Dogs were a major part of Egypt’s culture, like many other cultures as well.

The First Dog House?

The first noted building erected for a dog was a tomb/grave built for a dog that was owned by a servant of the king Khufu (2589-2566 BCE). This was noted in ancient writings:

The dog was the guard of His Majesty. Abuwtiyuw was his name. His Majesty ordered that he be buried ceremonially, that he be given a coffin from the royal treasury, fine linen in great quantity, and incense. {and} His Majesty also gave perfumed ointment and ordered that a tomb be built for him by the gangs of masons. His Majesty did this for him in order that he [the dog] might be honored before the great god, Anubis.

(Hobgood-Oster, 41-42).

Ancient Egyptians held dogs in extremely high regard. Dogs had collars, leashes, were mummified, and even had their tombs built to honor them in death. It is said that the first dog houses were erected in ancient Egypt in the form of mud huts. These were made to provide shade to the hunting dogs from the hot sun of Egypt.

Mediterranean Dog History

Greek Dog History

Herakles_Kerberos_Louvre_F204
Dog House History – Ancient Dog on Vase

The dog once again in ancient Greece served an important role.  In culture, the belief in the god Hades and his sidekick Cerberus (the three-headed dog) who helped guard the gates of the underworld.

This vase from around 500 BC depicts a two-headed Cerberus with snakes growing out of its two heads.  And who said the ancient world didn’t have a vivid imagination? 

Either way, Cerberus was a divine dog of the gods. Albeit a multi-headed one and again shows us the influence dogs have had on our cultures over time and across many continents.

Italian Dog History

Ancient Rome was a place of law and order.  As such, dogs had a distinct presence in society as guardians of the galaxy (haha). I mean guardians of the home of course and also utilized as watchdogs. 

There was a common belief as writer Varro comments on the necessity of having two types of dogs – a watchdog and a guard dog to keep you safe in the country. 

In ancient Roman culture, dogs were also thought to be able to sense the dead. Therefore, it was believed that a dog barking (seemingly for no reason) was actually warning us about a spirit or the like which we as humans are not attuned to sense. 

Mesoamerican Dog History

From Argentina to Mexico, the Incas, Mayans, and Aztecs all had a special place for dogs within their cultures. 

The Aztec (1300 – 1521)

Aztec people had dogs in their everyday lives.  Dogs were believed to be the ones who could usher people from the land of the living to the land of the dead. 

But more interesting than this was an interesting tale of how dogs were created.  The Aztec people believed in many gods.  One of the more powerful, almighty gods was named Tezcatlipoca.  Here is the tale:

Tezcatlipoca
Tezcatlipoca

The world has been created and destroyed many times.  The 4th World had been destroyed by a great flood, similar to the Christian story of Noah’s Ark.  A couple of humans drifted ashore after the great flood that had just destroyed the 4th World and they were wet and cold. 

Tata and Nene were the people who had survived.  Tata and Nene rubbed some sticks together and made a fire to cook some food, dry off and offer some warmth after their adventures attempting to survive the great flood.  The smoke from their fire rose into the sky and bothered a couple of whiny stars, Citlallatonac and Citlalicue. 

These whiny stars aka gods complained to the great Tezcatlipoca.  Tezcatlipoca was apparently annoyed at their complaints and with perhaps a bit much effort, tore off the heads of the couple Tata and Nene and reattached their heads to their rear ends, creating the first dogs. 

Now I don’t know about you, but I saw about two minutes of that movie Human Centipede or whatever it was and had to turn it off.  The fact that the Aztec’s dreamed up this tale is an insight into the not always pretty, expanse of human creativity at the very least.

The Mayan (8000 -2000BCE – 1700AD)

Mayan peoples really started to organize as civilization around 2000 BCE but were sort of figuring things out during the 6000 years prior so I thought that time period should be included.  

The Mayan people, like the Chinese, used dogs for various purposes, which did include using them as a food source.  The dogs were kept in pens and bred for eating.  Dogs were also kept as pets and as guard dogs and also utilized for hunting.  Again dogs were thought to usher the dead across the watery expanse to the life found after death.

The Incan and other Andean Civilizations (3200 BCE – 1600 AD)

Peruvian Hairless Dog 1.jpg
By Hookery=Yuri Hooker – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

The Incan Empire was the last of the Great Andean Civilizations. It was noted by the Spaniards to keep 6 different breeds of dogs, one being that shown in the picture above, the Peruvian Hairless Dog. 

The Incans also kept several other species of dogs including the Chiribaya Dog. People who had been mummified were found buried with their dogs.  This breed is presently thought to be extinct.

The Middle East

Mesopotamia

Assyrian Hound
Assyrian Hound

Mesopotamia, the cradle of life.  Human civilization began in ancient Sumer, according to many sources. This is now presently a region approximately located in Southern Iraq. 

Dating back to 3000 BCE, the Mesopotamians may indeed be the first complex civilization we have a historical record and evidence of, but they weren’t the first humans to organize so don’t get too excited. 

We do have some pretty interesting evidence of how dogs this far back sure look like they had similar roles as dogs today.  Here on relief from ancient Mesopotamia we see hunters with their dogs on collar and leash, a sure sign of common domestication.

Conclusion

In closing, dogs have been a best friend to humans for tens of thousands of years. Assuming we survive, it’s likely dogs will continue to dominate the attention of humans as a choice best bud.

Dogs are versatile, intelligent, can be trained to perform a variety of tasks. Depending on the breed, these tasks can be fairly complex. Dogs have many different faces and even more personalities and having a dog house to shelter your dog from the elements, even if it’s just a place for them to hang out in the yard while you sit at your patio, is always a great idea.

Check out more information from my blog on dogs and dog houses and please subscribe at the bottom if you’d like a weekly email with my latest tips, tricks, plans and info relating to dogs and dog houses. Thanks for reading.

Bibliography

  1. Mark, J. J. (2019, January 14). Dogs in the Ancient World. Ancient History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://www.ancient.eu/article/184/
  2. Wikipedia – Glossary of nautical terms
  3. Amin, O. S. M. (2017, August 23). Assyrian Huntsmen with Hounds. Ancient History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://www.ancient.eu/image/6965/
  4. Wikipedia – https://www.wikipedia.org/
  5. Hobgood-Oster, L. A Dog’s History of the World. (Baylor University Press, 2017).

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