Documented historical research and photos of ancient artifacts depict how dogs evolved with mankind and what makes your dog so special.
GLORIOUS HISTORY OF THE DOG
by D. Ball
"The dog is part of the glorious creation, made as the guardian of the Aryan peoples, whether it be in household or farm." So says, Ahura Mazda, principle God of the ancient Aryan peoples. The Aryans believed that in the beginning the world was perfect. Evil did not exist and all creation, including the dog, was good. Then Ahriman introduced evil into the world and the earth, for man and dog, was changed forever. The homeland of the Aryans was called Airyane Vaejahi. From this base they traveled to upper India, Russia, Iran, Greece, Italy, Germany, France, England, and Ireland, taking their dogs with them.
The Greeks used the dog, much as their Aryan ancestors did, as guardians of the house and field. There are several types of dogs depicted in Greek art. One type is a greyhound like dog, whose name may have come from the corruption of the Arab word for Greek “grik.” These dogs were coursing hounds and were hunted in packs. They traveled from Greece into Rome and from there were spread throughout the known world. It is even thought that Cleopatra presented Caesar with a dog of this type when she visited Rome.
Mastiff type dogs are thought to have been introduced into Greece by Alexander the Great. These dogs were probably taken from Tibet. Marco Polo, during his eastern travels, spoke of a giant Mastiff found on the Asian Steppes and around the foot hills of the Himalayans, where it was used to guard flocks. Another type of hound called the Ellinikos Ichnilatis was used for hunting in ancient Greece. This Hellenic dogs, who hunted in packs, were called by a variety of names. Greek authors gave them such names as the dogs of Sparta (Lakonics), Locricians, Molossians, Epirotics, Macedonians, Thracians, and Arcadians among others. All of these dogs did “breed” specific work, whether as a war dog, hunter, shepherd dog, or watchdog.
Stories of the dog abound in Greek literature. Homer wrote of Ulysses beloved dog, Argus, who died from joy after seeing his Master for the first time in 20 years. Vulcan was said to have forged the first dog out of bronze and then breathed life into it. From this specimen sprang the mighty three-headed Cerberus who guarded the entrance to the underworld. There is, also, the account of the Actaeon hunter, who chanced upon Diana at her bath, and was turned into a stag and devoured by his own hounds. We, too, can read the true tale of Alcibiades, a disciple of Socrates, who was known for his pranks. Once to the astonishment of the people, He bought a dog, cut off its tail, and paraded it through the streets of Athens, where dogs were forbidden to appear.
Small lap dogs came to be a familiar sight in Greece. Aristotle referred to these tiny white dogs as Canis Melitae. This dog became what is known today as the Maltese. Even poetry was written Canis Melitae.8 In the piece Cynegetica, Oppian recommended the Laconian for its swiftness. He disparaged black and white dogs for the chase, preferring instead that the dogs be of a yellow color.
The Greeks seemed to have been very concerned with the welfare of their breeds. Hippocrates was said to have taken great interest in the dog. His statues often depict him with a dog at his side. Dogs were used to detect whether an unconscious person was dead or alive. When an individual collapsed, the dog would wag its tail and bark if the person was merely unconscious, however if the person was indeed dead, the dog was taught to stand mute, uttering not a sound. The Greeks attributed all the virtues and weaknesses of man to their dogs. The Greek word cynicism comes from Kuon (dog) and was used to denote those who scorned conventions.
Both Greek and Roman illustrations depict the mighty Molossian as a large, well muscled dog. Alexander the Great so admired these Mastiff type dogs, that he named one of his cities for his favorite dog. He used them to bait lions and elephants. The Romans as well admired this type of dog and used it for a variety of purposes. They classified dogs according to the type of work they did, canes villatica (watchdogs), canes pastorals (sheepdogs), and canes vanatici (hunting dogs). Varro in his treatise De Re Rustica spoke of a Mastiff type dog used for guarding the flock, he wrote that the dog should wear a nail studded collar (melium) to protect its neck from the attack of wolves.
One type of dog, which has come down to us, virtually unchanged, is the Neapolitan Mastiff. These large dogs with their loose, tough skin were ideal dogs for both guarding purposes and also as arena dogs. Columelia wrote that these dogs were ideal for guarding, being dark in color, they were not easily seen at night and therefore, could attack with impunity. Many varieties of Mastiff type dogs have developed from the Roman Molossian including the Sennenhunde, Appenzeller, Bermese, and Entlebucher of the Swiss Alps, the Rottweiler of Germany, and the Great Pyreanees, named for the mountain range where they are found. Mastiff type dogs which the Romans called canis pugnaces were brought from Britian to be used in the arena as well. These dogs are thought to have come into Britain with Phoenician traders.
It was the more privileged classes who possessed dogs. Some Romans placed collars of silver about their dogs necks. They wrote elegies and epitaphs for their beloved pets. The Princeps Hadrian even had a sepulcher build to house his deceased canes. Phiny wrote that Caesar reprimanded the women of Rome for neglecting their children in favor of their lap dogs.
The Romans effectively used dogs in combat. Fierce Mastiff type dogs were equipped with their own battle armor, some sprouting cutting points and sharp blades along the sides and backs. They followed their masters into battle, slashing the enemies with their savage teeth. Dogs covered in protective leather were sent into battle with containers of boiling oil attached to their backs. The dogs were often starved before being released into battle to make them more furious. Many Mastiffs were trained to attack the underbelly of horses and so bring down their riders. The Romans also used such dogs to dispatch the enemy wounded after a battle. Some dogs were even used to carry communications. The unfortunate hounds were forced to swallow secret messages incased in metal tubes. When the animals reached their destination, they were gutted so that the message might be retrieved. Recently, skeletons of war dogs have been unearthed, which were buried standing upright, as if guarding their master's interests, even in death.
Dogs were used as sacrificial animals in ancient Rome. During the festival of Lupercalia, February 15th, two goats and a dog were scarified to the God, Pan. This festival celebrated the birth of Rome and the bloody knife used to sacrifice the animals was touched to the forehead of two youths of outstanding birth. After wiping the blood away with wool dipped in milk, the sacrificial animals were then skinned. Their hides were fashioned into whips. The youths, who were naked, ran around the Palatine Hill, whipping all they saw. This was to ensure the fertility of the land and the people. Women who were desirous of becoming pregnant made sure they were positioned in such a way that they might be struck by the bloody whip.
That dogs played a part in the daily life of ordinary Romans can be seen in the ruins of Pompey. The bodies of a small child and his canine companion have been unearthed in that city's ruins. Delta wore a silver collar that said she belonged to Severinus.24 Roman women carried their tiny companions in the sleeves of their garments. The Roman Princeps Claudius owned a small white lap dog and the governor of Malta owned one called Issa of which it was written; "Issa is more precious than jewels form Indian. Lest the days that she see light should snatch her from him forever, Publius has had her picture painted."(Marcus Martialis)
Just as dogs flowed westward with the conquests of Alexander the Great, the Romans took their Mastiffs eastward as the empire expanded, dropping off dogs from the Asian Steppes to the Himalayan Mountains. These dogs came full circle, returning to their point of origin. The Tibetan Mastiff is believed to be the common ancestor of all large herding and guarding breeds. Isolated in the mountains of Tibet for centuries, the Mastiff has remained basically unchanged since the days when the Aryans moved into the steppes of Central Asia. These dogs traveled with the caravans of Tibetan sheepherders and traders, they were expected to defend the flocks and possessions of their owners. Others were used as guardian of the home and temple.
Buddhist Lamas also bred a variety of dogs as companions and watchdogs. These included the common ancestors of Pekingese, Lhasa Apso, Shih Tzu, and Japanese Chin. Moving into India proper, we find the predominate dog to be the Pariah dog. These are medium sized dogs that are found throughout the temperate regions of the world. They live within the human communities but are not owned by any individual. It has even been suggested that these dogs were never domesticated at all, but have always existed in an ownerless state on the fringes of human society. These dogs are now in danger of extinction as their gene pools are corrupted by the introduction of domestic dog DNA and also because these type of dogs are viewed as being detrimental to public good.
Dogs are not kept as pets in India, especially within the lower castes. It is very hard to keep a pet when feeding ones family is a daily priority. From Greek and Roman society, we have seen that dog ownership was a privilege of the upper classes; as it was in English society until the rise of the middleclass, when owning a pet dog became fashionable. Therefore, it was the Kshatriyas class that primarily kept dogs. Most of these breeds came into Indian by way of countries such as Turkey, Iran, and Afghanistan. All of these breeds share a common history. They have the conformation of sight hounds. Carried into India by the numerous invaders that flowed over her, these dogs appear to have been descended from the Sloughi, Greyhound, and Saluki. These dogs undoubtedly followed the mercenaries who entered India on horseback as early as 500 BC. They came to loot and plunder, but they left behind their beautiful sight hounds. These breeds are usually called caravan dogs because of having accompanied the invaders into India.
One such breed is the Pashmi. Long limbed and light of weight, this hound is usually a calm breed but can become aggressive toward strangers. They are found in the areas of southern Maharashtra and northern Karnataka and were used as hunting dogs for the Muslim royals. When the Marathas eventually defeated the Muslims, they departed leaving their hounds behind. Local villagers use them to hunt small game.
The Rampur is another such hound, found in the North West of India. He is a dog of substance kept mainly to hunt jackal, but is also used to bring down wounded game. This breed is described as being bold, impulsive, and easily given to fighting, but he is also said to be very loyal, a single master dog. He is built to cover large distances at great speeds, therefore he is known as a breed of endurance
His feet are said to be hare like and therefore well suited to the hilly and rocky terrain in which he is used for hunting.
Still another hound believed to be descended from the Saluki, is the Mudhol Hound. These hounds come from the northern districts of Karnataka, of which Mudhol was a feudal state. It is said that Sri Srimanth Raja Maloji Rao Ghorpade gave a pair of these hounds to King George the V who dubbed them Mudhol Hounds. One story told about the Mudhol is that a pair brought down a tiger in defense of their master, Shahuji Maharaj. The Chandrashiva family was given the duty of perpetuating the breed and is still doing so today.
In conclusion, the wave of Aryan invaders who swept across Europe into India left a living legacy, not just in language and culture, but in the companion animals we cherish today. When we look at society, we see traces of ancient Greco-Roman history in all areas of our lives, especially in our canine companions. We have our dogs of war, our herding, and lap dogs and even our fighting breeds. If Caesar were resurrected today, would he not be able to say as he did then, Americans lavish more on their pet dogs than many of them lavish on their children? And would not Claudius and Aristotle recognize the Maltese as the tiny breed they loved so many centuries ago? And what of the coursing hounds of Indian, do we not see these breeds emerging at dog shows as the new and coming breeds for the twenty-first century? In short as King Solomon stated, at least as pertains to canis familiaris, "there is truly nothing new under the sun."
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