1902 Encyclopedia > Dog > Dogs and Humans over the Centuries

(Part 2)

Remains of the dog, of Neolithic age, occur in the kitchen-middens of Denmark, and in similar deposits in Switzerland. In Denmark the earliest known dog is followed, in the Bronze period, by a larger breed, and that by a still larger from in the succeeding or Iron period; while a somewhat similar succession occurs in Switzerland. These successive changes, however, may merely indicate the appearance in those countries of new races of prehistoric man, who brought with them their own dogs.

In historic times the earliest records of the dog are to be found in the figures of these animals on Egyptian monuments from three to five thousand years old; and these show that thus early, such varieties as the hound greyhound, watch-dog, and turnspit were cultivated on the banks of the Nile. By the ancient Egyptians the dog was worshipped under the title Anubis, as the genius of the River Nile, -- the appearance of Sirius, the dog star, corresponding with the time of the annual rise of that river. The city of Cynopolis was built in its honour, and there its worship was carried on with great pomp. Certain kinds of dogs were regularly sacrificed to Anubis, their bodies being afterwards embalmed; and occasionally the mummies of these are still found.

The earliest record of the dog in sacred history is in connection with the sojourn of the Israelites in Egypt; and the religious homage paid to it by their oppressors may probably explain why the Jews were taught to regard it as unclean.

Under Moslem law, which in many matters was founded upon Jewish practices, the dog occupies an equally degraded position; and throughout Mahometan countries at the present day, their generally wretched condition bears ample testimony to the neglect and ill-treatment to which centuries they have been subjected. The pariah dogs of Eastern cities know no master; they prowl about the streets in troops, eating whatever garbage may come in their way, thus serving the useful purpose of scavengers, and occasionally receiving a meal from the more humane of the inhabitants. On no account, however, must even the garments of an Orthodox Mahometan de defiled by their touch, and such is the intelligence and sagacity of these ownerless curs that, having become aware by painful experience of this religious prejudice, they seem to take the greatest care to avoid giving such offence.

The value set upon the dog by the Egyptians seems to have been shared in by the ancient Greeks and Romans, who possessed many breeds closely allied to still existing forms. Those early breeds, however, are remarkable for the entire absence of pendulous ears, which do not make their appearance till near the decline of the Roman empire.

By both Greeks and Romans they were employed in the chase, and in war, and for the latter purpose they were armed with spiked collars, and sometimes even with a coat of mail. Corinth was said to have been saved by 50 war dogs, which attacked the enemy that had landed while the garrison slept, and which fought with unbounded courage till all were killed except one, which succeeded in rousing the garrison. Shakespeare thus put no figure of speech in the mouth of Antony when he exclaims --

"Cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of war."

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