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Animals of Ancient Egypt: Dogs and Cats

Dogs and cats are popular companions of humans in today’s society, but the ancient Egyptians had a different concept for the pets they kept. In this article, you will learn about the different kinds of animals that the Egyptians connected with on the home front.

The ancient Egyptians called a wide range of animals their pet. In addition to the usual cat and dog, families kept monkeys, ducks, geese, pigeons, hoopoes, and falcons in their home. To make sure their granaries stayed free of vermin, the Egyptians would also keep ferrets as pets.

Cats in Egyptian Culture

During the Middle Kingdom, the domestication of cats took place , from wild cats that originated in the Delta or the Western Desert. Two main species were associated with the country at the time , the jungle cat and the African wild cat. Not only did the cat serve as a pet, but the animal was also important to the deities that they were linked to. For example, Bast was often depicted as a fierce lion or a woman possessing the head of a lion in her early references. Later on, she made the transition from a lion goddess to cat goddess, and was shown as a woman with the head of a cat.

The earliest evidence that cats were kept as pets dates back to a Predynatic tomb at Mostagedda. The cats of the past would actually assist their master with the hunting and fowling in the marshes. The animal was worshipped by the ancient Egyptians and during the Late Period, the sacred cats were mummified in large numbers. The bodies of the cats were then placed in underground galleries. One of these locations was called Per-Bast (Bubastis). The cat was also important to the Egyptians because it was seen as a personification of Ra, where the sun god was seen as a car when he battles the water serpent Apep.

Dogs in the Egyptian Culture

Dogs appear in art depictions of ancient Egyptians as hunting alongside their masters or serving as watchdogs. However, there is no evidence that shows people petting a dog like a family pet. Dogs were given their own names and often buried with their masters. Examples of common ancient Egyptian dog names include were “Brave One”, “Reliable” and “Good Herdsman”. Other times, the color of the dog played a role in their naming , similar in the way dogs are given their names today.

In ancient Egyptian times, many of the kinds of dogs in the region were related to the basenji, the saluki, and the greyhound. Some believe that relatives of the mastiff and dachshund also existed in ancient Egypt. The shared view on the cat was that it was aloof and full of mystery, while the dog was often seen as a subservient creature. Cultural references would use the dog to launch an insult. For example, people who had been imprisoned were sometimes called ‘the pharaoh’s dogs.’ Despite all of this, the dog and the jackal were sacred to Anubis. The animal would be buried as a sacred creature to pay homage to the god of embalming at the catacombs at Anubieion.