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Animals of Ancient Egypt: Farm Creatures

Early Egyptians domesticated a variety of creatures to use for their survival, including cattle, goats, and pigs. However, they also looked for other ways to make life easier by considering the value of other creatures of the land. In this article, you will encounter other animals that ancient Egyptians found good use for.

There is evidence that shows the ancient Egyptians looked outside the box when it came to the animals that proved worthy to accommodate their lifestyle. The Egyptians entered an experimental period where farmers tested the waters with various creatures not generally viewed as the typical animal found on a farm. They attempted to domesticate animals like cranes, gazelles, and hyenas.

While the Egyptians rarely ate beef and routinely served pork, they also utilized the goat as a food source. Throughout the country, the animals were eaten , even the Egyptians of the upper class included this type of meat as part of their diet.

Goats not only came in handy as a food source. The ancient Egyptians would also use the skin of the goat for many different things, such as making water containers and devices that floated on water. Along with sheep, goats were viewed by the Egyptians as ‘small cattle’. The creatures were kept for their ability to produce milk, meat, and wool. The hides were also beneficial to the Egyptians.

In ancient times, goats were more common than sheep because they were better suited to grazing on poor land. Rearing pigs was also a practice in Egypt. The animals were not used as an offering, but were embraced as a meat in their diets. A great number of pigs were reared throughout Mennefer (Hikuptah, Memphis), Abu (Elephantine), Tell el-Dab’a, and Akhetaten (El-Amarna).  Pigs were also listed as some of the assets of ancient temples.

During the Second Intermediate Period, the Hyksos introduced the horse. The animal grew in abundance (along with the use of chariots) around the New Kingdom. The ancient Egyptians did not use the horse for transportation, but utilized the creatures for ceremonial processions, hunting and during times of war where they were harnessed to the chariot. It was the donkey that found a place in travel amongst the people. The only evidence regarding the riding of horses comes from depictions of single soldiers shown mounted on the animals during battle scenes of the New Kingdom.

Horses were a possession of the wealthy, who were the only people in the land that could afford the animals. Because of this, the horse served as a status symbol. Egyptians and rulers would also pass on the horse to others as a prominent gesture. This practice was commonplace throughout north Africa and the Near East.

Tall horses were not unusual during ancient Egyptian times. For example, the tomb of Senmut was the final resting place of an impressive skeleton of a horse that was a favorite of Hatshepsut (1473-1458 BC).