9 Mythological Dogs We Wish Were Real (Video) - Simply For Dogs
Mythological Dogs

9 Mythological Dogs We Wish Were Real (Video)

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Hey guys it’s Ash. Halloween is officially over but that doesn’t mean that I’ve stopped thinking about all the cool and scary myths that pop up around this season. We’ve spoken about some dog myths before on the blog with “9 Giant Dogs in Myth and Legend but today I wanted to talk about some dogs that maybe weren’t so giant.

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Dogs were, to the best our historians can tell, the first wild animal that humans domesticated. That means that they’ve been an integral part of our history, and therefore our legends, since the early days. It’s no wonder that you can find stories about mythological dogs from just about every ancient civilization you can name. Here a just a few to tickle your imagination:

1. Anubis

Anubis is a jackal-headed god from ancient Egypt who was in charge of the afterlife. Wait, I can hear you saying, a jackal isn’t a dog! From time to time, Anubis is shown as a black dog rather than as a jackal-headed man, and his main cult was located in a place called Cynopolis, the “city of dogs”. Later, the Greeks and Romans associated Anubis with the idea of Sirius, their version of the heavenly afterlife. Anubis was like the guardian that stood at the gates. Egyptians often showed dogs in the artwork on their tombs, and many of those dogs look like Greyhounds and Ibizan Hounds. Want your dog to channel this canine deity? This Anubis stainless steel pet tag caught my eye!

2. Cerberus

If Anubis guarded the gates to heaven, Cerberus was his hellish counterpoint. This dog guarded the gates to Hades, and he had three heads! Many historians believe that the three heads represent the past, present, and future. Cerberus’ job isn’t to stop people from getting into Hades, but to stop them from getting out. In modern times, Cerberus has lost some of its hellish nature, and has come to be seen more as a symbol of guardianship and protection. This Cerberus funeral urn for pet ashes is one way to ensure that a beloved late pet is protected by this mythological guardian. Younger readers might recognize a three-headed guardian as Fluffy from Harry Potter, which was drawn from this myth.

3. Argos

In Greek mythology, Argos was the dog who belonged to Odysseus. His story is one that always puts a smile on my face. The way it goes, Odysseus adopted Argos as a very small pup, and then had to leave to go fight the Trojan War. He was gone a total of 20 years between the fighting and the travel, so that by the time he returned, no one recognized him. Odysseus may not have helped that fact out by showing up disguised as a beggar, but he’d been through some pretty rough stuff. So here he is, looking like a beggar, waiting to see if his wife, son, or servants would know him. None did. And then here comes 20-year-old Argos, who’d been waiting for his master’s return. The story goes that Argos recognized his master, wagged his tail, and then died. It’s really very tragic but also a great testament to the loyal nature of dogs. If there was ever a dog that deserved a treat (specially made for his older joints, of course), it was Argos.

4. Culain

There is a myth in Ireland about a man named Cuchulain, who was a great warrior. But did you know that his story, and his whole existence as a warrior at all, started with a dog? When Cuchulain was a boy, his name was Setanta. He was visiting a man with a hound dog named Culain, who was apparently very fierce. Young Setanta killed the dog – some stories say in self-defense – and was so sad by what he had done that he changed his name and swore that he would now take on the role of that dog. That is how he became the warrior that defended not only that dog’s owner, but the whole of Ulster. Cuchulain was granted legendary strength and a supernatural ability to defend Ulster because of his willingness to make up for killing the dog. I think that’s a fitting way to make up for Culain’s loss.

5. Garm

In Norway, the mythology goes that the world of the dead is watched over by a giant monster dog named Garm. The Norse myths say that at the end of the world, Garm will do two things: He will battle the dog Tyr, and he will swallow the moon. At the end of this battle, both Garm and Tyr will die. Eating the moon may not be so good for you after all!

6. Fu Dog

Dogs have been domesticated in Chain for thousands of years, so it’s no wonder that they play a big part in the mythology there. The Fu Dog is the guardian dog that often looks a bit lion-ish, that stands in front of sacred buildings even today. These little statues are even sold as good luck charms for your home. Many people refer to dogs that were bred to guard temples in China, such as the Shar Pei, as Fu Dogs, because of their similar roles. While many mythological dogs are considered fierce or terrifying, the Fu Dog is considered to be a very positive symbol of happiness and good luck. I have a particular fondness for this myth myself, because I think dogs are the biggest source of happiness in the world.

7. The Hound of the Baskervilles

This may not be the same type of mythology that the rest of the dogs on this list come from, but I think it counts. The Hound of Baskervilles is a monstrous mythical dog that was created by Arthur Conan Doyle for a Sherlock Holmes book. The dog was actually drawn from stories about a man named Richard Cabell, who was a real person who lived in the 1600s. He was a man who loved hunting, and who was said to have sold his soul to the devil.  Supposedly a pack of phantom demon dogs went hunting with him every year on the anniversary of his death, and the story became a local legend in the area. Doyle’s book took the legend of these demon dogs and transformed it into a singular Hound. These days, the Hound of Baskervilles is considered part of the local folklore.

8. Xolotl

Xolotl was an Aztec deity that not only appeared to have a dog head and dog’s paws, but was also associated with traveling with a pack of dogs. This deity was, naturally, in charge of death and the underworld. It was believed that Xolotl and his dogs led souls to the underworld after death. There is a connected myth from the Mayans that says that dogs were actually responsible for bringing fire to mankind, so Xolotl is often depicted as carrying a torch. In Mayan art, Xolotl is just depicted as a large dog directly. It’s interesting to me that so many dog myths revolve around protecting and guiding our souls after death – almost as if we know that we’ll need a friendly face after that last big adventure.

9. Hecuba

This story comes from Greek mythology. Hecuba was a fierce woman, the Queen of Troy, who led the country through wars and many other significant situations. At one point in her story, Hecuba was turned into a dog, and the best part of this story is that she didn’t let that stop her. According to the myth, she was every bit as fierce and bold as a dog, as she was as a woman. It happened when she was seeking revenge on a King who had killed her son. As the King’s protector tried to stop her, Hecuba turned into a dog so that he couldn’t stop her. Talk about a fierce mother in action!

Read More Dog Myths!

I personally love stories about dog myths, no surprise to anyone reading this blog. So I’ve got a few books on my shelves about dogs in myth that I would really recommend. Here are a few places you can find out about even more amazing dogs in mythology:

Dogs: History, Myth, Art by Catherine Johns is a text book that you can pick up for under 20 bucks on Amazon. This is a fantastic book that talks about the history of dogs as domesticated animals, but also goes pretty in depth into the presence of dogs in mythology. You’ll find out all about Greek, Assyrian, Japanese, Victorian English, and other types of mythology from the point of view of the dog. You’ll also learn a lot about dog cousins like wolves and foxes, and how their presence in mythology differs from dogs.

 

Myths of the Dog-Man by David Gordon White is another very scholarly book that talks about the myth of dogs as rulers of the underworld, and dog-man hybrids. It took me a while to really get into this one, but once it started to talk about how dogs were a big part of medieval Christian myths, I got really into it. It’s a unique take that I haven’t read much about elsewhere.

 

Dogs of Myth: Tales from Around the World by Loretat Hausman is a less scholarly, more entertaining retelling of dog myths from all over the globe. There are 13 stories about dogs that include all aspects of doggie behavior. From trickster myths to the story of the Husky that accidentally ushered Death into the world, you’ll find all kinds of fun stories in this one. There’s also a very lovely story about the first man and the first dog, and why some cultures believe that man and dog were always meant to be companions. I really like re-reading this one every few months.

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Dogs of Myth: Tales From Around the World

The Final Word

Alright, so I may love talking about this kind of thing, but I can hear many people asking why this matters. Well, there are a couple of reasons I think it’s fun to talk about the legends of dogs.

One, I think it’s a great place to get some inspiration for naming a dog or adopting a dog. If you’ve been wanting to get a pet, but weren’t sold on a dog, it’s fun to read some of these myths and realize just how amazing we’ve always thought dogs are. Want to give your new dog a name that means something? You can check out some cool myths and get some inspiration! Why not name your dog Argos, Cabal (King Arthur’s legendary dog), Fenris (a wolf-like offspring of Loki), or Soter (a watchdog of ancient Greece that survived an attack by invaders by itself out of a pack of 50!)?

Two, I think it’s a great way to remind yourself to appreciate your dogs. Living with Janice and Leroy every day, it’s easy to get into the rut of going through the motions. We wake up, we go outside, we eat, we clean up messes, we sleep…it’s hard to remember that you’re living with an amazing creature who has spent the last several centuries as the perfect companion for your species! So, reading up on these dog myths helps me remember that Janice and Leroy come from a long and beautiful history, and that makes me very grateful for living with them.

Finally, I just think it’s fun! These stories are unique and interesting looks at the way humans have interpreted their faithful friends for centuries, and I love the fact that we’ve always thought dogs amazing since the very beginning of time. It gives me just a little bit of hope in humanity when I see that we have included dogs in our stories from the start.

I hope you enjoyed learning a bit about these amazing myths, and that you’ll check out some more on your own! If you find one that I didn’t list here, feel free to comment – I love learning about new dog myths that I didn’t know before.

Sources:

http://www.petyak.com/dogs/general/articles/dogs-in-mythology/

http://www.lowchensaustralia.com/names/dognames.htm

About the Author Ash

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