Early Hounds of the Southern Mediterranean

Hunting Dogs of Ancient EgyptHunting Dogs of Ancient EgyptAround 5,000 BC a distinct type of hunting dog existed as a sacred animal protecting villages in the Southern Mediterranean. It appeared to be an early type of Gazehound or Sight Hound. Often also called a Greyhound used for hunting antelope that invaded the forests that were to become the Sahara Desert.

Egyptian Hounds c 3,000 BCEgyptian Hounds c 3,000 BC

Despite the name by which it is often called, it was quite different to the modern Greyhound. Some images depict this dog with pricked ears, somewhat like the Pharaoh Hound of today, others depict it with dropped ears looking more like a smooth coated Saluki. Whatever one chooses to call it, this long legged sleek Gaze Hound gives us a distinct type of dog.

These first purpose-bred hunting dogs, descended from the original Peat Dogs of Europe, the Livestock Guardian dogs of Eurasia, combined with the sleek Gazehounds of the Mediterranean, were selectively crossed and back-crossed again until, by the 14th Century the sport of hunting had developed among the nobility and those of influence. The dog became respected in its own right, with two distinct types of hunting dogs, Scent Hounds and Sight Hounds emerging, many named after the prey which the hunted for example the Deerhound hunted deer, the Staghound hunted male deer, the Wolfhound hunted wolves and the Boarhound is an ancient European breed which used to hunt wild boar (pigs or swine). These dogs were prized and respected, with some favourites even being allowed to share their masters' couches! The sport of hunting had entrenched the dog-man relationship and proved that dogs could be purpose bred.

Through the sport of hunting this respect for the dog could be summed up by this piece of advice from the French huntsmen of Souabe whose early manual on stag (male Deer) hunting written around 1450 AD states:

'If you want to become a master, it is necessary to hunt stag with a Bloodhound for a long time and you will see that it will teach you many things'.[3] 

The Hunting Dog (1570 AD)

In 1570, Dr. Johannes Caius wrote in Latin the first classification of hunting dogs. This was translated into English by A Fleming in 1576[2]. The original translation of this important work is in my opinion too difficult to read to be printed in its original form. So it appears here as my interpretation in modern English.

Caius 1Caius 1

Caius 2Caius 2

I call them English Dogs but it also includes Scottish. But we Englishmen are more inclined and delighted with the noble game of hunting. We are addicted to this exercise, which includes obtaining the plentiful flesh which our parks and forests do foster, and also for the opportunity and convenient leisure which we obtain, both of which, the Scots want.

Wherefore seeing that the whole estate of kindly hunting consists principally of these two points:

  1. In chasing the beast, as in hunting
  2. In taking the bird as in fowling

It is necessary to understand, that there are two sorts of dogs; by whose means, these above specified practices of activity are cunningly end curiously carried out:

So, there are two kinds of dogs

  1. One which arouses the beast, and continues the chase
  2. The other which springs the bird, and points to where it flies

The hunting dogs had these qualities:

  1. Perfect smelling
  2. Quick spying
  3. Swiftness and quickness
  4. Smelling and Nimbleness

References and Further Reading

[1] Late Neolithic megalithic structures at Nabta Playa (Sahara) southwestern Egypt, Fred Wendorf and Romuald Schild 2000

[2] Dr John Caius, "Of Englishe Dogges: The Diuersities, the Names, the Natures, and the Properties", London, 1576, translated into English by Abraham Fleming, pages 8-9. The work was originally published in Latin in 1570 as "Johannes Caius, De Canibus Britannicis"

[3] Fernand Mery 'The Life, History and Magic of the Dog' Pub. 1970 Madison Square Press English Translation  New York Chapter 3 Page 53