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Tutankhamun’s Lurcher

By December 7, 2015History Post
Tutankhamun hunting dog fan

Dogs were very popular pets in ancient Egypt for all classes from labourers up to the Pharaoh and that the Egyptians loved and cared for their dogs just as much as we do is apparent from the veterinary papyri uncovered from ancient Egypt. Pets also shared in the afterlife with their owners as we can see by their inclusion in tomb paintings and human burials as well as discoveries of thousands of mummified dogs. Egyptologists have identified over 75 dog names from the wall painting in tombs and temples and from leather collars that have survived from the time and while some names are obviously endearments most are more factual, describing the dog’s color or character. So we have a Blacky along with Brave One, Reliable, Good Herdsman, North-Wind, Antelope but there is in fact a “Useless” (Probably a Lurcher!)

Most of the dogs that appear in Egyptian art show the form of a typical Sighthound with erect pointed ears and a short curly tail as in today’s Basenji which comes originally from central Africa.  However the dog featured on the magnificent gold fan from Tutankhamun’s tomb looks very much like today’s Greyhound or Lurcher.

The bones recovered from archaeological digs have not been subjected to systematic studies, but those bones that have been examined generally belong to mutts. (sound familiar?). Of course this shouldn’t be that surprising as while good dogs would obviously be chosen for breeding, crossing with other types must have been the norm. So while it’s true that more comprehensive DNA testing needs to be conducted, and the impact of selective breeding needs to be taken in to account as well, developments in DNA testing offers exciting possibilities for identifying ancient Egyptian breeds or types of dog. It had long been assumed that the Pharaoh hound was an old Egyptian breed but recent DNA research has shown that it actually appears to be a modern breed originating from Malta, and the name was given to the breed during the 1920’s because they look like the dogs in Egyptian art!