The ancient Egyptians were known for their mighty stone pyramids and elaborate tombs, but their legacy spreads far beyond this. Some of the most important lasting relics of the ancient Egyptians are their domesticated Egyptian dog breeds.
The ancient Egyptians are thought to have been some of the first people to domesticate the dog, and many of these breeds are still with us today. From the Pharaoh Hound to the Saluki, here are 5 Egyptian dog breeds that offer us a living insight into ancient history!
5 Egyptian Dog Breeds
The ancient Egyptians had a close association with animals. Many of their gods drew influence from the animal kingdom, including cats, Nile crocodiles, and of course, the dark black Egyptian dog head of the god Anubis!
The ancient Egyptians started domesticating and breeding dogs 5000 years ago, creating Egyptian guard dog breeds, the Egyptian hairless dog, and dogs that were adept at hunting for their royal masters.
Ancient Egypt revered the dog, and as loyal companions, dogs often followed their pharaohs to the afterlife and were depicted in lasting artwork and hieroglyphics. These dogs were revered for their skills and are often athletic in build and hard-wired to chase game. Many of these breeds have survived relatively unchanged until today, offering us a unique insight into domestication and the history of human-dog relations.
Modern Egypt is a very different place from ancient Egypt, however. Recent history has, of course, bred more modern dogs (such as the Baladi Street Dog) that, while claiming ancestry from ancient breeds, are themselves unique.
Many of the “ancient” or “original” Egyptian breeds are no longer found in Egypt but are more likely to be native to other parts of Africa and the Mediterranean. Of course, with increasing interest in their heritage and breeding, these ancient Egyptian dogs are now being taken in and homed all over the world.
We’ll be looking at the following 5 Egyptian and ancient Egyptian dog breeds in more detail:
- Pharaoh Hound
- Baladi Street Dog
- Ibizan Hound
#1. Pharaoh Hound
The Pharaoh Hound is as elegant and noble as it was in the days of the ancient Egyptians.
Known for their slender yet athletic build, these tall dogs have prickly ears that are always pointing towards the skies.
The Pharaoh Hound is thought to date back at least 5000 years, making it one of the oldest known breeds of domesticated dogs in the world. But while these hounds are said to have hunted alongside the Pharaohs of Egypt, they are more likely to be found on the island of Malta today.
The Maltese have adopted the Pharaoh Hound as their national dog, and they are still adept at tracking down rabbits and small game in the countryside. They are just as happy at home, though, using a bed ramp for dogs to cuddle up on the couch with their owners!
The Egyptian Pharaoh may be regal in appearance, but is also kind, friendly, and affectionate once you get past its proud exterior.
Average height: 23 inches
Average weight: 50 pounds
Physical characteristics: Large pointy ears that stand tall and long slender legs. Smooth coats are only tan in color.
#2. Baladi Street Dog
The Baladi Street Dog is one of modern Egypt’s most numerous and infamous dogs. Technically, the Baladi Street Dog isn’t actually a breed of dog. Rather, this is the name given to the numerous breeds, crossbreeds, and mongrels that live an undomesticated life on the streets - they are street dogs with no owners.
The Baladi Street Dog is found everywhere, and for many years they were simply seen as strays - which often led to short lives and lots of abuse. Recently, campaigns have brought about much more awareness in Egypt of the local street dogs and their tough lives, and they are gaining some level of appreciation.
There are more neutering campaigns to keep numbers low, and of course, there are plenty of dogs that make it to the rescue home- many street dogs have even crossed international borders to find new homes with a loving family abroad!
Average height: varies
Average weight: varies
Physical characteristics: varies, depending on their breeding.
The Saluki is perhaps as old as the Pharaoh Hound, and some say it’s even older. Like the Pharaoh Hound, the Saluki was an ancient Egyptian hunting dog, and with a continuous history dating back 5000 years, the Saluki is one of the original ancient Egyptian dog breeds – and it’s survived almost unchanged until today.
The Saluki is a sighthound, and they were bred by the pharaohs to be royal hunters. They were highly regarded, even appearing as images in the tombs or on the gravestones of mighty pharaohs and kings across the ancient world.
Salukis are super fast and very agile, as they’ve lost little of the sharpness over the centuries that made them such famed hunters. They need a lot of exercise, but in the right environment, their looks and affectionate nature will endear them to anyone.
Average height: 25 inches
Average weight: 50 pounds
Physical characteristics: Incredibly long, yet wonderfully soft ears and an equally soft, yet short fur coating. Have a mixture of red, white, brown, and tan colorings.
The Basenji is an ancient breed of dog that is thought to have been domesticated and bred by the ancient Egyptians. Strikingly similar images of Basenji-like images have been found in tombs across ancient Egypt, making this a contender for one of the oldest domesticated dogs in the world.
While you’re unlikely to find a Basenji in modern Egypt, the breed spread out across Africa and became associated with the Congo (the name Basenji is actually a Congolese name). Basenji were prized in ancient Egypt and then in Central Africa for their supreme hunting skills.
Today you’ll find them in homes across the world, too, where their unique look and ancient heritage are prized over their hunting abilities. At 5000 years old, this is a direct ancestor of one of the first breeds of dog, and their pointy ears and curly tail make for a unique appearance!
Average height: 16 inches
Average weight: 22 pounds
Physical characteristics: Red, brown, or tan top coats often with black or white legs or bellies. Pointy ears and distinctive curly tails.
#5. Ibizan Hound
The Ibizan Hound is today considered a native of the Balearic Islands, off the coast of Spain, but this unique breed of dog can be chased back thousands of years to Ancient Egypt.
They aren’t common in modern Egypt but are thought to have been favored and bred for their hunting skills by the pharaohs, alongside other regal breeds such as the Pharaoh Hound.
The Ibizan Hound is still a hunter today, and they have been prized by Balearic Islanders for centuries - since they were brought over from Egypt along the Mediterranean trade routes.
Ibizan Hounds revel in the outdoors, and they need to live an outdoor lifestyle, with lots of space and opportunities to exercise to be happy.
Average height: 25 inches
Average weight: 45 pounds
Physical characteristics: Smooth coats that are red or white, or red and white in color. Long, elegant, yet sharp ears and a slender build.
Egyptian Dog Breeds: The Last Word
Ancient Egyptian dog breeds (and don’t forget the modern Egyptian dog breeds, too) are an incredible legacy of domestication. While they are often adept hunters with a regal appearance and attitude, they are also kind and affectionate when given a caring home.
Perhaps best of all, these ancient dogs are relics of ancient Egypt that are tangible today. They are living, breathing reminders of the lost civilizations that first domesticated the dog and shaped the world that we know and live in today!
Why not bookmark our guide to Egyptian dog breeds, so you can find the perfect dog for your household?