6 Energetic Egyptian Dog Breeds That Will Keep You on Your Toes
While Egyptian cats are frequently considered the favored pets of pharaohs, Egyptian dog breeds had a place of prominence throughout history as well. However, they didn't start off that way.
Jerry Klein, DVM, is the chief veterinary officer for the American Kennel Club (AKC). He tells Daily Paws that ancient Egyptians thought of dogs as livestock and were reared on farms. "Some species were domesticated, and those were used as working animals either to guard or to hunt," he says.
Klein says in his experience, Egyptian dogs tend to have few illnesses seen in later developed breeds, such as diabetes or chronic metabolic disease. Healthy, intelligent, eager to go, and beautiful? We'll take two, please!
The Significance of Dogs in Ancient Egypt
In 2021, Polish researchers reported the archeological findings of a dedicated pet cemetery in Egypt approximately 2,000 years old that contained various animals. Of its occupants, nearly 3 percent were monkeys, about 5 percent dogs—and 91 percent cats! So it obviously took quite a while before dogs nuzzled their way into the ranks of nobility. "Eventually, some Egyptians enjoyed the companionship of their dogs so much that some dogs were mummified and buried with their owners," Klein says.
Interestingly, Anubis is the Egyptian god of the dead and embalming. A patron of lost souls, he's not so much an Egyptian dog god as represented by a man with a jackal's head—or a jackal or another type of dog in full form. (The history on this is a tad murky). Also known as Anpu, his likeness can be found in tombs dating back to the country's 1st dynasty, as well as those for Tutankhamun and Rameses the Great, who were buried with artifacts honoring their personal pet dogs, too.
Here's another fun fact: according to the World History Encyclopedia, "Egyptians are credited with the invention of the dog collar (though it was probably first used in Mesopotamia), as an early wall painting dated c. 3500 BCE depicts a man walking his collared dog on a leash." Initially fashioned out of leather, collars became more ornate over time depending on the breed wearing them, often engraved with names such as 'Brave One', 'Reliable', and 'North Wind'.
We love mysterious Gift of the Nile kitties beyond comprehension, but it seems Egyptian dogs deserve a little more attention. So take a peek below to find familiar breeds—and maybe a surprise or two!
Klein says the Pharaoh hound is identical to the images of dogs depicted in Egyptian art and sculpture over 5,000 years ago. In fact, a translation of a 3,000 year old passage in Egyptian hieroglyphics states, "The red long-tailed dog goes at night into the stalls of the hills … he makes no delay in hunting, his face glows like a god and he delights to do this work."
Sometimes referred to as Egyptian Pharaoh dogs, these smart and playful sociable pooches are also the national dog of Malta, an island located in the Mediterranean Sea northwest of Egypt. Apt runners and easy to train, Pharaohs are sweet-natured, four-legged family members—and something else? "When they're happy, a Pharaoh hound's ears and nose may 'blush' deep red," Klein says. Is that not the cutest thing you've ever heard?
Ready for her supermodel close-up in either a smooth or feathered coat of many colors, the elegant saluki is a gentle, bright, and independent canine companion who responds well to positive reinforcement training. Frequently called the royal Egyptian dog and considered the oldest domesticated dog breed, Klein says they were prized hunting hounds throughout the Middle East for thousands of years. "Legend has it that only the saluki was deemed worthy of staying inside the tent with the hunter," he adds.
Naturally a fan of warm weather and swift on sand, she might become your new beach buddy! But note that as a sighthound, she has a high prey drive, so it's best to have a large fenced area for her to roam in and stay safe, otherwise, her chase instincts kick in—and none of us will catch her! Among AKC-recognized breeds, the saluki is the fastest over long distances, reaching speeds of 40 mph.
See, it's the name—how can the loyal but sensitive Ibizan hound be an Egyptian dog breed? Heritage. "Though sighthounds with tall, erect ears were prevalent in Egypt, scholars can only speculate how these types of dogs were brought to the Balearic Islands—probably by the Phoenicians," Klein says. Ibiza is part of that island chain off the coast of Spain. Additionally, a statue of Anubis in Tutankhamun's tomb is believed to be an Ibizan hound.
Nicknamed 'Beezers', these highly-active and outgoing family-friendly Fidos love to explore the great outdoors, darting up hiking trails or dashing into the surf for a quick swim. And they're springy! Klein adds this breed can jump 6 ft. high, so as you're creating an agility course in the backyard for this smart pup, make sure the fence around it is tall. Really, really tall.
The word iwiw means dog in Egyptian, which supposedly refers to the sound of their bark. However, the famed Basenji doesn't bark as much as yodel! A little more cat-like in his temperament, he's intelligent enough to learn many new tricks.
"Though the distant ancestors of the Basenji can be traced to ancient Egypt," Klein says, "he's more well associated as a medium-sized, fine-boned general-purpose dog used for hunting in Central Africa such as the Sudan, Zaire, and the Congo." Nevertheless, there's a rumor that Anubis is also based on an image of the Basenji. You can tell by his furrowed brow he's a bit puzzled by the Ibizan comparison as well.
Baladis are Egyptian street dogs, and while not an official ancient Egyptian dog breed, they're believed to be a mix of Pharaoh hound, saluki, and Canaan dog—the national dog of Israel. Thus, Klein says they can't be described in appearance or personality with predictability—as is often the case with mixed breed dogs!
Also referred to as Thebes Land dogs, baladi means 'of the country', according to Egyptian Streets, which seems like the perfect moniker for these strong survivors. But it's unlikely you'll find them in the U.S. "Many were being brought to the U.S. for adoption until a recent (2019) law issued by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) banned the practice," Klein says. "The CDC cited multiple instances of dogs that contracted rabies in Egypt being brought to the U.S. in recent years as a reason for the decision." Currently, the CDC requires written approval and adherence to other stipulations to import any dogs from Egypt.
Here's our mystery Egyptian dog breed: the Armant, also known as the Ermenti or the Egyptian sheepdog. Native to upper Egypt along the banks of the Nile, the Egyptian Kennel Foundation (EKF) lists him as one of the country's top loyal herding dogs, but he's relatively unknown otherwise. It's possible the Armant has some Briard heritage, a French breed that might have accompanied Napoleon's armies in Egypt some 200 years ago.
EKF, along with the Egyptian Armant Herding Dog Club, is trying to generate more recognition for the breed. Now that pandemic sanctions are lifted for dog shows, maybe this shaggy pup will make an international appearance soon and become a new fan favorite.