Historical Dog Facts

January 07, 2021 5 min read

We love dogs, you love dogs, I mean who doesn’t love dogs? Well, how much do you know about the history of dogs? Here are some facts you might not know about your furry friends through history.


Evolution of Dogs and Early Breeds

  • It is thought that all the different types of dogs on Earth are descended from a species called “Tomarctus” that lived 15 million years ago. The oldest known specific breed was called Saluki. These dogs were kept as pets by the Ancient Egyptians
  • Many of the other oldest dog breeds originated in and around Egypt, including the Pharoah hound.
  • Most experts believe humans domesticated dogs before donkeys, horses, sheep, goats, cattle, cats, or chickens. (1)
  • French poodles actually originated in Germany (“poodle” comes from the German pudel or pudelhund, meaning “splashing dog”). (1)
  • Greyhounds are also among the most ancient dog breeds. “Greyhound” comes from a mistake in translating the early German name Greishund, which means “old (or ancient) dog,” not from the color gray. (2)
  • One kind of dog that was common among herders and farmers in the 18th and 19th centuries was the “cur” who was a mix of a sheepdog and a powerful mastiff breed.  These dogs would help guide livestock to market and were highly valued by the farmers.  (3)
  • Bloodhound dogs have a keen sense of smell and have been used since the Middle Ages to track criminals. (2)
  • Spiked collars were originally fashioned in ancient Greece to protect dogs’ throats from wolf attacks. (6)
  • The ancient temple of Gobekli-Tepe in Turkey, dated to at least 12,000 years BCE, has provided archaeologists with evidence of domesticated dogs in the Middle East corresponding to the earliest evidence of domestication, the Natufian Grave, (c. 12,000 BCE) discovered in Ein Mallaha, Israel, in which an old man was buried with a puppy. (4)

Dogs in Modern Life

  • The Labrador has long been the most popular dog among American owners. The American Kennel Club announces statistics on the most popular dogs every year, based on owners who register their pets.
  • If you see your dog spinning around in circles before settling down for a nap, don’t worry about his sanity. This is actually a nesting instinct that is passed down from his ancient ancestors. Dog facts reveal that these animals exhibit a number of strange behaviors that link to this instinct, like furious digging, marking territory, shredding items of material or pawing at things. (1)
  • Dogs curl up in a ball to sleep as an age-old instinct to keep themselves warm and to protect vital organs while they sleep.

Dogs Part of History

Christian Franz Paullini. Line Engraving.

  • The first canine encyclopedia was written in 1685 by Christian Franz Paullini in Nuremburg, Germany.
  • During the Middle Ages, Great Danes and Mastiffs were sometimes suited with armor and spiked collars to enter a battle or to defend supply caravans. (2)
  • The first law on the rights of animals was adopted in Japan in the XVII-XVIII centuries. According to it the punishment for the killing a dog was execution, and citizens had to address to stray dogs as “Your Most Honorable Dog”. (1)
  • In XI century the dog named Saur during three years was the king of Norway, after the head of the state had given up the throne and ordered the court circle to honor the four-legged monarch. (5)
  • Three dogs survived in the sinking of the Titanic: the Newfoundland, the Pomeranian and the Pekingese. (5)

Cultural Facts

Anubis And Dog Ancient Egypt

  • The ancient Egyptians really worshipped their dogs: after the death of their beloved pet owners shaved their eyebrows, smeared their hair with mud, and mourned their dog for a long period of time.
  • The ancient Mbaya Indians of the Gran Chaco in South America believed that humans originally lived underground until dogs dug them up. (1)
  • Mayas every tenth calendar day was devoted to the dog, and those people who were born under this sign were considered to be innate leaders.
  • In ancient Greece, there were guard dogs that participated in the defense of the city. For example, the dog named Soter became famous for warning residents of the Corinth about the coming threat after the entire defensive squad had fallen and it was the only one who survived.
  • The Pekingese and the Japanese Chin were so revered in ancient China that they were worshipped in temples, had their own servants and were offered to the Emperors. These little dogs could be the last resort of self-defense as they were hiding in the sleeve of the owner and in case of danger could jump out of it and rush to the enemy. (5)
  • Dogs were frequently depicted in Greek art, including Cerberus, the three-headed hound guarding the entrance to the underworld, and the hunting dogs which accompanied the virgin goddess of the chase, Diana.
  • Dogs are also prevalent in Chinese myths, appearing as heroes, being magical, or enabling harvests.
  • The eleventh symbol in the cycle of the Zodiac in South East Asia is the dog.
  • The ancient religion Zoroastrianism includes in its religious text a section devoted to the care and breeding of dogs.
  • The term “dog days of summer” was coined by the ancient Greeks and Romans to describe the hottest days of summer that coincided with the rising of the Dog Star, Sirius. (1)
  • the Sumerian goddess Innana (Ishtar) travels with seven prized hunting dogs in collar and leash.

Influential people and Leaders

  • One French monarch (King Henry III, 1551-1589) was so obsessed with dogs, that he ended up housing over 2,000 dogs during his life, many of whom were miniature or toy breeds.  According to the Guinness Book of Pet Records, King Henry III had a reputation for paying someone to steal a dog he liked if it was not for sale. (3)
  • George Washington was an admirer of the English Hound. He owned 36 dogs!
  • President Franklin Roosevelt created a small international incident when he sent the destroyer, for his Scottish Terrier Faloy, who accidentally had been left on one of the Aleutian Islands.
  • Plato once said that “a dog has the soul of a philosopher.”
  • Former Beatle Paul McCartney recorded a special high pitched sound at the end of ‘A Day in the Life’ – the last song on the Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album – that would be audible only to dogs at 15 kilohertz. Dogs are able to detect frequencies of sound that are inaudible to the human ear. Paul McCartney is a dog lover and animal activist; this was a fun prank to make dogs really pay attention to the album!
  • The first Hollywood superstar dog was Rin Tin Tin. When it was five days old it was wounded on the battlefield of the World War I and was nursed by American soldier called Lee Duncan. Rin Tin Tin played in many films and even “signed” its own contracts by the paws print.
  • The most dogs ever owned by one person were 5,000 Mastiffs owned by Kublai Khan, Mongolian general and successor to Genghis Khan (1)
  • The name of the dog on the Cracker Jacks box is Bingo. The Taco Bell Chihuahua is a rescued dog named Gidget.



  1. https://www.factretriever.com/dog-facts
  2. https://www.caliraw.com/blogs/news/101-interesting-dog-facts-for-dog-lovers
  3. https://pawversity.com/history-and-society/historical-facts-about-dogs
  4. https://www.ancient.eu/article/184/dogs-in-the-ancient-world/
  5. https://petolog.com/articles/history-facts-about-dogs.html
  6. https://www.thedrakecenter.com/services/dogs/blog/23-amazing-facts-about-dogs-you-probably-didnt-know
  7. https://dogs.lovetoknow.com/wiki/Famous_Dogs_in_History

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