Ancient Egyptian Domesticated Dogs

Tsm = sign for Tesem, a prehistoric sighthound
This small dog now resides in the Walters Art Museum, in Baltimore, Maryland. 71.622
This small dog now resides in the Walters Art Museum, in Baltimore, Maryland. 71.622
Also in the museum is a small figurine of a lioness, believed to be a figurine from an Ancient Egyptian board game known as, “Mehen”.

Made from the ivory from a hippopotamus, this dog was a figure piece from a game called “Mehen”, also known as The Serpant Game. Knowing the game pre-dates the period from which this collared dog was likely created in, it tells us that Egyptians had domesticated the dog possibly long before the unified Egypt even began as a kingdom.

Three types of dogs seen in Egyptian monuments, as documented in this fascimile from 1891.
Mummy of a dog discovered within Tomb KV50.
Dogs with collar and leads, as depicted within the private funerary Mastaba of Mereruka.
Old Kingdom, 6th Dynasty, c. 2345-2181 B.C.
Saqqara Necropolis.

To this very day, despite the domesticated dog being a pet to some Egyptians, you will see free independent dogs roaming the streets of Egypt’s cities. Known as the Baladi dogs, they are rather unique to Egypt, as they fit under no specific breed and have evolved rather differently from domesticated dogs, as they are able to survive alone and are seemingly content living their life among Egyptian society as free roaming beings. Yet, it seems that the Ancient Egyptians had long domesticated the species, as the ivory dog with a collar as seen above, was discovered in El Balyana, Abydos and dates from the very early beginnings of unified Egypt, approximately c. 2850 B.C. (late 1st Dynasty – 2nd Dynasty).

Egyptian street dogs, 2023.
Egyptian street dogs, 2023.