Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Greyhounds In Greece

Since a lot of the sculptures we saw at Allerton Park over the weekend had some Grecian influence to it, I thought it would be fun to tell a little bit about Greyhounds and their ties to ancient Greece.

Greyhounds originated in Egypt, and were highly revered there.  Greyhounds could never be sold there, but could be given as gifts to dignitaries.  One of the earliest instances of this happening was in 1475 BC.  Queen Hatshepsut had sent an expedition to the land now known as Somalia, but at that time it was known as Punt.  She was very keen to acquire some myrrh and wanted live myrhh trees as well.  So, according to James Henry Breasted, an Egyptologist she traded four of her finest Greyhounds for "31 living myrhh trees, electrum, eye cosmetics, ebony, ivory shells, a live southern panther, many panther skins, 3,300 small cattle, huge piles of myrhh twice a man's height and large rings of commercial gold weighed in tall balances ten feet high."  I guess Greyhounds were pretty darned valuable back then.  Eventually, Greyhounds began to appear along all the major trade routes.  As in Egypt, all dogs held a place of honor in Greek society. 

Pythagoras, a mathematician and philosopher who died in approximately 497 BC had a school of followers.  Aside from that theory that now dogs everyone who comes into Algebra class, he and his followers believed, amongst other things, that if you held a dog to the mouth of a dying person, the person's soul would enter the dog's body.  This was considered desirable because only a dog was considered worthy of recieving a the virtues of a person.  In what might be the first anti-cruelty act recorded, Pythagoras stopped a man from beating a dog because he claimed to hear the voice of a friend in the dog's cries.

It is believed that Hippocrates liked dogs.  He often depicted them in his art.  Interestingly, he never wrote about them, but he is often portrayed with a dog and snake lying near his feet.

Homer, the Greek poet, is the first author to ever mention a hound in literature.  When Odysseus returns after being gone for twenty years, his dog, Argos is the only one to recognize him.  Thousands of years later, the passage of Odysseus' homecoming still captures the canine spirit.

Greyhounds even managed to make thier way into Greek mythology.  Hecate, goddess of wealth and the underworld, favored dogs and is often depicted with a Greyhound by her side.  Pollux, protector of the hunt, had a Greyhound named Leda.  They also figure into the story of Actaeon and Artemis.  The story goes that Actaeon was out hunting with his forty eight Greyhounds when he came upon Artemis bathing.  Instead of averting his gaze, he stared at her.  When she found him watching her, she turned him into a stag and his hounds attacked and killed him.  The names of all forty eight dogs are still preserved in history.

Hopefully this has been a little fun to learn about.  The stories of Greyhounds in history have fascinated me since I began sharing my life with them.  I thought it would be fun to share some of them since we had some fun pictures from our trip to go with them.

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  1. Well we are very pleased to hear that Pythagorus stopped a man from beating a dog!
    Our mum was never good at mt maths and is now trying to remember was it the sum of the sides?
    Anyways thank you for all that interesting information - we loved the pictures and have always thought greyhounds look very noble!
    You so looked at home in those surroundings.
    Martha and Bailey xxx

  2. Fabby photos and thanks for the info on Greyhounds.

  3. I told Beryl all this and she opened one eye, raised her head a bit and gave me a slightly exasperated look. She obviously thought I should have known she had a particularly noble heritage given her Princess status! Oh well, I learnt lots anyway:-) Thanks for the info!

  4. Tried to comment on your other post yesterday, but Blogger was not being cooperative. Oh well.

    Always have found it fascinating how well documented the history of the Greyhound is, especially since my favorite breed (Siberian Husky) is ancient, but not very well documented because of where the breed lived.

  5. Dis wuz most interesting today, tank youz fur sharing all da historys wif us.

    Woofs and Licks,
    Maggie Mae

  6. What a fantastic trip back to history and the ancient stories of Greyhound. Thanks for sharing them with us. The stories are really interesting and it makes me want to read my old Greek Mythology books again.

    Bunny, you look great in the pictures.

  7. Again, I always learn so much from your posts. I didn't know greyhounds went all the way back to the Egyptians. I knew the Egyptians loved cats, but had no idea about greyhounds.


    Your uninformed pal, Pip

  8. Most interesting history lesson for today.

    Lilly, Piper, Carrleigh and Ruairi

  9. Great post! Fascinating! And I love the pictures. The one on the steps reminds me of George's Saturday Steps!


  10. What a great post!
    I loved reading more about the greyhounds, thanks for sharing the history:)

  11. I think alot of greyhound owners pick these things up quickly-makes it cook knowing the dog we adopted has such a long and noble history behind them... I've also heard they are the only dog breed metioned by name in the bible too.

  12. Awesome photos! Wow I learned so much about them today! Thank you!!

  13. Bunny Hunny I have always known that your breed had a long and noble history... butt this just floors me. I had to read it two times and then go back and read a couple sections a third time. Thanks for telling us all of this.
    I think YOU look fantastic next to all those statues.

  14. That is a very long history. 1475 BC? Wow. Labradors emerged around 1700 AD. Greyhounds have them beat by a very long time! I don't think that Labradors were glorified in their early days like greyhounds were so long ago.

    I love the sculptures and your dogs with them. You have an eye for a great photo!

  15. Electrum? I thought that was just a mythical D&D currency ...

  16. Very cool information and great pictures!

  17. Well daaaang, I didn't knows I was gonna history lesson todays...and dad thinks blogging is not educational....sheez!
    Anyways, I didn't knows any of dis stuffs. I mean I knew ya'll was regal and all but I didn't knows it was fur reals.
    It's amazing how doggies haves become less important overs time...imagine at one time we really da rulers of da universe...can't we goe back to dat time?


  18. You saw some great statues along the way. I bet you were impressed!!

    Oh, and I gave you an award! You can pick it up, along with the rules, at

  19. Gosh...I learned SO much from this postie! And I luved those pictures. I can just imagine Bunny and Blueberry lounging next to rich Greek peoples. And I can imagine those same rich Greek peoples worshipping Lilac and fanning her and stuff.

    Wiggles & Wags,

  20. Very interesting! That was a heck of a trade for 4 greyhounds. I want what I could get for Reagan.... just kidding :-).

  21. Thanks for the info! I love all the accompanying photos.

  22. nice job on the history lesson. the greeks were obviously WAY ahead of the French philospohpher Descartes who was not very nice to doggies and in fact called them souless machines. like the french know anything about philosophy! ha!

  23. Okay, now THIS is the kind of history we can sink our teeth into! Interesting stuff!
    The Road Dogs

  24. Ah what a fitting noble heritage Bunny. You look so right in Allerton Park, loved your photo's - what a beautiful place.

    Wiry love Eric xx

  25. That was really interesting - we loved it!

    One of our newest followers is from the island of Crete - we must pass on the link to you - our first Greek blogging friend!

    take care
    Clive & Co

  26. Wow, thanks for the great history lesson. You guys are super special doggies!

    Now my mom person wants to check out the history of miniature schnauzers.

    Nubbin wiggles,

  27. thankies for the history informational! i didn't know that greyhounds originated in egypt, and boy howdy, does it sound like they were a hot commodity! 4 greyhounds for all those stuff 'n thingies!! miss bunny, miss blueberry, and miss lilac really are royalty! :)

    the booker man

  28. I didn't even know that greyhounds were such an ancient breed. Although come to think of it, a lot of the doggies in ancient art do look like greyhounds. I feel a lot more educated now.

    lotsa licks, Lola

  29. I loved your post!
    It is very interesting to know all those things!
    Kisses and hugs

  30. Great pictures, and great history! And I'm happy you included Argos and Odysseus. :)


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