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The Mystical, Magical Greyhound

It's just me, clicking the keys, burning hi-octane conjure and working wonders at the old dirt track crossroads in AZ.

Zephyr, the Italian Greyhound @zephyrtheitaliangreyhound on Instagram

Zephyr, the Italian Greyhound @zephyrtheitaliangreyhound on Instagram

The Origin of Greyhounds

Why is it that we pay so much attention to the mysterious and mystical cat in ancient Egypt and elsewhere, and less attention to our beloved canine friends? Well, it's time to pay equal homage to our dogs, if for no other reason than they have been depicted as symbols of divine gods, sacred animals, and domesticated friends since the beginning of time. In much of the art in antiquity, dogs are depicted in numerous roles and are often dressed in collars and various fashions of the day.

It has been long suspected that greyhounds were the legendary dogs of the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt. Recent investigations into the canine genome and mitochondrial DNA, however, have revealed that the Greyhound breed likely emerged on the plains in Eurasia. It is believed they were probably brought to Western Europe by the Celts.

Greyhound Origins

  • History of the Greyhound Dog Breed
    No other canine is as closely associated with speed, grace, and overall agility as the greyhound. For millennia greyhounds have been cherished and bred as hunting dogs for their keen ability to spot prey and it's movement.
  • History | All About Greyhounds
    We are a group of Greyhound lovers and enthusiasts who are involved in all facets of the Greyhounds lives. Our Mission: To educate the public about Greyhounds in all their facets, from racing, to coursing and agility, the show ring and as pets.
Illustration of Saint Guinefort, the greyhound who was named a saint by medieval people in a rural area of France around the 13th century. The veneration of St. Guinefort continued for over 700 years despite the protests of the Roman Catholic Church.

Illustration of Saint Guinefort, the greyhound who was named a saint by medieval people in a rural area of France around the 13th century. The veneration of St. Guinefort continued for over 700 years despite the protests of the Roman Catholic Church.

The Legend of Saint Guinefort

Believe it or not, there is actually a saint who is a greyhound! The cult of this dog saint began in the 1300s and persisted for several centuries, until the 1930s, despite the repeated prohibitions of the Catholic Church.

Legend tells of a man who had to leave his newborn child for a little while to tend to some business. He left the child alone with his faithful greyhound companion. While he was gone, a snake entered the home and approached the baby. Before it had a chance to bite the baby, Guinefort sprung into action like any loyal greyhound would do and killed it. When the man came home, he saw the dog with blood all over its mouth and immediately thought he had killed the baby. Tragically, instead of investigating further, he killed Guinefort with an axe. Almost just as quickly, he discovered his mistake. Since then, Guinefort entered the realm of legend, exalted as the protector of children, and elevated to sainthood.

Bedtime stories with Zephyr, the Italian Greyhound, "The Holy Greyhound, Guinefort, healer of children since the thirteenth century."

Bedtime stories with Zephyr, the Italian Greyhound, "The Holy Greyhound, Guinefort, healer of children since the thirteenth century."

Learn More About the Holy Greyhound, St. Guinefort

Who Knoweth the Spirit of Man

Who Knoweth the Spirit of Man by Byam Shaw (1901)

Who Knoweth the Spirit of Man by Byam Shaw (1901)

Gelert

A short walk south of the village, following the footpath along the banks of the Glaslyn leads to Beddgelert's most famous historical feature; 'Gelert's Grave'.

According to legend, the stone monument in the field marks the resting place of 'Gelert', the faithful hound of the medieval Welsh Prince Llewelyn the Great.

The story, as written on the tombstone reads:

"In the 13th century Llewelyn, prince of North Wales, had a palace at Beddgelert. One day he went hunting without Gelert, ‘The Faithful Hound’, who was unaccountably absent.

On Llewelyn's return the truant, stained and smeared with blood, joyfully sprang to meet his master. The prince alarmed hastened to find his son, and saw the infant's cot empty, the bedclothes and floor covered with blood.

The frantic father plunged his sword into the hound's side, thinking it had killed his heir. The dog's dying yell was answered by a child's cry.

Llewelyn searched and discovered his boy unharmed, but nearby lay the body of a mighty wolf which Gelert had slain. The prince filled with remorse is said never to have smiled again. He buried Gelert here" (https://www.beddgelerttourism.com/gelert/)

Gelert's Grave

Gelert's Grave, Beddgelert, 2010

Gelert's Grave, Beddgelert, 2010

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ANUBIS, the Jackel-Headed God

Ah, Anubis, the jackal-headed god of ancient Egypt....sure bears a striking resemblance to my little Italian Greyhound Zephyr when he strikes a certain pose.

Anubis was often depicted as a black jackal-headed man or dog. He was the guardian of the cemeteries. Because jackals could be seen hanging around the cemeteries, the ancient Egyptians began to believe in a connection between animals and the dead. Other dogs were also associated with this god and domesticated dogs were often buried as sacred animals in the catacombs.

Since I first wrote this article in 2006, there was the prevailing belief that greyhounds were related to the ancient dogs of Egypt. Thus, I have opted to keep this little section in this 2018 update as old beliefs die hard. Recent DNA testing shows a link to Eurasia and the Celts, instead.

A crouching or "recumbent" statue of Anubis as a black-coated wolf (from the Tomb of Tutankhamun)

A crouching or "recumbent" statue of Anubis as a black-coated wolf (from the Tomb of Tutankhamun)

Anubis or Zephyr? That is the Question...

Here Zephyr strikes a pose as the god of his ancestry.

mysticdoginfashion

Zephyr or Anubis?

Sighthounds Unleashed

Sighthounds unleashed in Paolo Uccello's Night Hunt (Ashmolean Museum)

Sighthounds unleashed in Paolo Uccello's Night Hunt (Ashmolean Museum)

Attacking the Nubians

Below is a picture of a painted sandal box found in King Tutankamun's tomb by archeologist Howard Carter. Check out the size of these dogs! In ancient Egyptian art, the size of a figure is an indication of its importance in relation to the subject of the painting. Here, it is hard to tell whether or not the size of the dogs are meant to be in proportion to their master, the king, or their enemies, the Nubians. If they were meant to be in proportion to the king, then they are greyhounds (okay, they could be salukis). On the other hand, if they were drawn to be in proportion to the Nubians, then they are a very dangerous breed of dog, indeed.

Photo from "Egypt, the World of the Pharoahs".

Saluki Hounds Attacking Nubian Foes

Two of Tutankhamun's Saluki-like hounds savage Nubian foes. Detail from the left side of the Painted Box (Box 21).

Two of Tutankhamun's Saluki-like hounds savage Nubian foes. Detail from the left side of the Painted Box (Box 21).

"Gray-Hound" in a 1658 English woodcut

"Gray-Hound" in a 1658 English woodcut

"For there is a happening for the children of men, and there is a happening for the beasts-and they have one happening-like the death of this one is the death of that one, and all have one spirit, and the superiority of man over beast is nought, for all is vanity."

— Ecclesiastes 3 verse 19 (Torah)

© 2006 Denise M Alvarado

Give Zephyr a Cyberbone if you Like What He's got to Say!

cannedguds lm on September 08, 2008:

Leave the cats to the Egyptians and let the whole world tell everyone that dogs are truly man's best friend! I own a very cute Maltese and I adore her very much! I even have the chance to put her cute pics on my personalized Maltese checks ! thanks for sharing this awesome lens of yours! Viva doggie...to the bone!

anonymous on March 12, 2008:

my IG, Luce is obviously missing out on something. it's time he joined zephyr and pointed his paw at all things good and more for IG's the world over.Luce lives in Noosa, Australia.

psychfaerie on August 26, 2007:

Fine IG you have there!

Bohememama on September 19, 2006:

good question. most dogs are far superior to most humans, if ya askin' me.

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