Pet ownership and animals in Africa

Like I said earlier in some posts, not all Africans necessarily have the same attitudes to pets as this may vary between individuals, regions/places and communities. Many Nigerians aren’t fond of cats. Not that neighbouring Cameroonians are any better except being generally more cat tolerant (based on the studies I’ve read, it’s not uncommon for Cameroonians to own cats). Same for Ivorians and Ghanaians to varying degrees.

Likewise there are Africans who don’t like dogs. In Rwanda, there were reports of people not trusting dogs until recently due to the 1990s genocide. Though belief in dog witchcraft exists in Nigeria, it’s relatively more universal in Cameroon, Uganda, Ghana, Ivory Coast and The Democratic Republic of Congo. At least from what I’ve read and recalled (I could be biased).

If there’s an animal that’s universally disliked in Africa, it would be the owl due to its near-universal association with witchcraft. I suspect in places like Ghana, Cameroon and Ivory Coast, cats are tolerated because they can be used to hunt down pests. (Though keep in mind not all Nigerians dislike cats nor do Cameroonians and Ghanaians like them, but that it’s much more common for the latter two to tolerate cats.)

Keep in mind not all Africans think the same way, whether if it’s personal preference or cultural conditioning and circumstances that determine pet ownership there.

Black Attitudes to Animals

Keep in mind this may vary between communities, countries and individuals so this might not be true for all black people. Whilst African Americans seem least likely to own pets in general (and think single women who like dogs a lot are lonely), Kenyans and Jamaicans seem to believe in the cat-owning spinster stereotype though the former didn’t have that belief before. Whilst Muslim Nigerians are more likely to tolerate cats, there are at least a few (culturally) Christian Southern Nigerians who do own cats themselves or at least tolerate them.

Not to mention whilst some African communities and churches don’t associate dogs with witchcraft, there are those that do. Something I already pointed out before where Nigerians seem likelier to think cats are witchy, Cameroonians, Ivorians and Ghanaians* are considerably likelier to also associate dogs with the occult. Replace Nigerian with Zulu and Cameroonian with Bapedi and it’s still going to differ between African demographics.

Even within the same country (South Africa).

There are black people who do dote on animals, those who abuse animals and those who own animals but aren’t too affectionate. I actually think some of the things I’m saying about them could also be applied to their white counterparts especially at some point or another. But that would be realising that black people aren’t monolithic and neither are whites.

*I could be half wrong about it but I do recall reports of a Ghanaian witchdoctor who used his dogs to curse a footballer and I’m not making this up.

The irony of dog domestication

I suspect the real problem with how some know about dog domestication’s that they wouldn’t even consider that dogs were considered vermin (and are sometimes still regarded as such, even by European hunters and dog poisoners). That’s even there in various old texts to varying degrees as is the disdain for stray dogs and mongrels. (Mongrels and stray dogs go hand in hand, whilst not always the case, it does help explain why any degree of straying also lends to any degree of mongrels especially in the countryside.)

Some communities even have beliefs about dogs being traitors and most notably among the Ivorian Beng in one study and the Ancient Greeks in another. (Some Aboriginal communities have beliefs about dingo dogs as tricksters bringing death and misfortune.) The fact that stray dogs still exist, especially in the countryside and anywhere with substantial greenery or slums wrecking havoc on game animals and livestock as well as owned dogs straying at will (to any extent) along with the accompanying distrust or abuse hints at commensalism. Or at least what the Coppingers pointed out.

Not to mention that dogs also scavenge a lot, whether if it’s often unintentional (moreso in places where there’s no toilets around and sometimes with reports of dogs eating dead owners) or sometimes deliberate especially if they’re given leftovers (some households still do this). There are even reports of people feeding stray dogs so it still proves the Coppingers’ points about dogs being commensals. Especially in that they stray at will when convenient (same with cats) and cause problems (same with cats too).

I even think dogs are comparable to monkeys in that they’re both highly intelligent, adaptive and annoying at times not to mention being fed and owned by humans. There are even monkey training schools in Thailand and Malaysia with monkeys being trained to catch coconuts. There are people who do bother owning and taming monkeys, go as far back as the Middle Ages and Ancient Egypt (when it comes to babboons and even hyenas, a practise that’s revived among some Nigerians). There aren’t just obese cats and dogs but also obese monkeys (who’re similarly spoilt and overfed). The reports of cats, dogs and monkeys being frequently vaccinated in parts of Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola suggests that there’s a considerable number of monkey owners there.

And the most successfully domesticated macaque’s the Rheseus Macaque if because they’re frequently used in laboratories (same with cats and certain dogs, especially Beagles). This is pretty much where the comparison of dog domestication to sheep fails. Not that sheep are any less annoying but reports of sheep pestilence’s rare compared to simian, feline and canine pestilence. Heck if stereotypes of old maids are any indication cats, dogs and monkeys being spinsters’ pets isn’t always because these were meant for companionship. But since lapdogs and mongrels were sneered at a lot, there’s a real difference between pets domesticated for a truly useful purpose (which is why sheep aren’t going to be spinters’ pets) and misplacing any affinity for humans onto pets (stray cats and dogs as well as lapdogs).

Mongrels were pests and lapdogs were annoying nuissances because people used them in lieu of human relationships (hence accusations of bestiality and being unwilling to do parental responsibility to children and people in general). Monkeys were also spinsters’ pets and have been fed by people so this should put dogs closer to commensals proper for these reasons.

Not really any better

That’s not to say I condone Islam but at other times it seems the Islamophobia’s gotten way too much whilst ignoring that their (sometimes non-practising) Christian counterparts aren’t any better either. This also ignores that there are some Muslims that don’t just highly revere Jesus but also either host Crypto-Christians and/or have assimilated a lot of Christian beliefs and practises. These are even plentiful in parts of Iran as well as Syria and Turkey. (Turkey used to be a Christian country and still has Christians.)

Now as for the Christian side, there were reports of medieval Irish nobility having multiple wives (same thing can be said of some of their Cameroonian counterparts to my knowledge). There’s also another report of a Cameroonian village beating up dogs for thinking they’re witches. There are also Cameroonian, Ghanaian, Ugandan, South African and Ivorian churches associating dogs with witchcraft. Russian Orthodox churches don’t allow dogs.

And so do some Christian households but that doesn’t necessarily mean they hate dogs, they’re more cautious about hygiene. Not to mention dog poisoning’s a big deal in German-speaking countries and they’re often carried out by non-Muslims. (Cats were at some point regarded as dirty in some Irish churches and they still are in not only Coptic churches but also among Alevi Muslims, the latter being suspected of either Christian syncretism or Crypto-Christianity.)

Not that Islam’s not any better but I think the tendency to ignore one’s own vice and the other Muslims (and Turks) who could be Crypto-Christians and even out Christians makes it harder to regard things objectively.

Canine killing machine

It’s not that Ancient Greeks and Israelites as well as contemporary Beng Ivorians, Indians and some Europeans never missed out the good side. Though I think I get the impression that when it comes to dogs, it seems they did have something of a polarising reputation before and moreso if you hang out at certain communities (hunters and poisoners in Germany of all things as well as some farmers). Useful but dubious especially when it comes to predation, defecation and the like.

Somebody named Cristina Franco carried out a study on dogs in Ancient Greek literature which highlighted their transition to proper domestication as well as the odd idea of them as traitors. Though keep in mind some Beng Ivorians also feel the same way as well as that (some) dogs aren’t that trainable and it’s not always easy training dogs (even if it’s slightly easier than with cats from experience). Especially if they revert to doing certain things again.

The idea of dogs as killing machines isn’t lost on some German hunters as well as scientists and farmers. Though I think the overly affectionate portrayal eclipsed the earlier, more ambivalent attitude. The latter, however, is why I think dogs are practically commensal. Not just because they tend to hang out outside (even in households but moreso in farms, public property, universities, compounds and villages). But that like monkeys, they also elicit mixed feelings.

Not necessarily good, not necessarily bad. That’s even the case in the Bible to an extent depending on the edition. So there’s that.

Animals in ancient (Biblical and Greek) thought

The Dog:

The idea that dogs are treacherous sounds weird at first but if the old Roman habit of crucifying dogs for not saving citizens in time (in part because they got taken advantage of by thieves) and that dogs can be really hard to train (even if they just have a slight edge over cats), it’s not that impossible. Parsimoniously, the idea that some dogs are treacherous makes sense in this context. That’s not to say Greeks didn’t value them for loyalty and protection at all.

But that it’s more often than not met with undertones of uncertainty, owner chagrin and exasperation (on their part). This might also be true for how Beng Ivorians view dogs as. Especially in their lore where the dog catches witches but is a witch itself and also a traitor by bringing misfortune. Not that Beng Ivorians necessarily dislike dogs. But I think their attitudes to dogs give a better idea of how the Ancient Greeks and Middle Easterns may’ve regarded dogs as.

The Goat:

Admittedly I know little about goats so to speak. But I suspect they could be right up with dogs in terms of inducing ambivalent feelings in people partly because though fun to be around with, they’re also hard to deal with at times. A dog owner may have to get the dog back inside whenever it roams (same with cats). I suspect this too might be partly true for goats. There’s even a book on Greek demonology which mentions recurring macabre goat superstitions.

The idea of a goat as a macabre steed for witches and forms for malfactors still occurred in the Renaissance and Early Modern era. It still does to an extent, whatever extent that is. Though the idea of goats as ambivalent animals, though still more or less practically possible, needs to be better informed and quite frankly I know little about goats so I may have to return to it when I’m more informed about it.

Shakespearean dogs

I still suspect that it’s not so much that William Shakespeare alone hated dogs but that the general public attitude to dogs back then was far from positive. Maybe not entirely negative but if garnered from various studies on early modern literature and the like, perhaps like with cats it’s a somewhat ambivalent attitude that can be negative (if/when religiously motivated). There’s a book on Renaissance art which has painters linking dogs to treachery (so did the MalaysOjibwa, Beng of Ivory Coast, Ancient Romans and Greeks).

The idea that certain dogs are treacherous’s not at all new either. So whilst Shakespeare may’ve been mildly suspicious of dogs, other texts of the day were much more vitriolic. There’s even one text mentioning a dog’s funeral being attended by Elizabethan Britons’ favourite targets (witches, popes and the devil). There were a few others that’d make Gegenhund (the antidog website) proud. Keep in mind that since Elizabethan Britons harboured suspicious beliefs about dogs, it’s comparable to what Ivorian Beng feel around them too.

There’s even an essay called ‘Dog-Ally or Traitor’ which mentions the Beng ambiguity around dogs, viewing them as alternately useful yet suspicious. So do some Pygmy communities to a possible extent given I feel as if Elizabethan Briton attitudes to dogs were comparable to various African Pentecostal communities. Maybe not exactly but the sentiment’s comparable enough to give an idea of what it’s actually like.

Not going to last forever

I think Japanese ACG might not last forever and should an anime professional warn of its impending death (possibly move elsewhere after speaking ill of Osamu Tezuka), anime fans would have to deal with a reality where Philippine, Indian, Cameroonian, Ivorian, Russian, Turkish, Moroccan, Tunisian, Indonesian and Chinese comics are more widely distributed and translated than before. I’d even argue anime’s death’s a blessing in that it frees up a near-monopoly on non-Western animation.

Once that happens, expect Animax to air much more non-Japanese animation. As well as DC and Marvel (those NPC publishers) having to step up in Shonen Jump’s demise. Their own publishers might even own SJ’s. (Partial stakes at that but still.) Anime cons would have to widen their scope to other things. Some might become furry cons for as long as kemonomimi are around. Said anime professional might even predict a time when Japanese anime gets replaced by its Chinese counterpart.

That’s saying given how far China’s come, possibly further than Japan has.  It could aslo be joined by India and others, including Nigeria and Cameroon. The end’s nigh for anime whether if NPC-hating anime fans are going to like it or not.

Feral dogs in Europe

Like I said, these aren’t nonexistent in Europe (and Japan) but have become more of a rural phenomenon for whatever reason. Often relating to both distance, economy (can’t afford something made worse by that it’s really inaccessible) and ownership practises (similar for cats). I won’t be surprised if these partly explain why stray dogs are commonly reported in the European countryside. Maybe not always exactly the case but does explain such a phenomenon.

Keep in mind these reports often talk about dogs preying on livestock and wildlife alike though with some studies and reports in the developing world like Uganda, Cameroon and the Philippines a similar phenomenon exists there too (similar for cats). I’ve even read a report on Kinois Congo on dogs preying on goats and an Ivorian report on dogs preying on sheep.

Cats and dogs are also some of the world’s worst invasive species but it’s also a combination of their vices as well as dubious ownership practises (it can be well-intentioned but with bad consequences) complicated by inaccessibility and expensiveness that it traps them in a vicious cycle though this is sometimes humanely dealt with so.

No wolves in Africa

Like I said before, though there are native canid species in Africa there aren’t any native wolf populations in Africa the way there is for the Americas and Eurasia. Dogs could’ve been introduced there through trade, not just in Ancient Egypt but also earlier especially at the start of the Afro-Asiatic languages. Cats are definitely almost the reverse where they’re certainly introduced in Eurasia and the Americas but are practically and technically native to Africa.

That’s if cats were first domesticated in Africa via the Ancient Egyptians and even earlier than that. While attitudes to either or both cats and dogs aren’t always positive (or negative) depending on country, demographic and even individuals keep in mind that cats were practically born and bred in Africa first. Some of the communities that own and use them like Bamilekes and Akans are said to come from Egypt.

Others like Berbers and Baka Pygmies lived in proxy with with either Egyptians proper or with communities from Egypt (Bamileke, Beti-Pahuin and Akan) and inevitably spread cat ownership. Again it’s not exactly the same with all communities and individuals (same for dogs) but it’s consistent enough to assume that cat ownership’s originally an African phenomenon.

Logically, dog ownership may’ve been an Asian phenomenon especially very early on. If dogs were believed to be first domesticated in Asia, especially between China and India (two of the oldest continuing civilisations) it makes sense that dogs could’ve been introduced elsewhere through trade and immigration. Again not entirely the case.

But it does feel like it especially when there are no wolf populations in Australia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines and especially Africa to begin with.