The ambivalent dog

A bit strange at first but I think that’s what some Biblical, Ancient Greek and academic scholars as well as some anthropologists believe. It’s like how somebody said that dogs are considered ambivalent in Beng communities where they’re associated with treachery but also clairvoyance (good trait) and witchcraft (bad trait) whilst goats and sheeps are solely linked to the later. Logically among Aka Pygmies, although dogs are reliable animals they’re not always treated well (sometimes they’re just not that spoilt due to things like resource scarcity) and even linked to witchcraft.

I mean somebody else used one of these as references for their book on sharing something in New Mexico. (Not to mention it does state that some Native Americans mistreat dogs but I don’t think the others treat animals that badly even if they don’t like them much.) I mean whilst there are Native Americans that do revere dogs well, there are those who do treat them well but not necessarily pedestalise them and there are others who don’t like/trust them to whatever degree.

Something like among some Native American communities (Navajo, Oneida, Mexican) dogs and wolves are linked to witchcraft. But keep in mind not all Navajo, Mexican and Oneida folks think that way too. Logically in Germany, whilst there are people who do cherish their dogs a lot there are those who can’t stand them for whatever reason like predation (some German hunters feel that way even if others own dogs themselves), defecation (no seriously, it’s a big deal there) and the like.

Not to mention dog poisoning’s a big deal in Germany. So much so that Giftkoeder Radar coexists with cynophobic media like Kot und Koeter (Poo and Pooches) and Gegenhund (Antidog). Now somebody already wrote an entire book about the ambivalent nature of dogs in Ancient Greece. To sum it up, it’s not that Ancient Greeks didn’t cherish their dogs before but that dogs seemed to flit between ally and traitor (or parsimoniously pet and pest) as they still do today.

Same thing with Biblical scholarship but I also think certain communities (Aka Pygmy and Beng) give a better idea of how these attitudes emerged. I mean it’s actually possible for women to take their children to hunts since it does happen in Sierra Leone and parts of Republic of Congo. This is probably how the character of Artemis came to be. That and some Pygmies stated to be monogamist and monotheist gives insight into how Judaism came about too.

The Ancient Greeks and their traitorous dogs

A strange one at first but something not at all unheard of before. The book Shameless gives good insight into Ancient Greek attitudes to dogs which I think’s very comparable to that of some Pygmy communities (actually with their apparent penchant for monogamy and monotheism, they give good insight into how Middle Eastern monotheism developed). But I’d also argue it’s also done to how hard it is to care for dogs.

The difficulty of training and caring for cats is a given. Though this might be true for dogs to some extent. There are even studies where dogs manage to do things behind their owners’ backs and trust me, it can be difficult trying to keep dogs from doing something whether by calling their names or trying hard not to bother people and other beasts. Be it barking or sniffing sick pets.

I suspect some Pygmy hunters may’ve also felt similarly about the difficulty of getting dogs to hunt’s that they sometimes chase prey at will. At other times they can’t be bothered to. (Same with cats.) It’s not that they’re disloyal but it takes a lot of fortitude to be put up with them at times. Same with bringing up people.

Or anything else.

Some good predictions

Whilst the Philippines becomes majority atheist in the 2020s, much of Africa (as far as North Africa) as well as Indonesia and Malaysia become majority Christian in this same decade. Christianity becomes popular among Berbers for those who don’t want to give into polygamy and this is also true elsewhere in the Muslim world (more and more Alevi Muslims might join their Christian peers).

All of Africa becomes newly industrialised in 2019-2020 with West and East Africa leading the way, followed by North and Central Africa. Nigeria also surpasses the Philippines in economic growth and becomes the main source of missionaries to the Philippines then followed by other countries (including Morocco). Cameroon also gets its act together once it gets a new president and rises in prosperity.

Same with Ghana, Uganda, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Niger, Ethiopia and Eritrea. Same with Rwanda, Kenya and the two Congos too.

Some insights from Central Africa

I think I remember some studies by Karen Lupo especially among some Central African hunting communities (as it might not be true for others) that dogs were sometimes reliable at hunting if because at other times they don’t help at hunting prey for their owners if because they end up killing them themselves. In the book Shameless, dogs were at some point associated with treachery and if one takes these studies (as well as reports of dogs killing their owners and owners’ relatives) into consideration, this may deconstruct Ancient Greek attitude to dogs better.

Or for another matter, that of the ancient Middle Easterners to a parsimonious extent. I also think Karen Lupo’s studies on Aka Pygmies and their dogs gives a better insight into how Middle Eastern and Greek attitudes to dogs developed, right down to superstitious beliefs (though with the former, since the Pygmies are stated to be monogamous and some of them are suspicious of dogs, may deconstruct their ideas too). Maybe not exactly but it does help provide some insight into how these attitudes developed. And why they regard dogs as deceitful.

Leaving out the bad side

I suspect when it comes to the first stages of dog domestication, there’s a tendency for some to romanticise it by omitting what else actually happened. If studies on certain hunter-gatherer communities and the like are any indication, such dogs would’ve been treated rough by contemporary standards, they often led short lives (moreso when medicine had yet to refined), weren’t always reliable in some hunts and the training consists of either socialising them to other dogs, drugging them or deliberately malnourishing them (starving or being deliberately fed on vegetables).

Not to mention they’re even often deliberately excluded from human homes and ate a lot of faeces. If they ever tamed wolves, they would’ve treated them the same way too. (If I’m not mistaken, there’s an article on Animal Kind about certain cat owners who starve their pets to get them to hunt. So it’s that possible to train cats but in a manner that involves being somewhat harsh.) It seemed it wouldn’t matter if wolves went commensal or got adopted by humans.

But that there’s a tendency for some to exclude the less kind aspects. If certain hunter-gatherer communities are any indication, it wasn’t any better before.

Kind of unromantic

Though this isn’t always the case but if gleamed from some hunting communities whose way of training dogs (and actually sometimes even cats) to hunt is to either socialise them to other animals or drugging and even deliberately malnourishing them to get them to hunt. (Either starving them or deliberately feeding them vegetables, even if it’s not that nutritious.) Even if that makes them really hungry, going so far to hunt wildlife at will. I think even if people did tame wolves before, they would’ve treated them just the same.

Those that successfully hunted were however sometimes given scraps or sometimes not at all fed. That’s gleamed from both studies and anecdotes on these kinds of characters and their pets. There are even Spanish hunting communities that deliberately starve their dogs to get them to hunt, which suggests that geographically either way people who did deliberately tame wolves (and/or cats) would’ve treated them the same–rather rough by today’s standards. Again not always exactly or consistently the case.

But that the actual domestication process, if gleamed from these communities, seemed a lot rougher on those beasts.

It’s not even the owners’ fault

At other times, I feel it’s not even the owners’ fault for why dog attacks happen. It could the dog’s own tendencies. But it could also indicate a change in cultural attitudes. It’s not that there weren’t any pet dogs before and the sentimental benefit wasn’t lost on them (same with cats). But rather ownership practises were rather different.

In some places like some parts of Cameroon and the Republic of Congo and Uganda, if cats and dogs did get trained to hunt it’s by starving them. Let’s not forget that there are dog owners who don’t walk their dogs because even if they still regard them with affection they have to keep them outside not just to guard premises.

But also to minimise hygenic problems (same for cats). Not to mention that any degree of straying occurs. Whilst owned dogs in compounds don’t necessarily stray per say, they do wander and sometimes cause troubles like tripping over plants and defecating anywhere they go (same for cats).

Let’s not forget that dogs were at some point associated with treachery. Not just because they stray and misbehave whenever their owners aren’t around but because dogs can and will eat or attack their owners (or their owners’ children) as inferred from both studies on Ancient Greek attitudes and contemporary reports.

A good number of literature hints at a generally more ambivalent attitude to both cats and dogs at the very least. Likely stemming from that they’re both pets and pests. (Conversely speaking, keeping dogs solely for companionship was considered dubious.)

Whilst not lost, it’s been rediscovered and taken more seriously by scientists which help shed light on prior attitudes.

Useful but marginalised

Like I said, it’s not that dogs lack any value especially among Aka Pygmies, Beng, Ancient Greeks, Romans, Israelites and Sumerians. But generally it’s often undercut by ambiguity and uncertainty over their natures (something like crapping inside the house) as to justify letting them outside (same for cats for better or worse). Maybe not always exactly the case.

But not when such treatment involves deliberately starving said pets to make them hunt pests better (to the point of accidentally reducing wildlife and giving grief to others) that such attitudes might be calculatingly unsentimental at times. Though that’s not to say people who have cats and dogs for hunting don’t necessarily devalue them either.

(Some people who own pets for companionship aren’t always affectionate either.)

Though I suspect social attitudes and ownership practises in tandem with ecology and geography (especially if/when resources needed to keep them from straying and reproducing can be not only costly but also that remote) unwittingly encourage any degree of commensalism (and pestilence).

Keep in mind they’re not always treated that harshly but not when owners themselves can’t afford other necessities and when hygiene comes along, that’s when an uncertain/unsentimental attitude kicks in.

Aka Pygmies and Ancient Greeks

I get the impression that Karen Lupo’s study on Aka Pygmies and their dogs has precise implications for deconstructing Ancient Greek attitudes to dogs, especially the one presented in Shameless: The Canine and Feminine in Ancient Greece. That study mentioned dogs being sometimes unreliable in certain hunts, dogs being used by women to hunt vermin, dogs wandering into other people’s houses causing trouble and dogs being linked to witchcraft.

In the latter study, dogs are associated with treachery, witchcraft (via Hecate) and femininity. This is also found in other mythologies to varying degrees like Middle Eastern Gula and Lamashtu and the poorly recorded Nehelennia. Not to mention a close association of dogs with women extending to both bestiality (and accompanying accusations of it and link to lesbianism and perpetual virginity) and witchcraft.

There’s even a study on Holocene Australia that women likelier used dogs too and in Dyirbal (as in Russian whilst Turkmen’s got a specific word for male dog), the word for dog’s grammatically feminine. These studies have good, even damning implications for each other that’s need to deconstruct similar ideas and sentiments.

Dirty Diana’s an old maid

I remember posting a poem about old maids ‘praying’ to Artemis, the virgin huntress often accompanied by a dog. Note as this poem’s written in the 18th or 19th century, it’s written in a time when lapdogs were also popular old maids’ pets. It also makes sense at least in some studies where women foragers/huntresses were assisted by dogs, even if they’re not always reliable in other hunts.

Though primarily for hunting smaller game. Even today, some people own dogs to get rid of rats like they do with owning cats. I suspect in that 18th century context, as lapdogs were one of the most popular old maids’ pets (earlier still they’re also witch pets and Hecate’s also into dogs), associating them with the virgin dog-owning huntress Artemis made sense.

I suspect the dual association of dogs with Artemis and Hecate can boil down to predation. Though dogs can be used to assist women in hunts, dogs can hunt prey at will (often annoying their owners in Karen Lupo’s study) and it’s parsimonious to assume that witches use dogs to hunt people. That and dogs hunting at night’s not hard to assume connections.