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Dog in Ancient Iran

Dog in Ancient Iran

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Published by Batchuka Bodonguud

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Published by: Batchuka Bodonguud on Dec 25, 2012
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DOG IN ANCIENT IRAN
 
By: Mahmoud & Teresa P. Omidsalar
 
In a study of the beginning of animal and plantdomestication in southern Persia, Frank Hole and hiscolleagues concluded from osteological evidencethat the dog had probably been domesticated inKhuzestan in 5500 B.C.E. Remains of domesticateddogs have also been found at the site of Haji Firuz in Azerbaijan province (radiocarbon dated to 5500-5000 B.C.E.).
 
 Aside from Zoroastrian funerary rites, pre-IslamicPersians used the dog not only for hunting andherding but also in war. Persians, Greeks, Assyrians,and Babylonians used large mastiffs as shocktroops; one Athenian dog so distinguished itself against the Persians at the Battle of Marathon (490B.C.E.) that its likeness was supposedly placed onGreek victory monuments.
 
Indian dogs were highly prized among the Persianaristocracy; Xerxes I (489-65 B.C.E.) reportedly tooka large number of them with his army when hemarched against Greece. One of the Persian satrapsof Babylon assigned the revenues derived from four large villages in that province to the care of hisIndian hounds. A dog belonging to Darius III (336-30B.C.E.) supposedly refused to leave his corpse after he had been struck down by Bessus.
 
Dogfights must have been common in ancient Persia. The Persian phrase
sag-e karzari 
(war dog)may refer either to canine warriors or merely to dogs trained for dogfights.
 
Myths
 
Pre-Islamic myths 
:
 
 According to the
Bundahishn 
, all animals were created from the purified semen of the primordial bull.Ten varieties of dog are mentioned, of which only the guard dog, the sheep dog, and the hunting dogcan properly be considered dogs. The dog is said to have been created to protest man's possessionsagainst wolves; in its opposition to evil it cooperates with the cock and is able to repel evil by its meregaze.
 
In ancient Persian folk etymology the word
sag 
(dog) was derived from
seh-yak 
(one third) becauseone third of its essence is human.
 
Islamic myths 
:
 
 A statue of Persian Mastiff from Persepolis (Clickto enlarge)
 
 
Three distinct myths of the creation of the dog can be reconstructed from Islamic texts. According to atradition related on the authority of Ali b. Abi Taleb, when Adam and Eve were cast out of paradise,Satan came to the beasts of the earth and encouraged them with violent cries to attack and devour the couple; his spittle flew out of his mouth, and God fashioned a male and a female dog from it. Themale was sent to guard Adam and the female to protect Eve. The enmity between the dog and wildanimals was thus initiated.
 
In a second version, God created the dog from the clay left over from His creation of Adam, which maylie behind the assertion in some sources that dog bones and tissue may be grafted to the humanbody.
 
The third myth may be deduced from a tradition about the taboo on eating the dog's flesh because theanimal is "metamorphosed"; the implication is that human sinners are transformed into dogs and thateating the flesh would be a form of cannibalism.
 
 A tradition about the domestication of the dog was related on the authority of Ebn Abbas: When Adamwas cast out of heaven and attacked by Satan, God reassured him and sent Moses' staff as a meansof defense; Adam struck a dog with it, but God commanded him to pat the animal on the head. Theanimal thus being domesticated, befriending Adam and his seed.
 
In epic and legend
 
 Accounts of feral children raised by various animals are widely attested, but it can be verified thathuman children have been nursed by dogs. Several heroes, gods, and legendary figures of antiquitywere supposed to have been nursed by dogs.
 
Herodotus reported a legend according to which Cyrus the Great had been suckled by a bitch.Similarly the author of 
Mojmal 
attributed the violent nature of "the father of Soqlab" to his having beennursed by a dog. In the
Bahman-nama 
violent men are repeatedly likened to those who have beennursed by dogs.
 
In some oral versions of the
Shah-nama 
, Afrasiab is said to have owed his violent temper to hishaving been suckled by a bitch; the wicked king Zahhak is said to have been nursed by a she-wolf. Another ruthless epic character, Bokhtonnasr (Nebuchadnezzar), was supposedly so hideous that hisparents had no choice but to expose him, but he survived, thanks to a bitch who came to nurse himthree times a day.
 
 According to a contemporary Boir Ahmadi story, the messianic ruler Kaykhosrow is hidden with hishorse and hunting dog in a cave in the province of Fars. Aside from the expected association of kingswith hunting dogs in epic literature, dogs fulfill other roles in Persian tales.
 
 According to a famous tale in the
Shah-nama 
and other sources, Bahram was awakened to theoppression of his tyrannical vezier as a result of witnessing a shepherd's treatment of his treacheroussheep dog, which, having grown enamored of a shewolf, was allowing the latter to ravage his master'sflocks.
 
In mystical literature
 
 
Because of the dog's humble position in Persian life, it became a symbol of humility in mysticalliterature. According to some Muslim sources, Jesus scolded his apostles for criticizing the stench of adog's carcass; rather than appreciating the whiteness of its teeth.
 
Noah (Nuh, in popular etymology derived from from an Arabic root associated with mourning) is saidto have received his name because God scolded him for expressing disgust at a dog, which inspiredhim to bitter lamentation for his deed.
 
The mystic Ma'shuq Tusi once struck a dog with a stone, and immediately a divine horsemanappeared and whipped him, exclaiming that in the eyes of God the ascetic is essentially no better thanthe creature that he mistreats. Many mystics proclaimed that dogs had first taught them humility.
 
In magic
 
The association of the dog with the devil may have motivated several attempts at eradicating theanimal. The Prophet Mohammad (and later Yusof b. Hajjaj) was said to have ordered all dogs to beput to death but to have modified his order to only apply to black dogs, especially those with two spots(
noqtatayn 
) over their eyes.
 
The black dog figures prominently in magic. Its satanic connections mean that harming it may bringinjury or misfortune to the perpetrator. In Khorassan, it is believed that he who kills a dog will lose achild or seven years of bad luck. Such beliefs may at least partly reflect pre-Islamic taboos againstharming dogs, reinterpreted to conform to the Islamic association of the animal with evil.
 
For example, by the 9th century, Zoroastrian concern for the welfare of dogs had already come to beviewed as an attempt to avert the evil eye. Nevertheless, according to one tradition, Imam Husaynwas seen eating in front of a dog, to which he gave a piece of bread for each piece that he ate himself.
 
In fable and folktale
 
Many fables about dogs in the Aesopian corpus are also found in Persian folklore and literature.Perhaps the most famous is a about a dog that drops meat (or a bone) for its reflection in the water.Others have been classified by Ulrich Marzolph, who has also provided a convenient list of tale typesabout dogs in Persian folk narrative.
 
Tales of the dog's fidelity are particularly well represented in oral and written sources. In one version adog (or sometimes a mongoose) saves a child from a serpent by biting the latter to death; the child'sfather sees the dog's bloody mouth and, thinking that it has eaten the child, kills the animal, then findsout the truth.
 
 
Extracted From/Source:
 
Encyclopaedia Iranica 
 
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