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These clay dogs (~645 BC) were substitutes for real dogs in a ritual from ancient Nineveh, located along the Tigris River in what is now northern Iraq. Well-trained, effective guard dogs were probably too highly valued to kill, hence the substitution of clay figurines. Each figurine may have represented an actual, living dog who bore that name. The ritual required that the clay dogs be painted two each of five colors, with their names written on them, and buried in groups of ten on either side of a gateway’s foundation. The ritual was thought to magically transfer the dogs’ protection to the gates. The dogs have fierce names, like, “Expeller of evil”, “Don’t think, bite!”, “Biter of his foe”, and “Catcher of the enemy”. The dogs are a breed of large, muscular mastiff-type dogs with prick or half-prick ears, a round head with a pronounced stop and heavy muzzle, large paws, and a tightly curled, chow-like tail. They are in the British Museum.

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