|Ancient Egyptian farmed and
domesticated animals: cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, geese, dogs, cats,
horses, donkeys, fish, veterinary medicine
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Farmed and Domesticated AnimalsSheep , goats, cattle, pigs  and geese were raised from earliest times and supplied milk, wool, meat, eggs, leather, skins, horn and fat. Even the dung had its uses . There is little evidence that mutton was consumed, while domesticated pigs were eaten at least since the beginning of the 4th millennium BCE , but pork had no place in religious ceremonies. Goat meat on the other hand was acceptable even to upper class Egyptians. Goat skins served as water containers and floating devices.
The Egyptian farmers, in their early experimental phase, also tried to domesticate other animals such as hyenas, gazelles and cranes, but abandoned these attempts after the Old Kingdom.
The domestic chicken didn't make its appearance until the New Kingdom, and then only in isolated places. It became more common in the Late Period. By then the Egyptians seem to have mastered artificial incubation. Diodorus Siculus (1st century BCE) reports in his Historic Library
Apart from the generally known fashion for breeding these animals, they have an artificial means for raising incredible numbers of chicks. They don't let the chickens incubate their eggs themselves, but through an especially ingenious contrivance, which is just as effective as the forces of nature.
Force feeding a goose
CattleThe Egyptians grew a number of cattle varieties. Oxen  of a horned African breed were fattened to immense proportions and, adorned with ostrich feathers, displayed in processions before slaughter, as shown in depictions at Abydos and Medinet Habu. They also had a smaller breed, generally hornless, and wild longhorned cattle which resisted fattening. Zebu were introduced from the Levant during the New Kingdom  and spread subsequently throughout much of eastern Africa.
The Egyptians developed a number of techniques for rendering these big animals more amenable. Unwanted horn growth was controlled by burning or scraping off budding horns. The story Lion in Search of Man also speaks of nose-piercing:
... an ox and a cow, whose horns were clipped, whose noses were pierced, and whose heads were roped.Sometimes the cattle were branded with red hot irons , above all on the great estates belonging to the pharaohs and the temples.
Cowherds tended their animals, sleeping at night near-by in order to prevent theft. When crossing river arms grown over with reeds, they had to be on the look-out for crocodiles and use the right incantations to make the crocodiles blind to the passing herd . If a calving cow was in difficulty, they helped deliver the calf. This herdsman's song was found in a tomb:
You have goaded the oxen on all the roads.In the tomb of Petosiris, the cowherd calls his charges by name: the "golden one", the "shining one" and "beautiful", which were attributes given to the goddess Hathor.
In and near dwellings remains of clover have been found, indicating that the farmers kept their cattle penned up feeding them cut fodder during part of the year, probably during the season of inundation when few grazing areas were accessible .
Sheep and goatsEgypt was cattle country, like other African lands to its south and unlike the near-by, arid Asiatic regions where small cattle were preponderant .
The two breeds of sheep found in
... the good shepherd, vigilant for all people, whom the maker thereof has placed under his authority
Wooden rider statuette
Metropolitan Museum, New York
HorsesThe first evidence of horses in Egypt dates from the 13th dynasty. But they were introduced on a significant scale only from the Second Intermediate Period onwards. The first pictures of horses were made during the 18th dynasty.
Horses were luxury animals, and only the very wealthy could afford to keep them and treat them according to their worth. They were never used for ploughing and only rarely ridden at the beginning. For war and hunt alike they were harnessed to chariots.
Tutankhamen seems to have enjoyed not only driving his chariot, but also mounting on horseback. This can be inferred from a riding crop found in his tomb bearing the inscription that he came on his horse like the shining Re. According to a few rare depictions, such as a relief in Horemheb's tomb, horses were ridden bareback and without stirrups. The rider sat on the horse's rump, in the fashion donkeys are still mounted today.
Ramses II built a complex of six rows of stables for 460 horses at Per-Ramses on the southern edge of the Delta, covering 1,700 square metres. They had sloping floors and troughs at the lower end for keeping the floor as dry as possible and catching the horses' urine. The stables contained stone water basins and stone tethers.
Pharaohs often supervised personally the treatment their horses were getting. Ramses III frequented his stables and Piye, having conquered the Middle Egyptian town of Shamumu after a lengthy siege, accused the defeated prince Namlot of not feeding his horses properly
As I have lived and loved Re and breath is in my nostrils, thus my heart grows heavy seeing how these horses have been starved, which is worse than anything you have done from the evil in your heart.We do not know how the Egyptians trained their horses, though a teacher's comparison of schoolboys with horses suggests that their approach was rather hands-on:
Horses brought from the field, they forget their mothers. Yoked they go up and down on all his majesty's errands. They become like those that bore them, that stand in the stable. They do their utmost for fear of a beating.
Egyptian horses became famous throughout the eastern Mediterranean. The Assyrian conquerors, when extracting tribute, made sure to get as many of them as possible.
Beasts of burdenDonkeys  were used for transportation, though sometimes manpower was preferred. They were quite often depicted on tomb walls.
Tomb of Menna, Thebes
FishPonds, natural or artificial, were stocked with fish. Even gardens often had little pools with fish and water fowl in them.
Its west side is a pond for snaring geese of all kinds, a resort of hunters from the very beginning. One of its ponds has more fish than a lake
Sacrificial animalsThere were special farms for the fattening of oxen and Oryx bulls, destined for slaughter. Animals grazed during the day and were driven back to the sheds in the evenings and fed with pellets of corn  mash. In the New Kingdom the keeping of Oryx antelopes was abandoned.
The fact that beef was part of the diet suggests that some grazing land was available during the times when the Nile receded. While the land was inundated, cattle were brought to the higher levels of the flood plain area and were often fed grain harvested the previous year. Apart from the cattle consumed, much livestock was sacrificed to the gods. Under Ramses III 16,000 cattle and 22,000 geese were sacrificed per year on the altars of Amen alone.
Smaller animals and petsThe ferret was domesticated and used to keep granaries free from rats and mice. Vervet monkeys were kept as pets, as were dogs, cats, ducks and geese. The Nile goose  had often the run of the house and the garden in spite of its sometimes vile temper. Some people grew hoopoes, doves and falcons.
Royalty had royal pastimes and royal pets. Ramses II had a tame lion , and Sudanese cheetahs sometimes took the place of the house cat in the king's household.
Cats seem to have been domesticated during the Middle Kingdom from the wild cats in the Delta or the Western Desert. They spread all over the Near East in spite of a ban on their export. Apart from their usefulness in combatting mice, they were, perhaps more than any other animal except dogs, kept as pets. The first known cat name, Nedjem, dates to the reign of Thutmose III, Amenhotep I's pet Buhaki, is depicted sitting between the king's feet, and Prince Thutmose, son of Amenhotep III, buried Ta-miut in its own sarcophagus.
Apart from being popular cats were also considered divine more than many other domesticated animal. Herodotus describes how the Egyptians mourned the death of a cat and Diodorus Siculus writes of the wrath of the populace when a cat was killed
If its is a cat or an ibis he (i.e. the killer of the animal) has to die in any case, whether he killed the animal on purpose or by mistake; a crowd assembles and maltreats the perpetrator in the most cruel way, and this happens without any decision by a judge.Dogs
But however much Egyptians loved their cats, it was their dogs they felt closer to, if Herodotus is to be believed
And in whatever houses a cat has died by a natural death, all those who dwell in this house shave their eyebrows only, but those in which a dog has died shave their whole body and also their head.Dogs, while often depicted as hunting companions or as watch dogs, are never shown merely as pets. They had individual names  and were often buried with their masters, such as Neb, whose stela dating to the first dynasty bears his name and effigy. At Abydos part of the cemetery was set aside for dogs near the graves of women, archers and dwarfs.
At Gizeh the dog Abuwtiyuw, a greyhound-like tchesem (Tzm), received a fine burial:
The dog which was the guard of His Majesty. Abuwtiyuw is his name. His Majesty ordered that he be buried, that he be given a coffin from the royal treasury, fine linen in great quantity, incense. His Majesty gave perfumed ointment and [ordered] that a tomb be built for him by the gang of masons. His Majesty did this for him in order that he might be honored.
Various breeds enjoyed popularity during Egypt's history. A sloughi look-alike with a trumpet-shaped tail was widespread during the Old Kingdom. Short legged dogs were all the rage during the Middle Kingdom while New Kingdom Egyptians preferred the fleet harrier or the small ketket (ktkt-Srj).
[Treatment for the eyes (?) of a dog with (?)] the nest of a worm
[ ] The photo of the mummy of the New Kingdom dog courtesy Jon Bodsworth
 Neither the milk nor the flesh of sheep were apparently sacrificed to the gods (no mention of sheep sacrifices in Egyptian sources), though Herodotus claimed that there were exceptions
Now all who have a temple set up to the Theban Zeus or who are of the district of Thebes, these, I say, all sacrifice goats and abstain from sheep: for not all the Egyptians equally reverence the same gods, except only Isis and Osiris (who they say is Dionysos), these they all reverence alike: but they who have a temple of Mendes or belong to the Mendesian district, these abstain from goats and sacrifice sheep.While goats are not infrequently mentioned in the Harris papyrus, sheep are not among the offerings listed.
 Pigs had been eaten since times immemorial and were farmed on a large scale since the New Kingdom.
 It is not certain that castration of bulls was practised in ancient Egypt.
 Domesticated from the Nubian wild ass, equus asinus africanus.
 The corn of ancient Egypt was wheat of course.
 Alopochen aegyptiacus
 Prehistoric pig bones were found both in the Delta (e.g. at Tell el-Farkha) and in Upper Egypt (e.g. at Abadiya 2)
 As did other kings. In the tomb of Maia, wetnurse of Tutankhamen, a (possibly naturally) mummified lion was found.
 Inyotef II (11 dynasty) immortalized five of his dogs by setting up a stela in their honour, referred to, obviously, as the Dog Stela. The dogs had been given Libyan names, and in a number of cases an Egyptian translation was furnished: Behekay (bHkAi) - Egyptian "Gazelle", Abaqer (AbAqr) which was not translated, there was a "Blacky" - Libyan Pehetez (phtz), a Tekenru (tknrw) and a Teqeru (tqrw).
 Cattle were critical as power sources. Ancient Egyptians consumed only little meat, but as food goats, and possibly sheep as well, were at least in some places and at certain times more important than beef. During temple excavations at Tell Ibrahim Awad in the Eastern Delta one fifth of the identified bones were from pigs, 4 percent from sheep and goats and only one percent were cattle bones. (Salima Ikram, American University, Cairo)
According to the Bible the Egyptians were not very fond of shepherds either, though this dislike may have had its source in the fact that many shepherds were nomads roaming the often badly policed semi-deserted border regions:
33 And it shall come to pass, when Pharaoh shall call you, and shall say, What is your occupation? A list in J. Kraus: Demographie des alten Ägypten, p.160, suggests a ratio of three to four heads of small cattle per cow in Old Kingdom Egypt, while tributes from Retjenu (Canaan) during the New Kingdom yielded between six and sixteen sheep and goats for every head of cattle. These ratios are based on a small handfull of sources and should not be taken too seriously.
 The depiction of the antelope buck on the right shows clearly the deformation of the animal's hooves, due to its being kept penned up.
|An ancient Egyptian bestiary: Animals divine, wild, domestic and imaginary|
| The Herdsman's Tale|
|Index of Topics|
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|These are just suggestions for further study. I do not assume any responsibility for the content or availability of these websites.|
| The Spatial Structure of Kom el-Hisn: An Old Kingdom Town in the Western Nile Delta, Egypt, Dissertation by Anthony J. Cagle|
| Mummified lion unearthed in Egypt|
| Lion Mummy Found In Egyptian Tomb|
| Cattle: social function|
| Cattle: types|
| The Spatial Structure of Kom el-Hisn: An Old Kingdom Town in the Western Nile Delta, Egypt, Dissertation by Anthony J. Cagle|
|Cattle in ancient Egypt|
|Roger Blench: The History and Spread of Donkeys in Africa|
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