Dogs in Hindu, Indian, and Asian Traditions (Ithamar Theodor, Fall 2011)

Contributed by Ithamar Theodor, University of Haifa

Below please find a collected list of bibliographical items as well as some relevant helpful remarks.
An excellent starting point (and place to mine for other bibliographic
references) is David White’s Myths of the Dog-Man.

Also, see Sarah Cheang’s “Women, Pets, and Imperialism” Journal of British
Studies 45.2 (2006): 359-387 (for Chinese references).

Stephanie Jamison’s The Ravenous Hyena and the Wounded Sun has a great deal
about hyenas.

Hopkins, Edward Washburn. “The Dog in the Rig-Veda.” The American Journal of
Philology 15, no. 2 (1894): 154-63.

Nelson, Lance. 2006. “Cows, Elephants, Dogs, and Other Lesser Embodiments of
Atman: Reflections on Hindu Attitudes towards Nonhuman Animals.” In A Communion
of Subjects: Animals in Religion, Science, and Ethics, ed. Paul Waldau and
Kimberley Patton, 179-193. New York: Columbia University Press.

David Gordon White did a series of articles on the story cycles of Vishvamitra
in the Ramayana and deals with Brahmins who eat dog meat, and are generally
associated with dogs. See his ‘Myths of the Dog Man’ where at least some of
this material is collected:

Much of the material he covers appeared as articles in the 80s before being
published in book form and thus may be a cheaper route (the book is listed at
87.50$!). Sorry I don’t have these article references at hand.

You might have your colleague look also at David Dean Shulman’s the “Hungry God:
Hindu tales of filicide and devotion” which has a section on the sacrifice of
the boy Shunahshepa (dog-penis).

See here:

There was an extended discussion on dogs (“dogs as psychopomps”) in India and
Iranian mythology and iconography on the Indo-Eurasian Yahoo list a few years
ago; you might have your colleague check the archives as that may render some
additional sources of value to them. Here is where you can catch part of the
thread (scroll to bottom to see further discussions):

Dogs were vital assistants in the royal hunt throughout Eurasia (Thomas Allsen,
“The Royal Hunt in Eurasian History”, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006)
and are mentioned in this capacity as early as the Rigveda (7.55.4 and
10.86.4). But although the Mahabharata contains narrative accounts of many
different hunting expeditions, the only one that mentions a dog is the young
Pandavas’ hunt at Mbh 1.123, in which the dog sniffs out Ekalavya and gets its
mouthparts perforated as a reward. I presume this reticence to mention the
hunter’s canine companions — except where an affinity with the nishada might
be suggested — is to do with the dog’s reputation as an ‘impure’ animal, as
explored in White’s aforementioned book.

Wendy Doniger covers dogs fairly extensively in her recent book The Hindus. As
is her custom, she explores a variety of narratives and presents a complex view
on dogs in Hinduism.

I recently had a discussion with somebody who claimed that his (Brahmin) family
always fed “ritual food” to dogs, crows, ants, and cows. Although most other
traditional Hindus did not prefer dogs as pets and regarded them meat-eating

Dog was (perhaps most famously) the last companion of Yudhishthira in his final
journey before encountering heavenly gates at the end of the Mahabharata.

Dog was also adopted as one of the companions by Lord Dattatreya, a popular
deity in South India.

Like many other animals, dog is portrayed as a faithful companion in this 1980s
Hindi film: Teri Meherbaniya.