Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years.
This list of dog names from ancient Egypt are perfect if you want to name your Pharaoh hound, Basenji, or Saluki something African, and something different.
Of course, not everyone owns one of the skinny Egyptian breeds, but below, you'll find a name even if your dog doesn't look like a hieroglyph. Some of the ancient Egyptian dogs were mastiff types. If there were mastiffs, as well as a Saluki type, then there was obviously a crossbred. If there were crossbreds, there were obviously mutts, and even a mutt deserves a noble Egyptian name.
There are a lot of choices, but in the lists here you'll notice that the words are short. It is really best if you pick a name for your dog that has only one or two syllables, unlike many of the words that might be difficult for your dog to remember. Two is best since one-syllable words should be used for basic obedience commands.
In any case, try not to pick a name that will confuse your ancient Egyptian dog.
Egyptian Places That Make Great Names
The banks of the Nile in ancient Egypt had many beautiful cities with large temples, large populations, and elaborate living areas. Most of these names are hard to pronounce and may be difficult for a modern dog to respond to. Here are a few of the best, and easiest:
Karnak or Luxor: A series of temples on the Nile.
Memphis: A city that served as a capital for Egypt, established about 3000 BC.
Tanis: A royal city in the delta of the Nile, in the northern part of Egypt.
Famous Egyptian Rulers
|Pharoah's Name||When He Ruled|
During the 1st dynasty
Egyptian Names and Nicknames
- Merikara: A pharaoh during the 9th or 10th dynasty; it can be shortened to Mari.
- Rameses: The name of a number of pharaohs during the 19th and 20th dynasties; maybe you can call your dog Rami?
- Tutankhamen: Pharaoh during the 18th dynasty famous for restoring the god Amun; how about Tuti?
Other Great Egyptian Names
One of the most powerful gods of Egypt, he was usually drawn with a tall helmet.
This is the god that looks like a jackal, and it would make a great name for any of the thin Egyptian dogs. The name could be shortened, perhaps to Nubi.
A scribe during the 18th dynasty.
This powerful goddess was usually carved with human features.
Goddess or war and battle, usually painted or carved with the head of a lioness.
A viceroy of Kush during the 19th dynasty, around the 13th century BC.
This god had the body of a man but the head of a crocodile.
A princess during the 19th dynasty, buried at Saqqara.
If you choose one of these great names, be sure to research it, and you will find out a lot more than I have included here. There are also sites available where you can learn to write your dog's name in Egyptian hieroglyphs.
There are plenty of names from ancient Egypt that I am sure to have missed. If you have any suggestions, please leave a comment, and I can add it to the list.
More Names For Your Dog
- Dog Names from Brazil
Does your new puppy lie around the house most of the day? Does she seem more interested in her pedicure than her new toy? If your dog jumps up into the hammock every chance she gets, maybe she should have a Brazilian name.
© 2013 Dr Mark
mythology!!! on November 21, 2015:
I like the name Anubis. If you're looking for more names there are things on Gods and Godesses that may help you. For example; Rick Riordan is a great author on mythology, and he knows a lot about the Egyptian Mythology. I would like to point you in the direction of the Kane Chronicles. GREAT READ!!! And you may consider adding Ma'at to the list. It means peace/no chaos. Ammit is a good one. He works for Osiris the king of the dead. Technically his job is to devour the souls of the evil, but he comes off as quite a cute and cuddly creature. There's Set, the god of evil. Maybe it would be funny for like a red haired dog? Bast would be a good name for a cat if anyone is wondering. Bast is the cat goddess. Pretty cool. Hapy is a good name (and yes it's Hapy not Happy) he's kind of a goofy nile god. Bes is great! He's the dwarf god, so for a small dog perhaps? Nut is a godess who birthed the major gods and even though she was told not to have children she gambled time with the ultimte DESTROYER the time god. Shu is the air god. Tawaret is the goddess of birth. A dog you hope to breed perhaps? Sekmet the god of war... and many others. here's a website if you seek more. http://www.ancientegypt.co.uk/gods/explore/main.ht...
Thomas C Mill from USA on September 24, 2015:
I found this to be very interesting. Thank you for this. I am a pet lover, but am partial to cats (as were the Egyptians). I once had a cat named Ramses. Here is a nice list of Egyptian names for cats to go along with your terrific list:
mia on January 11, 2015:
i like patra ; great nickname for cleoatra. that is a problem with a lot of great names-they are just too long.My dog plays with a GSD on the beach named max spotes amey alex missy, and even that sounds like quite a mouthful. (I think I would be more a fan of NUBI, or Newbie, whatever!)
mia on January 11, 2015:
my dog are colld spotes / amey/ alex and missy
Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on January 17, 2013:
I like Patra; great nickname for Cleopatra. That is a problem with a lot of great names-they are just too long. My dog plays with a GSD on the beach named Achilles, and even that sounds like quite a mouthful. (I think I would be more a fan of NUBI, or Newbie, whatever!)
Dawn Ross on January 17, 2013:
Thanks for the fun pet name ideas. Many of my pets over the past years have been named from ancient history or mythology... Achilles, Persephone, Maya (from Matamaya in Hindu mythology), and Cleopatra. I know Cleopatra is actually a Greek name but many associate it with Egyptian. My cat's name was Cleopatra but I called her Patra for short. Patra sounds a little more Egyptian somehow... sort of like Petra (which is also a Greek name but Petra was once within the territory of an Egyptian Dynasty.)
Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on January 15, 2013:
I lived in Ireland back in the 80s and studied Gaelic (my father is from the Gaeltacht) but doubt there would be enough to even make a good hub! (At least not that I can remember--that could just be loss of brain cells, however.) Thanks for the idea.
My dog´s name is Arabic, as I lived in Morocco in the late 80s/early 90s and speak that language fluently. I wonder if it is going to be PC to publish a hub on Arabic? I don't think it will go against HP TOS, but I guess I will have to find out the hard way.
Did you click on the Anubis link and read Daughter of Maat´s article on that Egyptian god? Pretty interesting.
That comment about Isis is really good. Sounds like Sir Wrinkles-where do these names come from?
As always, thanks for stopping by!
Bob Bamberg on January 14, 2013:
I don't think the Egyptian names sound as noble as the Chinese names. I had a chuckle when I read Isis-powerful goddess. We had a dog named Isis that came into our store frequently...a pug. Doesn't quite fit the image, does it?
Are you up to a challenge? How about a hub on Gaelic names that the average person can pronounce? Another fun hub, voted up and interesting.
Pets in Ancient Egypt
Cult copper statue of a crocodile. From Faiyum, modern-day Egypt. Middle Kingdom, 12th Dynasty, circa 1800 BCE. (State Museum of Egyptian Art, Munich, Germany).
By Dr. Joshua J. Mark / 03.18.2016
Professor of Philosophy
The ancient Egyptians kept animals as pets ranging from domesticated dogs and cats to baboons, monkeys, fish, gazelles, birds (especially falcons), lions, mongoose, and hippos. Crocodiles were even kept as sacred animals in the temples of the god Sobek. Scholars disagree on whether Egyptians actually worshipped animals as deities but are unanimous when it comes to how the people of ancient Egypt felt toward their pets: domesticated animals were just as popular and deeply loved as pets are in the present day.
One famous example illustrating this attachment is the high priestess Maatkare Mutemhat of the Twenty-First Dynasty (1077 – 943 BCE). Mutemhat was the daughter of the high priest Pinedjem I (1070 – 1032 BCE) and sister to the pharaoh Psusennes I (1047 – 1001 BCE). She followed her father’s example and dedicated herself to the god Amun completely, taking the title “God’s Wife” and choosing a life of celibacy when she took the praenomen (title) Maatkare (“Truth in the Soul of the Sun”). When Maatkare Mutemhat’s mummy was discovered in the Theban necropolis, archaeologists found a smaller mummy, the size of a very young child, at her feet. The original interpretation was that this was her baby and she had died giving birth but this made no sense as Maatkare Mutemhat was known to be celibate. In 1968 CE, x-rays of the smaller mummy determined it was not her child but her pet monkey. Historian Don Nardo writes:
The Egyptians were fond of animals, frequently depicting household pets in paintings and reliefs on their tomb walls. The pet-beneath-the-chair motif shows the master of the house seated with a pet cat beneath his chair. Dogs and monkeys were also frequently shown as pets. Because the Egyptians believed that the next world was a continuation of this one, and that you could ‘take it with you’ , it is not surprising that they had their pets mummified and included them in their tombs (116).
Although exotic animals in egypt such as baboons, monkeys, hippos, and falcons were not uncommon, the ancient Egyptians seemed to favor the dog and cat as much as people today in the modern world. The dog was considered a very important member of the household and the cat is famously associated as the most popular Egyptian pet. Most households, it seems, had a pet cat – often more than one – and, to a lesser degree, a dog. Cats were more popular because of their close association with the goddess Bastet but also, on a practical level, because they could take care of themselves and rid the home of pests. Dogs, requiring more care, were more often kept by the upper classes who were better able to afford them.
Dogs in Ancient Egypt
The dog was still very important to the Egyptians, no matter their social status. According to historian Jimmy Dunn, dogs “served a role in hunting, as guard and police dogs, in military actions, and as household pets” (1). The Egyptian word for dog was iwiw which referenced their bark (Dunn, 1). The dog breeds of ancient Egypt were the Basenji, Greyhound, Ibizan, Pharaoh, Saluki, and Whippet and dogs are referenced in the Predynastic Period of Egypt (c. 6000-3150 BCE) through rock carvings and c. 3500-3200 BCE, specifically during the Gerzean Culture (also known as Naqada II Period), in images and written text. The Basenji, one of the oldest breeds in the world, is considered by some scholars to be the model for the god Anubis though the Ibizan and Pharaoh Hound are also equally qualified as is the Greyhound.
Whichever breed inspired the image, dogs were closely linked to the jackal/dog god, Anubis, who guided the soul of the deceased to the Hall of Truth where the soul would be judged by the god Osiris. Domesticated dogs were buried with great ceremony in the temple of Anubis at Saqqara and the idea behind this seemed to be to help the deceased dogs pass on easily to the afterlife (known in Egypt as the Field of Reeds) where they could continue to enjoy their lives as they had on earth. At Abydos, there was a special cemetery reserved just for dogs.
An illustration of three different dog types depicted on Egyptian monuments.
Dogs were highly valued in Egypt as part of the family and, when a dog died, the family would have the dog mummified with as much care as they would pay for a human member of the family. Great grief was displayed over the death of a family dog and the family members would shave their bodies completely, including the eyebrows. As most Egyptian men and women shaved their heads to avoid lice and maintain basic hygiene, the absence of the eyebrows was the most notable sign of grief. Even so, it was believed that one would meet one’s canine friend again in the afterlife. Tomb paintings of the pharaoh Rameses the Great depict him with his hunting dogs in the Field of Reeds and dogs were often buried with their masters to provide this kind of companionship in the afterlife. The intimate relationship between dogs and their masters in Egypt is made clear through inscriptions in tombs, monuments, and temples and through Egyptian literature. Dunn writes:
We even know many ancient Egyptian dog’s names from leather collars as well as stelae and reliefs. They included names such as Brave One, Reliable, Good Herdsman, North-Wind, Antelope and even “Useless”. Other names come from the dog’s color, such as Blacky, while still other dogs were given numbers for names, such as “the Fifth”. Many of the names seem to represent endearment, while others convey merely the dog’s abilities or capabilities. However, even as in modern times, there could be negative connotations to dogs due to their nature as servants of man. Some texts include references to prisoners as ‘the king’s dog’ (Dunn, 2).
Even though ‘dog’ could be used as an insult, many people seem to have named their dogs after people they loved, or even honored them with the names of gods. Although there is some evidence that cats were named, this practice was not as widespread as the naming of dogs. As noted, dogs were regularly buried with their masters and their names recorded. Some tombs show signs that the dog was killed at the master’s death and then mummified while other dogs had died earlier than the master. In the catacombs of Saqqara, over eight million dog skeletons have been found which archaeologists have interpreted as evidence of sacrifice of dogs to Anubis but which could also simply be a necropolis for dogs.
The cat’s formal pose indicates that it was a votive offering to the goddess Bast, whose cult was especially popular when this bronze was made. Hollow-cast bronze. From Tell Basta, Egypt, circa 664-30 BCE. (National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh, UK)
The Egyptians are actually responsible for the name ‘cat’ in that it derives from the North African word for the animal, quattah and, as the cat was so closely associated with Egypt (and Egyptian trade came to greatly influence Greece and Rome) almost every other European nation employs variations on this word: French, chat Swedish, katt German, katze Italian, gatto Spanish, gato and so forth (Morris, 175). The colloquial word for a cat – ‘puss’ or ‘pussy’ – is also associated with Egypt in that it derives from the word Pasht, another name for the cat goddess Bastet. The cat is almost synonymous with Egypt through its association with the image of Bastet who was originally imagined as a ferocious wild cat, a lioness, but softened in time to become a housecat. Cats were prized not only for their company but their utility in that they kept the home clear of unwanted visitors such as rats and snakes.
Cats were so important to the ancient Egyptians that they literally sacrificed their country for them. In 525 BCE the Persian general Cambyses II invaded Egypt but was stopped by the Egyptian army at the city of Pelusium. The historian Polyaenus (2nd century CE) writes that Cambyses II, knowing the veneration the Egyptians held for cats, had the image of Bastet painted on his soliders’ shields and, further, “ranged before his front line dogs, sheep, cats, ibises and whatever other animals the Egyptians hold dear” knowing that they would not fight against images of animals they loved. The Egyptians surrendered and the country fell to the Persians. During Cambyses II’s victory march he is said to have hurled live cats at the Egyptian’s faces to mock them for surrendering their country for an animal.
A collection of Egyptian Bastets and Sekhmets illustrating the importance of cat iconography in Egyptian culture. (Ashmolian Museum, Oxford).
The Egyptians did not seem to care whether a Persian understood their values or scorned them. They continued to honor the cat highly. Herodotus (c. 484 – 425 BCE) later wrote how, if a home were on fire in Egypt, the people would save the cats before saving themselves or trying to put out the fire. Herodotus also notes the custom of shaving body hair as a sign of grief:
All the inhabitants of a house where a cat has died a natural death, shave their eyebrows and, when a dog dies, they shave the whole body including the head. Cats which have died are taken to Bubastis where they are embalmed and buried in sacred receptacles dogs are buried in sacred burial places in the cities where they belong.
Some scholars have suggested that cats were ritually sacrificed to Bastet as so many mummified cats have been found in tombs but this claim is untenable. Mummified cats who were brought to Bubastis – the cult center of Bastet – were brought there in honor so they would be close to the goddess. This same paradigm can be seen in practices observed at other sites, such as Abydos, where people wanted to be buried – or at least have memorials erected – to be close to Osiris and have an easier access to the afterlife.
A Saite 26th Dynasty period (664-525 BC) bronze art work of an Egyptian cat playing with one of her kittens and feeding another. The goddess Bastet, which had a cat’s head, was one of the many gods in Egypt’s polytheistic religion and had her own temple in Bubastis, in the Nile delta. [Gulbekian Museum Inv. No.21]
Claims by some writers that cats were intentionally killed as sacrifices are almost impossible to accept. The penalty for killing a cat in Egypt – even by accident – was death so it is highly unlikely that cats would be killed as a sacrifice to a goddess whose role included the protection of cats. Cats were prized at such value that it was illegal to export them. The export of cats from Egypt was so strictly prohibited that a branch of the government was formed solely to deal with this issue. Government agents were dispatched to other lands to find and return cats which had been smuggled out.
As in the example of Maatkare Mutemhat, Egyptians also kept animals which today would be considered ‘exotic pets’. The falcon, for example, represented the power of gods like Horus and Montu and were highly prized as pets. Pharaohs and earlier kings kept a falcon for hunting but also as a symbol of divine power. The ibis was another popular bird of the upper class which represented wisdom and the god Thoth. These birds, generally speaking, were too expensive for the lower classes to keep but mummified remains of the ibis suggest that they were still kept fairly widely. There were 500,000 mummified ibises found at the Saqqara complex alone.
Mummy mask for a crocodile with traces of mummy wrapping inside. Stucco, linen, and glass. From modern-day Egypt. Roman period, 1st and 2nd centuries CE. (State Museum of Egyptian Art, Munich, Germany).
The gazelle was another popular pet one would consider exotic in the present day but, to the Egyptians, was quite common. The most famous example of a mummified pet gazelle comes from the tomb of Queen Isiemkheb of the 21st Dynasty (c. 1069-943 BCE). Isiemkheb (sometimes known as Isi-em-kheb) lived under the reign of the pharaoh Pinedjem II (c. 990-976 BCE) and loved her pet gazelle so much she ordered a specially crafted sarcophagus for it. The coffin is carved with the image of the gazelle and formed to fit its body. The mummified gazelle, which was handled with the same care given to a human body, was found with Isiemkheb in her tomb and the preparations of both her mummy and her pet’s, as well as the amulets found still in place, indicate there was every assurance the two would be united again in the Field of Reeds.
Baboons and monkeys were often coddled as loving companions and were mummified and buried with their devoted masters and mistresses. Baboons seem to have been kept for largely ritualistic purposes as symbols of Thoth or Hapy but monkeys were more commonly kept as close pets. Monkeys could be easily trained and inscriptions seem to indicate they were quite useful to their owners in retrieving objects.
Although these exotic pets enjoyed a fairly comfortable life for the most part, it was not always so. Traci Watson, writing for National Geographic in 2015, explains:
For ancient Egyptians, owning a menagerie of exotic animals conveyed power and wealth. But the remains of baboons, hippos, and other elite pets buried more than 5,000 years ago in a graveyard near the Nile reveal the dark side of being a status symbol. Baboon skeletons found at one tomb bear dozens of broken hand and foot bones, hinting at punishing beatings. At least two baboons have classic parry fractures, broken arms that typically occur when trying to shield the head from a blow. A hippo calf broke its leg trying to free itself from a tether and an antelope and a wild cow also show injuries probably related to being tied (1).
A statue of a monkey, Egypt, 30th Dynasty, 359-341 BCE. From the temple of Isis in the Campus Martius, Rome. (Capitoline Museums, Rome)
Watson cites the scholar Wim Van Neer, of the Royal Beligain Institute of Natural Sciences, in concluding that Egyptians of earlier periods, who seem to have abused the animals in captivity, learned how to control them better in time. She writes that “mummified baboons from a later date show few signs of harsh treatment. Perhaps by then the ancient Egyptians had learned to keep animals without beating and tethering them” (2). Exotic animals were kept for any number of reasons and, among them, symbolic representations of power. If a person kept a hippo as a pet, for example, they were “controlling a really chaotic force in nature” (Watson, 2). Crocodiles were kept for the same reason in certain temples as representatives of the god Sobek, the crocodile god. Sobek was considered a creator god in certain periods of Egyptian history and the sacred crocodiles in his temples were fed better than most humans of the time on choice cuts of meat and honey cakes. Crocodiles were mummified and preserved just as cats, dogs, monkeys, and other animals but the most potent animal preserved was the bull.
The Apis Bull
The bull was not a pet but a sacred animal who represented the god Ptah in the Early Dynastic Period (c. 3150 – 2613 BCE). Historian Margaret Bunson writes:
Apis, the sacred bull, was a theophany of the Ptah-Sokar-Osiris cult at Memphis. The Palemro Stone and other records give an account of the festival honoring this animal. The ceremonies were normally called “the Running of Apis”. The animal was also addressed as Hapi. The name ‘Apis’ is Greek for the Egyptian Hep or Hapi. The sacred bull of Apis was required to have a white crescent on one side of its body or a white triangle on its forehead, signifying its unique character and its acceptance by the gods (27).
The Apis bull protected the dead on their way to the underworld. This explains its use as a design on coffin ends. Coffin footboard from Egypt, 8th to 4th century BCE. (National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh, UK)
The Apis bull was so important that it was equated with the power of the king from the First Dynasty and probably earlier. The Narmer Palette shows a bull destroying a city as a symbol of the strength and virility of the king which is evidence that the bull as a symbol of might was already widely recognized prior to Narmer’s reign of c. 3150 BCE. The Egyptologist Richard H. Wilkinson writes:
Apis was the most important of the bull deities of Egypt and can be traced back to the beginning of the Dynastic Period. The origins of the god called by the Egyptians Hap are not entirely clear, but because his cult center was at Memphis he was assimilated into the worship of the great memphite god Ptah at an early date – first as the ‘herald’ or son of that god, and eventually as the living image or manifestation of the ‘glorious soul’ of Ptah himself ( 170).
The Apis bull was so important it was worshipped as early as the the First Dynasty (especially noted under the reigns of Narmer and Den) and as late as the Ptolemaic Dynasty (323 – 30 BCE), the last to rule Egypt before it was taken as a province of Rome.
Importance of Pets in the Afterlife
Whether they were exotic, deified, or domestic, pets played an important role in the lives of the ancient Egyptians. Scholar Bob Brier reports how, “in January 1906, Theodore Davis came upon a pit tomb that surprised him. The tomb lay at the bottom of a twelve-foot shaft cut into the bedrock” (cited in Nardo, 118). Brier reproduces the first hand report of Davis:
I went down the shaft and entered the chamber, which proved to be extremely hot and too low for comfort. I was startled by seeing very near me a yellow dog of ordinary size standing on his feet, his short tail curled over his back, and his eyes open. Within a few inches of his nose sat a monkey in quite perfect condition for an instant I thought that they were alive, but I soon saw that they had been mummified, and that they had been unwrapped in ancient times by robbers (Nardo, 118).
These animals were mummified pets but there were also animals mummified for food. Animals killed for food were usually fish or fowl and great care went into their preservation so that the deceased would have enough food in the afterlife. These mummies are not embalmed with the care that went into embalming a pet and are not wrapped with linens in the same way. Pet fish, for example, were very carefully tended while fish mummified for food were treated differently. Tombs throughout Egypt have been discovered containing mostly mummified pets.
A wooden coffin shaped in the form of a Nile bolti fish and containing the mummified remains of a fish. Dynasty XXX-XXXI, 4th century BCE. (Egytpian Museum, Turin)
One of the early excavators of Egyptian tombs, Belzoni (1778 – 1823 CE) reported an enormous collection of mummified pets:
I must not omit that among these tombs we saw some which contained the mummies of animals intermixed with human bodies. There were bulls, cows, sheep, monkeys, foxes, bats, crocodiles, fishes, and birds in them idols often occur and one tomb was filled with nothing but cats, carefully folded in red and white linen, the head covered with a mask representing the cat and made of the same linen (Nardo, 119).
The human experience was considered only one part of a person’s eternal journey and, as such, the animals a person encountered in life were also to be expected in one’s passage through death to eternity. There were dangerous animals in life, such as the crocodile and hippo, who would pose the same kind of dangers in the afterlife. There is one version of eternity which includes crocodiles which threaten and prevent one from reaching one’s place in the Hall of Truth.
At the same time, those animals who had been one’s trusted companions on earth could be counted upon to meet that person on the other side in the Field of Reeds. The ancient Egytians loved their pets just as people do in the present day. They recognized them as an integral part of their life on earth and understood that death was only a temporary separation and, one day, they would be reunited with their faithful friends again.
Egyptian names for male dogs
Here is a list of the most popular Egyptian gods and their meanings to find the Egyptian name that best fits your male dog:
- Ra: . the god of the sun, of the origin of life and of heaven. This name is perfect for a powerful dog, as well as for one who loves to lie down and sunbathe
- Bes / Bisu: . the god of goodness, who protected homes and children from evil. He was represented as a small, plump god, with a mane and his tongue out, chasing away evil spirits through his ugliness. It is an ideal name for a plump and very noble dog that children love.
- Seth / Set: . the god of the storm, war and violence. They were a dark god representing brute force. This name is good for naughty dogs that get angry easily.
- Anubis: . the god of death and the Necropolis. He was depicted as a man with a black jackal or dog head. This Egyptian name for dogs is perfect for a quiet, black, enigmatic and reserved dog.
- Osiris: . the god of resurrection, of vegetation and agriculture. It is a perfect name for a dog that likes fields and the countryside. In addition, Osiris was killed by his brother and later his wife, Isis, resurrected him. So it is also a good name for a rescued dog, who has gone through trauma and has been "revived" by their new family.
- Toth: . a magician, the god of wisdom, music, writing and the magic arts. They said that he was the creator of the calendar and that he was the time gauge. This name is best for a quiet dog with extraordinary intelligence.
- Min / Menu: . the lunar god of fertility and male sexuality. It was represented by an erect penis. It's a funny name for a dog that wants to mount everything!
- Montu: a warrior god with a hawk head who protected Pharaoh in battle. It is a perfect name for strong dogs, guardians, and protectors of your family.
37 Egyptian Cat Names Inspired By Ancient Times
Ancient Egyptians loved cats. More than love—they worshipped cats. Cats have been found mummified in ancient archeological sites, and cat statues are another common find.
According to scholar James Allen Baldwin, cats have been found in Egypt as far back as 5,000 years. And while they served multiple purposes—from protecting Egyptian homes against rodents and venomous snakes and acting as bird hunters, they eventually came into god-status.
Cats became sacred to Egyptians. And let’s be real…it’s not that different for cat lovers today. So honoring them with a name inspired by Ancient Egypt seems fitting.
We compiled a list of Egyptian cat names that were inspired by Egyptian culture and history so you can honor your new kitten or adopted cat in the way the Egyptians did.
Graves of nearly 600 cats and dogs in ancient Egypt may be world’s oldest pet cemetery
The cats and dogs lie as if asleep, in individual graves. Many wore collars or other adornments, and they had been cared for through injury and old age, like today’s pets. But the last person to bury a beloved animal companion in this arid Egyptian land on the coast of the Red Sea did so nearly 2000 years ago.
The site, located in the early Roman port of Berenice, was found 10 years ago, but its purpose was mysterious. Now, a detailed excavation has unearthed the burials of nearly 600 cats and dogs, along with the strongest evidence yet that these animals were treasured pets. That would make the site the oldest known pet cemetery, the authors argue, suggesting the modern concept of pets wasn’t alien to the ancient world.
“I’ve never encountered a cemetery like this,” says Michael MacKinnon, a zooarchaeologist at the University of Winnipeg who has studied the role of animals across the bygone Mediterranean but was not involved with the new work. “The idea of pets as part of the family is hard to get at in antiquity, but I think they were [family] here.”
Archaeozoologist Marta Osypinska and her colleagues at the Polish Academy of Sciences discovered the graveyard just outside the city walls, beneath a Roman trash dump, in 2011. The cemetery appears to have been used between the first and second centuries C.E., when Berenice was a bustling Roman port that traded ivory, fabrics, and other luxury goods from India, Arabia, and Europe.
In 2017, Osypinska’s team reported unearthing the remains of about 100 animals—mostly cats—which appear to have been cared for like pets. But the exact nature of the site wasn’t clear. Salima Ikram, an expert on ancient Egyptian animals at the American University in Cairo, said at the time that the bones might have been discarded rubbish.
Fieldwork being conducted at the Berenice pet cemetery
Osypinska and her colleagues have now excavated the remains of 585 animals from the site and analyzed the bones in detail. A veterinarian helped the team determine health, diet, and cause of death.
The animals appear to have been laid gently in well-prepared pits. Many were covered with textiles or pieces of pottery, “which formed a kind of sarcophagus,” Osypinska says. More than 90% were cats, many wearing iron collars or necklaces threaded with glass and shells. One feline was placed on the wing of a large bird.
The team found no evidence of mummification, sacrifice, or other ritual practices seen at ancient animal burial places such as the Ashkelon site in Israel. At Berenice, most of the animals appear to have died from injury or disease. Some cats have fractured legs or other breaks that may have been caused by falls or from being kicked by a horse. Others died young, possibly from infectious diseases that spread rapidly in the cramped city.
The dogs, which make up only about 5% of the burials (the rest are monkeys), tended to be older when they died. Many had lost most of their teeth or suffered periodontal disease and joint degeneration.
“We have individuals who have very limited mobility,” Osypinska says. Yet many lived long lives and their injuries healed. “Such animals had to be fed to survive,” she says, “sometimes with special foods in the case of the almost-toothless animals.”
A cat from Berenice was wearing a bronze collar.
The fact that humans took such good care of the animals, especially in a rough-and-tumble region where almost all resources had to be imported—and that they took such care in burying them, just as many modern owners do—suggests the people of Berenice had a strong emotional bond with their cats and dogs, the team concluded last month in World Archaeology . “They weren’t doing it for the gods or for any utilitarian benefit,” Osypinska says. Instead, she argues that the relationship between people and their pets was “surprisingly close” to the one we see today.
Ikram is convinced. “This is a cemetery,” she says. “And it sheds an interesting light on the inhabitants of Berenice and their relationships with their animals.”
Archaeologist Wim Van Neer is also on board. “I’ve never seen a cat with a collar” from so long ago, says Van Neer, of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, who has studied the relationship between people and animals in the ancient world, including at Berenice.
Still, he says it’s possible the people of Berenice valued their cats and dogs for nonsentimental reasons. A seaport would have teemed with rats, he notes, making cats a prized working animal. And although a few of the pups at the site were small dogs akin to today’s toy breeds—and thus likely had little utility except as lap dogs—larger canines could have guarded homes and consumed refuse. “I don’t believe it was just a loving relationship.”
Osypinska hopes the new work will convince other archaeologists that companion animals are worth study. “At first, some very experienced archaeologists discouraged me from this research,” arguing the pets were irrelevant for understanding the lives of ancient peoples, she says. “I hope the results of our studies prove that it’s worth it.”