The Multicultural World Of Dogs

Cindy KingThis post was written by guest author Cindy King. Please visit her blog Cindy King: Cross-cultural marketer and international sales specialist. Living 40km south of Paris, Cindy has over 25 years of international marketing expererience.

The Multicultural World of Dogs

by: Cindy King

Dogs are a man’s best friend. With 6 billion people in the world, how many dogs are there? Well, there are about 400 million dogs in the world.


  • There are more dogs than people in the United States
  • Or if dogs all lived in a country, they would be the third most populated country in the world, after China and India

Let’s have a closer look at where they are. The top 10 countries by dog population are:
(In millions)

  • USA 61
  • Brazil 30
  • China 23
  • Japan 9.5
  • Russia 9.5
  • South Africa 9
  • France 8
  • Italy 7.5
  • Poland 7.5
  • Thailand 7

Dogs In The World

Dogs have played an interesting role in the different cultures of the world. There are many religious traditions that include dogs.

Although the ancient Egyptian religion emphasized on cats, dogs were important too. Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam each had their view on dogs – both positive and negative.

As an interesting fact, the Russian dog Laika was the first living creature to orbit the Earth. Unfortunately, Laika died on that mission..

In many countries, the choice of pets seems to revolve around dogs and cats.

In the UK, reptiles like snakes, geckos and bearded dragons are now more popular pets than dogs and second only to cats in popularity. Poor Fido has fallen to third place. Does that mean that a lizard is now a Brits best friend?

This is not just an invented fact, calculations by the British Federation of Herpetologists (BFH) show that there are now nearly eight million reptiles and amphibians being kept as pets in the UK. This compares to an estimated dog population of 6.5 million. Wow, as many reptiles in the UK as dogs in France!

For today’s apartment dweller and working couples, reptiles are more suitable as pets than more traditional pets. Simply because they fit today’s modern lifestyles. Reptiles are less time-consuming and can also be easier to take care of. No one takes the snake for a walk on a cold rainy night.

The dog is one of the 12 animals honored in Chinese astrology. In China, the second day of the Chinese New Year is every dog’s birthday and Chinese people are extra kind to dogs on that day.

Dogs in Mythology

A hellhound is a demonic dog assigned to guard the entrance to the world of the dead. Hellhounds are typically unnaturally large in size, have black fur, glowing red eyes, super strength or speed, and sometimes even the ability to talk. Hellhounds also have other duties related to the afterlife or the supernatural, such as hunting down lost souls or guarding a supernatural treasure.

Cerberus in Greek and Roman mythology is a multi-headed dog that guards the gates of Hades, to prevent those who have crossed the river Styx from ever escaping. Cerberus featured in many prominent works of ancient Greek and Roman literature and in works of both ancient and modern art and architecture.

A three-headed dog also appears in the first Harry Potter book.

In Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, Cerberus lives in the Third Circle of Hell, where he oversees one group of Christianity’s seven deadly sins.

Surma, in Finnish mythology, is similar to Cerberus. Surma is often described as being a large dog with a snake-tail and can turn you into stone with his stare. He guards the gates of the Underworld or Tuonela to prevent escape.

Anubis is the Greek name for a jackal-headed god associated with mummification and the afterlife in Egyptian mythology. The oldest known mention of Anubis is 4600 years ago in the Old Kingdom pyramid texts, where he is associated with the burial of the king. Anubis was usually portrayed as a human with a dogs head.

Dogs in Religion

Dogs have a major religious significance among the Hindus in Nepal and some parts of India.

Dogs are worshipped as a part of the Tihar festival in November every year. In Hinduism, it is believed that the dog is a messenger of Yama, the god of death, and that dogs guard the doors of Heaven.

Socially, they are the protectors of our homes and lives. So, in order to please the dogs that people will meet at Heaven’s gate after death, and be allowed in Heaven, people celebrate the festival of dogs in November.

In Islamic tradition, dogs have been seen as impure, and following Islamic law there are several injunctions that warn Muslims against most contact with dogs. In fact, when a dog uses a dish, a Muslim must wash it seven times before he can use it.

Yet, Muhammad (PBUH) once praised a man that gave water to a thirsty dog calling the man who touched the unclean dog a good Muslim for taking care of one of Gods creatures.

Unfortunately, many Muslims have used this view to justify the abuse and neglect of dogs, even though cruelty contradicts the Qur’an.

Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia banned selling dogs and cats as pets, as well as walking them in public. “If a man is caught with a pet, the pet will be immediately confiscated and the man will be forced to sign a document pledging not to repeat the act. If he does, he will be referred to authorities.” The authorities in this case are the “Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice”, the official name of the Saudi religious police.

Indonesia is the most populous Muslim-majority country in the world. In Indonesia, the Minahasa, a Christian ethnic group in northern Sulawesi eat dog meat. And the Bataks of Northern Sumatra consider dog meat to be a festive dish and usually reserve it for special occasions like weddings and Christmas.

Two different points of view in two different Muslim-majority countries!

Dogs As Food and Clothing

Dogs have historically been an emergency food source in various cultures, in Siberia, Alaska, northern Canada, and Greenland. Sled dogs are usually kept for pulling sleds. But, they are occasionally eaten when no other food is available.

A bizarre example of good planning and dog eating is the Norwegian explorer, Roald Amundsen. Amundsen planned to eat his sled dogs during his expedition to the South Pole. By eating some of the sled dogs, he was able to transport less dog food, thus lightening his load.

In France, up until about 1910, there were butcher’s shops selling dog meat in Paris. There is still a type of butcher called a “Boucherie Chevaline”. This literally means a “horsemeat butcher” and still sells horsemeat today.

In 1973, Brigitte Bardot retired from filmmaking. Then, in 1986, she created the Brigitte Bardot Foundation for the Welfare and Protection of Animals. Bardot became a vegetarian auctioned off her jewelry and personal belongings to raise $500,000 for the foundation. Today she is a strong animal rights activist and a major opponent of the consumption of horsemeat in France.

According to an article in the National Geographic News, live dogs and cats are being used as shark bait by fishermen on the French-controlled island of Réunion.

The Réunion is a small volcanic island off Africa’s east coast with upward of 150,000 stray dogs. The French had better send Brigitte Bardot down there to stop this practice.

In Asia, dogs, and also cats, run the danger of becoming coats. Approximately 2 millions dogs and cats are slaughtered each year for their fur.

The best coats are made with puppy fur. Just like Cruella Deville in the Walt Disney classic 101 Dalmatians. 24 puppies are needed to make one fur coat. Hats, gloves and blankets are also made with puppy fur. There are better ways to cuddle up with a puppy, than by making a blanket!


Cindy King usually writes about the multicultural world of people.

She is a Cross-Cultural Marketer & International Sales Specialist, with over 25 years field experience in international business development,

Cindy helps business owners create international business development strategies that shorten time to profitability, by aligning their business offers with different cultures and providing international lead-generation tools.

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