History of Dog Collars


Throughout history, there has been a close bond between man and dog and their harmonious coexistence endures to this day. The first collar can probably be traced back to when dogs were first domesticated. DNA analysis estimates the domestication of dogs to have originated 20 to 40 thousand years BC. Among the oldest fossils distinguishing the dog from the wolf, are the remains found in Germany. These fossils are from the fourteenth century BC. [1]  

Most of the evidence mainly came from Mesopotamia and Egypt. One of the oldest surviving evidence of the existence of a collar was a preserved carved ivory depicting the head of a Saluki dog with a long neck and collar. It is said to be from 5 to 6 thousand years BC. [2] It can be assumed that collars developed simultaneously to the domestication of dogs that took place in several locations in the Middle East. Collars depicted in ancient Mesopotamian and Egyptian art were wide collars, often a piece of thick rope wrapped around the dog's neck several times. Leather versions of these were eventually created. Most dogs in the Middle East were semi-wild and not considered noble or valued [3]. They were seen as despicable and disease-bearing creatures. In ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt, however, they were highly valued and considered as companions of the gods. Aside from keeping them as guard dogs, they were also used as pets as well as for helping protect sheep and cattle.  Leather collars with stamped dog names such as “North Wind” or even “Useless” were found in Egyptian sites which confirms that Egyptians used dogs not only as guards, but also as pets and to protect sheep and cattle. [4]. Egyptians also kept dogs as a status symbol. Dogs wore various decorative and ornamental collars of leather or gold.

Collars underwent considerable development during the Middle Ages both in construction and materials used. Textile, leather, chain, iron, and various precious metal collars were used. The quality and appearance of the dog collar signified that the dog had an owner. However, it also portrayed the owner’s social status and conveyed the owner´s attitude towards the dog. The type of collar used depended on what the dogs were used for. Medieval hunting dogs in the Middle Ages were used not only for hunting hare and deer but also for bear-baiting. Their collars had a protective function as armor and were robust and wide. They were most often made of leather or iron and studded with different types of spikes. Pet dogs wore totally different collars. Theirs were more fragile [7]. Social dogs were primarily a privilege of nobility. Bells placed on their collars showed that the dog was just a pet and not a hunting dog. The collars were made of high-quality leather, luxurious fabrics, or silver and gold to indicate social status. Exceptions were velvet collars, collars made of gold canvas, or collars decorated with rubies or pearls.

 

During the Renaissance period, dog breeding for pets also became prevalent even in the middle class [7]. Dogs finally lived in close proximity to both the aristocrats and the poor. As a result, cheaper and simpler collars made of more affordable textiles and less quality cowhide were produced. Brass collars also became common. Collars of this time often had an identification role. As a symbol of dog ownership, there was a padlock on the collar. Names, as well as different places, maps, and stories, were also stamped. Dog breeding has not always been easy.  It was limited by various laws and taxes likely due to fears of poaching on land and forests. It was only during the Victorian era when dog breeding was established as we know it today.



Sources:

1] Dogs: Their Fossil Relatives and Evolutionary History, Xiaoming Wang, Richard H. Tedford, Columbia University Press, 2010, ISBN-13: 978-0231135290, p. 157

2] The Saluki - A Complete Anthology of the Dog, Various Authors, Vintage Dog Books, 2010, ISBN 978-14455-2766-6

3] The Culture of Animals in Antiquity: A Sourcebook with Commentaries, Sian Lewis, Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones, Routledge 2017, ISBN 978-0415817554

4] Hidden Religion: The Greatest Mysteries and Symbols of the World's Religious Beliefs, Micah Issitt, Carlyn Main, ABC-CLIO, 2014, ISBN 1610694775, p. 325

5] The Ethics of Captivity, Lori Gruen, New York, NY : Oxford University Press, [2014], ISBN: 978-0199978007

6] A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, William Smith and Charles Anthon, Sportiwoode and CO., 1921

7] Medieval Pets, Kathleen Walker-Meikle, Boydell Press; 1 edition (March 11, 2014), ISBN-13: 978-1843837589

8] Looking at Animals in Human History, Linda Kalof, Reaktion Books, 2007, ISBN 978-1861893345

History of Dog Collars