Tesem – Sighthounds

By Arthur

Also known as the Egyptian Hunting Dog, this ancient breed was one of the first specialized sighthounds in the world.

Although described by some authors as an ancient Egyptian breed, in reality this dog is even older, being depicted in the rock paintings of East Africa that date back to the Neolithic period.

It appears in the tomb art of Egypt from about 3000 BC and is clearly shown as a short-coated, fawn-coloured, erect-eared, slender-bodied, greyhound-like dog. Its height is estimated to have been about 20 in (51 cm).

Described as the ‘prototype greyhound’, this ancestral dog can count among its descendants several other African breeds, such as the Basenji, the Manboutou, the Niam-Niam and the Shilluk. Courtesy of Phoenician traders of the first millennium BC, it is also the probable forerunner of the present-day Mediterranean breeds which we now refer to as the Sicilian Greyhound, the Pharaoh Hound and the Ibizan Hound.

Whether this breed is now extinct is debatable. It has been argued that it is unlikely to be found today in its original, undiluted form, but there are feral dogs in north-east Africa that remain remarkably similar to the ancient form. And some of its descendants resemble the Egyptian tomb-art dogs so closely that one is inclined to think of them as surviving Tesems.

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