Posted by: xeper | September 15, 2008

The Face of Anubis

The real Egyptian name of Anubis can be written as Enpu, Yinepu, Inpu, or Anpu. He is what many sources describe as the “Ancient Egyptian God of Death with the Jackal Head“. This little description contains so many errors and misses so many points that it has to be ignorant about dogs/jackals, Ancient Egyptian wisdom, mindset and symbology, Aztec and Toltec traditions, spirituality, the afterlife, and the Moslem Quran (yes!). But I can only address one point at a time, so today’s post highlights the fact that Yinepu (“Anubis” is the Greek name) is depicted with the face of a dog, and even contributes to the discussion about which breed of dogs had this honor and why.

While several breeds are known or thought to have lived in Ancient Egypt in general, enthusiasts of several dog breeds claim that their particularly favorite breed is the one featuring in Yinepu’s black face. Most prominent contestants seem to be the Basenji, the Pharaoh Hound, and the Xolo.

While the Basenji with its distinguishable curled tail is the most common dog in Egypt today (we call them Kalb Baladi, which means Common or Egyptian Dog), it doesn’t strike me as particularly reminiscent of Yinepu, nor are the black ones fully black like the statue found in Tut Ankh Amen’s tomb. The Pharaoh Hound, too, while very similar in facial features to Yinepu, is red(ish) rather than black(ish), and it isn’t an ancient breed.

The Xolo, in contrast, is an old breed that represented in Old Mexico the “Spirit of Death”, also a protective companion to the Other World, just like Yinepu in Egypt. Moreover, the Xolo reminds of Yinepu in facial features, and may have a standard all-black coat that seems to me very Yinepu-like (e.g. the third picture here). Curiously, its temperament includes being very kind with those it knows and very protective of them, and aloof to strangers; attitude one would appreciate in someone responsible to protect you in your mystery voyage to the next world.

I suggest the Xolo is the dog breed represented in the Face of Anubis/Yinepu.

In a following post, I will present a very interesting story possibly describing one of the original figures of Yinepu.

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Planned Related Posts (tell me which you want more):

  • Gods or Neteru: what Ancient Egyptians really worshiped
  • Heads or Faces: what the Ancient Egyptians drew and what we saw
  • Why Did Anubis Have the Face of a Dog? Evidence from animal behavior, Mesoamerican and Islamic traditions


  1. An interesting idea, but I don’t see how this could work geographically. the Xolo is indigenous to the Americas, and would have been totally unknown to the Egyptians. The Xolo did not exist outside of the Americas until modern times.

    However, the Jackal was a common creature which was well known to the Egyptians as well as her neighbours, and bears a striking similarity in build to images of Anubis/Anpu in His fully canine form. In addition jackals have a liking for the desert, and the necropolis.

    Although the Canis Aureus is not black in colour, symbolically this would make sense. Osiris is also often depicted with black skin, and both are associated with death and rebirth (black, soil… emergence…life from death), and is a logical symbolic depiction of Anpu, given the jackals love of the same realms, and the overall reputations of canine creatues as loyal guides (who love to play with bones? ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

  2. PS: I vote for “Heads or Faces: what the Ancient Egyptians drew and what we saw” ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. I was wondering when the article would catch your attention, Silver. So you dismiss the facts that both cultures shared the same symbols and similar pyramid structures, a strong interest in astronomy, and other parallels to defend the idea that Egyptians thought the best protector of their souls would be a jackal? I would consider it if you could bring evidence of Egyptians using jackals for protection (even companionship) in their worldly lives.
    Mind you that I dont have to do the same because my hypothesis tends to push the idea that Enpu’s figure might be adopted from Mesoamerica. I would like to add another point: Enpu being the spirit protecting your soul in its journey to the West would be best a native from the West, no? ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Ok, I did some research which, unfortunately for traditional egyptology, confirms two things:
    – A cross Atlantic voyage was technically possible thousands of years ago, especially for nations of high astronomical awareness
    – The Egyptian Jackal is arguably a Jackal at all, and Egyptians refer to it as a wolf, and is not and has never been seen as friendly

    PS. Heads or Faces it is, then, but after I document the above findings (thanks for the push) ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. […] Papyrus, Papyrus Boat, Ra II, Reef Boat, Trans-Atlantic Ocean An interesting comment to “The Face of Anubis” from my egyptologist friend defends the Jackal-Head theory about the representation of […]

  6. […] radical egyptology, xolo, xoloitzcuintli, xolotl |   An Egyptian friend of mine recently posted an article concerning the god Anubis and his view that the depiction of the god as a black canine, commonly […]

  7. Anubis have face of a dog.
    In ancient Egypt lived dog breed called TESEM. Tesem is ancestor of today’s Cirneco dell’Etna (this breed is 5.000 years old), Podenco Ibicenco, Podenco Canario, Podenco Andaluz, Podengo Portugues.
    Pharaoh hound is only 200 years old and mix of Cirneco dell’Etna and I think Podenco Ibicenco. Real name of this breed is Kelb-tal-fenek (rabbit dog), name Pharaoh hound gave them English people who came on Malta because ther’s a lot of similarity with huting dogs in ancient Egipt and of course Anubis.

  8. I am glad there are people who see the validity of the Dog-face thesis ๐Ÿ™‚
    Thank you for your contribution.

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