The cynocephaly: dog headed men

While this page is currently under construction, please enjoy these historical quotes of the cynocephaly, or dog headed men.


The Cynocephali 

“It is also asked whether we are to believe that certain monstrous races of men, spoken of in secular history, have sprung from Noah’s sons, or rather, I should say, from that one man from whom they themselves were descended.---What shall I say of the Cynocephali, whose dog-like head and barking proclaim them beasts rather than men.” Augustine, City of God, Book XVI, Chapter 8. 

Cynocephaloi_0.jpgFifteen days after leaving Sunaridwan we reached the country of the Barahnakar, whose mouths are like those of dogs. This tribe is a rabble, professing neither the religion of the Hindus nor any other. They live in reed huts roofed with grasses on the 0seashore, and have abundant banana, areca, and betel trees. Their men are shaped like ourselves, except that their mouths are shaped like those of dogs; this is not the case with their womenfolk, however, who are endowed with surpassing beauty. Their men too go unclothed, not even hiding their nakedness, except occasionally for an ornamental pouch of reeds suspended from their waist. The women wear aprons of leaves of trees. With them reside a number of Muslims from Bengal and Sumatra, who occupy a separate quarter. The natives do all their trafficking with the merchants on the shore, and bring them water on elephants, because the water is at some distance from the coast and they will not let the merchants go to draw it for themselves, fearing for their women because they make advances to well-formed men. Elephants are numerous in their land, but no one may dispose of them except the sultan, from whom they are bought in exchange for woven stuffs.— Ibn Battuta

Angamanain is a very large Island. The people are without a king and are Idolaters, and no better than wild beasts. And I assure you all the men of this Island of Angamanain have heads like dogs, and teeth and eyes likewise; in fact, in the face they are all just like big mastiff dogs! They have a quantity of spices; but they are a most cruel generation, and eat everybody that they can catch, if not of their own race. They live on flesh and rice and milk, and have fruits different from any of ours.
”— Marco Polo, The Travels of Marco Polo

"In the same part of India as the [crimson-dye] beetles, are born the Cynocephaliew, as they are called--a name which they owe to their physical appearance and nature. For the rest they are of human shape and go about clothes in the skins of beasts; and they are upright and injure no man; and though they have no speech they howl; yet they understand the Indian language. Wild animals are their food, and they catch them with the utmost ease, for they are exceedingly swift of foot; and when they have caught them they kill and cook them, not over a fire but by exposing them to the sun's heat after they have shredded them into pieces. They also keep goats and sheep, and while their food is the flesh of wild beasts, their drink is the milk of the animals they keep. I have mentioned them along with brute beasts, as is logical, for their speech is inarticulate, unintelligible, and not that of man." Aelian, On Animals 4. 46 (trans. Scholfield) (Greek natural history C2nd A.D.) :


"After traversing the Egyptian oasis one is confronted for seven whole days with utter desert. Beyond this live the human Kynoprosopoi (Cynoprosopi) (Dog-Faces) along the road that leads to Aithiopia (Ethiopia). It seems that these creatures live by hunting gazelles and antelopes; further, they are black in appearance, and they have the head and teeth of a dog. And since they resemble this animal, it is very natural that I should mention them here [in a book on Animals]. They are however not endowed with speech, but utter a shrill squeal. Beneath their chin hangs down a beard; we may compare it with the beards of Drakones (Serpents), and strong and very sharp nails cover their hands. Their whole body is covered with hair--another respect in which they resemble dogs. They are very swift of foot and know the regions that are inaccessible: that is why they appear so hard to capture." Aelian, On Animals 10. 25 :

 "On the African side [of the Ethiopian kingdom of Meroe] are the Medimni, and then a Nomad tribe that lives on the milk of the Dog-Faced Baboon (Cynocephali), the Alabi, and the Syrbotae who are said to be 12 feet high." Pliny the Elder, Natural History 6. 194 (trans. Rackham) (Roman encyclopedia C1st A.D.) :

 "Then come regions [of Africa] that are purely imaginary : towards the west [of the Ethiopian kingdom of Meroe] are . . . the Cynamolgi (Dog-Milkers), who have dogs' heads." Pliny the Elder, Natural History 6. 195 :

 "Megasthenes [a Greek historian C4th B.C.] states that . . . [in the Indian] mountains there is a tribe of human beings with dogs' heads, who wear a covering of wild beasts skins, whose speech is a bark and who live on the produce of hunting and fowling, for which they sue their nails as weapons; he says that they numbered more than 120,000 when he published his work." Pliny the Elder, Natural History 7. 23 :

"They speak no language, but bark like dogs, and in this manner make themselves understood by each other. Their teeth are larger than those of dogs, their nails like those of these animals, but longer and rounder. They inhabit the mountains as far as the river Indus. Their complexion is swarthy. They are extremely just, like the rest of the Indians with whom they associate. They understand the Indian language but are unable to converse, only barking or making signs with their hands and fingers by way of reply... They live on raw meat. They number about 120,000.
"The Cynocephali living on the mountains do not practice any trade but live by hunting. When they have killed an animal they roast it in the sun. They also rear numbers of sheep, goats, and asses, drinking the milk of the sheep and whey made from it. They eat the fruit of the Siptakhora, whence amber is procured, since it is sweet. They also dry it and keep it in baskets, as the Greeks keep their dried grapes. They make rafts which they load with this fruit together with well-cleaned purple flowers and 260 talents of amber, with the same quantity of the purple dye, and thousand additional talents of amber, which they send annually to the king of India. "They exchange the rest for bread, flour, and cotton stuffs with the Indians, from whom they also buy swords for hunting wild beasts, bows, and arrows, being very skillful in drawing the bow and hurling the spear. They cannot be defeated in war, since they inhabit lofty and inaccessible mountains. Every five years the king sends them a present of 300,000 bows, as many spears, 120,000 shields, and 50,000 swords.
"They do not live in houses, but in caves. They set out for the chase with bows and spears, and as they are very swift of foot, they pursue and soon overtake their quarry. The women have a bath once a month, the men do not have a bath at all, but only wash their hands. They anoint themselves three times a month with oil made from milk and wipe themselves with skins. The clothes of men and women alike are not skins with the hair on, but skins tanned and very fine. The richest wear linen clothes, but they are few in number. They have no beds, but sleep on leaves or grass. He who possesses the greatest number of sheep is considered the richest, and so in regard to their other possessions. All, both men and women, have tails above their hips, like dogs, but longer and more hairy.
"They are just, and live longer than any other men, 170, sometimes 200 years."

-Greek Physician Ctesias, between 400-500 BC. 

"I am greatly saddened that I have not been thought worthy to let my Christian hand sport with these dog-heads. -King of the Franks, in Notker's Life

"an animal with the head of the dog but with all other members of human appearance… Though he behaves like a man… and, when peaceful, he is tender like a man, when furious, he becomes cruel and retaliates on humankind" –Vincent of Beauvaius, Thirteen-century encyclopedist.

“[6.2a] For from the day of his outlawry he bears a wolf's head, which is called wluesheued by the English. [6.2b] And this sentence is the same for all outlaws.” Leges Edwardi Confessoris, 1140.


The Langobards moreover, when they beheld the great forces of their enemies, did not dare engage them on account of the smallness of their army, and while they were deciding what they ought to do, necessity at length hit upon a plan. They pretend that they have in their camps Cynocephali, that is, men with dogs’ heads. They spread the rumor among the enemy that these men wage war obstinately, drink human blood and quaff their own gore if they cannot reach the foe. And to give faith to this assertion, the Langobards spread their tents wide and kindle a great many fires in their camps. The enemy being made credulous when these things are heard and seen, dare not now attempt the war they threatened (Paulus Diaconus, “History of the Langobards”, Chapter XI).

From hence they proceeded towards the North against the people called Bastarci or Hungaria magna, and conquered them also. And so going on further North, they came unto the Parossitæ, who having little stomachs and small mouths, eat not anything at all, but seething flesh they stand or sit over the pot, and receiving the steam or smoke thereof, are therewith only nourished, and if they eat anything it is very little. From hence they came to the Samogetæ, who live only upon hunting, and use to dwell in tabernacles only, and to wear garments made of beasts’ skins. From thence they proceeded unto a country lying upon the Ocean sea, where they found certain monsters, who in all things resembled the shape of men, saving that their feet were like the feet of an ox, and they had in deed men’s heads but dogs faces. They spake, as it were, two words like men, but at the third they barked like dogs. From hence they retired into Comania, and there some of them remain unto this day (Carpini, “The Long and Wonderful Voyage of Friar John de Plano Carpini”, 1246)

He described them as "being somewhat brutish, but displaying a form of organized religion, worshiping oxen and wearing various gold and silver religious charms" -Odoric of Pordenone, 14thCentury Traveling Missionary

For the Eastern side of Libya, where the wanderers dwell, is low and sandy, as far as the river Triton; but Westward of that the land of the husbandmen is very hilly, and abounds with forests and wild beasts. For this is the tract in which the huge serpents are found, and the lions, the elephants, the bears, the aspicks, and the horned asses. Here too are the dog-faced creatures, and the creatures without heads, whom the Libyans declare to have their eyes in their breasts; and also the wild men, and wild women, and many other far less fabulous beasts.” Herodotus, The Histories, Book 4, Line 191. 


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