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People Used To Crucify Dogs

I just finished the book Inside Of A Dog by Alexandra Horowitz. It’s a pretty good book. Horowitz’s writing is both sciencey enough to make you feel smart yet approachable that you never feel too science’d out. She also points out some crazy “What.” facts about dogs and dog culture. Here’s one to blow your fucking mind: dogs used to be crucified.

Yes, furry little non-people were nailed to crosses like canine Jesuses. Dog arms cannot even stretch laterally but, sure enough, some people made that happen. The passage in the book is dropped very casually, as if no one is going to balk at the idea that dogs were once crucified. Yet, dogs were once crucified. That fact is real and fucking bonkers.

So who was doing the crucifying and what was it all about? You have the Ancient Romans to blame. According to Wikipedia, the punishment was a sacrifice called Supplicia Canum. The process was eventually changed when crucifixion was banned (Thanks, guys!) but the dogs were still paraded around—dead—for all to see. Yet, a silver lining: dogs were considered magical so there’s that.

The ritual is scantly discussed but, thanks to Pliny The Elder by way of a Roman Empire message board, dogs this strange practice was absolutely done.

We have already spoken of the honours earned by the geese, when the Gauls were detected in their attempt to scale the Capitol. It is for a corresponding reason, also, that punishment is yearly inflicted upon the dogs, by crucifying them alive upon a gibbet of elder, between the Temple of Juventas and that of Summanus.

For more information, we turn to Paul Carus’ The Open Court: Volume 6. Here he points out

This strange custom is generally explained by the story of the siege of the Capitol by the Gauls, according to which the barbarians climbed the rock in the night, one of them just scaling the wall; and that they would have occupied the Capitol had not the sacred geese, by their cackling, awakened Manlius who rushed to the endangered spot and threw the enemy over the precipice. The dogs, having proved poor guardians, were henceforward doomed to the punishment of crucifixion, while a special festival was celebrated in honor of the geese.

It is more than probable that the story was invented to explain the custom, and that the custom is older than the story; for we are told that the sacred geese were fed on the Capitol because of their sacredness, and in spite of the rations be- ing short while the Capitol was besieged. The Romans might have been tempted to kill the geese and eat them, but being naturally of a pious disposition they did not dare to kill the sacred birds, and their piety was rewarded by the vigilance of the geese. Even according to the legend the geese were regarded sacred before they saved Rome; and it is probable that dogs were crucified annually for other reasons. We may safely assume that the crucifixion of dogs was simply the substitution of an animal sacrifice for a human sacrifice to the sun-god…

Well, there’s that. That was once a thing. Dogs were once crucified. I thought everyone should know about this fucking whackadoodle moment in our history as people who are not dogs but who still have dogs and, as a way to punish them, nailed them to the cross like little lords.”

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