The History of The Dog Collar
The dog collar, a staple item for those of us with dogs nowadays, but where did the invention come from? The dog collar, though it may be humble in appearance, actually has quite a rich history. You are actually participating in an ancient tradition every time you put a collar on your dog and take them out for a walk. Dogs and humans have been walking together since ancient times and the dog collar has appeared in almost every era. The basic design of the collar has not changed since the time of ancient Mesopotamia but variations of the collar, specifically the decorative design and style, reflect the various world cultures that kept dogs. The alterations to the basic design offer an insight into the role dogs played and how they were regarded in different time periods and cultures.
Warring States Period dog collar. Zhongshan State Gallery, Hebei Museum, Shijiazhuang, China.
The oldest depiction of what seems to be dogs on leads (suggesting some sort of collar was also used) comes from the region of Shuwaymis in modern-day north-eastern Saudi Arabia. At Shuwaymis, one illustrated rock panel discovered by archaeologist Maria Guagnin shows 13 dogs and a hunter; two of the dogs are linked to the hunter by lines which have been interpreted as leads. This panel is dated to 8,000 years ago! The ancient Mesopotamians (probably the Sumerians) most likely invented the dog collar but this topic is still widely debated, just like the question of where dogs were first domesticated. The original Mesopotamian dog collar was a simple cord around the dog's neck which the owner would use to control them. Over time, this cord was replaced by a collar, probably of cloth or leather, which attached to a lead or long stick. As Mesopotamian civilization became more complex, so did the dog collar. By 612 BC, the collar was quite ornate among the upper-class and, generally, had evolved from a simple rope or cord to a kind of slip-lead and then to a snug-fitting band which was probably pushed over a dog's head to fit around the neck.
Man leading a large domestic dog, Sippar, 2000-1600 BC, Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin
Dog collars in ancient Persia are said to have been very ornate with dogs of the upper class reportedly wearing “trappings of gold” or fine linen. Collars of the dogs of the lower class were most likely made of leather or simple cloth. Dogs were kept by ancient Persians for protection, herding, hunting, and companionship. Dogs were so highly valued by the ancient Persians that your position in the afterlife was partly determined by how well you had treated dogs. It is, therefore, not surprising that those who could afford it gave their dogs such luxurious collars. We all know that the ancient Egyptians valued animals incredibly highly, and dogs were no exception. By 1570 BC, ancient Egyptian dog collars had become works of art celebrating dogs through intricate design and ornamentation. 2 dog collars found in the tomb of the nobleman Maiherpri are decorated with brass studs and images of lotus flowers, hunting dogs, and one of them even gives the dog's name: Tantanuit. In fact, the practice of putting a dog's name on its collar first appears in ancient Egypt.
Seated Dog, Tomb of Nebamun, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Dog collars became more refined during the 16th century in Europe and reached their height of design and during the 18th century when upper-class owners purchased ornate collars for their dogs, frequently with the dog's name, owner's name, and address imprinted on the leather or metal band. This trend continued into the Victorian Age and was encouraged by the popular monarch Queen Victoria whose dog was her constant companion. There are many other cultures which used and contributed to the development of the dog collar. The Celts, for example, developed the wide-band collar for control of large dogs, like our Hound Collars, and the Native American tribes of North America developed the harness as they used dogs for pulling sleds and carts. Dog collars remain fairly consistent in design from the Victorian age to the present day but went through centuries of history and development that they carry with them today. People have been walking their dogs in the same way since before recorded time, through the simple act of walking your dog, you are participating in a tradition going back thousands and thousands of years.