Famous Dogs in the Age of Rome: The Beloved Canine Companions of Ancient Roman Society

12/17/20233 min read

photography of inside black structure
photography of inside black structure


In the grand tapestry of ancient Rome, dogs played an intriguing and multifaceted role in the everyday lives of its citizens. While the relationship between humans and dogs may have differed from our modern perception, these loyal and faithful creatures were cherished companions, guardians, and even symbols of status and power. In this article, we will explore the fascinating world of dogs in ancient Rome, shedding light on their significance and the lasting impact they had on Roman society.

The Role of Dogs in Ancient Roman Society

1. Companionship and Loyalty:

Dogs in ancient Rome were valued for their companionship and loyalty. They were often considered part of the family and were treated with affection and care. Dogs would accompany their owners on walks, hunts, and even during social gatherings, providing both companionship and protection.

2. Guardians and Protectors:

With their keen senses and alert nature, dogs served as reliable guardians and protectors of Roman households. They were particularly adept at warding off intruders and alerting their owners to potential dangers. The Romans highly valued these qualities and often employed specific breeds, such as the Molossus, for their protective abilities.

3. Hunting Companions:

The Romans had a strong affinity for hunting, and dogs were essential companions in this popular pastime. Various breeds, such as the Laconian and the Celtic hound, were trained for hunting purposes. These dogs would assist in tracking and capturing game, enhancing the hunting experience for their human counterparts.

Famous Dogs in Ancient Rome

1. Cerberus:

Cerberus, the legendary three-headed dog of Greek mythology, is perhaps one of the most famous dogs associated with ancient Rome. According to mythology, Cerberus guarded the entrance to the Underworld, preventing the dead from escaping and the living from entering. Although Cerberus originated in Greek mythology, his presence and influence extended to Roman culture, where he became an iconic symbol.

2. Canis Pugnax:

The Canis Pugnax, also known as the Roman Molossus, was a breed of dog highly revered by the Romans. These large and powerful dogs were used in warfare, gladiatorial contests, and as guardians of estates. Their imposing size and fierce loyalty made them formidable protectors, and they were often depicted in ancient Roman art and sculptures.

3. Trimalchio's Dog:

In the famous Roman novel "Satyricon" by Petronius, a wealthy character named Trimalchio is described as having a pampered and indulged dog. This depiction highlights the status symbol that dogs could represent in ancient Roman society. Trimalchio's dog was adorned with jewelry, fed the finest meals, and was treated with utmost care and attention, showcasing the opulence and excesses of the time.

The Influence of Dogs in Roman Art and Culture

1. Mosaic Depictions:

One of the most prominent ways in which dogs were celebrated in ancient Rome was through mosaic art. Elaborate and intricate mosaics often depicted dogs in various scenes, such as hunting, guarding, or simply as beloved companions. These mosaics adorned the floors of Roman villas and public spaces, showcasing the significance of dogs in everyday life.

2. Statues and Sculptures:

Another testament to the importance of dogs in Roman society is the numerous statues and sculptures that have survived to this day. These sculptures often portrayed dogs in a realistic and lifelike manner, capturing their physical attributes and character. Dogs were also depicted alongside their human owners, emphasizing the bond and companionship between the two.


The dogs of ancient Rome held a special place in the hearts of their owners, serving as loyal companions, protectors, and symbols of status. Whether through their role in everyday life, their depiction in art and literature, or their association with mythical creatures, dogs left an indelible mark on Roman society. Their legacy continues to resonate, reminding us of the enduring bond between humans and canines throughout history.