A Tiny Daschund-Like Pooch Was a Beloved Pet to the Ancient Romans

Angela Vuckovic
by Angela Vuckovic

Who said that ancient civilizations didn’t cherish canine companionship as much as we do? Recent archaeological excavations in England have revealed the definitive proof of Ancient Romans keeping dogs as pets – and toy dogs, at that. The remains of a toy-sized pooch were uncovered during the excavations of a Roman Villa in today’s Wittenham Clumps in Oxfordshire. Archeologists have stumbled upon the skeletons of fifteen small dogs on the site, suggesting that the owners were very fond of them, perhaps across generations. 

But the tiniest pooch they found is the one that fascinated the archeologists the most. Measuring just 7.8 inches tall from paw to shoulder, this doggo is one of the smallest Roman-era dogs ever discovered in the United Kingdom. It was most likely a female and was roughly the size of a Chihuahua but with a distinct physiognomy – a bow-legged stance reminiscent of modern  Dachshunds. Her petite size and body shape are a stark contrast to other dogs of this time, which were all bred for hunting and were larger and more muscular. 

Zooarchaeologists Hannah Russ and Sarah Everett from  DigVenture were quick to examine the remains. “The fact that this dog was so small and had bowed legs suggests that she probably wasn’t bred for hunting,” they announced. “This, along with the fact that she might have even been buried with her owner, makes it far more likely that she was kept as a house dog, lap dog, or pet.”

What is interesting about the discovery of these remains is the fact that prior to the arrival of the Romans in Britain, there were hardly any small dogs on the island. There were only medium and large-sized canines, bred for hunting, war, and hard work. When the Romans came, however, they showed the natives that dogs can be loving household pets as well, with no other job than being companions. And the rest is history. With generations and centuries of breeding, new breeds of dogs emerged on the territory of today’s United Kingdom, many of which we still know and love today.

Angela Vuckovic
Angela Vuckovic

A proud mama to seven dogs and ten cats, Angela spends her days writing for her fellow pet parents and pampering her furballs, all of whom are rescues. When she's not gushing over her adorable cats or playing with her dogs, she can be found curled up with a good fantasy book.

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