The dog is a very sacred animal in the Avesta because of its obedience and usefulness to people. The dog can protect the flock and safeguard houses against theft. Because of their helpful character, the ancient Zoroastrians respected dogs and had many rules for taking care of them. For example, if someone gave a bad food to a dog, he was punished. If someone ate a piece of bread, he had to give a handful to a dog. The ancient Iranians believed that if someone harmed a dog, his soul would never go to heaven.
The Avesta mentions 10 species of dog including the shepherd dog, village dog, and the fox. Today we have more than 37 species of dog and 400 different breeds.
One of the earliest representations of a dog in Iran is on this drinking cup from 4000 BC. It shows Persian Greyhounds or Salukis lying by a pool. Persian Greyhounds were used for hunting in ancient Iran.
This fifth century BC seal shows a Persian noblewoman playing a harp for her Maltese dog. The Phoenicians brought this dog from the island of Malta to Asia Minor (today’s Turkey) where it became very popular with wealthy Persians.