Ancient Egypt had a number of animals that were local to the area and that they used as pets, farming, transportation, food and fat for cooking and oil. Because they conquered so many countries, they often brought in animals to their areas that were not ‘native’. Many of the pictures from Egypt show a lot of different types of animals that you might be surprised to see.
The Egyptians made use of domesticated animals such as pigs, geese, sheep and goats. They used almost all of the animals for eggs, meat, milk, skins, fat and horns. If an animal was killed, nothing went to waste. While it was common to eat almost all animals, they don’t believe that they consumed pork. Even the dung of the animals was used as fertilizer and the goat skin was used for floating devices and water containers. Early in Egyptian times, they tried to domesticate other animals such as cranes, gazelles and hyenas, but when they failed, they gave up due. The addition of domesticate chickens began in the New Kingdom era, but they weren’t found everywhere.
Egyptians also grew a number of types of cattle: the African horned oxen, a smaller non-horned, and the long horned wild cattle. Zebu were added in the New Kingdom and became quite popular. Most of the cattle were used in farming as well as for their religious ceremonies. However, cattle were highly valued possessions and it appears that they kept them penned in the same way we do today.
From the 13th dynasty on, Egyptians had horses. Since horses were expensive to own and keep, only the wealthy could afford them. Horses were rarely ridden but were attached to pull chariots. For transportation, the Egyptians used mules. These were sturdy animals that could carry a lot of weight and were cheaper than horses to feed. Camels were also domesticated and used for longer desert travel like they are today. Camels have the ability to walk very long distances while carrying heavy loads and don’t need that much water.
The Egyptians were very fond of their pets and they often had cats, ferrets, Vervet monkeys, doves and falcons. Some of the pharaohs and members of the royal family had lions and cheetahs as pets. They had dogs, but they were mostly used for guarding purposes and not as pets. The most favorite pet of the ancient Egyptians was the cat. They thought that the cat was a divine or god-like being and when they died, they mourned their death in the same way they would a human, including mummifying them. Cats were so important that it became a crime to kill a cat.
There were many wild animals in ancient Egypt including crocodiles, hippos, jackals and snakes. The abundance of animals was due to so much water from the Nile River. There were also a lot of different types of birds and fish.
Animals played an important part of the ancient Egyptian religions. While they didn’t worship the animals themselves, they would sometimes show their various gods and goddesses with the heads of certain animals of power. A specific god could also have more than one animal to represent him. There are many animal statutes that have been found throughout Egypt, which shows how important they thought they were. The later Egyptians developed more religious ceremonies around specific animals. The Apis Bulls were bred for sacrificial ceremonies as a symbol of power. Some of the ancient tombs have been found that were designed just for the bulls. These weigh hundreds of tons and are big enough to hold the largest bull mummy.