General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 9 May 2021/10 Alligator
Text Size:

Link to page of interest to pupils
Have you met Tec yet?
Search the Site (type in white box):

Replicas of pottery Aztec dogs

A Dog’s (for) Dinner...

The Aztecs only domesticated two animals, dogs and turkeys, both of which were eaten (usually only at feasts). Dogs were well fed (enlarge the main picture to see what on...). Above all the Aztecs enjoyed eating small, hairless, mute dogs brought to Aztec markets from the town of Acolman - the ‘itzcuintli’, a relative of the chihuahua (Pic 1). Though meat was a relative luxury, the Aztec diet was ‘ample, nutritious and well-balanced’, in part at least thanks to some unusually efficient and nutritious foods: the Aztecs were anything but fussy - they ate ‘practically every living thing that walked, swam, flew or crawled...’ (Professor Bernard Ortiz de Montellano). (Written/compiled by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore)

Pic 1: The ‘itzcuintli’ hairless dog
Pic 1: The ‘itzcuintli’ hairless dog (Click on image to enlarge)

They had a great respect for the quality of faithfulness in dogs: when a nobleman died, a dog was often killed and buried with him to guide him on the long journey across rivers and mountains to the next world. In the case of a commoner a pottery model of a dog was often used instead. Aztecs believed that it took 4 years to reach the soul’s final resting place, Mictlan.
Note, in this context, how superstitious the Mexica were: they believed that if you tricked a dog - eg by pretending to offer it food and then whisking it away - the dog would trick you on the way down to Mictlan and wouldn’t help you cross the fast-flowing river (learn more about the challenges of getting to Mictlan from the link below...)

Pic 2: Dog - number 10 in the cycle of 20 Aztec ‘day’ signs
Pic 2: Dog - number 10 in the cycle of 20 Aztec ‘day’ signs (Click on image to enlarge)

Despite its association with death, Dog was a generally favourable calendar sign, a predictor of success in work, wealth and fertility.

Picture sources:-
• Photos by Chris Tims and Ian Mursell/Mexicolore
• Illustration of Dog calendar sign by Felipe Dávalos/Mexicolore

emoticon A legacy from Aztec times? The modern Mexican Spanish word for ‘to put [an animal] down’ is ‘sacrificar’ - mis-translated as ‘to sacrifice’ in the Mexican film Temporada de Patos.

‘Dogs as guides for souls of the dead to Mictlan’

Chihuahua pots from Mexico and the southeastern USA
Feedback button

Here's what others have said:

Mexicolore replies: By all means! We’re here to try and help...
Mexicolore replies: We have no idea where you got the idea that the Aztecs considered dogs ‘filthy’ and ‘immoral’?! The fact that the Mexica round of 20 calendar signs includes Dog suggests they held the animal in high regard...