General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 28 Feb 2021/5 Monkey
Text Size:

Aztec stone snake sculpture, Hamburg museum

Click to see the latest Artefact in the Spotlight!

Link to page about the Maya Calendar
Today's Maya date is: - 2992 days into the new cycle!
Link to page of interest to teachers
Click to find out how we can help you!

Professor Susan Toby Evans

If you were under 52, were you ever allowed chocolate? asked Oak Farm Junior School. Read what Professor Susan Toby Evans had to say.

Search the Site (type in white box):

Dogs of the Conquest
Dogs of the Conquest
The story of dogs caught up in the Spanish Conquest, by John Grier Varner and Jeannette Johnson Varner (Univ of Oklahoma Press, 1983)
Vicious dogs attacking the Aztecs

IN THE NEWS (again): vicious dogs

Very sadly, attacks on humans by fierce breeds of fighting dog have been increasingly in the news (at least the UK press) in recent years. 500 years ago dogs bred to attack - and even bearing armour - were a vital part of Spanish weaponry... (Written/compiled by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore)

From the Coyoacan Codex (also known as the Manuscrito del Aperreamiento). Original in the Bibliotheque Nationale de Paris
From the Coyoacan Codex (also known as the Manuscrito del Aperreamiento). Original in the Bibliotheque Nationale de Paris (Click on image to enlarge)

As one writer put it ‘Historians have agreed that the Spanish conquest of the Indies was accomplished by men, horses, and dogs, in that order...’

16th century armoured dogs: from ‘The New Dog Encyclopedia’ (reproduced in Dogs of the Conquest)
16th century armoured dogs: from ‘The New Dog Encyclopedia’ (reproduced in Dogs of the Conquest) (Click on image to enlarge)

On his first voyage Christopher Columbus met local native dogs in the Indies, but was unimpressed by them; equally, having discovered a gentle and docile society willing to bend to Spanish rule, he felt little need to return with attacking dogs of the kind regularly bred and used for warfare in Europe at the time.

The shrewd Archdeacon of Seville, Juan Rodgriguez de Fonseca - the king’s personal chaplain, in charge of the supplies for the explorer’s fleet - felt otherwise, however, and made sure that on Columbus’s second journey, in September 1493, his force was equipped with men, arms, and a pack of 20 purebred mastiffs and greyhounds... We have no accurate record of how many such beasts Hernán Cortés took with him when, on February 10th 1519 he sailed out of Havana en route to Veracruz, Mexico, but there is no doubt whatever that they played a key role in subduing the Indian population, during the conquest and for many years afterwards.

The codex image shown here was drawn as part of a manuscript (completed around 1529) - the Coyoacan Codex - that was used later by conquered Indian peoples as evidence submitted to prove cases of Spanish brutality. In Professor Gordon Brotherston’s words ‘Cortés himself is indicted here (top left), together with his interpreter Marina... who holds a rosary in her hand. The victim of their crime, hands tied and held on a chain, is being savaged by a mastiff, a form of intimidation, indeed a pastime much favoured by the Spaniards.

‘[Bartolomé de] Las Casas [a Spanish friar sympathetic to the Indians] wrote that it was not unusual for one Spaniard to say to another: "Lend me a quarter of a Villaine (an Indian) to give my Dogs some meat, until I kill one next."’ The term ‘dogging’ was one used frequently by the Spanish to refer to one of their many barbaric methods of inflicting ‘justice’ on the native population. A Maya priest imprisoned by the Spanish used a more graphic expression, witnessing mastiffs ‘destroying the faces’ of his people.

It’s worth noting that attacking dogs had, centuries before, been employed in the armies of the Assyrians, Persians, Greeks and Romans - not only as messengers, sentinels and trackers but as actual combatants against their enemies. Learn more at Wikipedia (link below).

(Info from Dogs of the Conquest by J G and J J Varner, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 1983 and Image of the New World by Gordon Brotherston, Thames & Hudson, London, 1979. Main photo by Ian Mursell - detail of a screen mural by Roberto Cueva del Río, 1976, of the Spanish Conquest. Other images scanned from the above two books)

Wikipedia’s entry on War Dogs
Feedback button