The First of the Dogmen: Central Asian Indigenous Peoples and Western Prejudice


One consistent bugbear of ‘civilized’ nations and societies is Dog-Men or Cynocephali. Dog-headed monsters inhabit the same border between fear and fascination as vampires and zombies today. Such creatures are always found at the far reaches of uncharted 'wilderness', both physical and psychological. I argue that these figures are based upon Indigenous peoples in Siberia, where men traditionally hunted with wolves or large ‘wolflike’ dogs, wore masks of dog skin when fighting, and were often absent from  permanent encampments, leading to stories of ‘Amazons’ paired with Dogmen. Similar traditions continue, illustrated in Herzog’s film, The Happy People, where men spend much of the year in hunting camps, accompanied by their wolflike Laikas, a primitive dog breed.  DNA studies of Russian wolves and dogs show that there is no clear division as in other parts of the world. These may be the oldest ‘dogs’ known to humans.