Peritas of Macedon – the dog of Alexander the Great

Narrated from: Curious Dog Facts

Alexander of Macedon had a dog!

Well, several hundred in fact. Being a noble and a military commander, Alexander supported vast numbers of hunting dogs and war dogs.

However, to this day only one dog is remembered vividly for its connection with the great conqueror, and that is Peritas. Though not as famous as Alexander’s horse, Bucephalus, Peritas has a vast number of myths and facts connected to him.

The facts

Peritas was probably a war dog, belonging to the Molossus breed. Molossus dogs were an ancient fighting breed, and are now extinct. They are closely related to modern day mastiffs, and are considered ancestors to the St. Bernard, the Newfoundland and other famous dog breeds.

Molossus dogs were probably one of the first breeds used in war, relying on speed, strength and bravery. The breed was developed in Greece, and later spread to Italy.

It is believed that Peritas was the personal dog of Alexander, accompanying him to war and in hunting. Plutarch claimed that Alexander had raised Peritas from a pup and was very fond of him. Upon Peritas’ death, the distraught Alexander established a city, which he named after the dog – quite the reward for faithful service, eh?

The myth

The fact is that Plutarch is the only ancient historian to mention Peritas by name – thus, many of the heroics attributed to the dog are probably a myth.

The most popular legend claims that during a battle with the Persians, the loyal war dog saved the great conqueror’s life and altered history. Alexander was cut from his men, and a war elephant was charging at him, when brave Peritas leapt at the elephant and tore its lip, turning it back.

Strangely, this story sounds realistic since in these times the greatest war and hunting dogs were deemed fit to fight actual elephants and lions!

In another version of the legend, Peritas protected the wounded Alexander who had been stranded on the wrong side of enemy fortifications. In the end, Alexander’s men managed to fight their way in and found him surrounded by the bodies of several fallen warriors, with the dying Peritas lying protectively on his chest.

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