Dogs have been our partners for such a long time that it’s not surprising to find them mentioned in the Bible.
If you’re Googling only dog breed in the Bible, you’ve come to the right place: the only dog breed specifically mentioned in the Bible is the greyhound, but only sort of.
The word appears in Proverbs 30:31, but only in the King James translation of the English Bible, and there’s more to it than this half-correct trivia answer!
The Only Dog Breed in the Bible?
The first thing to know is that the original author of Proverbs 30:31 was not talking about the greyhound as we know it today.
In fact, we don’t know exactly what he was talking about!
Only the King James Version of the English Bible translates this word as “greyhound. ”
In other translations, you’ll find “strutting rooster” or something similar.
A Little Hebrew
This part of the Bible was originally written in Hebrew, and the word in question here is מָתְנַ֣יִם.
This word has something to do with “loins” and is most often used to describe something about people.
For example, you’ll find this same word in Amos 8:10 speaking about everyone mourning with “sackcloth on the loins/around the waist.”
It’s also used in Nahum 2:10 to talk about pain in the intestines.
In Proverbs 30:31, the reference is to an animal with thin, “quaking” loins.
If you’ve ever seen a greyhound standing still after a run, quivering around the middle, you’ve got the picture!
Earlier Jewish scholars interpreted this passage to be talking about a thin-waisted hunting dog of some kind, but later Jewish and Christian scholars of Hebrews think it’s more likely a euphemism for a strutting rooster.
This makes the most sense in the context, too, since the verse is talking about four things that carry themselves proudly.
It’s worth knowing that the greyhound was an exceedingly popular dog with the royalty and upper classes of England at the time the King James Bible was produced.
Some modern scholars believe this influenced the decision to call the thing mentioned in Proverbs a greyhound.
But some early Jewish scholars also thought it was referring to a thin-waisted hunting dog, so what gives?
Surely a dog is a dog, and a rooster is a rooster, and loins are loins!
How could there be confusion?
Language Is Language
There are many thousands of years between us and the people who spoke the language we find in Proverbs 30.
Even the “early Jewish scholars” we’ve been talking about were far enough removed from the original writer that they were making a (highly educated) guess about this word.
If that seems strange, remember how common it is to have serious difficulties translating between even modern languages that millions of people speak right now.
Just think of the fun we can have plugging English and Chinese phrases into Google translate!
Things get even more difficult when you’re translating from a language no one has spoken for thousands of years.
And, to make things even harder, idioms and proverbs are notoriously difficult to properly translate, and that’s exactly what we have here in Proverbs 30 and the greyhound.
Imagine the trouble English language learners have understanding your offhanded remark about a morning drink being “hair of the dog!”
Want to know more about this greyhound than just the (half-wrong) trivia answer?
The greyhound verse (Proverbs 30:31) is part of a larger chapter with a specific purpose.
The greyhound/rooster appears in a series of tetrads.
A tetrad is just a type of poetic saying that references four items or has four lines.
You can see this form of poetry in a lot of ancient languages.
The Egyptians, for instance, had some poetry about what they considered necessary for beauty in a woman.
She should have, for example, the Four Wide—forehead, eyes, hips, and lips, and the Four Fine—eyebrows, nose, lips, and fingers.
Proverbs 30 in General
Proverbs 30 is a series of sayings from a sage named Agur to a royal student named Ithiel.
Agur’s goal is to make Ithiel wise so he’ll have a successful life as a leader.
First, Agur makes some confessions about what he’s learning in life:
- I’ve learned I’m ignorant, and I’ll never be wise unless I know God (verses 2-3)
- I’ve learned that true knowledge is comprehensive, but the only one who has that is God (verse 4)
- I’ve learned that God’s word is infallible and what matters is my relationship with him (verses 5-6)
After this confession, Agur gives some specific advice and then a set of three and four: three untitled sayings and four tetrads that do have titles.
The three that are untitled are all about greed.
The four titled sections talk about boundaries.
The chapter ends with a call to Ithiel not to rebel against the created order.
Proverbs 30:31 and the Greyhound
In the specific section where we find the greyhound, Agur is talking about boundaries created by God.
First, he mentions four wise creatures that rule within their own sphere in ways that seem amazing to us: ants, locusts, rabbits, and lizards.
Then, he describes four things that go proudly: the lion, a strutting rooster or a greyhound, a male goat, and a king with an army at his back.
These creatures are actually all metaphors for types of people.
They represent wise people who know how to behave within their sphere to find protection, food, strength, success, etc.
The point for Ithiel is this: work wisely within the boundaries God has created and you’ll have strength and peace all your life.
So, is the greyhound the only dog breed in the Bible?
Even if the word there in Proverbs is talking about a thin hunting dog, though, it’s not quite like the greyhounds we know and love today.
Now you know!