For many centuries man has enjoyed a close relationship with the dog family, either as a foe or as a friendly companion. In their very earliest contact, the two realized that each could benefit the other. First, as a means of obtaining food and secondly as an inter-protective relationship.
Unlike the cow and the horse, the dog did not contribute appreciably to the economic status of mankind as a whole. Cattle became the symbol of wealth and a basis of barter still recalled in today’s word “chattel” (which means property). The horse provided a means of fast travel and maneuverability to wage war for power and riches.
The economic importance of these two animals shows up very distinctly in the early coins manufactured by man. The horse’s image shows him as a hunter, a war horse, and at times even a god.
The dog’s importance, however, dwindled as man gained wealth and became more independent. He was no longer needed, by mankind as a whole, as a necessary tool in the procurement of food. He became a household pet for the rich and a tracker of wild game for the sport.
To the common people, he became a close companion usually working for his keep by herding, acting as a guard, or other pursuits that were within the dog’s capabilities.
This uncolorful dedicated performance of duty resulted in the dog being numismatically ignored until relatively recent times. In 1930, he made his appearance on a ten leva coin of Bulgaria along with a horse and a lion.
The design shows a typical hunting scene with the dog and hunter bringing a lion to bay. The same design also appears on the five leva coin issued the same year.
Here we have the only theme used in coin design for the dog, that of a hunter. He has yet to be portrayed as a companion and friend – his greatest attributes.
Actually, the number of modern coins featuring the dog is very small. There are only two more making a grand total of three different designs. The others are from Ireland and Norway.
The Irish coin shows a profile view of a majestically standing Irish Wolfhound peering alertly ahead as if in search of his quarry. As the name implies, the dog was bred as a hunter and was a favored animal with the nobility of the time who had little else to do but frolic across the countryside. The coin first appeared in 1928. It is the six penny value of a full set featuring other important animals to the Irish people such as the chicken, pig, horse, and the bull.