What if man’s best friend was the size of a man? Say hello to the Cynocephalus, a dog-headed creature that has been seen in folklore in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. The word Kynokephalos or Cynocephalus is derived from the Greek words kuôn "dog" and kephalos "head."
Some of the earliest writings related to these creatures come from Greek physician Ctesias, who encountered them on a trip to the mountains of India around 400 B.C. Ctesias wrote, “On these mountains there live men with the head of a dog, whose clothing is the skin of wild beasts. They speak no language, but bark like dogs, and in this manner make themselves understood by each other…All, both men and women, have tails above their hips, like dogs, but longer and more hairy…They are just, and live longer than any other men, 170, sometimes 200 years.”
Others would add to the stories over the years. Alexander the Great claimed to have fought them in India, Herodotus saw them in Libya, the Roman Pliny the Elder included them in his famous book “Natural History,” and a Chinese Buddhist missionary spotted them living on an island to the east of Fusang. Even explorer Marco Polo referenced the cynocephali in his writings, “And I assure you all the men of this Island of Angamanain have heads like dogs, and teeth and eyes likewise; in fact, in the face they are all just like big mastiff dogs!” Some believe that Saint Christopher of the Christian faith was a cynocephali who longed to be human and eventually got his wish.
Given their canine appearance, Cynocephali were initially considered savages by the humans who encountered them. Although their race had aggressive tendencies, there were those who aspired to be accepted into civil society. It was this sentiment that led the creatures to choose to be seen as human and integrate into human society in the wake of the curse, although it should be noted that there are some cynocephali who do not enjoy hiding their true appearance.
To learn more about the cynocephali and their associations with the Department of Mythical Wildlife, check out “Guardians of the Gryphon’s Claw,” the first book in the Sam London adventure series.
The cynocephali share many of the enhanced senses of dogs, including a heightened sense of smell and hearing. It is also rumored that they have the unique ability to call on the mythical bird known as the “Roc.”