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Our pets enchant us every day — whether they’re curled up and purring in our laps or greeting us with unrivaled enthusiasm at the door.
But in ancient times, some cats and dogs were considered magical in a much more literal sense. From kitties who were once worshipped as gods to canines who were tasked with guarding the underworld, here are 10 breeds whose origins are the stuff of legend.
Alan Robinson, Animal Photography
This breed certainly has an intriguing history — according to legend, the Norwegian Forest Cat pulled the Norse goddess Freya’s chariot across the sky.
Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography
These pups make excellent watchdogs, so it's no surprise that a three-headed, Mastiff-like canine, known as Cerberus, guarded the entrance to the underworld in Greek mythology.
Tetsu Yamazaki, Animal Photography
Legend has it that the intrepid Russian Blue made his way around the world by riding with the Cossacks and traveling on ships. According to Russian folklore, the adventurous feline also has healing abilities — and brings good luck.
The Shih Tzu is a breed steeped in Buddhist mythology: These little dogs, which were bred by Tibetan monks to resemble lions, were thought to be incarnations of mischievous household gods. Another belief? They carried the souls of lamas who had not yet reached nirvana.
Have you ever noticed that the Pembroke Welsh Corgi appears to sport saddle- or harness-like markings on its back? Based on Welsh folklore, the patterns were a gift from the fairies, who rode the low-slung dogs like horses.
The ancient Egyptians worshipped kitties, like the Egyptian Mau, and elevated them to goddesshood. The breed does possess some rather unique attributes: He is the only domesticated cat with a naturally occurring spotted coat, and he can sprint at speeds of up to 30 miles per hour.
Believe in ghosts and other creatures who go bump in the night? You may want to have a Shar-Pei by your side — both his purplish tongue and wrinkly skin were thought to ward off evil spirits.
In ancient Mexico, the Xolo was revered for his healing powers, such as helping to cure toothaches, insomnia, rheumatism, arthritis and other ailments. And that's not all — he was also thought to frighten away evil spirits and intruders.
In his native Thailand, the emerald-eyed Korat is a symbol of good luck and fortune. And since selling luck would defeat the purpose, these kitties were only given as gifts.
These sassy pups are known for their nearly obsessive devotion to their owners — even in the afterlife. In ancient Mexico, Chihuahuas were believed to be spirit guides who protected souls as they traveled through the underworld.
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