The dog that saw Persepolis

Black Russian Terrier

Vashka not only saw Persepolis. He also visited Pasargadae, Ctesifon, Babylon, Samarra, Khorsabad, Nimrud, Niniveh, and Palmyra. We believe that Vashka is the first and only dog in history to have walked so many miles and visited so many ancient sites.

Vashka is the dog of archaeology!

Indeed, Tinco Lycklama’s most trusted and most faithful travel companion on his 1865-68 trip through the Middle East was a dog. We don’t know exactly when Tinco acquired Vashka. But, we do know that it happened during his stay in the Georgian capital Tiflis, in the winter of 1865-66.

Vashka spent almost three years at Tinco’s side, all the way from Tiflis to Constantinople. He lived in Tehran and Baghdad. He traveled mountain passes, rivers and deserts. Tinco was very fond of the dog. He recalls a moment, on the way from Hamah to Homs in Syria, when he almost lost Vashka; he was overwhelmed with joy when the dog was found and returned to him.

He had huge regret that he could not take Vashka home to Frisia. Just like Tinco, the dog was exhausted and ill, and he feared that the dog would not make it in the European climate. However, good friends in Tehran had promised Tinco that they would take care of the dog if he wished to send Vashka to them. So, on September 18, 1868, when Tinco’s last two servants parted company and traveled back to Tehran, they took Vashka along.

Great was Tinco’s joy to learn, a few years later, that the dog actually recovered and was alive and well with his new owners in Tehran!

Our remaining question is, however: what was the dog’s breed? Currently, the dog in the picture is our best guess – the so-called “Black Russian Terrier“. We base our assumption on what Tinco tells us:

“My little Vashka (for that was his name, a diminutive for Vassili) belongs to the breed of the dogs of Tiflis that bears a certain resemblance to the Scottish terrier, except that one doesn’t shorten their ears nor their tail.” (see original text in French here…).

The Black Russian Terrier doesn’t look “little”. However, let’s keep in mind that dog breeding is only a recent phenomenon, and that varieties have often evolved significantly over the past 150 years. It may well be that the breed Tinco refers to does not exist any more – or wasn’t a well-defined breed at all. Also, it may be that the Black Russian Terrier evolved from Vashka’s breed. It may just be anecdotal, but is is reported that the Black Russian Terrier was Stalin’s favourite dog – and Stalin was a native from Georgia.

In all honesty, we don’t really know. So, we welcome any suggestions about Vashka!

Having said that, Vashka was definitely a most special dog. And, like Tinco, he visited amazing places that few people have ever seen in their lifetime. Certainly no other dog!

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