“Hounds of the Lord”: The Little-Known Meaning of the Dominican Dog

Public Domain

St. Dominic is one of the Church’s greatest saints, and the order that bears his name, the Dominicans, is one of the Church’s greatest orders.

But how many Catholics know the meaning of the Dominican dog?

Yes, lots of iconography related to St. Dominic and the Dominicans include a dog! But sometimes you have to look closely to catch it:

Public Domain

Once you start looking for it, you start seeing it everywhere! (You can see more examples at the end of this post.)

What does it mean?

The Dominican dog goes back to a vision St. Dominic’s mother supposedly had before she had him. Struggling with infertility, she was making a pilgrimage to the Abbey of Santo Domingo de Silos in Spain when she dreamed that a dog jumped from her womb holding a torch and set everything around them on fire. Soon after, she conceived a son with her husband and named him after the 11th century St. Dominic of Silos, for whom the abbey she had visited had been named.

The dream was prescient due to a play on words in Latin: although Dominic called his order the Order of Preachers, it would later come to be known as the Dominicans; in Latin, that’s Dominicanus, which is very similar to domini canis, or “dog/hound of the Lord.”

Given the order’s charism for zealous preaching of the Gospel, the story and the play on words seemed fitting! So, to this day, the Dominicans are nicknamed the “hounds of the Lord.”

More examples of the Dominican dog:

Georges Jansoone, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0
Thomas Quine, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 2.0
Jordiferrer, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0
Zarateman, Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

St. Dominic, please pray for us!

[See also: 8 Ancient Christian Symbols and Their Hidden Meanings]

[See also: The Meaning of the Strange Birds Hidden in Christian Art Around the World]

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