About Dog-Headed People:
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Religious Fables, Folklore, Legends, and Stories

About Dog-Headed People
Submitted by Yuri Klitsenko, Russia

Ratramnus (died circa 868) was a theological controversialist of the second half of the 9th century. He is the author of a letter, the Epistola de Cynocephalis, on whether the Cynocephali (dog-headed people) should be considered human.

Of Ratramnus very little is known. He was a monk of the monastery of Corbie, in Picardy, which he had entered at some time prior to 835, and was famed for his learning and ability.

A letter upon the cynocephali. It is a very curious piece, addressed to the presbyter Rimbert who had answered his queries in regard to the cynocephali, and had asked in return for an opinion respecting their position in the scale of being.

Ratramnus replied that from what he knew about them he considered them degenerated descendants of Adam, although the Church generally classed them with beasts. They may even receive baptism by being rained upon

(Epistola de cynocephalis, Migne, CXXI. col. 1153-1156).

St Cristopher with the head of a Dog.

The tradition of the dog-headed men (cynocephali), dates from very early times, and is common in Asia, Africa and Europe. Two cynocephali devoured the grandfather of St. Mercurius, and were preparing to eat his father when an angel appeared and surrounded them with a ring of fire. They repented and became companions of the father, and later accompanied Mercurius into battle. St. Cristopher is not the only saint to be thus represented.

There is also St. Andrew of Cynocephali, in Kokar Kilise in Cappadocia, Turkey.


Yuri Klitsenko is a Russian living in Moscow.  He works for the Russian Orthodox Church.

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