Here is Set holding the Was sceptre:
The Was is a staff that symbolises “power” or “dominion”. It appears everywhere in Egyptian art: from relics and statues through to reliefs and hieroglyphics. It features a dog’s head with a straight tail. It was held outwards by the bearer. Was sceptres were carried by Set, Thoth, Ma’at, Osiris, Ptah, Horus and Anubis but also by pharaohs and priests. Today it is known as a tuning fork and a gnomon:
Above: the feather of Horus above the face of Set
If we accept the attitude of later Egyptians, we find Set blamed for every misfortune that befell humanity. However, if we embrace the wisdom of earlier times when Egypt was at her peak we hear a different story—a god who was “great of strength” and “great of magic”.
Set was the god of the underworld who was often seen holding the Was Sceptre. In the mythology he variously appears with a curved snout, rectangular ears, a forked tail or a canine body. Because Set was identified with the Greek Typhon, he was commonly known as the Typhonic beast. But where does this hell hound really fit in?
In the photo above, this streamlined dog with a straight, feathered tail and unique ears remains the fastest breed in the world. The answer to the square ears was that the tips were often cut off by their owners. This was an ancient tradition (still carried out in Syria) that is done in the belief that it helps these sighthounds avoid branches when pursuing game. This breed remains the magnificent Arabian greyhound of the Bedouin: the Saluki.
Why are the Set’s ears always portrayed as straight in the mythology? Observations of Salukis reveal that when they are running their ears fly up as does their tails. In our prehistory this animal was portrayed in its hunting state rather than in repose. This fits perfectly with Set himself, the powerful god of action and the hunter of the serpent Apep. Abu Nuwas, a ninth century Arab poet, wrote of the hunting Saluki:
Like an arrow it was sent, tearing away from his own skin, lightning like a cloud.
The Saluki is the oldest breed in the world with a pedigree that dates back 10,000 years. Originally a hunter of hare, jackal and gazelle it was the preferred hunting dog of ancient royal families. Today the breed is known for its speed and companionship.
The three species above remain apex predators to this day. They have a shared evolutionary path and have hunted together since time immemorial.