Dogs vs. Lions!

As I work through some of the earlier chapters in SEMIRAMIS, I discovered a little known fact. Dogs were bred in ancient times as protectors of flocks, herds and peoples—even to point of taking down a fully grown lion! Check out Anatolian (aka Assyrian) Shepherds here. anatolianShep1

 Since the days of Babylon, the large, powerful dogs with the massive heads were living on the Anatolian Plateau. They were used as fighting dogs in the battles, as well as for hunting large animals, even lions and wild horses. This interesting scenes are depicted on the well-preserved Assyrian bas-reliefs, presented at the British Museum in London.

In his homeland The Anatolian Shepherd Dog was not only grazing the cattle, but also he was guarding the flock, walking around it or climbing the high observation posts from which he could better see and sense a dangerous predators. Once Anatolian Shepherds see a moving object, even if it is a car – they are building a chain and run forward like a wind. Such a tactics of attack are naturally developed in this breed.

Anatolian Karabash is a large dog, and a highly reliable keeper!

Since ancient times and until now this dogs are used to guard the sheep herds in Turkey. This is a working breed, a dog, that is enthusiastically defending the family of the owner and his properties, and his cattle.

The Anatolian Shepherd Dog quickly learns, he is faithful and affectionate with his owner, close friends of the family and children. Strangers should be carefully presented to this dog. (taken from Veanimals at

And Kangals are even larger! They’re currently being used to protect herds from cheetahs, thereby helping to preserve the wild cheetah population from extinction (less attacks on herds means less herdsman killing cheetahs).

The Kangal dog is an ancient breed of livestock guardian dog bred over centuries to protect the flocks of shepherds in what is now modern-day Turkey. The Kangal is an intelligent, noble and hardy breed more than capable of fulfilling its job as a guardian. The Kangal and the other livestock guardian breeds of Turkey are the foundation breeds for the American Anatolian Shepherd. Contrary to the term “shepherd,” Kangals and Anatolians are not herding dogs, but strictly guardians that take their jobs very seriously. (from

In SEMIRAMIS, the protagonist learns how to survive the delicate balance of nature assisted by a wayward pup from a litter of her father’s favorite hunting dog Kalbatu. I have her naming him Dannu, which means “strength”.

I think it’s pretty apparent from this video that the size and speed of Assyrian shepherds is more than a match for lions. And without the smooth breeding practices, these massive mastiff-like dogs may have been even more fierce, with some reports of them being almost as large as a horse!

Dannu isn’t quite that large, but he’s a constant companion for Semira. Pretty cool, eh?

Let Them Eat Cake…or Hot Cross Buns?

At the risk of posting controversial statements and religious commentary on my blog, I cannot help but make mention of my latest novel-in-progress in these days leading up to the Easter holiday.

Let me preface this by stating that I believe strongly in tolerance and acceptance. I will not discuss my personal spiritual beliefs other than to state charity for my fellow man. Whew!  Now, having that out of the way…

Genesis-GiftLife-20-of-65Some many years ago, I stumbled across a gorgeous sculpture while hosting a student tour of the Dallas Museum of Art. It was there the artist’s siren song sang a name to me, a name that inspired countless hours of research. The likeness was attributed to that of a Babylonian queen—Semiramis.Semiramis

She’s been called many things—Mother of Harlots, Queen of Heaven…and like much of my work, I believe the truth may lie somewhere in the human story of the woman who brought adulation (and horror) to the entire known world. She has been called many names- Sammuramat, Shamiram, Astarte, Ishtar, …and as she lived in the time of Genesis, it stands to reason that the same legends would be told and retold in many (confounded?) tongues.

The book is only half-begun, and I feel like I’m wrestling crocodiles on most days—just trying to sift through conflicting legends, stories and embellished historical and biblical accounts.  Only time will tell if I can do the story justice.

So, why bring it up now?

Because Semiramis, for anyone who has made a study of religions, is considered by many to be the origins of Easter.

Her name is everywhere at this time of year.

Don’t believe me?  Try googling “Pagan origins of Easter” and read the first page (and there are many, many pages) of listings for what comes up. And while I’m not a big fan of using internet resources as gospel, the fact is that many of them cite gospel, when stating these claims.

As a historical author, I’m wary of anything proclaimed as “fact”.  But the fact (tongue-in-cheek aside) remains that there may be an interesting parallel between life in Mesopotamia and what is documented in Biblical history.

I actually loved the write up from UK author Heather McDougall who said hot buns

“… early Christianity made a pragmatic acceptance of ancient pagan practises, most of which we enjoy today at Easter….In the Old Testament we see the Israelites baking sweet buns for an idol, and religious leaders trying to put a stop to it. The early church clergy also tried to put a stop to sacred cakes being baked at Easter. In the end, in the face of defiant cake-baking pagan women, they gave up and blessed the cake instead.”

277px-Shamiram_araMaybe I’ll just stick to a slice of coconut cream pie….