Ancient dog festival celebrates legend of heaven-sent canine in China

Members of the Miao people celebrate tradition that their ancestors were saved from death by a heaven-sent animal

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 03 September, 2017, 8:00pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 03 September, 2017, 9:15pm

Dog festivals in China often involve eating the meat of the animals, but on Saturday villagers in the country’s southwest took part in a very different tradition when they strapped a dog onto a sedan chair and shouldered it over rice paddies as a god.

Villagers from the ethnic Miao people in Jianhe county, Guizhou, have worshipped dogs for centuries, according to a report by

According to a legend passed down from its first settlers, a dog led them to a sacred water source and saved them from dying of thirst.

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Water shortages are common in some areas of Guizhou due to the region’s karst landscape, characterised by soluble rocks that mean little water remains on the surface.

The community’s ancestors held an annual ritual to celebrate the what they believed was a heaven-sent miracle. Later it became known as taigoujie, or the dog-lifting festival.

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The chosen dog is dressed in a tailor-made shirt and then put in a wooden chair that is carried on freshly cut bamboo poles.

A shaman carrying a black sceptre leads the convoy, in which people sing along to the beat of drums.

Participants throw mud at each other as a prayer to the god for peace, health and prosperity.