Ancient Egyptian animals can be divided into many categories: the sacred animals that were seen as representative of the gods, and animals used in farming and labor, animals used for food, pets and of course the horses that were ridden or used for chariots.
These categories sometimes cross-over, as you will see with the cow, because some of the animals used for daily life were also considered sacred.
Dangerous animals were sometimes worshiped in the hope that this would assuage their aggression and attack on human beings.
Sobek the Crocodile - The Nile crocodile was one of the biggest problems for ancient Egyptians as they depended greatly on the Nile for life. Many ancient Egyptians died violent deaths from these creatures, including one pharaoh! Doing laundry was one of the riskiest jobs back then...
The crocodile was worshiped as the God Sobek of the Nile. He is painted as such, and there are many statues and even mummified crocodiles in his honor.
Horus the Falcon – As God of the sky, Horus was represented as a falcon. Horus is the son of Isis and Osiris and avenged his father's murder by defeating the God Seth. Although Falcons and Hawks were not used in ancient Egypt, they are used by Arab countries today for hunting. Some types of falcon are worth fortunes! Read the page on Horus here.
Tauret the Hippo - Another Nile aggressor is the hippopotamus. The hippo is actually one of the more dangerous animals in Africa, killing more people than lions do. The Goddess Tauret was represented as a blue hippo and was given offerings to appease her.
Bastet the Cat – This is one of the more famous sacred ancient Egyptian animals, represented by the Goddess Bastet. Cats were used as pets that also protect you from snakes and keep rodents away from your food supplies. I have an entire page here on Egyptian Mau Cats.
Kheper the Scarab – The beetle in ancient Egypt was a mystical representation of the sun's course in the sky. It was used temple walls, inscriptions, amulets and other protection spells commonly. I have an entire page here on the Scarab Beetle.
Thoth the Baboon & Ibis – The God of knowledge, Thoth, was sometimes represented as a baboon and sometimes as the Ibis bird. Both animals were thus sacred in ancient Egypt. Baboons are aggressive, which is unlike the god they represent; Thoth was mostly gentle and kind. He did get mad though when things went wrong!Check out Thoth in the Egyptian Gods section of the site.
Anubis the Jackal – He's one of the guardians of the dead and part of the mummification ceremonies. The reason he took the form of a jackal is because these animals were often seen in cemeteries (usually scavenging, unfortunately). This is one of the more important gods of ancient Egypt and you can read about him here.
Cobras and Asps – Who isn't afraid of snakes? Well, I guess a few aren't, but the ancient Egyptians certainly were. And thus they were used on headdresses for Pharaohs as well as painted and carved as a symbol of protection for kings. I have a page here on Egyptian Asp Snakes.
Hathor the Cow – Definitely one of the most important goddesses of ancient Egypt is Hathor. Seeing how cows were so affectionate with their calves, and providing milk for both their own young as well as for the people too – the ancient Egyptians dubbed Hathor "The Great Mother." Here’s her page.
Mind you, just because some ancient Egyptian animals were sacred does not mean the ancient Egyptians didn't use them for food, farming or sacrifice. In fact, cats were sacrificed in thousands as mummified offerings to the gods.
Although pets were loved and cared for, they also stood the risk of being buried along with their master, sometimes alive... It's really sad and harsh, but it's the truth!
Farm animals were used for different things like milk, meat, hide, wool, horns and for helping in the farming processes too. They include sheep, bulls, cows, oxen, geese, and ducks.
Horses were used to pull chariots and to ride on during wars and hunting.
Cheetahs and other big cats were sometimes hunted and their furs were used by high-priests and pharaohs are symbolic garments during ceremonies.
Dogs, monkeys, cats and even donkeys were some of the favorite pets – and they were usually mummified and buried in family cemeteries. Ancient Egyptian animals were also painted in tomb walls and carved in wall reliefs, and that's how we know so much about their value to ancient Egyptians.