The history of the dog lead / leash is intertwined with the long and diverse history of human-canine relationships. Dogs have been companions to humans for possibly 40,000 years (no one knows this number for sure), and the use of leads or leashes can be traced back to ancient times.
- Ancient Times: Early evidence of the use of dog leads dates back to ancient civilizations. In Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq), there are carvings dating back to around 4500 BCE that depict dogs on leashes, suggesting that they were used to control and guide dogs even in those early societies.
- Ancient Egypt: The ancient Egyptians were known for their reverence of animals, including dogs. They kept dogs both as companions and for practical purposes, such as hunting and guarding. Leashes made of various materials like leather were used to control and manage the dogs.
- Ancient Rome: Dogs played significant roles in ancient Roman society. They were employed for herding, hunting, guarding, and as loyal companions. Romans used leather straps as leashes to control their dogs, and sometimes these leashes were quite ornate, showcasing the wealth and status of the dog owner. A particular favourite dog of this author from the Ancient Roman era is the Roman war dog, known as Molossus. The Molossus was a breed of fearless and ferocious dogs.
- Middle Ages: During the Middle Ages, dogs continued to be utilized for various tasks, including hunting and guarding. Leashes were commonly made of leather or other durable materials, and different types of leads were used for different purposes, such as short leads for training and longer leads for hunting or controlling dogs while walking.
- 18th and 19th Centuries: In the 18th and 19th centuries, dog shows became popular, particularly in Britain. This led to the development of specialized dog leads for showing and exhibiting dogs. These leads were designed to be more elegant and fashionable, often made of fancy materials like silk or velvet. It was during the Victorian era that leads became a legal requirement. Dog owners England faced the 40 shilling fine – or two weeks in prison – when the Town Police Clauses Act of 1847 extended the law to “every person… in any street” if their dog was deemed to be dangerous and not on a lead.
- 20th Century: As dog ownership became more common and urbanisation increased, the use of dog leads for controlling and managing pets became more widespread. Leads made of nylon, a strong and durable synthetic material, were introduced and gained popularity due to their affordability and practicality.
- Modern Times: Today, dog leads come in various designs, materials, and lengths to cater to different needs and preferences of dog owners. There are retractable leads, hands-free leads, training leads, and more. The focus is not only on functionality but also on the comfort of both the dog and the owner.
Throughout history, the use of dog leads has evolved from practical and functional tools for control and management to items that reflect style, personal taste, and the bond between humans and their canine companions.
Today leads are an essential part of dog ownership, designed to keep your dog safe, and those around you safe as well.
Remember dogs were bred for a time before cars, before people really cared if dogs got into a fight, and before a lot of people really cared if their dog ran away. Leads help keep them safe in this modern world.