Long before sophisticated burglar alarms were readily available, humans have been protecting their territory in other ways. Fortifications have been used for millennia, to keep out unwanted guests and to show would-be intruders that you mean business, and animals have also played a part in protection. Dogs have been used by humans as guard animals for thousands of years, and if you needed any proof take a look at the entrance mosaic at the House of the Tragic Poet, in Pompeii which dates to the 2nd century BC. The words Cave Canem are displayed in the floor, as a warning to visitors to beware of the dog.
Geese also make fantastic guard animals as they are very territorial, loud, and not afraid to attack if they feel threatened. They also have very sharp “teeth” in their beaks which give a painful nip to anyone trying to get past them. Alpacas can also be used as guard animals, as their herd instinct leads them to protect against strangers. There are also examples of mythical creatures being guard animals, such as the Minotaur.
The Minotaur, said to have the head, hooves and tail of a bull with the body of a man, is associated with the Labyrinth. The legend says that King Minos of Crete asked Poseidon, the sea god, to send him a snow white bull he would sacrifice as a sign of power. Minos decided to keep the bull instead, so to punish him Poseidon made Minos’ wife fall in love with the bull. She hatched an elaborate plan to mate with the bull and so the Minotaur was born. The creature turned out to be very ferocious and fed on humans, so King Minos ordered the Labyrinth be built to contain the beast. The Minotaur might be a very effective guard animal, but feeding it people would be difficult to square with the authorities.
Greek mythology has several notable fearsome creatures including Cerberus, the three-headed dog which was said to guard the underworld. He was the offspring of other mythical monsters who also had multiple heads, and many depictions of Cerberus show him with a snake for a tail and snakes also protruding from his body. His job was to prevent the dead from leaving the underworld so he would make a fearsome guard dog, albeit expensive to feed and almost impossible to get a licence for. We wouldn’t fancy puppy training this beast either.
Medusa is another Greek monster known for her protective qualities. Famously depicted with snakes for hair, the name means protector and with her noted ability to turn those who looked at her to stone, she certainly inspired fear into the hearts of anyone who came close to her. She would have been an excellent form of CCTV, rather than capturing the image of burglars she would capture their souls and turn them to stone, and that’s a deterrent that would put off even the most determined intruder.
In the modern world we don’t have the option of mythical monsters as a way of causing fear in those who want to steal from us or commit other crimes, but we can use technology instead. Home CCTV systems won’t turn burglars to stone, but you will get a good picture of them that can be turned over to the police. A three-headed snake-tailed dog might not be an option but there are certain breeds of dog which provide excellent protection and a deterrent to would-be criminals, as well as being a family pet. We might not be able to construct a huge labyrinthine maze to hide our secrets or our valuables, nor would we want a Minotaur in there either, but discreet safes can be bolted into our homes to keep cash, jewellery and important paperwork away from burglars, should they get past our alarm systems and CCTV.