Coliseum drains reveal sausage dogs slaughtered in bloody bear fights

Archaeologists excavating the ancient drains have found the remains of small dogs that were similar to the modern dachshund

Sausage dogs were used for entertainment in the Colosseum and may have been pitted against larger animals in bloody fights watched by ancient Roman spectators, archaeologists have revealed in a new find.

Archaeologists excavating the ancient drains that lie beneath Rome’s 2,000-year-old amphitheater have found, for the first time, the remains of small dogs similar to the modern dachshund.

The dogs would be used as part of staged battles on the blood-soaked floor of the arena or trained to perform stunts, much like dogs in modern circuses, experts said.

They were the ancestors of sausage dogs rather than true dachshunds—the breed didn’t evolve as we know it today until the 18th century.

Dog bones, less than 12 inches tall, were found that were ancestors of sausage dogs rather than true dachshunds - Getty Images

Dog bones, less than 12 inches tall, were found that were ancestors of sausage dogs rather than true dachshunds – Getty Images

“We found many dog ​​bones that were similar to the modern sausage dog,” Alfonsina Russo, director of the Colosseum, told The Telegraph.

“They were less than 30cm tall. We think they may have been used to perform stunts just like you would see in a circus today. Or it could be that they were used as part of organized hunts or even launched at bears and such animals. We don’t know for sure.”

The idea of ​​sausage dogs being pitted against bears may seem like an unfair match, but despite their size, small dogs can be ferocious. Dachshunds were bred to hunt badgers and can be “brave to the point of recklessness,” according to the American Kennel Club.

Archaeologists have explored 70 meters of drains and sewers under the Colosseum in Rome - Raquel Maria Carbonell Pagola/Getty Images

Archaeologists have explored 70 meters of drains and sewers under the Colosseum in Rome – Raquel Maria Carbonell Pagola/Getty Images

During a year-long study, archaeologists, often working in the mud on their stomachs, explored 70 m of drains and sewers under the Colosseum, along which all sorts of debris was dumped.

Along with the ancient remains of small dogs, the bones of large dogs and those of leopards, lions, bears and ostriches have also been found.

They came across more than 50 late Roman bronze coins, as well as a silver coin from about AD 170-171 commemorating the 10-year rule of Emperor Marcus Aurelius, played by Richard Harris in the film Gladiator.

Archaeologists have also found the bones of large dogs, leopards, lions, bears and ostriches in the ancient drains and sewers

Archaeologists have also found the bones of large dogs, leopards, lions, bears and ostriches in the ancient drains and sewers

They discovered the remains of the snacks that Roman spectators ate in the stands, from olives and walnuts to the seeds of cherries, peaches, figs, grapes and melons.

They also unearthed dice that would be used in the games as the crowds waited for the shows to begin.

The discoveries shed more light on the life of the Colosseum, which could hold up to 50,000 spectators. With the collapse of the Roman Empire, it fell into disuse around 523 AD

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