Trivia

Hard

The Canary Islands Are Named After?

Frogs
Snakes
Dogs
Birds
The Coat of Arms for the Canary Islands.
HansenBCN/Wikimedia/Public Domain

Answer: Dogs

Since canaries are birds, the Canary Islands are therefore obviously named after the birds, right? But there is one minor problem with that theory: the islands were named before the birds were, and the birds actually derive their name from the islands rather than vice versa.

The Canary Islands are known in Spanish as Islas Canarias and that name is, in turn, believed to have been derived from the Latin Canariae Insulae (which translates as “Islands of the Dogs”). According to the historian Pliny the Elder, the island (presumably Gran Canaria) was named Canaria because it contained “vast multitudes of dogs of very large size.”

While the history of dogs on the island of Canaria is unclear, there are ancient accounts of people who worshiped dogs and we know that there were dogs in the pantheon of the original inhabitants, the Guanches. Some historians even go so far as to hypothesize that the dog worship present on the ancient island was related to ancient Egyptian groups focused on Anubis, the dog-headed god.

Murkiness of the historical record aside, the present day coat of arms of the islands pays homage to the etymology of the name and the lore surrounding it: the shield and crown of the coat of arms are held up by two large dogs.

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