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Does Dog Meat Repel Witches?

In Nigeria, some people believe that the meat of man's best friend is not only a tasty source of protein, but also a potent medicine that wards off everything from malaria to the evil forces of sorceresses.
Photo via Alan Denney

Betteridge's law of headlines states that the answer to any headline that asks a question—such as the one we've employed above—is invariably "no."

But can we be empirically sure that the long-simmered meat of dogs doesn't repel the dark forces of sorcerers and sorceresses, as Emmanuel Okolie recently asserted in an article for Vanguard Nigeria? "For some," Okolie writes, "dog meat prevents them from being attacked by witches and wizards and even makes evil spiritual forces to flee from them."


While dog meat, also known as "404" among the population, is not a staple of the Nigerian diet, it's becoming more common as an edible remedy with myriad health properties for people from many different ethnic groups, including the Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa, Efik, and Ibibio tribes. (The exception to that is the Orogun people, who revere dogs, tigers, and iguanas.)

Among other things, dog meat is believed to improve the immune system and provide protection against threats both physical and metaphysical. One Nigerian man told the BBC in 2007, "Dog meat also improves your sex life. And if you eat dog meat, you cannot be poisoned." He added: "Eating dog meat gives you a special protection against the most potent juju."

Infectious disease may or may not fall under "juju," but it's still a problem. The National Malaria Control Programme estimates that malaria is responsible for well over half of all outpatient visits to medical clinics and a third of child deaths in Nigeria. Despite the fact that effective malaria treatments exists, not everyone has access to them or puts faith in them, and some turn to folk medicine. A bus driver who was in line to buy dog meat at a roadside stand told Okolie, "We use mosquitoes net in my house, but somehow mosquitoes still find their way into the house, and I know that dog meat fights malaria parasite."

In a separate article, Vanguard Nigeria quoted another man who claimed that the Ekpe people make a "concoction" of dog bones to heal children who are unable to walk: "[We] use it to massage the leg of the child and within few weeks, the child will start walking."

As more people look to the healing powers of dog meat, the demand for it has risen—and so have prices. One seller told Okolie that he once bought dogs for 3,000 to 3,5000 naira (about $18-21) apiece, but now they sell for up to 5,000 naira (about $31). There have been reports of people stealing dogs to sell at local markets, passing them off as their own.

There are many ways to prepare the dogs, but the BBC noted that dog meat pepper soup, often served with rice and plantains, was especially popular among Nigerian riot police. There are also specialty dishes made with particular cuts that can command higher prices. "Headlights," for example, is a dish which prominently features the eyes.

We're not sure if dog eyes are more or less effective than other dog parts against witches, but they certainly have a particular power for some. "I do not fear witches," a teacher told Okolie, "because like dogs that have penetrating eyes, witches too see and they feel I have powers that neutralizes their power."