Is the dog badly perceived in Martinique?

ChienSpoiler, if the title may shock know that it is only the figurative sense and not the literal sense. Many Martinicans own dogs and enjoy the company of the animal most loyal to man.

However, when we listen to Martinicans speak on a daily basis, especially in the Creole language, it is common to see the word "dog" used in a pejorative manner. It must be said that in Creole expressions and proverbs, the word dog is constantly used in an unflattering manner.

The dog betrays, he is proud, hypocrite, less than nothing and selfish. We hardly ever find any qualities in him. Worse, it is associated with bad luck or evil. The dog is never seen as the friend of man but as the one who wants his downfall.

Sometimes the Antillean proverbs can seem atrocious towards the latter, in particular "Chyen maré sé pou bat!"

Several renowned authors of West Indian literature have also used the dog pejoratively, Patrick Chamoiseau in l'Esclave vieil homme et le molasse (The Slave old man and the molasse) and Aimé Césaire in Et les chiens se taisaient (And the dogs were silent). For Patrick Chamoiseau it is an instrument erected by the white man against the black man. He becomes a human being, a monster revealing reality. He's an exterminator of humans.

For Aimé Césaire, it is about the current society which refuses to stand up to defend its values, to cry out its revolts and its anger.

Fugitive slave caught by a dog during a huntWe will not make the suspense last longer, you should know that Creole proverbs and expressions go back to the period of slavery. At the time, dogs were used by plantation masters to catch up with and find black negroes (at that time this term was used for slaves fleeing the plantation), namely slaves fleeing their harsh living conditions. Tracked then stopped by dogs during beatings of the marronnage (term used for evasion of a slave), the fugitives were then brought back to the plantation and suffered atrocities and corporal punishments. In the event of a repeat offense, the supreme punishment then applied for the rebels; they were offered alive to hungry dogs who devoured them.

During the entire period of slavery, the dog was then the enemy of the black man. The dog is synonymous with punishment.

These manhunts and the horror that followed caused that for a long time even after slavery black people continued to have a congenital fear of dogs.

In addition, the homes of the Békés (descendants of French settlers) very often displayed a sign: "Caution wicked dog". It was the same for the metropolitan who arrived after the period of slavery.

It took several generations for black Martinicans to familiarize themselves with the dog and adopt it as a pet.

This is the reason why in literature or expressions the dog is seen as the friend of Whites and the enemy of Blacks. During this same period in Europe, the works which dealt with the dog were very flattering on the animal. The praise was high and he was even seen as more reliable and loyal than the human. The proverbs and expressions having persisted for centuries, this is how this perception persisted in the conception of the West Indians.

Beatings of marooning with dogs in pursuit of black slavesNote that this idea was not specific to Martinicans but common to all blacks who lived through slavery. Throughout the Caribbean or in the United States, the dog was used for beatings and hunts of slaves who fled the plantation. It is therefore common to find American illustrations on the escape of black slaves and to see hounds in search of the fleeing (cf. atrocious scene in the film in Django unchained).

However, today if the use of the word dog remains negative in spite of everything, the animal is very appreciated locally and has definitely become like the friend of man.


Fugitive Slave Attacked by Dogs, 19th cent. Isabelle Aguet, A Pictorial History of the Slave Trade (Geneva, Editions Minerva, 1971)

Escaping Slavery, U.S. South, 1850s, Anon., The Suppressed Book About Slavery! Prepared for Publication in 1857 (New York, 1864)