5.3.2 Totems
The next stage in man's relationship with animals was the choice of an animal as the sacred symbol of their group: what is loosely called totemism. Hunting for their necessary food, and admiring to the point of worship a life- endowment greater than their own, from the earliest times there was established this dual relationship that has persisted to the present day.   
Totemism has existed, perhaps spontaneously, all over the world. But it was strongest and most complex in Africa; and, in so far as the early Egyptians must have been in large part of African descent, it is in Egypt that we first see totemism turning into what we may call religion. So strong were the vestiges of totemism that in their art the Egyptians continually attempted to integrate man and animal. Men, whose bodies are models of human perfection, retain the heads of birds and animals through animal heads, especially that of the wolf Anubis, are an obstacle to our admiration of Egyptian art: the reverse process of the Greeks, which produced the centaur and the harpy, seems both biologically and aesthetically a more acceptable form of integration. But at a very early date the Egyptians evolved the idea of the sacred animal, the equal and protector of the god-king; and sacred animals are the subject of the first pieces of sculpture that can, in the highest sense of the word, be described as works of art.
Of all sacred animals Horus was the most absolutely a god; the Horus relief in the Louvre has the air of finality, the commanding simplicity, of a great religious image. The other sacred animals of Egyptian art pass down a diminishing scale of sanctity. Hathor, the cow, was particularly favoured by certain pharaohs like Hatshepsut; the ram was sacred to Amun, as all visitors to Karnak will be painfully aware. Toth, the ape, was sacred but, so to say, localized, without the universal power of Horus; the same is true of the ibis, and of a much later arrival in the animal pantheon, also an incarnation of Toth, the cat.
We may easily feel that there are too many sacred animals in Egyptian art. Yet all of them produced images of great sculptural beauty which gain some of their power from the sacrosanct uniformity of the original idea. Small variations, which may have passed, unnoticed by the believer, were due to the fact that these images were made by artists - the Egyptian artist was far from being the self-effacing craftsman of other early civilizations, and knew' how to give a prototype the life-giving force of variety.
Apart from this greater life-endowment, there was another reason why animals were held sacred. Their inability to speak made them mysterious. All gods should be inscrutable. 'I am that I am.' If the Horus could have answered the questions addressed to him or Hathor commented on the sudden rise in her status in the Middle Kingdom, they would have lost some of their authority.
But beyond these godlike attributes the quantity of semi-sacred animals in ancient Egypt owes something to a state of mind that by no means always accompanies religioloved animals. It is evident that the Egyptian feeling for animals was far closer to our own than that of any other ancient people. We can see this in the reliefs that decorate tombs around Sakkara. High officials, like Ti and Mereruka, took so seriously the care of their flocks and herds that they covered the walls of their tombs with scenes of husbandry. These reliefs show that the Egyptians tried to domesticate animals of all sorts, but succeeded only with those which are our companions today, dogs and cats, and those which still occupy our farmyards. What a strange operation of nature that for five thousand years man has been able to domesticate sheep and cattle, and not roe deer? 
Cats were pets a thousand years before they were considered sacred, and the story in Herodotus that when a house is on fire the first thought of an Egyptian household is to save the cats- 'they pass them from one to another, while the house burns down' -is as much a reflection of love as of totemism. The reliefs of animal life in Old Kingdom tombs are inexhaustibly informative and touching. One of the most familiar shows a farmer carrying a calf on his back with the mother cow following and licking it. Where in the Graeco-Roman or the Semitic world could such an incident have been sympathetically observed and recorded?
Such were the feelings of harmony that could be developed in the secure, continuous pastoral life on the banks of the Nile.