Laelaps: The Hound Destined to Catch Every Prey

In the annals of Greek mythology, where creatures of wonder and terror roam, there’s a hound whose legend is as intriguing as any. Laelaps, the dog fated to catch anything it pursued, stands as a testament to the paradoxes that even the gods grapple with.

Laelaps Key Facts

OriginGifted by Zeus to Europa
Defeated byTurned into Canis Major constellation by Zeus
HabitatVarious, depending on its master
Other namesNone
Roman nameNot applicable
Associated withThe Teumessian Fox, Zeus, Europa, Cephalus
SymbolsPursuit, inevitability, the chase

Name and Etymology

The name “Laelaps” translates to “Hurricane” or “Stormwind” in ancient Greek, a fitting moniker for a hound whose speed and tenacity were unparalleled. Moreover, this name encapsulates the essence of the dog: relentless, unstoppable, and ever-persistent.

There isn’t a direct Roman counterpart to Laelaps, making its legend predominantly Greek. This absence in Roman tales further emphasizes the unique narrative space the hound occupies in Greek mythology.

The name is not just a title but a descriptor, a testament to the hound’s nature and the legends woven around it.

Piero di Cosimo, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Laelaps Origin and Creation

The hound was a divine creation, a gift from Zeus to Europa, after he had wooed her in the guise of a bull. This wasn’t just any gift but a hound that was destined to catch any prey it pursued. Moreover, it was a symbol of relentless pursuit and inevitability.

After Europa, the hound came into the possession of King Minos of Crete. However, Minos gave it to Procris, and eventually, it ended up with her husband, Cephalus, The First King of Cephalonia. It was with Cephalus that Laelaps’ most famous hunt would occur, pitting it against the Teumessian Fox, a creature destined never to be caught.

Laelaps’ creation and journey through various masters highlight the intricate web of relationships and destinies in Greek mythology, where gifts, especially those from the gods, often come with challenges and profound implications.

Depiction And Characteristics

Laelaps, in most accounts, is described as a majestic hound, its form radiating strength and agility. While its physical attributes might resemble those of other hunting dogs, it’s the aura of inevitability and relentless pursuit that sets it apart.

In art, it is often depicted mid-chase, muscles taut, eyes focused, embodying the essence of its destiny: to catch whatever it pursues.

Nature and Behavior

Laelaps was not just a hunting dog; it was the embodiment of the chase. Its behavior was not driven by malice but by its very nature, its divine destiny. When set upon a prey, it would pursue relentlessly, a force of nature that nothing could deter.

To the Greeks, Laelaps was a symbol of inevitability. Just as day follows night, if the dog pursued, it would catch its prey. This was not a matter of if but when.

Defining Abilities

Laelaps’ ability was its destined success in hunts. It was fated to catch any creature it pursued, making it an unparalleled hunter in the world of Greek mythology. This trait was not just a testament to its speed and skill but was seen as a divine trait, a destiny set by the gods.

Its prowess was not just in its physical abilities but in the weight of its destiny, making it a formidable creature in both might and myth.

Symbols or Associations

Laelaps is primarily associated with the idea of relentless pursuit and the inevitability of outcomes. Its very existence is a testament to the idea that some outcomes, especially those set by the gods, are inescapable.

In terms of symbols, it’s often represented by images of a hound in mid-chase. Furthermore capturing the essence of its relentless nature and its destined success in hunts.

Myths about Laelaps

Not as central as some figures in Greek mythology, Laelaps however plays a crucial role in the story of him and the Teumessian Fox.

The Paradoxical Chase with the Teumessian Fox

The most iconic tale involving Laelaps is its encounter with the Teumessian Fox. Set upon the fox by its master, Cephalus, the dog found itself in a paradoxical situation. While it was destined to catch any prey it pursued, the Teumessian Fox was fated never to be caught. This set the stage for an eternal chase, a puzzle with no apparent solution.

Recognizing the paradox of their destinies, Zeus intervened. To resolve the unsolvable riddle, he turned both Laelaps and the fox into stone. Next he placed them in the night sky as constellations. They became the constallations we know as Canis Major (Laelaps) and Canis Minor (the fox). This tale serves as a reminder of the challenges posed by conflicting destinies and the divine interventions sometimes needed to address them.

Representations In Art

Laelaps, given its nature and the myths surrounding it, has found its way into various art forms over the ages.

Ancient Greek pottery often depicted the hound, especially in scenes involving its chase with the Teumessian Fox. The tension, the relentless pursuit, is palpable in these artworks, capturing the essence of the hound’s destiny.

In more recent times, sculptures and paintings have sought to capture the spirit of Laelaps. The focus being on its form, its agility, and its relentless nature, making it a symbol of pursuit and inevitability in art.

Cephalus and Laelaps as a little pup.
Rijksmuseum, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Mentions in Ancient Texts

Laelaps, while not as frequently mentioned as some creatures, has its place in ancient Greek literature.

Hyginus, in his “Fabulae,” provides a detailed account of Laelaps, its origin, and its fated chase with the Teumessian Fox. A line from this text captures the essence of their chase: “When Laelaps was set upon the Teumessian Fox, a creature destined never to be caught, they were locked in an endless pursuit.”

Apollodorus, in his “Bibliotheca,” touches upon the story of Laelaps, providing another perspective on the hound’s destiny and its implications.

Frequently Asked Questions

What was Laelaps’ defining trait?

Laelaps was destined to catch any creature it pursued, making it an unparalleled hunter.

How did Zeus resolve the chase between Laelaps and the Teumessian Fox?

Recognizing the paradox of their conflicting destinies, Zeus turned both Laelaps and the fox into stone. He later placed them in the night sky as constellations.

What does Laelaps’ name mean?

The name translates to “Hurricane” or “Stormwind” in ancient Greek.

Who are some ancient authors that wrote about Laelaps?

Notable mentions can be found in the works of Hyginus and Apollodorus.

Who gifted Laelaps to Europa?

Zeus gifted him to Europa after wooing her.

Featured Image Credit: Giulio Romano, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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Evangelia Hatzitsinidou is the creator and author of which has been merged with She has been writing about Greek Mythology for almost twenty years. A native to Greece, she teaches and lives just outside Athens.