Why Some South American Indigenous Tribes Give Their Dogs Psychedelic Drugs

Troy Farah, writing for The Outline:

Like most humans, the Shuar and Quichua indigenous tribes of Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia have a special relationship with dogs. But in the Amazon, that bond can mean life or death, and dogs are treated particularly well, especially as hunting companions or protection from jaguars. The Quichua believe dogs have souls and will try to interpret their dreams. In some cases, Shuar women will breastfeed puppies alongside their children.

According to Shuar belief, dogs are a blessing from the earth mother, Nunkui, while Quichua view canines as gifts from forest spirits that can protect against mal ojo, the evil eye. And when their dogs become ill, these tribes use the plants around them as veterinary medicine. For example, ficus helps fight parasites, and Anthurium eminens treats botfly infections. In other cases, a mix of tobacco and ginger applied to the eyes can allegedly help dogs become better hunters by improving night vision. Dogs are so sacred in such societies that some peoples will even give them psychedelics. Surprisingly little is known about this practice, only that it dates back several centuries and those who do it believe it to be beneficial.

It turns out that the indigenous tribes of South America routinely give their dogs a variety of psychedelics (in addition to other types of plant medicines) in order to improve their night vision for hunting. Even though this practice has apparently been going on for generations, this is the first time I’ve heard of such a thing.

Kudos to Farah for exploring this story, which was inspired by a previously-overlooked scientific review published a few years ago that wasn’t covered anywhere else, to my knowledge.