Aristophanes of Byzantium, who lived between the third and the second century BC, was well known for his studies on linguistics, grammar, literature, and textual criticism. He became head of the Library of Alexandria at the beginning of the second century BC.
This fragment of papyrus roll of the second or third century contains a passage of Aristophanes’ epitome, or summary, of Aristotle’s Historia Animalium (History of Animals). It is the only papyrus witness known today preserving a passage of this work by Aristophanes, which is otherwise partly known from the medieval tradition.
The British Library papyrus preserves the portion pertaining to the dog and its mating habits, followed by the beginning of a section on the diseases that may affect this animal, which include quinsy, rabies and gout. The text states that the mating of a male dog starts at the age of one and that of a female dog at eight months. A maximum of 12 puppies are born, and those born first will resemble their father, those born last their mother.