Aso – Dog / Dragon Dog


|a. A stylised dog’s head |b. Two dog heads sharing one eye |c. A derivative of motif in Fig b, |d. A decorative version of the dog, derivative of Fig a. All sketches by Dr. A. W. Nieuwenhuis, 1904.

Dogs feature heavily in Kayan tattoos and other works of art. It was also very common to find mongrels and strays which have been adopted into Kenyah villages and allowed to roam about. The village dogs may enter houses as they wish and no person is allowed to kill one. However, the dog is not a sacred animal but still a dog is hardly kicked or beaten. The following figures show the diversity of the Aso tattoo, being quite up to the artist to depict it. Common elements are the ‘hooks’, the ‘eye (mata), and the claw-like legs (EB Haddon, 1905).

Tomb found at the district of Baram. Photograph © Dr. C. G. Seligmann, 1901.

Indeed, the Aso was such an integral part of Kayan and Kenyah life that this design has been carved as fretwork for many tombs of aristocratic women.