The Canary Islands Are Named After?
Canaries are birds, the Canary Islands are therefore obviously named after the birds… right? Except for one minor problem: the islands were named before the birds and the birds actually derive their name from the island and not vice versa.
The Canary Islands are known in Spanish as Islas Canarias and that name is, in turn, believed to have been derived from the Latin Canariae Insulae. According to the historian Pliny the Elder, the island was named Canaria by the Mauritanian king Juba II because it contained “vast multitudes of dogs of very large size.”
While the history of dogs on the island is unclear, there are ancient Greek accounts of an island to the west that was inhabited by “dog-headed ones” who worshiped dogs and we know that there were dogs in the pantheon of the original inhabits of Canary Island, the Guanches. Some historians even go so far as to hypothesize that the dog worship present on the ancient island was related to ancient Egyptian cults focused on Anubis, the dog-headed god.
Murkiness of the historical record aside, the present day crest of the islands pays homage to the etymology of the name and the lore surrounding it: the shield and crown of the crest are held up by two large dogs.