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Molosser Dogs

Molosser Dogs

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The group of ancient and new dogs that make up this vast group of dogs.  

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Molosser is a category of large, solidly-built dogs that includes several breeds, probably all descended from the same root stock. The name derives from Molossia,[1] a subregion of ancient Epirus, ancient Greece, where the large shepherd dog was known as the Molossus.

The proper noun "Mastiff", however, is used to refer to the English Mastiff, a breed that originated from Celtic dogs in England over two thousand years ago. Other terms include "Mastín" (Spanish), "Dogge" (Germanic), and "dogue" or "dogo" (Romance languages).

Breeds such as the Bullmastiff, Dogue de Bordeaux, Fila Brasileiro, Pyrenean Mastiff (Mastín del Pirineo), Spanish Mastiff, Neapolitan Mastiff, Tibetan Mastiff, and many others fall into the larger category of "Molossers", but are not "Mastiffs". Each is a separate and distinct breed.[4] The Boxer breed is also included, as it is a creation from other Molossers including the Old English Bulldog.

Molossers typically have heavy bones, pendant ears, a relatively short and well-muscled neck, and a short muzzle. Although some Molossers are used for search and rescue, such as the Newfoundland and the Saint Bernard, most are used as guard dogs, due to their deep voices and natural guarding instincts, or livestock guardian dogs for protection against large predators as well as poachers. Some breeds like the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog have also been used as cart dogs.


The first known record of a molosser-type dog is carried in its name after King Mollossus of Epirus in western Greece, the grandson of mighty Achilleus, who first used these dogs. The Trojan War having been fought about 2800 BC makes them known and favoured in ancient Greece. The Greeks being a sea-faring race carried them on board their ships and brought them to Asia, where evolutionary development due to geography created the various types. In 1121 BC, when a Tibetan mastiff trained for hunting was given to a Chinese emperor. The mastiffs would later be exported to Mongolia, Mesopotamia and Central Asia where they would mix with local dogs, resulting in a loss of long hair and colour uniformity. The main features, such as height and a massive head with a big short muzzle were kept. The dogs were considered valuable in Babylon, and are mentioned in cuneiform in the 4th century BC. A large mastiff-like dog is shown on the ancient terra cotta by Birs Nimrud. The dog is rather tall: 90 centimetres (35 in) at the withers, has a stocky head and powerful hind quarters. The dogs were used for hunting in ancient Assyria. Archeological digs of the Ashurbanipal palace (7th century BC) revealed pictures of dogs felling wild horses and donkeys. Assyrian mastiffs were also used for military purposes and for protection.

The ancient mastiffs would later be imported from Assyria and Babylon to Egypt and Asia Minor. Xerxes I of Persia led predatory wars to enlarge the borders of his empire, taking with him large war dogs in his Army. Mastiffs were used to fight in the Roman amphitheater against lions and may have been used in lion hunting. They are said to be at the root of many Mountain dog breeds.

The Alans kept mastiff-like dogs taken from Eastern Europe which acted as retrievers, guard dogs, and fighting dogs. The name associated with these dogs is Alaunt, or in Spanish Alano. The mastiffs were used in unison with sighthounds to hunt wisent, aurochs and bear. Groups of Alanian tribes came to Europe during the Migration Period, fighting on the territory of modern France, Spain, Portugal and Northern Africa, taking with them their dogs. The Alanian mastiffs then spread to the British Isles.[5] The mastiff of the Alps, the Alpine Mastiff, was a progenitor of the St. Bernard and contributed to the modern English Mastiff.

The Newfoundland dog is the only Canadian molosser type dog breed. Portuguese fishermen have fished off the shores of Newfoundland for centuries, and the Newfoundland breed was likely a result of Portuguese mastiffs breeding with the native St. John's Water Dog.

The Bulldog breeds split from the Molossers in England and spread to the New World with colonization as well as Western Europe and, though smaller, are considered by some still to be Molosser breeds.

Canine Taxonomy

Nineteenth-century army veterinarian and entomologist Jean Pierre Mégnin theorized there were four basic canine races, based on his observation of their different skull structures: Lupoides (Spitz), Braccoides (scenthounds), Graioides (sighthounds), and Molossoides (mountain dogs, mastiff breeds and even Pugs).[6] Although study of the canine genome is causing the revision of phenotype-based taxonomies such as Mégnin's, the four categories are still used in some traditional contexts.

Brief description: General discussion about the Molossoid breeds.