No other group of dog breeds seems as difficult to define as the Molosser dogs. While most theories agree on the origin of the word, they diverge when it comes to define the breeds that belong to the molosser group. Some definitions allowing a large number of different breeds to be included in this category, others being more restrictive.
Definition and Etymology
No other group of dog breeds seems as difficult to define as the Molosser group. While most theories agree on the origin of the word, they diverge when it comes to define the breeds that belong to the molosser group. Some definitions allowing a large number of different breeds to be included in this category, others being more restrictive.
The Molossians were named after the Molossi tribes with which they were associated. See: Molosser history.
Note that the term 'Molossian hound' does not necessarily indicate that the Molossian was a hound-type dog. The word hound originally meant dog and was used for all types of dogs. Later, the meaning was narrowed in Middle English (somewhere before 1127) to refer to a dog used for hunting. Thus, in Old English, the nonspecific name for dog was 'hund' or 'hound', whereas the word 'dog' (docga in Old English) was the name of a powerful breed of dog, which the Continental languages borrowed to form dogue (French for mastiff), dogo (Spanish), Dogge (German). Literally, 'Molossian hound' thus meant 'a powerful breed of dog of the Molossian type'.
Origin and types of Molossians
In these molosser pages we have restricted the definition of the term to a number of modern molosser breeds which in phenotype and genotype show common characteristics with each other and with the historical descriptions of the Molossian dogs used as home guardians: dogs with substantial bone growth, impressive stature, a short square muzzle with massive jaws, overgrowth and thickening of the skin, a smooth coat (as opposed to the flock guardians who have an ample, usually longer-haired, weather- and work-resistant coat). All molosser breeds are characterized by their immense courage, loyalty towards their owner, and a strong sense of territory. This category is comparable (but not identical!) to Section 2.1 of Group 2 in the classification used by the FCI.
However, we do not use the term "Mastiff-type" which we feel is confusing due to the existing Mastiff breed. We prefer the denomination Molossers of the "dogge-type", rehabilitating an ancient English word that referred to a powerful breed of dog, and from which, as we said previously, all Continental languages derived the words, dogue (French), dogo (Spanish), Dogge (German), to refer to this same kind of dogs. For the flock guardians, see livestock guard dogs.
Molosser dog with typical spike collar as was once commonly seen on these dogs
See also. Neapolitan Mastiff
Photo by Nic Neish
Original idea, design and development by C. Marien-de Luca. Photos of the Dog Breeds of the World sphere of flags by Mark Stay.
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Marble statue of the Molossian type.
Roman copy of a Hellenistic original.
The British Museum.
Photo: T. Clark Dogs in Antiquity
Molossian Hounds were often used as guard dogs by herdsmen and as property guard dogs by patricians in the city. Aristophanes, the fifth-century comic dramatist, speaks of the hazards of trying to get past a doorway guarded by a Molossian dog. The artist probably took artistic license to represent the ferocity of the molosser dog giving it a wolf head.
Photo by Verslidee
The true origin of the Molosser breeds is not known. They are one of the few breeds that appear in reality as well as in legends, adding to the difficulty of separating truth from fantasy.
Also historical evidence shows that they were of two types, one of which was mainly used as flock guardians, the other as home guardians. For the flock guardian, white was the preferred color, because they blended with the color of the animals at night. Black dogs, on the other hand, were used as home guardians, because that color proved more dissuasive to would-be intruders. Moreover, black dogs were not usually utilized as flock guardians because their color could scare the animals they had to guard.