If we are asked about which dog breeds are Molossians, most of us probably stumble. Because the typical image that comes to our mind about this dog is characterized as follows:
- Strong physique
- Tall grown
Those who have perhaps already dealt with them will immediately see the image of the fighting dog at the side of a warrior in their mind’s eye. And that is exactly why we digress briefly into the history of the Molossian.
Historical facts about the Molossian
If we refer exclusively to the name, we will find that the Molossians were an ancient royal family in Epirus. It was located between the northwest of modern Greece and Albania. It was the mother of Alexander the Great, Olympias, who was intensively engaged in breeding large, defensive dogs.
Thanks to her good hand for breeding, this was crowned with success, so that the animals were sold and given away all over the world. So it is no wonder that at the time of Alexander the Great these dogs were carried along as war and guard dogs on his military campaigns. They stood at the side of the warriors as well as at their posts as guard dogs for the chariots and the tent cities. Since only males were given away, the Molossians held the breeding monopoly for a long time.
The Romans also succumbed to the strength and simultaneous loyalty of these dogs. Even Hannibal carried them with him. At least, it is believed that he brought them over the Alps. From them, it is assumed, the St. Bernards and the Rottweilers emerged.
No, there is no concrete evidence. However, there is some that the Romans took the Molossians to Great Britain and crossed them with the Mastiffs of that time. However, these were considered superior to the Roman Molossians, which led to the only sensible measure – crossbreeding. Today this can be seen in the Mastino Napoletano, which already looks very similar to the drawings of that time.
Why some of the descendants were called “Mastiffs” or “Mastinos” or similar is still not completely clear. However, these names mean in derivation to the Latin “tamed”. Also, the name “dog guarding the home” could be derived from Latin. It depends on whether Old Latin or Classical Latin is used. Unfortunately, the Romans themselves had no idea about this and therefore stuck to the name “Molossian”.
And of course the spreading of the Molossians continued, because they were no longer kept under lock and key as in the times of Alexander the Great.
The dog breeds that belong to the Molossians
If we turn to the FCI, we will find that there is the following description for the Molossians: “Group 2, Pinscher and Schnauzer, Molossoid, Swiss Mountain and Cattle Dogs and other breeds; Section 2 Molossoid, 2.1 Great Dane type dogs, 2.2 Mountain dogs”. If we continue to follow the FCI list, we will find the following dogs under Group 2, Section 2.1, Great Dane type dogs:
- Dogo Argentino, Origin: Argentina
- Fila Braseleiro, Origin: Brazil
- Shar Pei, Origin: China
- Broholmer, origin: Denmark
- Great Dane (yellow, brindle, black, blue, spotted), Origin: Germany
- German Boxer (yellow, brindle), Origin: Germany
- Rottweiler, Origin: Germany
- Dogue de Bordeaux, Origin: France
- Bulldog, Origin: Great Britain
- Bullmastiff, Origin: Great Britain
- Mastiff, Origin: Great Britain
- Cane Corso Italiano, Origin: Italy
- Mastino Napoletano, Origin: Italy
- Tosa, Origin: Japan
- Cao Fila de Sao Miguel, Origin: Portugal
- Perro Dogo Mallorquin, Origin: Spain
- Presa Canario, Origin: Spain
- Cimarron Uruguayo, origin: Uruguay
In the same group, section 2.2, Mountain Dogs, the following breeds are waiting for us:
- Tornjak, Origin: Bosnia and Herzogovina, Croatia.
- Hovawart (black-masked, black, blond), origin: Germany
- Leonberger, origin: Germany
- Landseer (European-Continental type), Origin: Germany, Switzerland
- Chien de Montagne de Pyrenees, Origin: France
- Newfoundland (Black, Brown, White-Black), Origin: Canada
- Aidi (Atlas mountain dog), Origin: Morocco
- Sarplaninac, Origin: North Macedonia, Serbia
- Cao de Castro Laboreiro, Origin: Portugal
- Rafeiro do Alentjo, Origin: Portugal
- Cao da Serra da Estrela (shorthaired, long-haired), Origin: Portugal
- Ciobanesc Romanesc de Bucovina, Origin: Romania
- Kavkazskaia Ovtcharka, Origin: Russia
- Sredneasiatskaya Ovtcharka, Origin: Russia
- Stbernhardshund (shorthaired, long-haired), Origin: Switzerland
- Kraski Ovcar, Origin: Slovenia
- Mastin del Pirineo, Origin: Spain
- Mastin Español, Origin: Spain
- Do-Khyi, Origin: Tibet (China)
- Kangal Coban Köpegi, Origin: Turkey
The special something
All these dog breeds, no matter how original they still are to the actual Molosser as we know it from sculptures and illustrations in the lore, have some similarities that cannot be denied. However, various traits of the original Molosser have diminished or disappeared altogether due to breeding and the tasks they have been given over the centuries.
So what do they still have in common, the dog breeds grouped in Group 2, Section 2.1 and Section 2.2? What makes these dogs tick? What makes them so particularly popular?
But it’s true: as massive as these dogs look. As imposing as their appearance and thus the first impression may be, these dogs possess sensitive souls. Sure, they have a strong protective instinct. That is correct. But on the other hand, they are actually “lap dogs” who like nothing better than to be petted and cuddled by their favorite human.
However, it is precisely the protective instinct that necessitates early socialization and solid basic training. So it is appropriate that the Molosser has a territory, so preferably house with garden, which he can protect. In a moment he will be more balanced. He will also protect his family, his pack.
Unfortunately, he sometimes does this on the street against other dogs or people who do not seem familiar to him. So that the handler is not now pulled up and away with the dog, it is especially important to keep these large, powerful dogs under control by means of the commands.
Fortunately, these dogs are very much focused on their owner, so most of them are not difficult to train. Unfortunately, a big but follows: because despite the relatively easy trainability, a small residue of stubbornness, obstinacy remains.
And if this just has the upper hand, it may come to one or the other confrontation with the dog. Mostly, however, these are only the famous discussions that we have all had with our dog. An additional training session, absolute consistency and it works again with the problem-free walking.
From demanding and encouraging
Not all dogs that belong in the category of Molossians were powerhouses that can be endlessly challenged. Rather, they have shifted their focus to thinking. Yes, it sounds strange. But that’s exactly how it is. Certainly they need the physical balance. But they are not high-performance athletes. But they would like to combine the physical exertion with search games or mantrailing or something similar. So they get their money’s worth in every respect and after the daily exercise they have also urgently earned their observation post.
Molossians also have this in common: they observe their surroundings very closely. They are good watchdogs, but they do not necessarily react to the stimuli that we humans perceive as threatening. Thus, it is quite possible that the Molossian feels so comfortable in his territory that he simply sleeps through visitors or mailmen. An excellent example of a first-class socialized dog.
No, there’s no call for dog work here. But these dogs love to be involved in family activities. Let them play fetch when the groceries need to be brought into the house. Have them bring a hand brush and shovel, one at a time of course, when you are about to clean the house or patio. Give this dog chores so he can feel like a full member of the family.
These do not necessarily have to be retrieving tasks. In fact, there are dogs that just don’t want to learn this task. Have the dog take the mail from the mailman using a saddle bag. Send the dog ahead when the kids come home from school. They, too, will be happy to have the dog meet them at the garden door each day.
That’s right – different breeds of dogs bring different potentials. For example, some of them are wonderful to train as rescue, therapy, companion and school dogs, such as the Bernese Mountain Dog, the Landseer. Others, however, need their space. They prefer to keep track of what is going on and guard and look after a herd.
With the latter, you should definitely complete appropriate tasks in a club for shepherd dogs. By the way, both of them like to be harnessed in front of a small wagon as draft dogs. In this way, among other things, you can take longer walks with small children. The dog will pull them proudly.
The dear health
Molossians are large dogs, which usually also carry a corresponding weight. Unfortunately, this also affects the joints over time. If you were able to take over your dog from a reputable breeder, you can be sure that the offspring will also be HD and ED free. However, this does not mean of course that he is therefore free of joint problems throughout his life. Therefore, corresponding examinations at the veterinarian should be carried out at regular intervals in order to check the joints and to be able to take countermeasures at the slightest sign.
Already in the first growth phase, attention should be paid to the joints. This is the task of the breeder. He will take them to the vet for the necessary examinations due to their natural predisposition to massive weight, so that the new owner can take over a healthy puppy. After that, it is up to him to keep the dog on a relative diet so that excess weight does not occur in the first place.
The choice of sports activities should also take into account this problem. Swimming is the top priority for all dogs in this section. It is not only loved by most, but also protects the joints, no matter what age they are.
… and life expectancy?
The massive stature and tendency to joint problems have not made it easy for Molossians. While they used to be able to rely on their robust constitution and have a life expectancy of up to 12 years, this value has unfortunately dropped. Today one is a little more careful with the indication of the life expectancy and names it with 7 to 9 years.
Correct – it depends in particular on the breed and the keeping conditions. Even today they can reach the proud 12 years, if they are always kept optimally. Nevertheless, it should be kept in mind that, unfortunately, large dogs always have a lower life expectancy than small, light-footed dogs. This is an unwritten law of nature, which, however, can sometimes be tricked.
Molossian dog breeds are fascinating. They don’t conform to the norm and that’s exactly why you should know dogs well if you want to get a Molosser-type. Even if he has a sweet disposition, the most important thing is that you show him that you are the alpha dog in the family herd.
If these fronts have been clarified, and the dog has completed the socialization and basic training in the best possible way, there is no doubt that you will have an angel at home. Yes, this angel has quite a massive figure and is not an official lap dog. Only he does not know this. Because in his eyes, he is a lap dog who needs his regular petting and, by the way, takes good care of the small pack family.
But who also said that angels have to be small and petite? Once you and the dog get used to each other, you won’t want to miss him, your big, protective lapdog.
No, Molosser is a generic term under which on the one hand the doggenartigen dogs, on the other hand the so-called mountain dogs can be found again.
Most of the Molosser types belong to the large, to very large dogs. There are a few that are classified in the small, to medium sized dog range.
Whether a dog is dangerous does not depend on the breed. Rather, it is up to the dog’s socialization, basic training, and attitude as to whether it is dangerous. No dog, even the Molosser type, is born aggressive or biting. They are not to be underestimated and require dog sense. That’s all.
Again, you can’t generalize the answer. Certainly the joints are more susceptible than lighter, smaller dog breeds. It is ultimately the potential they bring from their breeding line, diet and husbandry that will determine whether or not the joints are at risk during their lifetime.
Even if you don’t want to believe it, most of these dogs are extremely calm, strong nerves and blessed with a high irritability threshold. Since they love their people and are very happy to be an active member of the family, they are very suitable as family dogs. Of course, a watchful eye should always be kept with smaller children. Because one thing must not be forgotten – every dog is still, deep inside, a little wolf.