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Last updated on April 19, 2014 at 18:42 EDT

Molossus

The Molossus is an extinct breed of domestic dog that existed during the ancient Greco-Roman period. It is widely thought that this breed was developed in the northwestern areas of Ancient Greece and southern areas of Albania, where the Molossis people bred vicious dogs to work as guards for shepherds in Epirus. It is also thought to have been used as fighting dogs for the Ancient Greeks. It was native to the Balkans, but was later exported to Italy and other areas by Hellenic tribes. Despite its known popularity during that period, there is not much known about the appearance of the breed.

The Molossus is thought to be one of two possible breeds, along with the Alaunt, that developed the Mastiff breeds of modern times, which are sometimes known as Molossers or Molossus dogs. Modern descendants of this breed include the St. Bernard, the Rottweiler, the Newfoundland, and the Great Dane. The Ancient Greeks described the Molossus as having a large, wide muzzle with a heavy dewlap. The breed’s appearance is generally accepted as resembling Jennings Dog, a Roman statue copy of a Greek statue that can be found in the British Museum. However, some assert that the Molossus more closely resembled greyhounds or the American pit bull terrier. Despite the confusion about its appearance, it is agreed that the breed was large and was similar to modern Mastiffs.

Image Caption: Molossian Hound. The version is sometimes known as “Jennings Dog”. On display in the British Museum. Credit: Mike Peel/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 2.5)

Molossus