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    The Molossus

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    Horselover1289
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    The Molossus

    Post  Horselover1289 on Sun Dec 16, 2012 12:17 am

    So, I just realized that my "Pets Throughout History" Post is in fact, very, very general. So general, in fact, that I was unable to really discuss one of my favorite...*cue Frank'N Furter voice* obsessions. (Regretfully, it is not a young man with blond hair and a tan.) It is, in fact, the Molossus Dog. I expect now to be the time when you look at the screen and say "What the HECK is a Molossus!" That's a perfectly normal response, especially considering that its Wikipedia Page is a stub with few links to it. I confess that Ancient Greece really isn't my forte, being more of an Elizabethan/Roman person, so if anyone has any extra resources or corrections to give me, feel free. This is just what I think might have been and most, if not all of it, is very probably off somehow.

    So, the Molossus is supposed to be a special type of Greek Dog from an area called Epirus, and was supposed to have been bred by the people there, called the Molossians. I heard one interesting, albeit unsourced, story of a Molossus called Peritas, who was Alexander the Great's dog, It was really a typical "Boy meets Dog" story: Boy gets Dog from ruler, Boy sets Dog on something else, Dog refuses to fight, Boy kills Dog, Boy's given new dog and told to put it up against something better, Boy sets Dog against elephant, Dog is awesome, Boy doesn't kill Dog this time, Dog's killed protecting boy. It's like the ancient version of "Old Yeller."

    Once again, though, I've been unable to find any sources that specifically state Peritas as a Molossus outside of the same unsourced, copy and pasted story. This could either mean that (1) the ancient writers really didn't care about Alexander's dog, (2) It was taken for granted that ANY war dog would be a Molossus, or (3) Peritas was invented by Plutarch, who was being paid to write the best exploits for Alexander the Great as possible (He was writing to compare Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar, who was now considered divine) and Peritas was made a Molossus later on.

    Interestingly enough, though, unlike the version I talked about about above, Plutarch says Peritas was raised by Alexander. (I long for the day when we have time machines. "Hey Alex! Can you tell me where you got the dog?") It is interesting, however, that the country of Albania, the king of which was said to have given Alexander this dog, was in Epirus, which was also the area the Molossian tribes were. I can't tell, however, if the "King of Albania" is supposed to be referring to the leader of the Epirote League, which would have included the Molossians and be a much more concrete tie to the Molossus dog. Considering, though, that Peritas is only mentioned by one source, one time, it's hard to tell ANYTHING. [1.]

    Aristotle, however, did make one mention of them, which is better than nothing. ""Of the Molossian breed of dogs, such as are employed in the chase are pretty much the same as those elsewhere; but sheep-dogs of this breed are superior to the others in size, and in the courage with which they face the attacks of wild animals." Not bad. Not "watch while I take on this lion," but not bad.

    Grattius, writing in the time of the Emperor Augustus, also made a quote about them basically saying "These dogs are awesome, they can take on just about anything."

    What happened to the Molossus, like the rest of its history, is nearly completely shrouded in mystery. My theory is that, since the Romans wouldn't have thought of dog breeds like we do, they would have bred the Molossus (which, actually, could cover any of the dogs bred by the Molossians. In this case, I'm talking about the mastiff version,) to local dogs from areas they conquered. This would make it so that, despite there no longer being a "breed" of Molossus dogs, if there was in fact any at all, it would now be in their offspring. If there was more than one (ideally five, but since this is dog breeding we're talking about...) they could start a genetic base that would strengthen their offspring. The offspring would then be bred to further enhance their aptitude in their chosen field, (Guard dogs, dog fighters, hunting dogs, etc.) which would eventually give rise to new breeds. This might help explain some of the similarities between dogs such as the Saint Bernard and Great Dane to the sculpture known as "Jennings Dog," possibly a Molossus.


    The only conclusion I can really offer is that we know nothing about this dog. I've tried to assemble what facts I could scrounge out, but some things about them we'll never know.

    Further Reading and Sources:
    Peritas
    Jenning's Dog
    A slightly more critical view. "The Molossus Myth and Other Mastiff Malarkey"
    Aristotle's Account

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