Part II of „The Great Book Of Bulldogs Bull Terrier and Molosser” deals with the so called Molosser breeds - their origin, history and work. It doesn't show the common bred show dog, but the sound and useful dog. All breeds are described from their origin to present time. The regard of the historical context is of special importance, for you hardly could understand and put in its proper place many characteristics of today’s existing dog breeds without the historical background. We have tried to present our cynological knowing legible and easy to understand, adding own experiences of breeding too. Photos in black/white or colored, many out of our own collection, but many we've got from breeders and owners all over the world.
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HISTORY AND ORIGIN OF THE MOLOSSER BREEDS
ILLYRIAN SHEPHERD (ILLYRIAN MASTIFF/SARPLANINAC)
ARMENIAN SHEPHERD (GAMPR/GAMPYR)
CENTRAL ASIAN OVCHARKA
BROHOLMER (FREDERIK VII MASTIFF, DANISH MASTIFF)
DOGUE DE BORDEAUX
GREAT SWISS MOUNTAIN DOG
MASTINO NAPOLETANO (MASTINO ITALIANO / NEAPOLITAN MASTIFF)
Rafeiro do Alentejo
Cao de Fila da Terceira (Fila Terceirense, Rabo Torto)
CUBAN MASTIFF / CUBAN BLOODHOUND
GRAN MASTINO DE BORINQUEN
BANDOG (AMERICAN MASTIFF)
OLDE BRAZILIAN BANDOGGE
MASTIN ESPANOL (SPANISH MASTIFF)
CA DE BOU (PERRO DE PRESA MALLORQUIN)
Perro de Toro Espanol (Spanish Bulldog)
PERRO DE PRESA CANARIO(CANARY DOG / DOGO CANARIO)
Aristotle (384 – 322 B. C.) praises the Molossers:
“In Molossis also a dog breed, serving as protector of the herds, distinguishes by its size and tremendous courage towards wild beast and above all other dogs.”
t is said, the name Molosser derives from the tribe of the Molossi (respectively Molosser), that lived in Epirus in the northwest of Greece. The antique Epirus bordered on Thessaly and Macedonia in the east and in the north it extended to the south of today’s Albania.
The Molossi kept guardian and war dogs, being famous for their courage and ferocity and became known as “Canis Molossis” (= dog of the Molossi). Generally it is supposed that these Molosser dogs were the early, ferocious forerunners of the Mastiff and direct descendants of the Tibetan Mastiffs.
What we know for sure is that dogs accompanied men on their tours and traders and warriors took them over the great routes, still having existed in prehistoric time. However, one doesn’t know the then routes of human migration precisely, the same being valid for the dogs. Some cynologists think that the ancestors of these dogs would to be found even farer in the east, in an area, where the ancestors of the Tibetan Mastiff have been found.
Generally Mesopotamia is kept for the cradle of civilization, where the Sumerians have lived 3000 B.C. The Sumerians have been great trading people. They even came to the Indus and further, also to the Nile on land and on ship. However, they bred sheep, goats and pigs too, for which they most likely needed guardian and herding dogs. They were huge, powerful dogs with pendulous ears, which were used as fighting dogs in martial fights and for amusement towards bears, lions and donkeys. About 1000 B. C. so called “Indian dogs” or Tibetan dogs appeared. Usually they were blends from original Tibetan and native big dog strains from the Middle East. They were regarded as very dangerous with and hardly to controlling fury and were used as war dogs. About 500 B. C. Sumerians, Assyrians and Persians improved this “Tibetan dog” with aggressive native dogs. From Mesopotamia dogs would have been taken west to Egypt, the Turkey, Libya, Greece, Rome, Syracuse, Carthage and Spain.
The Greeks were the first to write manuals about dogs; a practice which was continued by the Romans. Aristotle was the first to discuss anatomy and physiology of the dog. In 350 B. C. he listed the “most useful” breeds among them the Molossers.
It is said that the Phoenicians, traveling to Italy, Spain, France and even Cornwall, where they bought tin, would have taken these dogs with them, eventually to sell them together with sheep and goats to the herdsmen of those areas. Many, still today available sources refer to the early differentiation, which had developed, namely the white, long muzzled, slimmer “herding“ dog and the darker heavier dog, which was used for protection and for war. About 60 A.D. Columella, a Roman writer, describes in his work “De Re Rustica” two types of dogs, namely guard and herding dogs for the herds and their owner. The guard dog was big, strongly built, with broad jaws and often black. This color was more intimidating and blended in with the dark. However, the herding dog was less heavy built than the guard dog, as he had to be able to run fast enough to run the wolves off. They used to be white, to make it distinguishable to the shepherd from a raiding wolf and to be better seen in the dark. These herding dogs guarded the herds; they were big, ferocious dogs, being big enough to keep away wolves, raiding dogs, big game and thieves.
As soon as these molossoid dogs had come to the Roman Empire, they already were bred for special purposes. One could say that this was the first step to the development of “breeds” within one species. The Romans developed a breed being very similar to today’s Sennenhund or Swiss Mountain Dog. In fact, there were no prehistoric Swiss Mastiffs or doggen prior to the last century B. C. The Romans took their mastiffs into then Gaul. Their mastiffs guarded the mountain passes where a few hundred years later the St. Bernard would be found.
These early breeds also contributed to French breeds like the Dogue de Bordeaux. Also to the south, in Italy, molossoid dogs developed which can be regarded as the ancestors of today’s Mastino Napoletano.
In Spain the Spanish Mastiff developed, to north, in Belgium, a tracker, the St. Hubert, developed from those fierce hunting dogs of prehistoric time, being the ancestor of today’s Bloodhound.
In the Alps, these early mastiffs are thought to have been adopted by the Germanic tribes and then to have traveled with the Angels and Saxons to Britain. These early mastiffs originally were guard dogs, but because of their courage and their ferocity towards predators they also were suited for hunting bear and wolf, which existed in Britain at the time of the Saxons. By the Middle Ages some mastiffs had become butcher’s dogs and then were bred for bull baiting and dog fighting. With each change in role, came physical changes to enable the dog to better perform in his new role.
In the meantime, throughout the mountainous regions and high plains stretching from Central Asia through Asia Minor, Eastern Europe to the Pyrenees, the shepherds continued to use their white herding dogs as the protectors of their herds as already described in the time before Christ. The descendants of these long haired, white dogs still exist today, like the Akbash in the Turkey, the Tatra of Poland, and the Kuvasz in Hungary or the Maremmano in Italy. The dark colored herding dogs you still will find in certain regions as for example the Illyrian Shepherd Dog on the Balkan, the Kangal in Eastern Turkey or the Middle Asian Ovcharka.
Mastiff blood with an introduction of the northern Spitz is thought to be the probable origin of the rough-coated Ovcharka in Russia. This northern “spitz” type dog is also considered to be the ancestor of many of the Oriental breeds, some of which were crossed with Mastiff breeds to create the Tosa Inu, the famous fighting dog of Japan, and the Dosa in Korea.
Also in South America own molossoid breeds developed from dogs, which the conquistadors had brought with them, as for example Spanish Mastiffs, dogs of bulldog type and Bandog type. One breed originating from these dogs for example is the Fila Brasileiro, a breed special suited for the South American ranches and plantations.
n the ancient world the Illyrians lived northwest from Greece, in the regions of Epirus, Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia, Herzegovina and South and Central Dalmatia. Greek and Roman writers described these countries all together as Elyria. The Greek historian Herodotus used the term Illyrians for the first time. In 219 B. C. the region mainly came into Roman control and finally was integrated in the Empire under Caesar.
Illyrian Shepherd in the Demon Mountains, Kosovo (Kennel Deltari Illir)
The Illyrian Shepherd has been mentioned in the book “History of the Ottoman Empire”, at the beginning of 1900, as follows:
Outside the city walls dogs worked, of course. Like the Hungarian Komondor, or the huge Carpathian Sheepdog, the Macedonian shepherd dogs descended without any doubt from the monsters that killed Euripides at Pella. The Albanian dogs had their own law, seeming to obey the same harsh codes as their masters, which they protected with the absolute loyalty for which Albanians were notorious. 'I remembered first a serious bit of advice given to me by a British consul,' recalled J.F. Fraser, who was attacked by 'two brutes of goat-dogs' outside Ohrid in the early 1900s, 'never to shoot a dog belonging to an Albanian goatherd unless you are prepared immediately afterward to shoot its master before he has time to shoot you.’
Illyrian Shepherd Bellanica (Kennel Deltari Illir)
Before the Turkish conquest the shepherds of the Balkan were known as “Illyrian Mountain Dog”, being made only regional distinctions. In 1689 Valvasor officially mentioned the Illyrian Shepherd as a breed for the first time. In 1939 it was recognized by the FCI. This name has existed until 1957, and then was changed into Sarplaninac.
Illyrian Shepherd Pirro (Kennel Deltari Illir)
In the early 1990’s some of my Pit Bulls (pups and young dogs) had been stolen. Then I thought of taking a Sarplaninac as a guard dog. Because of the Pit Bulls I had some good connections to Serbia. One of my then friends there, having some dogs from me, had owned Sarplaninac for some years.
Sarplaninac (at Goran’s, near Belgrade)
Two Sarplaninac before the fight
He also gave me a tape showing wolf hunting with these dogs. According to the mountainous region and the people it might have been the area close to the Albanian border or the Kosovo. It shows the village people together with their dogs starting for the hunt, then the dogs hunting the wolf and pushing it into a kraal making it impossible to run away. One dog gets a hold on its throat and kills it, after that the dead wolf is carried triumphantly into the village.
I’ve got the following photo from my Serbian friend Goran as well. Then he told me that this was a certain type of Sarplaninac, with which is supposed that Turkish dogs took part. That seems quite possibly, as the Turks have ruled on the Balkan for a long time and certainly have taken their own dogs with them.
At one of my visits Goran wanted to show me one of these Sarplaninac, belonging to a friend of him. He told me that this dog always was tied during the day, as he was very ferocious and dangerous, however in the night he ran free to watch over the house. This happened in the time of the Yugoslavian War and several times a day power failures weren’t unusual. During the day his friend wasn’t at home and therefore we would have had gone to him in the evening. However, when in the evening there was again a power failure, everyone was secretly glad that the trip was cancelled for that reason.
Sarplaninac (Illyrian Shepherd?)
According to a Yugoslavian expert with an impact of Turkish Shepherd (?)
Today the Illyrian Shepherd wouldn’t be regarded as pure bred respectively equally good by many Sarplaninac breeders in Serbia and Montenegro. Vice versa many Albanians would state that the Illyrian Shepherd would be the only one that would have kept pure.
The Illyrian Shepherd (Sarplaninac) is reserved, stubborn and laid back, aggressiveness towards dogs and carefulness with strangers is normal. This breed is remarkable intelligent and loyal to his master and family. An interesting physical characteristic are the unusual long teeth. He has heavy bones and is well muscled. The coat has a dense undercoat, suited for a life outside. Most of the working strains in the mountainous regions tend to be a little bit smaller and to have a shorter coat.
e had already heard a lot about the Turkish Shepherds, especially the Kangal which is regarded as the Turkish national breed. Years ago some specimens had been already imported in the USA to support the farmers in hunting and deterrence of the coyotes. In Namibia too, the farmers used them to keep away the wild cats from the herds. When we did our investigations for our book, we were looking for one to two good photos and were surprised which noble and powerful animals came out, that we hadn’t expected.
Kangal Yagiz, owner: Lutfullah Ayan, Ankara
Some regard the Kangal as a color variety of the Anatolian Shepherd in the west, however it’s a fact that the Kangal would be much older than most of the popular breeds in the Turkey. His name derives the Kangal from Kangala, a town in the province Sivas. Traditionally the best bloodlines are coming from the region Uzun Yayla. The popularity of the Kangal has increased in some European countries during the last years. However, with it dubious bloodlines and crosses with other breeds appeared too. Of course, you’ll find excellent representatives of pure Kangals also outside their native country, above all in Western Europe, where they are very appreciated because of their impressive size, their balanced temperament and their beautiful appearing.
Some believe that the Kangal like most of the Turkish and Middle Asian dogs originates from the old Armenian Gampr, whereas others would connect him with the old Indian, Assyrian, Persian and Sumerian dogs. Most likely the ancestors of the Kangal had been brought to Anatolia by nomadic, Turkmen tribes, through which a connection to the legendary Alabai would arise.
Emperor Boz, Boz Kennels, Istanbul
The breeder describes his male Emperor Boz as a game dog having never lost. On the following picture a fox might have been killed and put on a plug for picturing. Note power and strength expressed by the dog.
Yagmur (sister of Yagiz), owner Mehmet Yalcin, Ankara
Yagiz in action
Among the Turkish breeds, the Kangal is least of all aggressive and easy to train; he is an excellent family pet. He doesn’t get along well with other dogs. He is very territorial and protective to his family.
Herkul Boz, Boz Kennel, Istanbul
The Kangal is of a very large size and massive, with a strong neck, big head and a muscular body. The coat is dense, rough and short, preferred colors are reddish, beige and pale, always with a black mask. The average height is about 32 inches.
The Kangal runs very fast and elastic, he is an excellent wolf killer and a wonderful guard dog. In his native country he is often seen with cropped ears and his very big teeth distinguishes him from other dogs in the region, therefore the Kangal would be first choice of many Turkish shepherds for guarding their herds.
The wolves are only hunted by the Kangals, when they come too close to the herds, the houses or the owners; otherwise both parties go their own way. The Kangal isn’t an aggressive dog; he only would defend his property.
Even though he would see several wolves, he doesn’t run away, so that it often would end with his own dead. Therefore the Turkish owners are very proud of their Kangals, who are able to kill wolves. Only the best lines are strong and intelligent enough to be a match for wolves. Sometimes the dogs would chase the wolves after an attack in the mountains to kill them. They have an extreme hunting drive, but the shepherds prefer lines, which don’t leave the herds alone in the “ardor of action”, but would return to the herds after having chased away the wolves.
Following pictures we’ve got at our disposal by Ender Odaci. The pictured Kangals derives from the so called “Panterline”. This line has been bred by the family Cicek in Kangal/ Kargakale. It is one of the best and it is most important that the family has kept the line pure for decades, and even centuries.
Panter & Seytan with their owner Savas Cicek, Turkey
Old Panter with wolf - Panter is already dead, he was a true Kangal-King
Breeder: S. Cicek, owner: Onur Kanli, Turkey
Ashil, a son of Panter, looking for wolves
The Kangal is also called Anatolian Mastiff, being especially visible with the yellow specimens with black mask. In fact, there exist some strains which not only distinguish in their external look from the usual herding dog, but also have an extreme hunting drive. They not only would protect and guard the herd and the home, but will try to make sight of the enemy (wolf, bear) from distance. Mostly they wouldn’t only confine to defend the herd when attacked, but would go to chase actively the predator. That’s often to the regret of the shepherds, as many are lost. It’s obvious that beside the mastiff-like shepherd dog, a sighthound might have played a significant role. In fact, always again the KurdishSighthound is mentioned. He is described as a courageous dog, which shall have influenced the Borzoi too. Unfortunately, there can’t be found any useful photos, except the one shown below. He is said to have a yellow or dirty white color, and to have been an excellent wolf hunter. Looking at this picture of the Kurdish Sighthound, a certain similarity of the shown Kangals of the Panterline could be noticed. This could be also an explanation for the Kangal’s kind of sight hunting and his fierce chase of the wolf.
In contrast to other herding dogs of his category, in spite of his enormous weight the Kangal looks higher and more extended, with a somewhat narrower chest, in all more sinewy and dryer. Real strong teeth and extreme muscles on the neck round the whole.
he Armenian Shepherd is said to be the eldest of all Molossers and probably of the mountain dog breeds too. Armenia has been one of the early cradles of civilization and the Gampr shall have existed in the Armenian highlands from the beginning. Already 3000 years ago two main strains developed – the long haired and the short haired strain. Most Armenians regard these dogs as the true Caucasian and Middle Asian Shepherds and as direct ancestors of the most Asian and Turkish breeds. This theory isn’t popular, however makes sense, regarding the historical facts. When the Turks have invaded Armenia in the 9th century and have met the Gampr dogs, they have been impressed in such a way that they have taken many of them to the Turkey. There exist even some reports, in which is stated that some of their Gampr dogs have been exported in a “monastery in the Suisse Alps” around 1665. There they shall have contributed to the development of the St. Bernard. The Soviets claimed for themselves the Gampr as a Russian breed, at which the Georgian strain has been preferred by Stalin, still today the consequences divide the fanciers of the Caucasian Ovcharka. The Turkish Cars Dog is of a special interest too, because Cars has been the capital of Armenia until the 10th century. Still today he is used and high esteemed by the shepherds in the northeast of the Turkey. Some also regard the Gampr as the ancestor of the legendary Alaunt.
There exists no standard, as these dogs are bred for work and not for their appearance until today. There is made no difference between the short haired and the long haired in Armenia. The Gampr has been bred on natural/accidental kind for centuries; all strains have been crossed so that the appearance, even in one litter, often differs. Ears and tail are traditionally cropped with the short haired strain; however that differs from place to place.
Therefore, the Gampr can be short and long haired, there are all varieties of colors and different sizes which ranges from 24 to 32 inches.
he Central Asian Ovcharka (CAO) is supposed to be the ancestor of all breeds. You can dispute about it, but it seems almost probably that the Tibetan Mastiff would be a descendant of the CAO and not his ancestor, as often believed. However, the possibility is high these dogs are being the direct descendants of the legendary Armenian Gampr and the Sage Kooche Dog from Afghanistan, with which they are related without any doubt. There is some general misunderstanding that the CAO is said to be older than 4000 years, but he is a relatively new Russian creation. The breeds building his basis are indeed older and really ancient; however the modern Central Asian Ovcharka has been formed only in the 20th century. Before 1935, this breed was known by the name Turkish Shepherd and that because some Russians and western authors made no difference between Turkmenistan and the Turkey. As these dogs not only existed in one country, but could be found all over Eastern Europe and Asia, they officially were registered as Central Asian Ovcharka and from 1938 were shown on shows. Besides the Kavkaz Dog and the Youzhak the Central Asian Ovcharka is part of the famous troika, being recognized as Russian Shepherds.
Therefore the term “Central Asian Ovcharka” has been used for different shepherd breeds. However, the expression “Alabai
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