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|Medieval Alaunt guarding sheep|
|Dog (Canis lupus familiaris)|
The Alaunt is an extinct breed of dog, its original breed having existed in central Asia and Europe from ancient times through the 17th century. A number of modern dog breeds are believed[by whom?] to be descended from the Alaunt. The original Alaunt is thought to have resembled a Caucasian Shepherd Dog. They were large, short coated dogs of varying type. The Alaunt was bred by the Alani tribes, the nomads of Indo-European Sarmatian ancestry who spoke an Indo-Iranian language. The Alans were known as superb warriors, herdsmen, and breeders of horses and dogs. The Alans bred their dogs for work and had developed different strains within the breed for specific duties.
As far as is known, the Alaunt's primary ancestors are working dogs such as the Armenian Gampr dog, the Sarmatian Mastiff from the Caucasus and the Alabai from Central Asia, but also the shorthaired hounds of South Asia, Persia, and Europe. However, the Ayran Flock Guardian or Sage Koochi steppe type that descends from the steppes of Asia, brought by the steppe nomads, used to domesticate the horse, control and defend large livestock far predates these breeds in working type, giving evidence of the genetic template of the Alaunt. The steppe nomads, including the Kurgan culture, introduced the use of the horse and chariot, as well as the Mastiff/Alaunt dogs of war.
In the 370s AD, Hun invasions divided the Alani into the Eastern and Western Alans. The Eastern Alani tribes merged with the Ossetians and other nations, introducing their dogs into the bloodlines of many Balkan breeds, such as the Shar Mountain Dog, Metchkar, Qen Ghedje, Hellenikos Poimenikos and other Molossers of the region. Some believe that the white-coloured Alaunts were the direct ancestors of Balkan breeds, which in turn influenced all other white dogs in the Balkans. The Western Alans joined the Vandals on their raids through Europe and by the 410s AD, their fierce dogs were influencing many breeds in France, Spain, Portugal, England and other countries, spreading the use of the "alaunt" name, which became synonymous with a type of a working dog, rather than a specific breed. Through breeding with various scenthounds and sighthounds, some alaunts became valued large game hunting dogs, existing in a variety of types, dictated by regional preferences. In 1500 AD, Spain was known for breeding the best Alaunts and used them to conquer the New World.
In France, Alaunts were separated into three main categories, based on physical appearance and the duties they performed. The lightest type was the Alaunt Gentil, a greyhound-like dog, which eventually became assimilated into the local hunting breeds with the Alaunt Veantre. The original mastiff variety, known as the Alaunt de Boucherie, was crucial in the development of the fighting and baiting dogs of France. The Alaunt de Boucherie in France was known as the Alaunt Butchers in England and the Alano in Spain and Italy and were termed the original Bulldogs as they were used to control and defend herds of cattle. In Spain, the three categories were the Mastins, Alanos, and Lebrels further separated as the ayuda (defense types) and the presa (offense types), such as the Presa Canario, Fila Brasileiro, and Cuban Mastiff.
The long, broad, flat head of the Alaunt should never be confused with the modified brachycephalic breeds. The brachycephalic head type is wide in base, but short in length.. While the preferred bite is reverse scissor, like the Mastiff, and may have been a trait introduced by the Mongolian breeds at some remote time in history, skull type and bite type are separate subjects of genetic traits. The dolichocephalic skull is narrow at base yet long in length, so the Alaunt could be referred to as a modified dolichocephalic breed, as mesocephalic is a balance of base to length. Moreover, the Alaunt or Mastiff must be separated from the Molossoides in head study, as this term does not separate the Mastiff from the Mountain Dogs or even the Pug.
The original type Alaunt was a Butchers Dog aka Shepherd Dog of nomadic pastoralists of cattle that fought in battle from the grasslands north and west of the Caucasus. A number of Alans are still accounted for and are known today as the Ossetians. There is no plausible reason for the Alans/Ossetians to have stopped breeding the Alaunt, though the breed may be known today by other names. For example, in the area of Georgia of the Caucasus a Shepherd dog known as the White Kazbegi still assists cattle on cattle drives. In any case, the original Alaunt/Alano type is still found working in the obscurity of function as LGDs of cattle and farms including Spain's New World.
North of the Caucasus was a country known as Caucasian Iberia, as was Spain before the Celts arrived to form the Celtiberians. Iberians describe the people of both Caucasian Iberia, as well as those of the Iberian Peninsula When the Western Alans arrived in France and Spain in 406 AD, they were perhaps either returning to an early outpost or simply returning home. Theories are supported by archaeological, anthropological and genetic evidence that the Iberians of Spain have origins in Caucasian Iberia. Interestingly, this theory has been around since at least 1050 AD and was a popular belief of Medieval Georgian Nobles, who referred to the Spanish or Western Iberians, as "Georgians of the West".
The Alans, like their relatives, the Sarmatians, Scythians, and Thracians were the warring nomadic pastoralists of the grasslands north and west of the Caucasus, that introduced the Mastiff proto-type that eventually became known as the Alaunt.
The Sumerians, a non-Semitic people that descended from the steppes, settled in Mesopotamia in the fifth millennium BC, and had artifacts by 2000 BC. depicting the long-bodied, long broad flat heads, and square muzzles typical of the Alaunt. The Sumerians supplemented animal husbandry with big game hunting.
Following were the Assyrians and their Mastiffs with the titles "Biter of the Foe" and "Catcher of the Enemy", on a number of artifacts denoting the dogs' function as war-dogs.
The Molossus descended into Epirus in about 1200 BC,[clarification needed] also from the north. However, their artifacts did not resemble the Mastiff prototype, as they had a long nose of a narrow type, and a long mane. Varro, however, described a herding dog of Epirus which was white, large headed, and slightly undershot, used to defend sheep and goats. The Alans were fractured into groups, of which some had returned West at various times in various locations. One group of Alans arrived in what is now Albania in the fifth or sixth centuries BC. Molossis of Epirus is located in Southern Albania. It is most plausible the Alaunt gave rise to the fighting dogs of the Molossi, which were introduced to Britain by Roman Invasion in 55BC. The Alans provided cavalry for Rome and in 50AD, 5,500 Alans were sent to Britain to guard Hadrian's Wall. Thus, the Alaunt genetic template most plausibly gave rise to the British Pugnances as fighting dogs which English Mastiffs and Bulldogs descend from.
The nomadic pastoralists migrations were presented by the Kurgan Theory/Kurgan Hypothesis in 1956 by Marija Gimbutas.
The titles "Biter of his Foe" and "Catcher of the Enemy", the supplemental use in big game hunting, and the tending of cattle and livestock describe the exact type dog brought by the Spanish Conquistadors and settlers to the Americas. The same functional titles of Assyrian Mastiffs were used to denote the Mastiff war-dogs of the Spanish Conquest as Perro de Ayuda and Perro de Presa, respectively.
Spain and north of the Caucasus were linked by the "Beaker Folk" who made articles of bronze and spread them widely through Europe starting around 2000 BC. This era was said to be of sea-fearing more extensive than any until the 15th century AD. Thus, the earlier spread of Alaunts/Mastiffs throughout the Mediterranean, at least 900 years before the Phoenicians established their first colony on the Iberian Peninsula in 1100 BC, is most plausible.
One can thus conclude the race of dogs known as the Alaunt originated with the race of people referred to as the Caucasians of Eurasian pastoral life, long advanced in domestication and not from the hunter/gatherer. Perhaps that's why the word "Mastiff" is said to trace to Latin meaning 'domesticated'. In 550 BC, the Alaunt given to Cyrus by the King of Albania was found meek when matched with a bull, however a fighter of lions and elephants.
The advancement of the nomadic herdsmen of the North-West Caucasian tribes appeared in the Late Stone Age, east of the Danube River. The Sumerians spoke a language reminiscent of Ural-Altaic. Kortlandt postulated a branch of Ural-Altaic was changed by a Caucasian substratum in the earliest Pre-Indo-European phase in the seventh millennium, north of the Caspian Sea, and this is supported by archaeological evidence.
The Alaunt, known as the light bodied Mastiff, developed in the grasslands along with the Pre-Indo-Europeans, north of the Caspian Sea. The Alans, like their ancestors, were nomadic pastoralists of the grasslands and therefore did not breed Mountain Dogs. However, the genetic template of the Alaunt prototype has long been used in countless other breeds throughout Indo-Euro-Asia.
Contemporary enthusiasts are developing new breeds based on Alaunt bloodlines, such as the New Alaunt, Antebellum Bulldog or Altamaha Plantation Dog, Dogo Belgrado, Abraxas bulldog and the American Alaunt. While its origins are strongly rooted in the ancient mountain dogs of the East, the Alaunt is regarded by some cynologists as the ancestor to the original bulldog breeds.
- Hancock 2000, p.22
- Prisco, Andrew de; Johnson, James B.; Johnson, James Burris (1993). Canine lexicon. T.F.H. Publications. p. 121. ISBN 978-0-86622-198-6. (Mastiff is example of scissors reverse)
- Fleig 1996, p. 18–22 (Varro's description of herding dogs)
- Atlas 1995 p. 30
- Fleig 1996, p. 18 "Today Epirus is part of Albania."
- Hancock p. 28
- The Lincoln Library 1966, P. 354
- AKC 1998, P. 272-273
- The Lincoln library of essential information
- Fleig, Dieter (1996). Fighting Dog Breeds. TFH Publications. ISBN 0-7938-0499-X.
- Hancock, David (2001). The Mastiffs: The Big Game Hunters - Their History, Development and Future. Charwynne Dog Features. ISBN 0-9527801-2-7.
- Jenkins, Robert E.; Mollett, Ken (1997). The Story of the Real Bulldog. TFH Publications. ISBN 0-7938-0491-4.
- The Lincoln library of essential information. Columbus, Ohio: Frontier Press. 1985. ISBN 978-0-912168-12-8.
- American Kennel Club Staff (1998). The complete dog book. New York: Howell Book House. ISBN 0-87605-047-X.
- Derr, Mark (2004). A dog's history of America: how our best friend explored, conquered, and settled a continent. New York: North Point Press. ISBN 978-0-86547-631-8.
- Couturier, Casey. "The True History of the Spanish Conquest of Americas". American Bulldog Review, Fall 2001.
- Prisco, Andrew de; Johnson, James B.; Johnson, James Burris (1993). Canine lexicon. T.F.H. Publications. ISBN 978-0-86622-198-6.
- Stratton, Richard F. (1976). This is the American pit bull terrier. T.F.H. Publications. ISBN 978-0-87666-660-9.
- Bonnie Wilcox and Chris Walkowicz (1995). The Atlas of dog breeds of the world. TFH Publications. ISBN 978-0-7938-1284-4.