Molossus (dog)

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Molossian Hound, British Museum.jpg
The “Jennings Dog", a Roman copy of a lost Greek bronze statue, on display in the British Museum.
Other namesΜολοσσός
Molossian hound
OriginAncient Greece
Dog (domestic dog)

The Molossus (Greek: Μολοσσός) or Molossian hound was a breed or type of large dog in the ancient kingdom of Molossis, in the region of Epirus, now western Greece.[1]


The Molossus was famous throughout the ancient world for its size and ferocity. It is mentioned in ancient literature by, among others: Aristophanes,[2], Aristotle,[3] Grattius,[4] Horace,[5][6] Lucan,[7] Lucretius,[8] Martial,[9] Nemesianus,[10] Oppian of Apamea,[11] Plautus,[12] Seneca,[13] Statius,[14][15][16] and Virgil.[17] Suda also mentioned it.[18][19]

The Molossians issued silver coinage with an image of a Molossus as their emblem.[1]

The Molossians kept dogs of two distinct types, one a hunting dog with a broad muzzle which is sometimes considered the ancestor to the modern mastiff type, the other a large livestock guardian dog. Aristotle in his History of Animals wrote "In the Molossian race of dogs, those employed in hunting differ in no respect from other dogs; while those employed in following sheep are larger and more fierce in their attack on wild beasts."[3] He also added that dogs that are born of a mixed breed between the Molossian and the Laconian dogs are remarkable for courage and endurance of hard labor.[20][21]

Polycrates of Samos imported Molossian and Laconian dogs to the island.[22]

Modern kennel club classification[edit]

The Fédération Cynologique Internationale has a "Molossian type" grouping of modern dog breeds which is further divided into two sections, a mastiff type and mountain type.[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b David Hancock, (2001). The Mastiffs: The Big Game Hunters: Their History, Development and Future. Ducklington: Charwynne Dog Features. ISBN 9780951780114.
  2. ^ Aristophanes, Thesmophoriazusae, 416.
  3. ^ a b Aristotle, History of Animals, IX. I. 2. Translated by Richard Cresswell, London: George Bell & Sons, 1887.
  4. ^ Grattius, Cynegeticon, 169.
  5. ^ Horace, Epodes,VI.
  6. ^ Horace, Satires 2, VI. 114.
  7. ^ Lucan, Pharsalia, IV. 440.
  8. ^ Lucretius, De rerum natura, V. 1063.
  9. ^ Martial, Epigram, XII. I. 1.
  10. ^ Nemesianus, Cynegetica, 107.
  11. ^ Oppian, Cynegetica, I. 375.
  12. ^ Plautus, Captivi, 86.
  13. ^ Seneca, Phaedra, 33.
  14. ^ Statius, Achilleid, I. 747.
  15. ^ Statius, Silvae, II. VI. 19.
  16. ^ Statius, Thebaid, III. 203.
  17. ^ Virgil, Georgics, III. 405.
  18. ^ Suda, ka.2730
  19. ^ Suda, mu.1198
  20. ^ Aristotle, History of Animals, 9.1.4
  21. ^ Aristotle, History of Animals - GR
  22. ^ Athenaeus, Deipnosophists, 12.57
  23. ^ FCI breeds nomenclature: Group 2: Pinscher and Schnauzer - Molossoid and Swiss Mountain and Cattledogs. Fédération Cynologique Internationale. Accessed June 2020.

Further reading[edit]