Ancient Roman Molosser Dogs

Large dogs Neapolitan Mastiff

Molosser dog breeds

The Molossus was a type of molosser dog that belonged to the ancient Greek tribe and kingdom of the Molossians. In Rome, dogs were domesticated, both as guard dogs and as pets. In towns and cities in the Roman period, large dogs were kept principally as guard dogs, war dogs and also as pets by their owners.

Neapolitan Mastiff Image


What kind of molosser dog did the Romans use in battle?

The Roman legions bred their own war dogs from an ancient mastiff-like breed known as the Molloser. They were mainly used as watchdogs or for scouting, but some were equipped with spiked collars and armor and were trained to fight in formation.

Old English Mastiff head

How were dogs used in ancient times?

Initially, mankind used dogs to guard their homes. Later, dogs became hunters and participated in wars as soldier dogs. They were used for defensive and attacking purposes or even as messengers. Unfortunately, during ancient times, when dogs were used as messengers, they usually died.

Dogs in Battle

War dogs were used by the Egyptians, Greeks, Persians, Sarmatians, Baganda, Alans, Slavs, Britons, and the Romans. The Molossus dog of the Molossia region of Epirus was the strongest known to the Romans and was specifically trained for battle. Other civilizations used armored dogs to defend caravans or attack enemies.

Italian Mastiff Cane Corso

The Cane Corso is actually a very old breed that came from the molossus-type mastiff dogs of ancient Rome.

The Molosser breeds are known for their wide chests, large stature, and muscled legs. This group mainly includes bully breeds, mastiffs, and anything that derived from those two subgroups over time. Defining the word Molosser is agreed upon by most as these dogs were named after the Molossi tribes in which these dogs originated. Because the Molosser dogs are one of the oldest known groups in the world, many dog breeds that fit into this group are controversial as some are extinct or have been bred too many times and don’t attain the physical qualities that they used to. Within the Molosser group, there are two divided groups which are home guardians or flock guardians. Light-colored Molosser breeds were preferred as flock guardians because they resembled the other animals while darker colored Molosser breeds were performed as home guardians because they blended in with the scenery at night.

Cane Corsos Italian Mastiffs

The American Kennel Club does not currently recognize Molossers as a separate group of dog breeds, however, there have been many proposals to do so. Currently, there are 10 breeds that are proposed as the new Molosser group under the AKC. They are listed below:

3 thoughts on “Ancient Roman Molosser Dogs”

  1. I am a collector of Ancient Roman bronze artifacts and axe heads, and feel the history of Rome very important especially, having 3 Cane Corso rescues! Interesting history indeed, knowing they were used in battle! One of mine has uncropped ears and tail, looks nearly identical to the Molosser.

  2. Always thought I could tell a bully apart from a non bully breed based on appearence but apparently not since they said appearance was not an indicator of a bully breed

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