The term Molosser is a very elastic one, encompassing breeds as diverse as American Pitbull Terriers, Shar-Pei and Pugs, as this family is so very wide-ranging.
But not all Molosser breeds want to be characterized by the “M word.” Newfoundlands, Leonbergers and Bulldogs, for example, are undoubtedly Molossers in terms of their body style and their ancestors, but very few fanciers consider them as such. Conversely, in terms of their phenotype, Tibetan Mastiffs and Fila Brasileiros are not as extreme as many of the “classic” Molossers, but they gladly accept the mantle.
The Dogue de Bordeaux is the French Molosser.
In the end, “Molosserdom,” if you will, has more to do with how a breed community sees itself, particularly in relation to guarding function. Oftentimes, this doesn’t mean that the breed has retained an active protection purpose or even instinct, but rather more that its fanciers are willing to appreciate and acknowledge that facet of its breed history.
For the purposes of our magazine, we target our coverage to those breeds who are not only classified as Molossers, but whose breeders and owners wish them to be identified as such. The Mastiff, Bullmastiff, Dogue de Bordeaux, Neapolitan Mastiff, Tibetan Mastiff and Cane Corso are easily identified as descendants of this ancient race. And there are rarer breeds, including as the Broholmer, Mastin Espanol and Tosa Inu, that are happy to find themselves in the fold, too.
Much is still not known as to how the many Molosser breeds evolved over the course of time. But we do know that the spirit of this indefatigable guardian has survived the millennia, bringing the past to the present, and giving us our “Modern Molossers.”
Say It Once, With Feeling!
If you’ve just come across the “M word,” or never were quite sure how to pronounce it in the first place, fear not! Just click our green button below to hear how it should be pronounced.
Several small breeds are considered “mini-Molossers.” Pugs, French Bulldogs and Boston Terriers are miniaturized versions of their larger brethren. Compare these photos of Bullmastiff and Pug puppies.
The words “Molosser,” “Molossus” or “Molossoid” all describe a type of working dogs bred to guard, protect and defend livestock and estate. And the terminology is very commonly used overseas, as the Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI) categorizes “Molossoid” dogs in a subgroup by that name.
The Dogo Canario is known in the U.S. as the Presa Canario.
Because of that, not surprisingly, the Federation Cynologique Internationale recognizes far more Molosser breeds than the American Kennel Club. But Molossers are making significant inroads in the U.S.: In the last decade, the American Kennel Club has recognized the Neapolitan Mastiff (2004), Tibetan Mastiff (2007), Dogue de Bordeaux (2008), Cane Corso (2010) and Boerboel (2015). The Dogo Argentino has been admitted to the AKC’s Miscellaneous Group, which is the final step before official recognition. And the AKC Foundation Service Stock (FSS) is peppered with an international sampling of Molossers, including the Broholmer, Perro de Presa Canario, Pyrenean Mastiff, Spanish Mastiff and the Japanese Tosa.