Theories of the Origin of the Dogue de Bordeaux
The dogs of Epirus. The Molossus dogs were initially bred on the territory of Epirus. This rugged region laying between Pindus mountains and Ionian sea was a homeland for several tribes with central part belonging to Molossian people. Molossian shepherds herding their flocks in a stony land of olives were famous for a vicious character of their hounds. Bravery and physical power of their dogs, mentioned by ancient authors, were used by breeders for hunting and, obviously, fighting.
Herodotus, who lived in the 5th century BC tells that in 550 BC the founder of the First Persian Empire Cyrus the Great received a gift from the King of Albania. That was a huge Mastiff-like dog who appeared to be indifferent when Cyrus set him against another dog and then, against a bull. The king ordered to kill the dog. When the news came to the King of Albania, he sand Cyrus another dog with the explanation that such rare, royal dog needed a worthy opponent, perhaps a lion or an elephant, not an ordinary creature, as Persian dogs and bulls were. Then Cyrus pitted the dog against an elephant. The legend says that the presented creature fought against the elefant with such a rage and furiosity, that his opponent was thrown to the ground and nearly killed in that battle.
Perhaps, this legend is an example of a common exaggeration, but still it may prove an independent coexistence of Mastiff-type dogs in different parts of the continent.
The Molossers were adopted by Philip II, the king of Macedon and his son Alexander the Great (Others state, though, that Alexander could bring his dogs from India. Steel, why should he go for those dogs to India if according to the famous legend about Cyrus, inhabitants of Epyr did have those dogs before Alexander sat on the throne). Later the dogs were used against Romans during Macedonian wars of the 2d-3d centuries B.C.
Romans were so impressed by the dogs that took them as regular accompaniment for their legions. Molossers were spread on the whole territory of Roman Empire and accompanied brave troops even abroad. However, resent researches doubt the fact that dogs of Molossia were Mastiff-like at all, not to say about their antecedence to the Dogue de Bordeaux.
The dogs of Britain island. On the coasts of Albion another war dog breed was spread accompanying Celts in their everyday activities and later on – bravely fighting for their Masters’ territory against Romans. Those ferocious dogs, according to some sources, are said to battle Molossus dogs with ease and to become exported to Rome. Still it’s also doubted whether Pugnaces Britanniae was an ancestor of Mastiff family dogs. Perhaps he preceded Irish Wolfhound.
The dogs of Tibetan Mountains. Could Molossers be descendants of the Tibetan Mastiff, one of the most ancient breed in the world? Probably not. Those dogs were notable for their fierce protection of livestock and monasteries and are said to be brought along the Silk Way by Chinese traders. Still recent genetic researches seam to refute this idea. No archaeological data prove it as well.
The dogs of the Iberian Peninsula. The Alaunt was a dog of Alans, nomadic tribe coming from Caucasian mountains. Those people were known as great herdsmen, warriors, horse and dog breeders. In the 5th century some Alans settled in the territory of contemporary Spain and brought their dogs with them. Most probably those dogs resembled the Caucasian Shepherd thus being a certain type of Ovcharka. But as the word Alano was used to name brachycephalic dogs, especially in Medieval France and Spain, it may show that first Spanish Alaunt dogs as well as their descendants possessed Mastiff-type features.
This or that way we may state for sure that the Dogue de Bordeaux was well established in France by the beginning of Middle Ages.