Mastiff History and Origin: The name Mastiff was probably applied to any massively built dog. The origin of the word 'mastiff' is derived from the old German word 'masteve' meaning "heavy dog". It is difficult to trace the specific ancestors of the breed due to the various names which were used to describe it including the Molosser, the Tie-dog, the Bandog and the, now extinct, Alaunt. The name "Molosser" derives from King Molossus, the grandson of the great Achilles of the Trojan War, who ruled the ancient Greek tribe of Molossians in Epirus, Greece. This reflects the ancient heritage of these dogs.
The names Bandog and Tie-dog strongly suggest that Mastiffs were commonly kept as guard dogs that were kept tied or chained up due to their ferocity. The mastiffs were employed by the Romans as War Dogs were also known to be specially trained for baiting bears, bulls and even lions and were later used for dog fighting contests. The ancestors of the mastiffs were found in Europe and in Asia and were introduced to America in the 1500's. The courage and strength of the Mastiffs made them excellent guard dogs and many were also used as herding dogs.
Names List of the Mastiff Breeds: In antiquity dogs were not classified by inflexible breed names but by the geographical locations in which they were found or by their specific roles. The names of the most famous Mastiff Breeds are the American Mastiff, the Bullmastiff, the English Mastiff, the Neapolitan Mastiff and the awesome Tibetan Mastiff. Other breeds that are immediately and directly associated by their nicknames are the Akbash ("Turkish Mastiff"), the Bandog ("Irish Mastiff"), the Dogo Canario (Canary Mastiff) the Boerboel ("South African Mastiff"), the Cane Corso ("Italian Mastiff"), Mastín Espanol (Spanish Mastiff), Mastin del Pirineo (Pyrenean Mastiff), Rafeiro do Alentejo (Portuguese Mastiff), Dogo Argentino ("Argentinian Mastiff"), the Dogue De Bordeaux ("French Mastiff"), the Fila Brasileiro ("Brazilian Mastiff"), the Great Dane ("German Mastiff"), the Dosa Gae (Korean Mastiff) and the Tosa Inu ("Japanese Mastiff").
Other breeds that share similar characteristics of the mastiff and are descended from the breed are the the Bulldog, the Alapaha Blue Blood Bulldog and the Appenzeller Sennenhund.
Mastiff History - The Alaunt: One of the ancestors of the mastiffs was the Alaunt dog which were kept by the Sarmatians, an ancient tribe that originated in Poland who were a powerful force from about the 5th century BC to the 4th century AD.
Mastiff History - The Roman War Dogs: The Sarmatians (Nomadic people of the South Russian steppe) were famous for their horsemen, who were accompanied by "enormous dogs". The Romans employed the Sarmatians as auxiliaries to support their legions. The powerful, ferocious dogs was also taken into battle and used in combat wearing armor and protective spiked metal collars. The intimidating dogs were arranged into attack formations and terrified the enemy. The Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius (AD 121-180) sent over 5000 Sarmatians and their dogs consisting of 5,500 men to Britain to help defend Hadrian's Wall.
The Romans also used the Mastiffs as a fighting dog who fought in the Colosseum, against wild animals such as lions, tigers and cheetahs and even fought against human gladiators. The Cane Corso and the Neapolitan Mastiff are the two native Italian "mastiff type" dogs that descend from the Roman 'Canis Pugnaces'. The Latin phrase 'Canis Pugnaces' meaning War Dogs or Fighting Dogs. The War Dog of the Romans spread across the Roman Empire and beyond and each of the countries developed their own mastiffs.
Mastiff History - The Crusaders: Mastiffs accompanied their masters and protected English, French and Italian knights and who fought in the Crusades (A.D. 1099 to 1254). The Crusaders including the and the Knights Templar "let loose the dogs of war" against their Saracen enemies and their mastiffs were also used as watchdogs and guard dogs in the Crusader's strongholds and castles.
Mastiff History - The Conquistadors: The Dogo Canario, the Mastín Espanol, the Mastin del Pirineo (Pyrenean Mastiff) and other Spanish or Portuguese Mastiff breeds were taken to America by conquistadors such as Hernan Cortes, Vasco Nunez de Balboa, Juan Ponce de Leon, Pizarro, Coronado and Hernando de Soto to subjugate the indigenous population of the New World. The mastiff breed was therefore introduced to America and to Cuba.
American Mastiff History: During the Colonial era the English Mastiff was also introduced to America and the American Mastiff breed was developed. The American strain was used for attacking Native Americans and was also used for pursuing fugitive slaves in the Deep South.
Extinct Mastiff Breeds: Some of the old mastiffs have now become extinct including the Dogo Cubano, the Danische Dogge (Danish mastiffs), the Alpine Mastiff and the Maltese Mastiffs.
The Mastiff Breeds: From the list of mastiff breeds and the nicknames of the dogs it becomes very clear that many countries developed their own mastiff breeds including England, Ireland, America, Italy, France, Germany, Switzerland, Japan, Turkey, Brazil, Argentina, South Africa and Tibet.
Mastiff Breeds - Tibetan Mastiff (Do-Khyi): The Tibetan Mastiff also known as 'Do-Khyi' meaning the "dog which may be tied" was used by the Nomads across Asia including Tibet, China, India, Nepal and Mongolia. The massive Tibetan breed was used as a guard dog to protect livestock from dangerous wild predators that included wolves, leopards, bears and tigers.
Mastiff Breeds - American Mastiff: The American Mastiff was introduced to the 'New World by Spanish and Portuguese conquistadors who used the frightening and intimidating dogs to suppress the indigenous population of South America. The English introduced their breed of the dog during the Colonial era when it was used to terrify fugitive slaves and Native American Indians.
Mastiff Breeds - Bullmastiff: The Bullmastiff originated in the United Kingdom during the 1800's and was used Watchdog and Hunting Dog. The Bullmastiff was also used to hunt large game and to catch thieves and poachers.
Mastiff Breeds - English Mastiff: The English Mastiff was used as a war dog, a fighting dog, and also as a hunting dog accompanying English royalty and nobles on hunts for wolves and the dangerous wild boars of England.
Mastiff Breeds - Neapolitan Mastiff: The Neapolitan Mastiff originated in Naples, Italy and was used as the "Dog of the Romans" by the Roman legions. The ferocious breed was also used to fight against wild, exotic animals in the Colosseum and against gladiators.
Mastiff Breeds - Akbash ("Turkish Mastiff"): The powerful Akbash was used in Turkey to protect livestock and was also used as a military dog in the roles of sentries, as patrol dogs and to protect and control military livestock.
Mastiff Breeds - Bandog ("Irish Mastiff"): The Bandogge originated in Ireland. Its name was originally 'Band Dog' in which the word band meant to "to bind or fasten". The Bandog was bred to hunt large game, especially wolves and stag and was also used as a ferocious guard dog..
Breeds - Boerboel ("South African Mastiff"): The Boerboel originated in South Africa as the "Dog of the Boers". The name 'Boer' was given to the Dutch colonist and farmers in South Africa who used the breed to protect their homesteads and was later used to guard the diamond mines. The word 'Boel' was an Afrikaans word meaning "A lot of dog".
Mastiff Breeds - Cane Corso ("Italian Mastiff"): The Cane Corso originated in Italy. The word "cane" derives from the Latin word "canis" meaning 'dog'. The word "corso" is derived from the word "cohors" meaning a cohort (from the Latin cohors) that was an ancient Roman military unit of the Roman legions. As its Latin name indicates the Romans used the Cane Corso as a military or War Dog.
Mastiff Breeds - Dogo Argentino ("Argentinian Mastiff"): The Dogo Argentino was used as a Guard Dog and also as a hunting dog to assist the Argentinian Gauchos in hunting the dangerous wild boar and ferral hogs in the Buenos Aires Provinces of Argentina.
Mastiff Breeds - Dogue De Bordeaux ("French Mastiff"): The Dogue De Bordeaux originated in the port city of Bordeaux in southwestern France. The Dogue De Bordeaux was used as a fighting dog and also as a hunting dog in France. It was favored by French nobles in their hunts for wolves and wild boars.
Breeds - Fila Brasileiro ("Brazilian Mastiff"): The Fila Brasileiro originated in Brazil and was used as a Guard dog to defend and protect the cattle ranches and livestock against attacks by jaguars and cattle thieves in the Minas Gerais region of Brazil.
Mastiff Breeds - Great Dane ("German Mastiff"): The Great Dane originated in Germany but was named by the Comte de Buffon during his travels in Denmark. The Great Dane was a crossbreed that combined the speed of the Greyhound with the strength of the English Mastiffs.
Breeds - Tosa Inu ("Japanese Mastiff"): The ferocious and fearless Tosa Inu, aka the Tosa Ken, originated in the province of Tosa (now the Kochi prefecture) in Japan. The words 'Inu" and Ken" both mean 'dog' in Japanese. The breed was carefully developed as fighting dogs and contests were conducted under strict rules and accompanied by religious rituals.
Mastiff Dogs - Presa Canario (Canary Dog): The large sized, dominant, strong willed, Spanish Presa Canario (Canary Dog) belongs loves to fight and was used as a Watchdog and Fighting Dog.
Mastiff Breeds - St Bernard ("Alpine Mastiff"): The Alpine breed was used for herding livestock and as a guard dog in the Swiss Alps and contributed to the development of the Saint Bernard dog.
Mastiff Breeds - Bulldog: The Bulldog is a smaller version of the great mastiffs and descends from the Bandog and the ancient Alaunt. As its name indicates the Bulldog was used in the blood sport of Bull Baiting.
Breeds - Mastin del Pirineo (Pyrenean Mastiff): The Mastin del Pirineo (Pyrenean ) originated in the Aragonese Pyrenees in Spain and was used to protect the herds of livestock and its owners from attacks of from bears, wolves, and thieves.
Breeds - Dosa Gae (Korean Mastiff): The Dosa Gae originated in South Korea in the 1800's and bred as a working dog and guard dog.
Mastiff Breeds - Rafeiro do Alentejo (Portuguese Mastiff): The ancient Rafeiro do Alentejo originated in Alentejo, in south-central Portugal and was used as a herder and guard dog.