don't get what the picture is for. It's safe to say that dog is representing no breed from today, but rather a mongrel from then. And who even knows what the mongrel was used for? What kind of dog it was. Is there any indication given with the statue?
Consider it a quick-shot attempt at attesting an "independent" evolutionary path. This statue is located at the British Museum and depicts a Molossian Hound. The Hellenic era sculpture is dated back to the 2nd century BC. The point I was trying to make is that powerful dogs with a vicious attitude existed in this region for a long time, without the influence of modern mastiffs. Please note that this dog has a full mane, so it is safe to assume that the dog was sheared. Not terribly important though.
The thing is with some "LGDs" I don't think I'm looking at adaptations to harsher conditions, but rather simple outcrossing to western mastiffs and artificial selection for bigness and impressiveness.
I base this on seeing that they look a lot like mastiffs, and the fact that I rarely if ever see them actually working as serious LGDs anywhere, harsh conditions or otherwise.
Their similarity to western mastiffs is strange given that other LGDs are not related to mastiffs, I mean they must be related to the other LGDs, they're still fairly similar to them and are apparently supposed to perform the same function. But they also look like western/mastiffs and bullbreeds, and indeed even are used in dog fights like western bull/mastiff types often are.
Oh, I won't argue with that. My argument relating to varying selective regimes sure wasn't meant to dismiss this view as incorrect. I only meant to explain why say LGDs in the Pyrenees are weaker in their "kick" than Shars for example. Nothing more.
Shars are intriguing because they're not very big, and don't look very mastiffy, I don't feel like they're being bred to be dick-extensions for guys in full-tracksuits, and I have seen them mentioned in serious LGD studies as actually working as LGDs, and not only in their country of origin. All this would seem to group them with genuine successful functional LGDs, I guess then the question I'm inclined to ask is how formidable are they really? Since for most genuine LGDs being actually combatively formidable doesn't seem to be a huge concern. But from what I've been reading you and others say about shars they definitely are exceedingly formidable.
I'm not inclined to disbelieve you but I am inclined to wonder why this would be? I don't know if harsh conditions can really explain it. Perhaps the fact they've been called upon for other tasks like wolf said.
Anyway, I am open to the idea the shar is a genuine LGD, but a super badass version.
I'd say it is both. In the mountains, working Shars are exceedingly formidable, because they basically come across as wild animals. Picture yourself being approached by a group of wolves (but without that skittish shyness of wolves) .... or perhaps lions, something like that, you get the idea. They seem unpredictable and every moment you feel like you're completely at their mercy. No tail wagging, just a serious stare. I've been there many times, somehow it never helped to focus on the thought that I sure must have seen bigger dogs in civilization.
On the other hand, yes, Shars have (always) been used as war dogs and extensively as fighters, as they were the poor peasants' cavalry. So over time naturally something must have stuck, right? The result I think is a breed that can handle tremendous pressure and can dish out like you'd never expect from an "LGD". So Wolf's statement is absolutely correct, Shars have traditionally been used for much more than guarding sheep.
And regarding you mentioning their slightly "smaller" size, Shars are still big dogs, they just aren't very tall. And of course they didn't follow the more recent trend in large dog breeds, where even big apparently isn't big enough anymore. These days you better breed 160-200lbs behemoths to keep up with the Jones'es dog; who cares if they can still perform anything ... or even breathe for 20 minutes straight without getting exhausted. Shars are big dogs, but they are still capable of LGD-ing. And how many large "kick-ass" breeds today can say that with absolute confidence - and also prove it.