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Hellenic Mastiff

The ancient Hellenic Mastiff is one of the original Molossian dogs, as well as the progenitor of most European breeds of the mastiff type, most notably the Mastin Espanol and its Mediterranean derivatives. Primarily found in the northern parts of the country, the Molossos Ellinikos is also indigenous to the regions of central and eastern Greece, from where it is believed to had been introduced to Epirus, but due to the lack of interest in its homeland and years of matings with other Greek breeds, such as the Alexander's Dog and the Epirian Dragon, the breed has all but vanished and is presently seen as a rare subtype of the greater Molossos tis Epirou population. Whether it has purely Balkan roots or it was established due to influence of wardogs from Persia and other Central Asian regions is not entirely clear, but its presence has been observed in Epirus and other parts of Greece for at least 2000 years, if not longer.

Through its association with Molossian and Grecian tribes, the Hellenic Mastiff had been prized for its fierce temperament and physical strength, eventually influencing many other breeds throughout Greece, Anatolia and Italy. Some believe that the mighty Drakontas tou Epirou was developed by crossing the Sylvan with the Molossos Hellenikos, with the existence of two basic varieties within the Epirian Dragon breed, these being the lighter and longer-legged variety, which is closer to the basic Sylvan type, while the heavier and shorter type shows a stronger Hellenic Mastiff influence, supplying proof of this theory.

Today, the great Hellenic Mastiff is extremely rare, with most of its population being somewhat of a "by-product" of the Molossos tis Epirou breed, evidenced by the appearance of dogs produced by the Drakontas matings in whose resulting litters coat colours other than black or black-n-tan are still commonly seen. Whether a breeding programme dedicated to the salvation of the Hellenic Mastiff on its own will be established or the breed becomes fully assimilated into the Molossos tis Epirou as nothing more than a colour variant is to be seen, but regardless of its fate, this magnificent Greek breed certainly requires more attention that it is currently receiving.

Although being influenced by the livestock guardian breeds of the area has helped shape the working abilities of the Molossos Ellinikos as a sheep, goat and cattle drover and protector, this breed has mostly been employed as an intimidating property guardian and occasional fighting dog throughout its history. Fairly dog-aggressive and somewhat aloof around strange people, the Hellenic Mastiff is devoted to its master and human family, fairly easy to handle and surprisingly obedient for the type of dog that it is.

This is an immensely powerful Molosser, with a well-boned body, broad shoulders and relatively short legs, giving the dog the appearance of being quite a bit longer than it is tall, as is the case with its Italian cousin, the Neapolitan Mastiff. The breed has a large head and a wide muzzle with reasonably loose, hanging lips and a substantial amount of dewlap on its neck. The low set, pendant ears are sometimes cropped, but when left unaltered they are carried close to the cheeks and are of medium-to-large size.

The short coat is thick, smooth and flat, most commonly fawn, red, yellow and brown in colour, but brindle, grey and piebald examples can be encountered as well. Average height is around 27 inches, although taller dogs exist.

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