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Medelyan Mastiff

This legendary Russian Molosser is unfortunately extinct, the last documented specimens having been destroyed by the revolutionaries of 1917, as a sign of victory over the Tzar, who was very fond of the breed. This was also a favourite dog of Ivan the Terrible, who used his Medelyans for baiting sports, as well as to impress and intimidate visiting foreign dignitaries. Various theories exist concerning the origin of the Medelyanka, from it being descended from Italian dogs imported from Milano, to those that suggest Tibetan heritage.

Some authorities believe that the name Medelyan is a corruption of the term "Nedelyan", which was used to describe dogs that were baited every Sunday (Nedelya), but this theory still requires more research. The Medelyan Mastiff was a very large and massive dog, the largest examples reportedly reaching up to 40 inches in height and well over 200 pounds in weight. Used primarily as a watchdog and companion, it also participated in annual bear-hunting expeditions throughout Russia. The Medelyan should not be confused with the Russian Mordashka, which was a large smooth-coated bulldog commonly found in Russia at the same time. Even though related, these were two separate and very different breeds.

Even-tempered and moderately aggressive, it was a loving pet, often employed as a baby-sitter and playmate for children. While it was tolerant of strangers, the Medelyanka was very confrontational with other dogs. A true mastiff in head-type, this mighty Molosser was strongly boned, broad-chested and muscular. The coat was thick and rich, although not longer than 4 inches. There was also a shorthaired variant, which was more popular among the working class in Russia.

The most common colour was blood-red or reddish-brown with white markings and a black mask, although dogs without the mask existed, as did examples having gray and blue coats. Apart from the aforementioned colossal examples, the average height for a Medelyan is said to had been around 30 inches. There were some efforts reported in Russia in the 1990's aimed at re-creating the Medelianskaia Sobaka by crossing the Moscow Watchdogs with Leonbergers, but other programmes exist, including the currently leading one, involving the use of the Central Asian Ovcharka, Caucasian Ovcharka, Neapolitan Mastiff, American Bulldog and the English Bullmastiff.

The future will show whether these efforts will be succesful.

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