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Pugnaces Britanniae

Pugnaces Britanniae (Latin) or War Dog of Britannia is an extinct breed of dog and progenitor to the English Mastiff.


The references by Roman writers to the canes pugnaces of Roman Britain suggest a dog of a large and heavy type. Oppian says the fighting dog had light brown eyes, truncated muzzle, loose skin above the brows, a broad back, great stature, and muscular legs.


Gratius Falsius an ancient Roman author and historian wrote in the year 8 AD of a large exhibition of dog fights in the ancient Roman amphitheatres between the Pugnaces Britanniae from Britannia and the Molossus from Epirus. The exhibition reflected the wide-mouthed dogs from Britain were far superior to the ancient Greek Molossus.

The ancient Roman historian Strabo reported in 38 AD of large British dogs, which were bred in their homeland of Britannia to hunt dangerous game and as war dogs.

In 43 AD, the Roman conquest of Britain made Britannia a Roman province. At that time, in Britain there were giant, wide-mouthed dogs, which the Romans called Pugnaces Britanniae, that surpassed their Molossus dogs. A Procurator Cynegii, was stationed in Venta Belgarum and responsible for selecting these dogs, which were exported to Rome for contests in the amphitheatre and for integration into the military of ancient Rome as war dogs.

The 'Pugnaces' dogs of Roman Britain were specifically referred to by the Greek historian Arrian in 130 AD.


See also

Further reading

  • Fleig, D. (1996). Fighting Dog Breeds. (Pg. 26 - 27). Neptune, NJ: TFH Publications. ISBN 0-7938-0499-X
  • Homan, M. (1999). A Complete History of Fighting Dogs. (Pg. 9). Howell Book House. ISBN 1-58245-128-1

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