We are all familiar with the stories of Lancelot, and King Arthur. Our Knights in Shining Armor, from our childhood stories….well what about the canines in shining armor? We should not forget about these dogs of war, that for some reason went unnoticed in the legends about knights and fair maidens! Did you know that in the Middle Ages, Mastiffs were dressed in light armor from head to toe? A pot of flaming sulphur was strapped to their armor… Yes…they were then made to run into battle against mounted knights.
And what about the Second World War? Russians trained dogs to run suicide missions between the tracks of German tanks with mines strapped on their backs! But long before this, war dogs were also used before the birth of Christ. Most popular, were war dogs in the Germanic tribes. When the Roman legions set foot on English soil, their dogs wore shining armor and had “wide bodies and stocky figures”. This makes us think of our modern mastiff dog breeds.
The Sumerian, Assyrian, Babylonian and Phoenician cultures also left records of having had huge war dogs fighting alongside them. These were the Mollosus breeds. They get their name from the Greek Island of Mollus, and these days, the name Mollosus is the collective group name for the Mastiffs.
During the times of war, these war dogs would walk in front of the Greek and Assyrian legions, for two reasons: Firstly to be the initial target in case the opposition fired, and secondly so that they could find out where the enemy was positioned according to scent. These dogs were given collars of armor with protruding knives so that when they were let free they caused a significant blood-bath between the soldiers and the horses they attacked. Another tactic was to let the owner of the Mastiff walk in front of the beast. Meanwhile a slave led the “ammunition-ed” dog behind the owner on a leash. When the owner saw trouble and was attacked by the enemy, the slave immediately let the beast go, and he in turn rushed to attack the enemy and to save his master….The blood-bath that followed I will leave up to your imagination…..