Alaunt Alaunt dog (ancestral alaunt type) & the „gripping dog myth“



When the original Alaunts (alaunt dogs) were „multi-purpose dogs“ of the Alani people and were of Sarmatian, Scythian and Alani origin, a Caucasian Volkodav of this phenotype (many lines don´t have this phenotype) is likely pretty close to a type of dog, some people consider as „ancestral type of gripping dog“, where according to them western Bulldogs originate from! Some people go so far to speak of „Scythian gripping dogs“ (Scythians were Eurasian nomads, probably mostly using Eastern Iranian languages), but I am not sure if it makes sense to use the term „Scythian gripping dogs“, as the Scythians were defeated and assimilated by the Sarmatians. The dogs in Caucasus go back to flock guardians & all-purpose dogs of nomadic tribes. The descendants of the Sarmatians became later known as the Alans during the Early Middle Ages & settled in Caucasus. So these first Alaunts (if you want to use this name), the dogs of the Alani people who setteled down in Caucasus, will have had different influences too. But just imagine this dog would have a smooth coat, it would look easily like some of the few good looking western Bulldogs, especially like a bigger type of Alano. However coming back to different Celtic tribes in Continental Europe, keep in mind, there were far more Celtic migrations throughout Europe than ever there were „Alani migrations“, yet so many people still use these term „Alaunt“ to define dogs of Europe. If at all, my guess is the „European Alaunts“ were a mix of Alani dogs from Caucasus and Celtic gripping dogs. I doubt that Celtic tribes only had hounds, but the „Beisser type“ too. (Bullenbeisser & Bärenbeisser) The „hound stuff“ might be right for ancient dogs of Britain (mainly rough coated Wolfhounds), but in Continental Europe there already was used a Bulldog type for catching and they were for example known in Germany as „Bärenbeisser & Bullenbeisser“.

So where comes the „gripping dog myth“ from? A few people saw Caucasian Volkodavs as well as Volkodavs from Kazakhstan and Russia in fighting tournaments (I definitely don´t want to endorse such dog tournaments) and there they realized that these dogs use one on one in a dog fight, gripping skills, or in other words, they hold a dog (grip it with their mouth) and try to wrestle it down, to be in a dominant position. This is what lead to the myth that these Volkodavs must originate from „ancient gripping dogs“ and the speculation that Scythian people in Caucasus had gripping dogs that were later mixed with LGDs (Livestock Guardian Dogs). However this is definitely a misconception, because „gripping skills“, don´t come from gripping dogs. These „gripping skills“ are a very primitive trait, or let´s say a „basic instinct“, you even can find in wolves!

„I have seen huskies grab and hang on, and I have seen films of a wolf hanging on to the leg of a well-known ethologist to the extant that he had to be pried loose with what amounted to a breaking stick!“
This is the APBT, Stratton, 1976
In other words, the trait to maintain a grip (catch & hold) came first from wolves.

The people that have this misunderstanding only have seen Volkodavs using „gripping skills“ and came to the false conclusion „Well, they must be influenced by some kind of „ancestral gripping dog“ and are the big exception among „Livestock Guardian Dog“ (LGDs) that use „gripping skills“ in a dog fight. But this is simply wrong! Kangals do that as well, Sage Koochees do that as well, Sarplaninacs also do it and the Turkish Akbash does it too and all these dogs are LGDs. Even very old breeds like „Spitz type dogs“ do that. I have see Alaskan Malamutes and Siberian Huskies using „gripping skills“ to hold another dog in a fight and to wrestle it down. This is nothing special, that only belongs to „Western gripping dogs“, or some kind of „ancestral Scythian gripping dog“, it belongs all kinds of types of dogs, as it is a skill that is a „basic instint“ fighting one on one in all kinds of dog breeds, rather than an advanced or modern skill! With that said it is wrong to say that working type of Volkodavs, were influenced by „ancestral Scythian gripping dogs“. Gripping & holding a dog is just a „basic instinct“ coming from wolves!

However if LGDs have to defend a flock against multiple predators, their first jobs is to scare off the predators, such as wolves etc. The first step is solving the problem by showing their strong will to protect. In many cases this is enough. If it isn´t enough they go over to attack the predators. There often other skills than „gripping skills“ are needed too, as it is a situation that is not like a dog fight (one on one), so other skills than only „gripping and holding“ are needed, because this would be a bad skill against multiple attackers! LGDs then adapt their style to fight and work together as a team to protect the flock.

Kind regards

Andreas Kimmel

P.S.: A discussion where I have posted under the chat nickname „sunnyAK“, you can also find here:

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