Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Little Known Medieval Dog Breed by Anna Markland



Some of the most popular posts on my own blog have been about the dog breeds I have featured in several of my medieval romances. The "star" of my latest release, Wild Viking Princess, is Thor, an alaunt gentil.

The following information about the breed comes from the webpage of the British Alaunt Society.

The Alaunt was bred and formed by the Alani tribes, Kavkaz nomads of Indo-Iranian ancestry, who were known as superb warriors, herdsmen and breeders of horses and dogs. The Alans bred their dogs for work and had developed different strains within the breed for specific duties. The Alaunt's primary ancestors are the dogs of the Caucasus and Central Asia, but also the shorthaired hounds of India and Persia. The large, massive guard dogs were not much different than the typical Eastern mountain dogs, even though the hunting variety was leaner and had a smoother and shorter coat.

When the Huns conquered the Alani tribes, the nation was separated in the 370's into the Eastern and Western Alans. The Eastern Alani tribes merged with the Albanians, Ossetians, Serbs and other nations, introducing their dogs into the bloodlines of many Balkan breeds, such as the Illyrian Mountain Dog, Metchkar, Qen Ghedje, Hellenikos Poimenikos and other Molossers of the region. Some believe that the white-coloured alaunts were the direct ancestors of Greek and Albanian breeds, which in turn influenced all other white dogs in the Balkans.

The Western Alans joined the Vandals on their raids through Europe and by the 410's, their fierce dogs were influencing many breeds in France, Spain, Portugal, England and other countries, spreading the use of the "alaunt" name, which became synonymous with the type of a working dog, rather than a specific breed.

Through breeding with various scenthounds and sighthounds, the alaunt became a valued large game hunting dog, existing in a variety of types, dictated by regional preferences.

In France, alaunts were separated into three main categories, based on physical appearance and the duties they performed. The lightest type was the Alaunt Gentil, a greyhound-like dog, which eventually became assimilated into the local hunting breeds with the Alaunt Veantre.

The heavier mastiff variety, known as the Alaunt de Boucherie, was crucial is the development of the fighting and baiting dogs of France. The same occurrences happened in other countries, such as England and Spain, where the alaunts gave birth to mastiffs and bulldogs, which in return influenced nearly every European guarding, baiting and fighting breed. By definition the Alaunt was “fleet enough to hold a wounded deer, brave enough to hold a wild boar and easily able to dispatch a wolf and also a fierce guard”.

This dog's name is actually Lynx
The British Alaunt Society has an interesting article by D.B.Plummer on the efforts to create a new breed, the New Alaunt, a functional replica of the medieval breed.   

Wild Viking Princess is available from Amazon for $1.99 for a limited time. The dog in the story belongs to the heroine, Ragna FitzRam, and was given to her by her Norman uncle as a puppy. The dog accompanies her on a journey from England to Hamburg. However, a fierce storm blows her ship off course and she ends up on an island on the west coast of Denmark.

Ragna is an Englishwoman who has named her dog Thor, because her family has always teased her with the nickname Wild Viking Princess. Of all the people in her family she most exhibits the characteristics of their Danish ancestors. She is rescued from the shipwreck by Reider, a true Viking. Don't worry, he saves the dog too! 
       

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