The English Mastiff





Of the many different kinds of dogs now established as British, not

a few have had their origin in other lands, whence specimens have

been imported into this country, in course of time to be so improved

by selection that they have come to be commonly accepted as native

breeds. Some are protected from the claim that they are indigenous

by the fact that their origin is indicated in their names. No one

would pretend that the St. Bernard or the Newfoundland, the Spaniel

or the Dalmatian, are of native breed. They are alien immigrants whom

we have naturalised, as we are naturalising the majestic Great Dane,

the decorative Borzoi, the alert Schipperke, and the frowning Chow

Chow, which are of such recent introduction that they must still be

regarded as half-acclimatised foreigners. But of the antiquity of

the Mastiff there can be no doubt. He is the oldest of our British

dogs, cultivated in these islands for so many centuries that the only

difficulty concerning his history is that of tracing his descent,

and discovering the period when he was not familiarly known.



It is possible that the Mastiff owes his origin to some remote

ancestor of alien strain. The Assyrian kings possessed a large dog

of decided Mastiff type, and used it in the hunting of lions. It is

supposed by many students that the breed was introduced into early

Britain by the adventurous Phoenician traders who, in the sixth

century B.C., voyaged to the Scilly Islands and Cornwall to barter

their own commodities in exchange for the useful metals. Knowing the

requirements of their barbarian customers, these early merchants from

Tyre and Sidon are believed to have brought some of the larger

pugnaces, which would be readily accepted by the Britons to

supplant, or improve, their courageous but undersized fighting dogs.



In Anglo-Saxon times every two villeins were required to maintain

one of these dogs for the purpose of reducing the number of wolves

and other wild animals. This would indicate that the Mastiff was

recognised as a capable hunting dog; but at a later period his hunting

instincts were not highly esteemed, and he was not regarded as a peril

to preserved game; for in the reign of Henry III. the Forest Laws,

which prohibited the keeping of all other breeds by unprivileged

persons, permitted the Mastiff to come within the precincts of a

forest, imposing, however, the condition that every such dog should

have the claws of the fore-feet removed close to the skin.



The name Mastiff was probably applied to any massively built dog.

It is not easy to trace the true breed amid the various names which

it owned. Molossus, Alan, Alaunt, Tie-dog, Bandog (or Band-dog), were

among the number. The names Tie-dog and Bandog intimate that the

Mastiff was commonly kept for guard, but many were specially trained

for baiting bears, imported lions, and bulls.



There is constant record of the Mastiff having been kept and carefully

bred for many generations in certain old English families. One of

the oldest strains of Mastiffs was that kept by Mr. Legh, of Lyme

Hall, in Cheshire. They were large, powerful dogs, and longer in

muzzle than those which we are now accustomed to see. Another old

and valuable strain was kept by the Duke of Devonshire at Chatsworth.

It is to these two strains that the dogs of the present day trace

back.



Mr. Woolmore's Crown Prince was one of the most celebrated of

Mastiffs. He was a fawn dog with a Dudley nose and light eye, and

was pale in muzzle, and whilst full credit must be given to him for

having sired many good Mastiffs, he must be held responsible for the

faults in many specimens of more recent years. Unfortunately, he was

indiscriminately bred from, with the result that in a very short time

breeders found it impossible to find a Mastiff unrelated to him.



It is to be deplored that ever since his era there has been a

perceptible diminution in the number of good examples of this fine

old English breed, and that from being an admired and fashionable

dog the Mastiff has so declined in popularity that few are to be seen

either at exhibitions or in breeders' kennels. At the Crystal Palace

in 1871 there were as many as sixty-three Mastiffs on show, forming

a line of benches two hundred yards long, and not a bad one among

them; whereas at a dog show held twenty-five years later, where more

than twelve hundred dogs were entered, not a single Mastiff was

benched.



The difficulty of obtaining dogs of unblemished pedigree and

superlative type may partly account for this decline, and another

reason of unpopularity may be that the Mastiff requires so much

attention to keep him in condition that without it he is apt to become

indolent and heavy. Nevertheless, the mischief of breeding too

continuously from one strain such as that of Crown Prince has to some

extent been eradicated, and we have had many splendid Mastiffs since

his time. Special mention should be made of that grand bitch Cambrian

Princess, by Beau. She was purchased by Mrs. Willins, who, mating

her with Maximilian (a dog of her own breeding by The Emperor),

obtained Minting, who shared with Mr. Sidney Turner's Beaufort the

reputation of being unapproached for all round merit in any period.



The following description of a perfect Mastiff, taken from the Old

English Mastiff Club's Points of a Mastiff, is admirable as a

standard to which future breeders should aim to attain.



* * * * *



POINTS OF THE MASTIFF: GENERAL CHARACTER AND SYMMETRY--Large, massive,

powerful, symmetrical and well-knit frame. A combination of grandeur

and good nature, courage and docility. GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF HEAD--In

general outline, giving a square appearance when viewed from any

point. Breadth greatly to be desired, and should be in ratio to length

of the whole head and face as 2 to 3. GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF

BODY--Massive, broad, deep, long, powerfully built, on legs wide

apart, and squarely set. Muscles sharply defined. Size a great

desideratum, if combined with quality. Height and substance important

if both points are proportionately combined. SKULL--Broad between

the ears, forehead flat, but wrinkled when attention is excited. Brows

(superciliary ridges) slightly raised. Muscles of the temples and

cheeks (temporal and masseter) well developed. Arch across the skull

of a rounded, flattened curve, with a depression up the centre of

the forehead from the medium line between the eyes, to half way up

the sagittal suture. FACE OR MUZZLE--Short, broad under the eyes,

and keeping nearly parallel in width to the end of the nose;

truncated, i.e. blunt and cut off square, thus forming a right angle

with the upper line of the face, of great depth from the point of

the nose to under jaw. Under jaw broad to the end; canine teeth

healthy, powerful, and wide apart; incisors level, or the lower

projecting beyond the upper, but never sufficiently so as to become

visible when the mouth is closed. Nose broad, with widely spreading

nostrils when viewed from the front; flat (not pointed or turned up)

in profile. Lips diverging at obtuse angles with the septum, and

slightly pendulous so as to show a square profile. Length of muzzle

to whole head and face as 1 to 3. Circumference of muzzle (measured

midway between the eyes and nose) to that of the head (measured before

the ears) as 3 to 5. EARS--Small, thin to the touch, wide apart, set

on at the highest points of the sides of the skull, so as to continue

the outline across the summit, and lying flat and close to the cheeks

when in repose. EYES--Small, wide apart, divided by at least the space

of two eyes. The stop between the eyes well marked, but not too

abrupt. Colour hazel-brown, the darker the better, showing no haw.

NECK, CHEST AND RIBS--Neck--Slightly arched, moderately long, very

muscular, and measuring in circumference about one or two inches less

than the skull before the ears. Chest--Wide, deep, and well let down

between the fore-legs. Ribs arched and well-rounded. False ribs deep

and well set back to the hips. Girth should be one-third more than

the height at the shoulder. Shoulder and Arm--Slightly sloping, heavy

and muscular. FORE-LEGS AND FEET--Legs straight, strong, and set wide

apart; bones very large. Elbows square. Pasterns upright. Feet large

and round. Toes well arched up. Nails black. BACK, LOINS AND

FLANKS--Back and loins wide and muscular; flat and very wide in a

bitch, slightly arched in a dog. Great depth of flanks. HIND-LEGS

AND FEET--Hind-quarters broad, wide, and muscular, with well developed

second thighs, hocks bent, wide apart, and quite squarely set when

standing or walking. Feet round. TAIL--Put on high up, and reaching

to the hocks, or a little below them, wide at its root and tapering

to the end, hanging straight in repose, but forming a curve, with

the end pointing upwards, but not over the back, when the dog is

excited. COAT--COLOUR--Coat short and close lying, but not too fine

over the shoulders, neck and back. Colour, apricot or silver fawn,

or dark fawn-brindle. In any case, muzzle, ears, and nose should be

black, with black round the orbits, and extending upwards between

them.



* * * * *



Size is a quality very desirable in this breed. The height of many

dogs of olden days was from thirty-two to thirty-three inches. The

height should be obtained rather from great depth of body than length

of leg. A leggy Mastiff is very undesirable. Thirty inches may be

taken as a fair average height for dogs, and bitches somewhat less.

Many of Mr. Lukey's stood 32 inches and over; Mr. Green's Monarch

was over 33 inches, The Shah 32 inches, and Cardinal 32 inches.



The method of rearing a Mastiff has much to do with its ultimate size,

but it is perhaps needless to say that the selection of the breeding

stock has still more to do with this. It is therefore essential to

select a dog and bitch of a large strain to obtain large Mastiffs.

It is not so necessary that the dogs themselves should be so large

as that they come from a large strain. The weight of a full-grown

dog should be anything over 160 lb. Many have turned over the scale

at 180 lb. The Shah, for instance, was 182 lb. in weight, Scawfell

over 200 lb.



One of the great difficulties that breeders of Mastiffs and all other

large dogs have to contend against is in rearing the puppies; so many

bitches being clumsy and apt to kill the whelps by lying on them.

It is, therefore, always better to be provided with one or more foster

bitches. At about six weeks old a fairly good opinion may be formed

as to what the puppies will ultimately turn out in certain respects,

for, although they may change materially during growth, the good or

bad qualities which are manifest at that early age will, in all

probability, be apparent when the puppy has reached maturity. It is,

therefore, frequently easier to select the best puppy in the nest

than to do so when they are from six to nine or ten months old.



Puppies should be allowed all the liberty possible, and never be tied

up: they should be taken out for steady, gentle exercise, and not

permitted to get too fat or they become too heavy, with detrimental

results to their legs. Many Mastiff puppies are very shy and nervous,

but they will grow out of this if kindly handled, and eventually

become the best guard and protector it is possible to have.



The temper of a Mastiff should be taken into consideration by the

breeder. They are, as a rule, possessed of the best of tempers. A

savage dog with such power as the Mastiff possesses is indeed a

dangerous creature, and, therefore, some inquiries as to the temper

of a stud dog should be made before deciding to use him. In these

dogs, as in all others, it is a question of how they are treated by

the person having charge of them.



The feeding of puppies is an important matter, and should be carefully

seen to by anyone wishing to rear them successfully. If goat's milk

is procurable it is preferable to cow's milk. The price asked for

it is sometimes prohibitory, but this difficulty may be surmounted

in many cases by keeping a goat or two on the premises. Many breeders

have obtained a goat with the sole object of rearing a litter of

puppies on her milk, and have eventually discarded cow's milk

altogether, using goat's milk for household purposes instead. As soon

as the puppies will lap they should be induced to take arrowroot

prepared with milk. Oatmeal and maizemeal, about one quarter of the

latter to three quarters of the former, make a good food for puppies.

Dog biscuits and the various hound meals, soaked in good broth, may

be used with advantage, but no dogs, either large or small, can be

kept in condition for any length of time without a fair proportion

of meat of some kind. Sheep's paunches, cleaned and well boiled, mixed

with sweet stale bread, previously soaked in cold water, make an

excellent food and can hardly be excelled as a staple diet. In feeding

on horseflesh care should be taken to ascertain that the horse was

not diseased, especially if any is given uncooked.



Worms are a constant source of trouble from the earliest days of

puppy-hood, and no puppy suffering from them will thrive; every

effort, therefore, should be made to get rid of them.



With proper feeding, grooming, exercise, and cleanliness, any large

dog can be kept in good condition without resort to medicine, the

use of which should be strictly prohibited unless there is real need

for it. Mastiffs kept under such conditions are far more likely to

prove successful stud dogs and brood bitches than those to which

deleterious drugs are constantly being given.





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