The English Mastiff
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 recognized 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 Ill. 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 ENGLISH MASTIFF
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 I871 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 unaproached 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.
Description of Head, ENGLISH MASTIFF
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 or Body, ENGLISH MASTIFF
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, ENGLISH MASTIFF
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, ENGLISH MASTIFF
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. Color 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, ENGLISH MASTIFF
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, ENGLISH MASTIFF
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, ENGLISH MASTIFF
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 Color, ENGLISH MASTIFF
Coat short and close lying, but not too fine over the shoulders, neck, and back. Color, 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, ENGLISH MASTIFF
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 I60 lb. Many have turned over the scale at 180 lb. The Shah, for instance, was r82 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.
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 maize meal, 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 \vas 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.