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|An English Mastiff|
Old English Mastiff
|Country of origin||England|
|Dog (Canis lupus familiaris)|
|An English Mastiff|
Old English Mastiff
|Country of origin||England|
|Dog (Canis lupus familiaris)|
The English Mastiff, referred to by most Kennel Clubs simply as the Mastiff, is a breed of large dog perhaps descended from the ancient Alaunt and Pugnaces Britanniae, with a significant input from the Alpine Mastiff in the 19th century. Distinguishable by enormous size, massive head, and a limited range of colours, but always displaying a black mask, the Mastiff is noted for its gentle temperament. The lineage of modern dogs can be traced back to the early 19th century, and the modern type was stabilised in the 1880s. Following a period of sharp decline, the Mastiff has increased its worldwide popularity.
With a massive body, broad skull and head of generally square appearance, it is the largest dog breed in terms of mass. Though the Irish Wolfhound and Great Dane are taller, they are not nearly as robust.
The body is large with great depth and breadth, especially between the forelegs, causing these to be set wide apart. The AKC standard height (per their website) for this breed is 30 inches (76 cm) at the shoulder for males and 27.5 inches (70 cm) (minimum) at the shoulder for females. A typical male can weigh 150–250 pounds (68–113 kg), a typical female can weigh 120–200 pounds (54–91 kg), with show specimens tending towards the upper ranges.
The former standard specified the coat should be short and close-lying (though long haired Mastiffs, called "Fluffies", are occasionally seen) and the colour is apricot-fawn, silver-fawn, fawn, or dark fawn-brindle, always with black on the muzzle, ears, and nose and around the eyes.
The colours of the Mastiff coat are differently described by various kennel clubs, but are essentially fawn or apricot, or those colours as a base for black brindle. A black mask should occur in all cases. The fawn is generally a light "silver" shade, but may range up to a golden yellow. The apricot may be a slightly reddish hue up to a deep, rich red. The brindle markings should ideally be heavy, even and clear stripes, but may actually be light, uneven, patchy, faint or muddled. Pied Mastiffs occur rarely. Other non-standard colours include black, blue brindle, and chocolate (brown) mask. Some Mastiffs have a heavy shading caused by dark hairs throughout the coat or primarily on the back and shoulders. This is not generally considered a fault. Brindle is dominant over solid colour. Apricot is dominant over fawn, though that dominance may be incomplete. Most of the colour faults are recessive, though black is so rare in the Mastiff that it cannot be certain if it is recessive, or a mutation that is dominant.
The genetic basis for the variability of coat in dogs has been much studied, but all the issues have not yet been resolved. On the basis of what is known (and remembering that, as dogs are diploid animals, each gene location (locus) appears twice in every animal, so questions of dominance also must be resolved), the gene possibilities allowed by the Mastiff standard are AyBDEmh(kbr_or_ky)mS. This describes a dog which is fawn with a dark nose, non-dilute, black-masked, non-harlequin, brindled or not brindled, non-merle, and non-spotted. To allow for the rare exceptions we must include "b" (brown mask and possible brown brindling), "d" (blue mask and possible blue brindling), "sp" (pied spotting), and perhaps "a" (recessive black). The possible combination of homozygous brown and homozygous blue is a pale brown referred to as Isabella in breeds where it is relatively common. Speculative gene locations may also exist, so a Mastiff may be "I" (apricot) or "i" (non-apricot) and perhaps "cch" (silver lightening) or "C" (without silver lightening). (Note that this "C locus" may not be the same as the one identified in other animals, SLC45A2.)
The greatest weight ever recorded for a dog, 343 pounds (156 kg), was that of an English Mastiff from England named Aicama Zorba of La Susa, although claims of larger dogs exist. According to the 1989 edition of the Guinness Book of Records, in March 1989, when he was 7 years old, Zorba stood 35 inches (89 cm) at the shoulder and was 8.25 feet (251 cm) from the tip of his nose to the tip of his tail, about the size of a small donkey. After 2000, the Guinness Book of World Records stopped accepting largest or heaviest pet records.
The Mastiff breed has a desired temperament, which is reflected in all formal standards and historical descriptions.
Sydenham Edwards, wrote in 1800 in the Cynographia Britannica: "What the Lion is to the Cat the Mastiff is to the Dog, the noblest of the family; he stands alone, and all others sink before him. His courage does not exceed his temper and generosity, and in attachment he equals the kindest of his race. His docility is perfect; the teazing of the smaller kinds will hardly provoke him to resent, and I have seen him down with his paw the Terrier or cur that has bit him, without offering further injury. In a family he will permit the children to play with him, and suffer all their little pranks without offence. The blind ferocity of the Bull Dog will often wound the hand of the master who assists him to combat, but the Mastiff distinguishes perfectly, enters the field with temper, and engages in the attack as if confident of success: if he overpowers, or is beaten, his master may take him immediately in his arms and fear nothing. This ancient and faithful domestic, the pride of our island, uniting the useful, the brave and the docile, though sought by foreign nations and perpetuated on the continent, is nearly extinct where he probably was an aborigine, or is bastardized by numberless crosses, everyone of which degenerate from the invaluable character of the parent, who was deemed worthy to enter the Roman amphitheatre, and, in the presence of the masters of the worlds, encounter the pard, and assail even the lord of the savage tribes, whose courage was sublimed by torrid suns, and found none gallant enough to oppose him on the deserts of Zaara or the plains of Numidia."
The "Dog Breed Info Center" says "Dominance levels vary, even within the same litter, but it is often called a gentle giant. A born guard dog, the Mastiff rarely barks, but it is in its nature to defend its territory and family, and is more a silent guard rather than a barker. When an intruder is caught the dog is more likely to hold them at bay, either by trapping them in a corner or lying on top of them rather than an all-out attack. You do not need to train your Mastiff to guard. No matter how friendly it is, if it senses danger it will naturally guard on its own unless the owners are there to tell it otherwise. Self-confident and watchful, these dogs are patient and considered excellent with children. Intelligent, calm, even-tempered and docile, this breed is very large and heavy. They respond well to firm, but gentle, patient training. They love to please and need a lot of human leadership.".
The American Kennel Club sums up the Mastiff breed as: "a combination of grandeur and good nature as well as courage and docility." Domesticated Mastiffs are powerful yet gentle and loyal dogs, but due to their physical size and need for space, are best suited for country or suburban life."
The Mastiff should at all stages of development show the breed characteristics of massiveness and sound, if cumbersome, movement.
The Mastiff is a particularly large dog demanding correct diet and exercise. Excessive running is not recommended for the first two years of the dog's life, in order not to damage the growth plates in the joints of this heavy and fast-growing dog, which in some weeks may gain over 5 lb. However, regular exercise must be maintained throughout the dog's life in order to discourage slothful behaviour and to prevent a number of health problems. A soft surface is recommended for the dog to sleep on in order to prevent the development of calluses, arthritis, and hygroma (an acute inflammatory swelling). Due to the breed's large size, puppies may potentially be smothered or crushed by the mother during nursing. A whelping box, along with careful monitoring can prevent such accidents. The average lifespan of the Mastiff is about 7 years although it's not uncommon for some to live to 10–11 years.
Major problems can include hip dysplasia and gastric torsion. Minor problems include obesity, osteosarcoma, and cystinuria. Problems only occasionally found include cardiomyopathy, allergies, vaginal hyperplasia, cruciate ligament rupture, hypothyroidism, OCD, entropion, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), and persistent pupillary membranes (PPM).
When living in an apartment, it is okay to own a Mastiff, but make sure it will get exercise. Mastiffs should be fed 2 or 3 times a day. Do not feed them only 1 large meal, as it is believed that this can increase the chance of gastric torsion.
The large dogs depicted in figurines and in bas-reliefs from the sixth century BC in Assyria during the reign of King Ashurbanipal may have some part in the ancestry of modern Mastiffs, but without genetic evidence or a clear historical link, this is speculative. There is a similar figurine from the same region during the Kassite period almost a thousand years earlier. These dogs may be related to the dogs that fought lions, tigers, bears, and gladiators in Roman arenas.
It is less contentious that the Alaunt is likely a genetic predecessor to the English Mastiff Introduced by the Normans. These dogs were developed by the Alans, who had migrated into France (then known as Gaul) due to pressure by the Huns at the start of the fifth century. Intriguingly they were known from the Romans to live in a region (the Pontic-Caspian Steppe) about 700 km to the north of the region where the Assyrians once lived. Again, any canine connections are speculative.
Likely a main progenitor of the Mastiff were the Canes Pugnaces Britanniae, or Pugnaces Britanniae for short (Latin meaning "combative (one) of Britannia"), which was the name given by the Romans to the original war-dog of the Britons. (However, the often repeated claim that there was a Roman official, Procurator Cynegii, especially responsible for purchasing dogs in Britain, is due to a misinterpretation).
The origin of the term "Mastiff" is unclear. Many claim that it evolved from the Anglo-Saxon word "masty", meaning "powerful". Other sources, such as the Oxford English Dictionary, say the word originated from the Old French word mastin (Modern French mâtin), the word being itself derived from Vulgar Latin *ma(n)suetinus "tame", see Classical Latin mansuetus with same meaning.
The first list of dog breed names in the English language, contained within The Book of Saint Albans, published in 1465, includes "Mastiff ". This work is attributed to Prioress Juliana Berners, but in part may be translated from the early 14th century Norman-French work Le Art de Venerie, by Edward II's Huntmaster Guillaume Twici.
In 1570, Conrad Heresbach, in Rei Rusticae Libri Quatuor, referred to "the Mastie that keepeth the house". Heresbach was writing in Latin; his work was translated a few years later into English by Barnabe Googe as Foure Bookes of Husbandrie. This work is adapted from De Re Rustica by 1st century Roman writer Columella, which highlights the Roman connection, but it has been speculated the Mastiff is descended from dogs brought to Britain by the Phoenicians in the 6th century BC. From Roman to Medieval times, these dogs were used in the blood sports of bear-baiting, bull-baiting, dog fighting, and lion-baiting.
Dogs known as Bandogs, who were tied (bound) close to houses, were of Mastiff type.
They were described by John Caius in 1570 as vast, huge, stubborn, ugly, and eager, of a heavy and burdensome body. Throughout its history, the Mastiff has contributed to the development of a number of dog breeds. some generally known as Mastiff-type dogs, or confusingly simply as "Mastiffs" .
When in 1415 Sir Peers Legh was wounded in the Battle of Agincourt, his Mastiff stood over and protected him for many hours through the battle. The Mastiff was later returned to Legh's home and was the foundation of the Lyme Hall Mastiffs. Five centuries later this pedigree figured prominently in founding the modern breed. Other aristocratic seats where Mastiffs are known to have been kept are Elvaston Castle (Charles Stanhope, 4th Earl of Harrington and his ancestors) and Chatsworth House. The owner of the Chatsworth Mastiffs (which were said to be of Alpine Mastiff stock) was William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire, known to his family as Canis. Mastiffs were also kept at Hadzor Hall, owned by members of the Galton family, famous for industrialists and scientists, including Charles Darwin.
In 1835, the Parliament of the United Kingdom implemented an Act called the Cruelty to Animals Act 1835, which prohibited the baiting of animals. This may have led to decline in Mastiffs used for this purpose, but Mastiffs continued to be used as guards for country estates and town businesses. Organised breeding began in the 19th century, when J.W. (John Wigglesworth) Thompson sought out a bitch, Dorah, from John Crabtree, the head gamekeeper of Kirklees Hall, whose dogs were often held in the name of his employer, Sir George Armitage. Dorah was descended in part from animals owned by Thompson's grandfather, Commissioner Thompson, at the beginning of the century, as well as a Mastiff of the Bold Hall line, recorded from 1705, a bitch purchased from canal boat men, another caught by Crabtree in a fox trap, a dog from Nostal Priory and another dog from Walton Hall, owned by Charles Waterton, the naturalist. J. W. Thompson's first stud dog Hector came from crossing a bitch, Juno, bought from animal dealer Bill George, to a dog, Tiger, owned by a Captain Fenton. Neither of these had any pedigree, as was normal for the period. Between 1830 and 1850 he bred the descendants of these dogs and some others to produce a line with the short, broad head and massive build he favoured. In 1835, T.V.H. Lukey started his operations by breeding an Alpine Mastiff bitch of the Chatsworth line, Old Bob-Tailed Countess (bought from dog dealer Bill White), to Pluto, a large black Mastiff of unknown origin belonging to the Marquis of Hertford. The result was a bitch called Yarrow, who was mated to Couchez, another Alpine Mastiff belonging (at the time) to White and later mated to a brindle dog also in White's possession. Lukey produced animals that were taller but less massive than Thompson's. After 1850, Thompson and Lukey collaborated, and the modern Mastiff was created, though animals without pedigree or of dubious pedigree continued to be bred from into the 20th century.
Another important contribution to the breed was made by a dog called Lion, owned by Captain (later Colonel) John Garnier of The Royal Engineers. He bought two Mastiffs from the previously mentioned dealer Bill George. The bitch, Eve, bought by George at Leadenhall Market, was old enough to be gray-muzzled, but of good type; the dog, Adam, was of reputed Lyme Hall origin, but bought at Tattersalls and suspected by Garnier of containing a "dash of Boarhound", an ancestral form of Great Dane. Garnier took them with him when he was assigned to Canada and brought back their puppy, Lion. He was bred to Lukey's Countess to produce Governor, the source of all existing Mastiff lines. (Lion was also mated to Lufra, a Scottish Deerhound, and their puppy Marquis appears in the pedigrees of both Deerhounds and Irish Wolfhounds.)
In the 1880s soundness was sacrificed for type (widely attributed to the short-headed, massive, but straight-stifled and chocolate-masked Ch. Crown Prince). This dog numerically dominated all of his contemporaries in terms of offspring. Subsequently, the Mastiff lost popularity but gained a consistency of type, with leaner, longer-headed specimens becoming relatively less common.
Prominent among the breeders of this era were Edgar Hanbury and his relation, the politician and philanthropist Mark Hanbury Beaufoy, later Chairmen of The Kennel Club, who reaching his peak as a breeder with the Crown Prince grandson, Ch. Beaufort, eventually exported to America.
Despite such imports, Mastiff numbers in the USA declined steadily through the 1890s and the early 20th century. From 1906 to 1918, only 24 Mastiffs were registered in the United States. After 1910, none of these were bred in America. By the time the First World War ended, other than for a few imports, the breed was extinct outside of Great Britain.
In 1918, a dog called Beowulf, bred in Canada from British imports Priam of Wingfied and Parkgate Duchess, was registered by the American Kennel Club, starting a slow re-establishment of the breed in North America. Priam and Duchess, along with fellow imports Ch Weland, Thor of the Isles, Caractacus of Hellingly and Brutus of Saxondale, ultimately contributed a total of only two descendants who would produce further offspring: Buster of Saxondale and Buddy. There were, however, a number of other imports in the period between the wars and in the early days of the Second World War Those whose descendants still survive were 12 in number, meaning the North American contribution to the gene pool after 1945 consisted of 14 Mastiffs. In the British Isles, virtually all breeding stopped due to the rationing of meat. After the war, such puppies as were produced mostly succumbed to canine distemper, for which no vaccine was developed until 1950. Only a single bitch puppy produced by the elderly stock that survived the war reached maturity, Nydia of Frithend, and her sire had to be declared a Mastiff by the Kennel Club, as his parentage was unknown, and he was thought by some to be a Bullmastiff. After the war, animals from North America (prominently from Canada) were imported. Therefore all Mastiffs in the late 1950s were descended from Nydia and the 14 Mastiffs previously mentioned. It has been alleged that the Mastiff was bred with other more numerous giant breeds such as Bullmastiffs and St. Bernards, as these were considered close relatives to the Mastiff. In 1959, a Dogue de Bordeaux, Fidelle de Fenelon, was imported from France to the USA, registered as a Mastiff, and entered the gene pool. Since that time, the breed has gradually been restored in Britain, has reached 28th most popular breed in the USA, and is now found worldwide.
Extract from Abraham Fleming's translation of John Caius's description, dated 1570, of the "Mastyue or Bandogge": "This kinde of Dogge called a Mastyue or Bandogge is vaste, huge, stubborne, ougly, and eager, of a heuy and burthenous body, and therefore but of litle swiftnesse, terrible, and frightfull to beholde, and more fearce and fell then any Arcadian curre (notwithstãding they are sayd to hane their generation of the violent Lyon.) They are called Villatici, because they are appoynted to watche and keepe farme places and coũtry cotages sequestred from commõ recourse, and not abutting vpon other houses by reason of distaunce, when there is any feare conceaued of theefes, robbers, spoylers, and night wanderers. They are seruiceable against the Foxe and the Badger, to drive wilde and tame swyne out of Medowes, pastures, glebelandes (church lands) and places planted with fruite, to bayte and take the bull by the eare, when occasion so requireth. One dogge or two at the vttermost, sufficient for that purpose be the bull neuer so monsterous, neuer so fearce, neuer so furious, neuer so stearne, neuer so vntameable. For it is a kinde of dogge capeable of courage, violent and valiaunt, striking could feare into the harts of men, but standing in feare of no man, in so much that no weapons will make him shrincke, nor abridge his boldnes. Our Englishe men (to th’ intent that theyr dogges might be the more fell and fearce) assist nature with arte, vse, and custome, for they teach theyr dogges to baite the Beare, to baite the Bull and other such like cruell and bloudy beastes (appointing an ouerseer of the game) without any collar to defend theyr throtes, and oftentimes they traine them vp in fighting and wrestling with a man hauing for the safegarde of his lyfe, eyther a Pikestaffe, a clubbe, or a sworde and by vsing them to such exercises as these, theyr dogges become more sturdy and strong. The force which is in them surmounteth all beleefe, the fast holde which they take with their teeth exceedeth all credit, three of them against a Beare, fowre against a Lyon are sufficient, both to try masteryes with them and vtterly to ouermatch them."
Extract from Barnaby Googe's 1577 translation of Conrad Heresbach's description of the Bandog for the house: "First, the Mastie that keepeth the house. For this purpose you must provide you such a one as hath a large and mightie body, a great shrill voyce, that both with his barking he may discover, and with his sight dismaye the theefe, yea, being not seene, with the horror of his voice put him to flight. His stature must be neither long nor short, but well set ; his head, great ; his eyes, sharp and fiery, either browne or grey ; his lippes, blackish, neither turning up nor hanging too much down ; his mouth black and wide ; his neather jaw, fat, and coming out of it on either side a fang appearing more outward than his other teeth ; his upper teeth even with his neather, not hanging too much over, sharpe, and hidden with his lippes ; his countenance, like a lion ; his brest, great and shag hayrd ; his shoulders, broad ; his legges, bigge ; his tayle, short ; his feet, very great. His disposition must neither be too gentle nor too curst, that he neither faune upon a theefe nor flee upon his friends; very waking; no gadder abroad, nor lavish of his mouth, barking without cause; neither maketh it any matter though he be not swifte, for he is but to fight at home, and to give warning of the enemie."
Extract from the Century Magazine, dated 1885, of "Typical Dogs": "The origin of the English mastiff is so lost in the mists of antiquity, that no positive assertions concerning it should be made. It is evident that dogs with his characteristics existed in Britain when the Romans first landed there. They speak of them as "the broadmouthed dogs of Britain." Whether these were of the mastiff or bull-dog type, or whether the two breeds have the same origin, cannot be determined. Much written on this subject is necessarily pure conjecture; consequently we need only concern ourselves with the immediate progenitors of the mastiff, and that dog as he exists to-day. Of all the known canine races the mastiff is the largest and eminently the most massive. Exceptional specimens of the St. Bernard, the boar-hound, and the Siberian blood-hound may exceed in height and weight the average of large mastiffs; but these examples are so rare as not to materially modify the assertion of the superiority of the proportions of the mastiff. The distinguishing marks of this breed are size, massiveness, dignity, and majesty of appearance. Twenty-eight to thirty-one inches may be accepted as a good average height at the shoulders. The girth of the chest should never be less than one-third more than the height. The body should be long and well filled out, without any approach to the tucked-up loin of the hound. This is very objectionable. The legs should be straight, with immense bone and muscle; the feet round and close; the tail thick at the root, tapering evenly to a point, and not extending much below the hocks. The head is now the great point with fanciers. It should be broad across the skull, flat to the eyebrow, well indented up the center, with small, close-lying ears, partly erected when attention is aroused; the muzzle broad, short and square-looking, as though it had been sawed off. Fashion changes much in this direction. The great show dogs of ten years since would stand no chance in a modern competition. A very much shorter, blunter muzzle is now the standard. Whether the dog of to-day has really gained in appearance by his shorter muzzle is certainly open to doubt. The grand preeminent qualities of the mastiff are shown in his affectionate, true, noble, faithful disposition and even temper. He is above all others the watch-dog. Bred for generations for this purpose, his impulses lead him exclusively in this direction - to watch and guard, and to repulse trespassers within his precinct. He accomplishes this end by a resolute and imposing bearing, never resorting to force until repeated gentle warnings have been ignored. Menace to the person of his master the mastiff fiercely resents. His mode of attack is to spring upon an evil-doer, knock him down, and subdue him with significant growls. He seldom bites, even under the severest provocation. To guard those living in isolated localities, as a protector of women and children, he is without a peer - the sturdy and faithful watchman of the home. W. Wade "
|Australia||Mastiff Club Of Victoria Inc.|
|Austria||Molosser Club Austria|
|Belgium||Mastiff Club Belgium|
|Canada||Canadian Mastiff Club|
|Canada||Mastiff Fanciers of Western Canada|
|Czech Republic||Moloss Club CZ|
|Denmark||Dansk Mastiff Klub|
|England||Old English Mastiff Club of England|
|France||Club français du Bullmastiff et du Mastiff|
|Germany||Old English Mastiff Club Deutschland e.V.|
|Norway||Norwegian English Mastiff Club|
|Spain||Club Espanol de los Molosos de Arena|
|United States||Garden State Mastiff Fanciers|
|United States||Mastiff Club of America|
|United States||Mid-west Mastiff Fanciers|
|United States||Pacific Southwest Mastiff Club|
|United States||Pacific Northwest Mastiff Fanciers|
|United States||Redwood Empire Mastiff Club|
|This section needs additional citations for verification. (September 2011)|