An English Mastiff
Old English Mastiff
|Domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris)|
The English Mastiff is a breed of extremely 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 colors, but always displaying a black mask, the Mastiff is noted for its gentle and loving nature. The lineage of modern dogs can be traced back to the early 19th century, the modern type was stabilised in the 1880s and refined since. Following a period of sharp decline, the Mastiff has increased its worldwide popularity. 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, just as "Mastiffs".
With a massive body, broad skull and head of generally square appearance, it is the largest dog breed in terms of mass. It is on average slightly heavier than the Saint Bernard, although there is a considerable mass overlap between these two breeds. Though the Irish Wolfhound and Great Dane can be more than six inches 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 large individuals often reaching 130 kg (286 lb) or more.
Coat color standards
The former standard specified the coat should be short and close-lying (though long haired Mastiffs, called "Fluffies", are occasionally seen) and the color is apricot-fawn, silver-fawn, fawn, or dark fawn-brindle, always with black on the muzzle, ears, and nose and around the eyes.
Fluffy Mastiffs are Mastiffs (typically, but can also apply to the other short-coated Mastiff breeds) that exhibit the recessive, long-haired fluffy phenotype, hence fluffy Mastiffs. They are otherwise genetically sound, and in no way inferior to a short-haired English Mastiff. The fluffy coat is however considered a fault in the show ring, so it's not a trait that reputable breeders particularly breed for or advertise. If the dam and sire dogs are both carriers of the fluffy trait, then one or two fluffies may crop up in a litter and they are sold on pet-quality contracts. They now have genetic testing available to screen for this gene. So with breeders screening for the fluffy carriers in their breeding program, the chances of fluffies in the litters is diminishing. Some breeders will refuse to breed any dog that turns out to be a fluffy carrier. Others think being a fluffy or fluffy carrier is preferable to bad structure, and will include fluffies in their breeding program. The Fluffy trait does however decrease the amount of drool the dog produces. Though almost all Mastiffs are categorized as droolers, the English "Fluffy" Mastiff is not included in this group. They are gentle giants that are well behaved due to their extreme size. Along with being a joyful family pet they also are determined home defenders. They will protect house and family members with deep growls and very loud barks, though bites by Mastiffs are extremely rare.
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, including Saint Bernards, Tibetan Mastiffs, and Caucasian ovcharkas 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 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).
A Mastiff may be kept in an apartment, but care must be taken to give it enough exercise. Mastiffs should be fed 2 or 3 times a day; it is believed that one large meal per day can increase the chance of gastric torsion.
Before the 19th century
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 to be used in the amphitheatre, 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.
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.
19th century to the First World War
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 United States 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.
After the First World War
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.
- "Crown Prince", progenitor of the modern breed, owned by psychiatrist L. Forbes Winslow
- "Cash", owned by Trevor Dwyer-Lynch ("Patrick" from Coronation Street), also appeared in one episode of the show
- "Hercules" (a.k.a. "the Beast"), from the film The Sandlot (played by Ch. Mtn. Oaks Gunner)
- "Goliath" (a.k.a. "the Great Fear"), from the film The Sandlot 2
- "Carlo" from "The Adventure of the Copper Beeches", a Sherlock Holmes story
- "Kazak", owned by Winston Niles Rumfoord, a wealthy space traveler in Kurt Vonnegut's novel The Sirens of Titan
- An English Mastiff also named "Kazak" appears in the fourth-season episode Un Chien Tangerine of Archer.
- "Moss" and "Jaguar", of the Japanese series Ginga: Nagareboshi Gin and its sequel Ginga Densetsu Weed
- "Mason The Mastiff", in the 2007 film Transformers
- "Leo", owned by Richard Ansdell, R.A., and the model for his painting "The Poacher", aka "The Poacher At Bay"
- "Rocky" (Ch Sterling's Against All Odds) appeared in the "Leech Trapper" episode of the TV series Dirty Jobs
- "Lady Marton", owned by Victorian industrialist Henry Bolckow, and claimed by some to have been a St. Bernard
- "Chupadogra" A.K.A. "Buster" is an elderly English Mastiff, voiced by Sam Elliott from in the 2010 film, Marmaduke.
- "Lenny" is a brindled English Mastiff from the 2009 movie, Hotel for Dogs
- "Captain Pickles" in "She's Out Of My League"
- "Spike" from a Mc Donalds commercial.
- "Ch. Semper Fi Groppetti Gargoyle" Best of Breed 2 years in a row at the Westminster Kennel Club Show at the Madison Square Garden show in New York City. He also took a Group 4 there making him the only mastiff ever to win a group placement there that was owner handled.
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- (1)Roxbury Boy, (2)Millfold Lass, (3)Buzzard Pride (survived only by Merle's Brunhilda of Lyme Hall, who was in turn survived only by Shanno of Lyme Hall), (4)Gyn of Hammercliffe, (5)Duke of Hellingly, (6)Kathleen of Hellingly, (7)King of Hellingly (survived only by Eric of Altnacraig), (8)Maude of Hellingly, (9)Crusader of Goring (survived only by Blythe of Hampden), (10)Goldhawk Elsie, (11)Broomcourt Nell, (12)Rolanda, The History & Management of the Mastiff, Author(s): Baxter, Elizabeth J; Hoffman, Patricia B., Dogwise 2004
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