"Mr. Burton of Thorneywood Kennels brought to the show one
night a dog (not for competition) and offered one pound to any person
who could escape from the securely muzzled dog. One of the spectators
who had experience with dogs volunteered and amused a large assembly of
sportsmen and keepers who had gathered there. The man was given a long
start, and the muzzled dog slipped after him. The animal caught him
immediately and knocked him down with the first spring."
"The latter tried bravely to hold his own, but was floored
every time he got to his feet, ultimately being kept to the ground until
the owner of the dog released him. The man had three rounds with the
powerful canine, but was beaten each time and was unable to
This fascinating cameo of a man vs. dog contest appeared in The
Field on August 20, 1901. With poaching (especially deer poaching) on
the increase again, with human staff costing so much nowadays, and the
law of the land almost favoring trespassers - especially those
apprehended as poachers who plead "trespass" as their only
offense - it is surprising that the "gamekeeper's night dog"
isn't more widely used.
The "night dog" referred to is, of course, the
Bullmastiff, the only British breed ever specifically produced for guard
duties and from the two oldest, purest and bravest breeds. Technically
created in modern times, it existed for centuries in the form of the
lighter Mastiff when used as a hunting dog, and the bigger, faster
Bulldog when used for bull-baiting. It can be argued that the
Bullmastiff is a truer descendant of the original Bulldog than the
modern breed of that very name.
Not recognized by the Kennel Club as a breed until 1924 - but used
previously by gamekeepers - these dogs have the mastiff instinct to pin
their quarry rather than to bite, and to attack a man and throw him to
the ground every time he tries to get to his feet - without ever using
their teeth to savage him.
Mr. S. S. Moseley, from his Faircroft kennels, stabilized the modern
breed after many previous trial crosses of Bulldog and Mastiff. There
are similarities with the French equivalent, the Dogue de Bordeaux and
the Neapolitan Mastiff, indicating a breed-type in history, perhaps
together with the Brazilian Guard Dog, the Tosa - the Japanese Fighting
Dog - and the now extinct German Bullenbeisser.
What was being sought was a "gamekeeper's dog". Just as
the poacher needed his "Lurcher" to locate, chase, kill and
retrieve game silently and slickly, so the gamekeeper required a
powerful, well-disciplined dog to find, seize and detain the poacher.
This was not a task for a light, nervous, noisy, fidgety,
ill-disciplined dog, but the strong, silent type, able on command to
knock down a young, healthy country-man, possibly after tracking him or
quietly observing his acting illegally.
The requirement decided, the end-product was then designed for the
purpose in mind. Undoubtedly, more than two components were involved:
the Great Dane and the yellow Labrador type of gundog, which was
beginning to emerge about that time, being likely ingredients. But in
essence, it was the cross between the Bulldog - tough, tenacious,
fussless, brave and with silent self-reliance: and the Mastiff -
immensely powerful, trustworthy, fearsome in appearance but stable by
nature, loyal and brave, which produced the Bullmastiff - 27 inches at
the withers, some ten stones (Ed. note: a stone = 14 pounds) of muscular
From these carefully selected ancestors - specifically purpose-bred
- came a strapping, fearless, superbly proportioned, imposing looking
animal, combining the massiveness and sheer pugnacity of appearance of
the age-old beautifully natured Mastiff breed, with the famed courage
and proven endurance of the renowned Bulldog.
These two famous breeds gave the modern Bullmastiff three priceless
qualities, ideal in combination for a guard dog: superb temperament -
even tempered, level-headed, magnanimous and never excitable: a silent,
steadfast, almost arrogant bearing: and most importantly, the instinct
to pin the quarry rather than to bite.
The powerful Bullmastiff doesn't savage its target or "worry"
the arm of a standing "wanted" man. He has all the necessary
strength to use his inherited impulse to pin his victim to the floor or
a wall. But before the action ever begins, there is the considerable
deterrent value of the Bullmastiff's sheer physical size, pugnacious,
black-masked face, and his impressive, almost regally impassive
composure. He really looks the part.
Capable of quite astounding speed off the mark, immensely strong and
- although large and heavy - an essentially active dog, the Bullmastiff
has superb self-reliance. he stands as if he owns the ground he stands
on, looks you in the eye as an equal and yields to no one. Don't expect
subservience from this breed. However, gain the confidence on one,
together with his respect, and you have on of the best guard-companion
of all dogs.
Not to be chained up in a backyard or confined in a small run, the
Bullmastiff must be made a member of the household and ideally taken to
a training class to get used to other dogs. Well-trained from young
puppy-hood, they are most trustworthy. With his keen, hard expression
and well-arched neck, a young Bullmastiff is very proud and full of
himself. This admirable self-assurance has to be utilized to good effect
by firm, consistent training so that he becomes equally proud of his
Yet this formidable dog is well-behaved with children, never loses
its temper and tolerates endless teasing. He is responsive to training,
intelligent and faithful by nature. Used as a guard dog in such widely
separated situations s the Mau-Mau emergency in Kenya, in the Kimberley
diamond mines in South Africa, and on John D. Rockefeller's huge country
estate in New York State, the Bullmastiff is now used mainly by
discerning private owners as a companion/guard.
Other breeds seem to be favored as professional guard dogs:
Alsatians, Doberman Pinschers, Rottweilers and Giant Schnauzers. The
last three breeds, however, have varying temperaments, require a very
firm hand and by instinct "savage" their quarry. The Alsatian,
when well-bred, well-trained and kept in suitable circumstances, has
many admirable qualities. I suspect that for professional guard dog
duties - by security firms, in prisons, on country estates and in
burglar or vandal prone premises - the Bullmastiff would be extensively
employed if only his qualities were known.
Yet sadly, quite unsuitable breeds are being used by ill-advised
people. but who wants to be sued because a so-called guard dog has
savaged straying, adventurous children? Who wants to be taken to court
over an endlessly barking "security dog"? The temperament, the
instinct and the physical impression of a guard dog are the vital
components for a success in the job.
The Bullmastiff doesn't snap or nip and rarely barks. he can track
as well as guard, is easy to train and control, and tolerates - perhaps
more than any other breed - children. On duty, he does not savage his
prey but silently and effectively detains it. That great, powerful head
with the ferocious, scowling, black mask and the lasting impression of
physical power, make the Bullmastiff a formidable, commanding figure for
any wrongdoer to confront.
A loyal, faithful, even-tempered, noble breed. Bullmastiffs make
superb companion-guards and do not have the restless energy which
demands vast amounts of exercise. But, when all is said and done about
the various breeds available as guard dogs, the Bullmastiff is the
professional. He was bred for the part. After all, who would employ a
shepard as a night watchman when a security guard is available?
And which would you prefer to be guarded by, a lion or a wolf? The
Bullmastiff is the lion of the dog world. He is massive, powerful and
brave - a truly underrated, undervalued king among dogs.
The Bullmastiff is a powerfully
built, symmetrical dog, showing great strength, but not cumbersome.
HEAD and SKULL
The skull should be large and square
when viewed from any angle, with fair wrinkle when interested,
but not when in repose. The circumference of the skull may equal the
height of the dog measured at the top of the shoulder; it
should be broad, and deep with good cheeks. The muzzle short, the
distance from the tip of the nose to the stop shall be approximately one
third of the distance from the tip of nose to the centre of the occiput,
broad under the eyes and nearly parallel in width to the end of the nose;
blunt and cut off square, forming a right angle with the upper line of
the face, and at the same time proportionate with the skull. Underjaw
broad to the end. Nose broad with widely spreading nostrils when viewed
from the front; flat not pointed or turned up in profile. Flews not
pendulous, and not hanging below the level of the bottom of the lower
jaw. Stop definite.
Dark or hazel, and of medium size,
set aside the width of the muzzle with furrow between. Light. or yellow
eyes a fault.
V shaped, or folded back, set on wide and
high, level with the occiput, giving a square appearance to the skull,
which is most important. They should be small and deeper in colour than
the body, and the point of the ear should be level with the eye when
alert. Rose cars to be penalised.
Mouth to be level, slightly undershot
allowed, but not preferred. Canine teeth large and set wide apart, other
teeth strong, even and well placed. Irregularity of teeth is a fault
Well arched, moderate length, very
muscular and almost equal to the skull in circumference.
Chest wide, deep, well set down between the
forelegs, with deep brisket. Shoulders muscular, sloping and powerful,
but not overloaded. Forelegs powerful and straight, well boned and set
wide apart, presenting a straight front. Pasterns straight and strong.
Back short and straight, giving a
compact carriage, but not so short as to interfere with activity. Roach
and sway backs a fault.
Loins wide and muscular with fair
depth of flanks. Hindlegs strong and muscular with well developed second
thighs, denoting power and activity, but not cumbersome. Hocks
moderately bent. Cow hocks a fault.
Not large, with rounded toes, well
arched (cat feet), pads hard. Splay feet a fault.
Set high, strong at the root and
tapering, reaching to the hocks, straight or curved, but not hound
fashion. Crank tails a fault.
Short and hard giving weather
protection, lying flat to the body. A tendency to long, silky or woolly
coats to be penalised.
Any shade of brindle, fawn or red,
but the colour to be pure and clear. A slight white marking on the chest
is permissible but not desirable. Other white markings a fault. A dark
muzzle is essential, toning off towards the eye, with dark markings
around the eyes giving expression. Dark toenails desirable.
Dogs should be 25 to 27 inches at the
shoulder and 110 to 130 pounds in weight. Bitches should be 24 to 26
inches at the shoulder, and 90 to 110 pounds in weight. It must be borne
in mind that size must be proportionate with weight, and soundness and
activity are most essential.
The movement should indicate power and a
sense of purpose. When moving straight, neither front nor hind legs
should cross, or plait. The right front and left rear leg rising and
falling at the same time. A firm backline unimpaired by the powerful
thrust from the hindlegs should be maintained denoting a balanced and