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Mastiffs - The Big Game Hunters - The mastiff dog

Every Mastiff lover should buy the book:
THE MASTIFFS, The Big Game Hunters - their history, developement and future -by Colonel David Hancock MBE

Here is a small citation from this book

"The recorded histories of most breeds of dog are usually no more than romantic fantasies, either conjured up by overzealous breed fanciers or unwisely plagiarised from inaccurate or exaggerated writings from the past. The history of the mastiff breeds is no exception. The lack of true research and intellectual honesty does scant justice to a distinguished group of dogs, rightly respected for their extraordinary bravery, admirable temperament, staunch character and formidable appearance - the true Mastiff
From their employment by primitive hunters to pull down, 'hold' or pin large animals needed by the hunters for meat and skin to their use as watchdogs and protection dogs in more recent times, the mastiff breeds have long served man, many losing their lives in doing so. Huge wild creatures such as lion, buffalo, bison, boar and stags are formidable adversaries; only the mastiff breeds had the courage, strength, agility and fortitude to tackle such quarry.


mastiff sculpture

The Dog of Alcibiades - 400BC

Moral judgements made today on hunting cannot diminish the remarkable physical and mental qualities of dogs expected by man to fulfil a function. We should respect the heritage of the mastiff breeds and then honour it by breeding healthy, virile, physically powerful but mentally stable dogs, for that is the historic mould of the mastiff. Mastiff breeders have to conduct very careful breeding programmes if the real breed characteristics are to be preserved.

The emergence of mastiff breeds

The emergence of mastiff breeds like the Boerboel of South Africa is immensely pleasing; after years of misuse, overuse and neglect by man, this remarkable mastiff is now receiving the recognition it deserves. The boerboel appears to feature all the best attributes of the mastiff breeds: immense power combined with great faithfulness, physical stature combined with admirable tolerance and a temperament capable of placidity or ferocity when it's family is threatened.
The Boerboel looks to be a magnificent breed, developed in a hard school by tough farmers who were threatened by evey kind of dangerous predator, in testing terrain and a challenging climate. Hard-pressed pioneer farmers however resourceful, didn't have the circumstances which exactly encouraged the conservation of rare breeds of dog. They had a need for brave powerful virile dogs and bred good dog to good dog until they obtained the desired result. Performance directed every breeding programme. Pure-breeding, handsomeness and a respect for heritage doesn't usually feature highly in a pioneer hunter-farmer's priorities. It should be a matter of pride that the boerboel was developed from the best mastiff-type dogs available in South Africa and brought here by soldiers, colonists and settlers from Europe. It is a breed to be proud of for that reason alone.
The emergence of this fine mastiff breed, after a century of neglect and indifference in its native land, and its subsequent stabilisation into a distinct canine race, is not only a tribute to its loyal fanciers but also to the dogs themselves.

How virile they must be to survive the climate; how robust to survive the terrain and fearsome wild opponents; how dependable in remote locations to inspire their owners to continue with them and how strong the genotype to triumph after a century of anything but pure-breeding.

Perhaps the biggest threat to the boerboel in the long term is misuse, misguidedness in their future design by show breeders and a closed gene pool, which they have managed well enough without in their whole history.
These pressures face all pure breeds once recognised; the closed gene pool receives undeserved worship and sickly, unathletic dogs, quite unlike their ancestors, are perpetuated in so many pure-bred dogs in far too many developed allegedly civilised countries. In Britain the lurcher men still breed excellent dog to excellent dog regardless the breed, function rules. The working Basset Hound has been outcrossed to the Harrier to enhance performance. The show Basset Hound continues to be bred to an unhealthy design. The English Mastiff is now bred for bulk rather than activity. The Bullmastiff is in danger of becoming a small Mastiff with a Bulldog's head as breeders lacking skill decide its future. The admirable Boerboel devotees need to be alert and open-minded if this magnificent Mastiff is to survive in the 21st century."


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