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
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."