by   David Hancock

The Mastiff of Broholm Castle - the Real 'Danish Dog'

The Broholmer, or Mastiff of Broholm Castle in Denmark, is not likely to appear in Britain for some time, for its fanciers in its native land are determined to retain stock until such time as their own gene pool is satisfactory. The Broholmer Society now has over 300 members, with some 200 dogs registered. The rule over selling abroad will only be reconsidered when there are 300 dogs registered from 8 different lines. The selection programme began in 1974 and within 15 years 100 dogs suitable for registration had emerged. It was in 1974 that enthusiast Jytte Weiss wrote an article 'In Search of the Broholmer', after the last specimen of the breed was believed to have died in 1956. A responding telephone call to her brought to light an eleven year old dog, 78cms at the withers and weighing almost 80 kgs. This dog, when examined, met the demands of the 1886 breed standard. Other dogs of this type were then discovered.

Favoured by Kings

 At one time, it was believed that fawn was the classic colour for the breed, but researches revealed that there had been a black variety in the Grib Skov region of North Sjelland. The Danish kings apparently favoured the fawns in the hunting field, but farmers, butchers and foresters in that region preferred the black variety, the colour favoured too in the nightdogs at the Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen. This colour was accepted by the FCI in 1982, when the standard was accepted by them.

Breeding Programme

 As the breeding programme developed blacks were mated with fawns but this produced tricolours, rather like the Swiss Cattle Dog breeds. Black to black matings were eventually dropped because the progeny lacked essential breed type. Fawns, from fawn parents, were bigger and stronger. The extant standard permits just three colours: clear fawn with a black mask/muzzle, deep fawn and black, usually with small white markings on the chest and toes. The ideal size is considered to be between 75 and 80cms at the withers. Great size is thankfully not desired and, commendably, balance, virility and health are considered a higher priority.
Leading fancier Jytte Weiss has stated that "we have paid particular attention to the very good character and mentality of the Broholmer." Although the guarding qualities of the breed are valued, a stable good-natured temperament, the famed magnanimity of the mastiff breeds and, especially, tolerance of children are wisely valued more. The more powerful the dog, the more caution has to be exercised in today's society. A disciplined biddable dog is also required by hunters. A bad-tempered hound is a menace in kennels; spirit and tenacity must never be confused with undesired aggression.

Boarhound Role

 This breed is very likely to have been the boarhound of the Danish kings. The Great Dane or German boarhound may well have developed from this breed, the added stature coming from an infusion of Suliot Dog blood, the latter being favoured as the parade-dog of German regiments. The Suliot Dogs came from the Suli Mountains in Epirus, base of the renowned Molossian dogs. An under-rated figure in the survival of this once famous breed is Danish archaeologist Count Niels Frederik Sehested from Broholm. In the middle of the 19th century he had his interest aroused from old prints depicting the breed. His work led, in time, to 120 pups being placed with notable Danes who promised to promote the resurrected breed. Two of these were King Frederik VII and the Countess Danner, who referred to his pups as 'Jaegerspris' dogs, after the name of his favourite estate. One of these, Tyrk, can be seen, preserved, in the Museum of Zoology in Copenhagen. Large fawn dogs were subsequently bred on the estates of the Count of Broholm. Dogs of this appearance were also utilised by cattle dealers and, rather like the Rottweiler in Southern Germany, became known as 'slagterhund' or butchers' dogs.

Choice of Title

 As most were in the Broholm area, the breed was renamed. The first breed standard was cast when the first Danish dog show was held in the gardens of Rosenberg Castle in 1886. In his monumental work 'Dogs of all Nations' of 1904, Van Bylandt described the breed as The Danish Dog or Broholmer, 29" at the shoulder, weighing about 125lbs and fawn or 'dirty yellow' in colour. He illustrated the breed with two dogs, Logstor and Skjerme, owned by J. Christiansen and A. Schested (sic) of Nykjobing. These dogs displayed bigger ears than the contemporary breed. The extant breed standard sets out, as faults, long ears and a long-haired coat, faults which English Mastiff breeders must now face. No mastiff breed will retain type unless faults are acknowledged and then remedied. English Mastiffs have relatively big ears, despite the standard's words on ears, as well as a lengthening of the coat, which is not being penalised. If essential breed type is to be conserved, all breeds must be bred to their standard. It is pleasing to know that the Broholmer is in safe hands.

"The Danish dog, which is generally large and smooth hair'd...while he is near you, nobody dare touch you or any thing belonging to you."
'The Gentleman Farrier' of 1732.