by   David Hancock

The Bulldog Influence:  The Bullmastiff

 “I believe that none of our present dogs can be traced back above five or six generations. Now, as none can be found without some slight stain on their pedigree, we must select that cross which partakes most of the true character of the mastiff, and this is, I believe, the bulldog.”
The Rev JB Rowe, writing to The Field, 9th January, 1869. (He was an acknowledged and influential Mastiff expert of the mid-1800s).

 “For my own part, I feel convinced that the Mastiff and the Bulldog have sprung from a common origin. The attributes which they still have in common, after so many years of breeding towards opposite points, strengthens me in this belief.”
From Dalziel’s British Dogs of 1888.

The evidence we shall present regarding the dog called the mastiff before and up to 1850 does not conclusively show any great dissimilarity between the mastiff and the bulldog of that time. We mean by that that the dividing line was not specially marked by a great dissimilarity of size or of type. The bulldogs differed in size and the mastiffs also, making them closely allied when it came to the larger bulldog and the smaller mastiff.”
From James Watson’s The Dog Book of 1906.

Importance of Research 

 Researchers looking at the words of writers in the 19th century, especially the Victorians, need to exercise considerable discernment. Far too many so-called authorities of that period knew little of foreign breeds, seemed to regard British breeds as the source of all foreign ones and constantly referred to breeds in earlier times, when pure-breeding was neither desired nor practised. Writers on Mastiffs have produced more inventions than perhaps any other breed historians. It is important too to keep in mind that writers in the last century came mostly from the educated monied classes in times when class distinction was at its height. Just as Dr Caius, a scholar not a sportsman, had his leg pulled by the dogmen of his day, so too were far too many 19th century writers out of touch with breeders of dogs not used in the hunting and shooting fields. In this way, sheepdogs, terriers and dogs used by uneducated people were rarely adequately covered, whilst foxhounds, pointers and setters had whole libraries written about them.

Lack of Recognition

 Quotes from British writers on dogs at the turn of the century therefore need qualification if they are to have real value. Both Bulldogs and Mastiffs of Bullmastiff conformation are nearly always described as large Bulldogs or small Mastiffs, with hints of interbreeding to justify the size. On the continent, writers, with the exception of the dreaded Buffon, were much more precise and are therefore of greater value. They knew the difference between a 'grosse bullenbeisser' and a 'kleine bullenbeisser', both in appearance and use. Dogs of Bullmastiff conformation and employment were commonplace in 19th century Britain but had no distinctive breed title and therefore no recognition.

Lack of Knowledge

 Richard Thornhill, in his 'The Shooting Directory' of 1804, quotes Buffon as stating: "The Bull Dog with the Mastiff produces a mongrel which is called the strong Bull Dog, and is much larger than the real one, and approaches it more than the Mastiff". A more enlightened interpretation would be, not the expression "strong Bull Dog", but Dogue de Forte Race which embraces the chien de nuit or night-dog and the Dogue de Bordeaux. John Lawrence, in his 'The Sportsman's Repository' of 1820, refers to a "Mastiff who might have a dip or two of the Bull Dog blood in him". These writers did not have the knowledge to describe three acknowledged forms of mastiff-type dogs: the large (and heavy) mastiff, the intermediate lighter squarer-jawed dog and the smaller more heavy-headed bulldog.

Long in Existence

 In the mid to late 19th century, writers such as 'Idstone' and 'Stonehenge', influential then and now, continued the trend of always referring to this intermediate lighter broad-mouthed dog as a mastiff-bulldog blend and never as a breed-type in its own right. By 1886, 'Stonehenge' was writing in his 'Dogs of the British Islands' (fifth edition), in connection with the Bulldog: "...the crosses in which he has been used are now established." Fanciers of the grosse bullenbeisser on the European mainland would have laughed at such a 'revelation'; there never was a clear distinction between Mastiffs and Bulldogs except by way of size and head. The intermediate form, called the grosse bullenbeisser for centuries, called here the Bull and Mastiff then the Keeper's Night-dog and now the Bullmastiff has long been here. I agree with Count V. Hollander, who wrote in 'The Kennel' of March 1911: "The public know very little of the qualities of the Bull-Mastiff and, what is more, that it has been in existence for some considerable time."

The Nightdog Role

 The Bullmastiff is usually described in articles on dogs only in its one time role as the gamekeepers' night-dog. Such a description does scant justice to a breed-type which survived centuries of mixed breeding, indicating a strong perennial identity, and of brutal use by man, in the hunting field, the baiting of wild animals and as a butcher's dog, used to pin wayward bulls. The Bullmastiff is also usually described as a Mastiff/Bulldog cross, which overlooks the Bullmastiff's long existence as a large Bulldog or smaller Mastiff before being finally accepted as a breed in its own right. The best summary might be that there are three British mastiff breeds, sharing the same ancestry. In the night-dog role however, this ancestry had its distinct value for the Bullmastiff. It’s worth noting the words of Webb in his quaintly titled Dogs, Their Points, Whims, Instincts and Peculiarities of 1883: “Mr Legh (of Lyme Hall) accounted for a second type of mastiff at Lyme…saying he had for some years had Lord Stamford’s breed for night dogs for his keepers, but had never allowed them to be crossed” – i.e. with his Lyme Hall strain of Mastiff.

Recognition of an Established Type

 For the title Keeper's Night-dog to be utilised in Britain was a significant advance for this distinct type of dog. For the first time it was appreciated that there was a breed-type between the big Mastiff and the smaller Bulldog. It meant that the three sizes of mastiff-like dogs were each accepted in their own right. The ensuing breed title, accepted in due course by the Kennel Club as Bullmastiff, must not be misinterpreted by those persisting with the notion that the Bullmastiff was somehow invented in Edwardian times after an inspired cross between two different breeds. Such an interpretation displays a complete lack of understanding of how the three British breeds: Mastiff, Bullmastiff and Bulldog, came into being. It is significant that the Bullmastiff type predominates in the mastiff breeds of the world, with the French and Spanish breeds and the Boerboel of South Africa being closer to this type than the Mastiff of England.

Targeting the Dog

 In his 'The Gamekeeper at Home' of 1879, Richard Jeffries recounts the sort of desperate situation in which Keeper's Night-dogs were regularly placed: "In the last party (the squire's) were six men and a mastiff dog; four of the men had guns, the gentleman only a stout cudgel. They came upon the gang (of poachers) in a drive deep in shadow. With a shout the four or five men in the drive or green lane, slipped back behind the trees, and two fired, killing the mastiff dog on the spot and 'stinging' one man in the legs." It is interesting that the poachers made a high priority of killing the dog.

'Terror of all the Idle Boys'

 In his classic 'Dog Breaking' of 1909, the esteemed General Hutchinson was writing of a night-dog: "The appearance of the formidable-looking animal, and the knowledge of his powers, more effectually prevented egg-stealing than would the best exertions of a dozen watchers. He was the terror of all the idle boys in the neighbourhood. Every lad felt assured that, if once 'Growler' were put upon his footsteps, to a certainty he would be overtaken, knocked down, and detained until the arrival of the keeper." There is a canine instinct being capitalised upon very effectively. In his 'Recollections – Poachers, of 1850, Grantley Berkeley, wrote: "The first dog I could call my own was a black one, of a cross between the bull and the mastiff...His name was 'Grumbo'...I saw the back of one of the men, his figure stationary, his hands held high above his head, and Grumbo, my faithful, sagacious dog, a yard in front of him, barring his path, couched like a lion in the act to spring, his eyes, not his teeth, fixed on the fellow's throat. The menace sufficed, he stood in terror...and in this position I presently seized him by the collar." The Bulldog-Mastiff cross was clearly both known and respected.

Under Control

 'Stonehenge', writing in his 'Dogs of the British Islands', gave us this view: "...there is probably no variety of the species which combines so much strength and power of doing mischief with such docility and amiability, and hence he is, par excellence, the keeper's dog...every one of experience knows that many keeper's dogs, which are fully half bull, are perfectly under control even with severe provocation..." There is the best possible terminology for the Breed Standard's words on temperament in the breed! There were six entries of "Yard or Keeper's Night Dogs" at the 1871 Crystal Palace exhibition. Eight years later, 'Stonehenge' was writing in his 'The Dog in Health and Disease': "The bulldog (is) an excellent watch, and as a guard unequalled, except perhaps by the bull-mastiff, a direct cross from him." The early use of the breed title is spoiled by the traditional lack of knowledge of broad-mouthed dog history. In his valuable 'The Dog Book' of 1906, James Watson referred to: "Another old breeder of mastiffs for use by keepers was John Crabtree, who while making his rounds as gamekeeper, found a long and low brindle mastiff bitch in a trap...she came from Lancashire, and Crabtree always said she had bulldog blood in her."

Function Rules

 In France such a dog would have been called a chien de nuit or chien du guet, in Germany a grosse bullenbeisser (sometimes a 'boar-lurcher') and in Denmark a Danish dog. Around 1850, in Denmark, Sehested started to re-create the old Danish dog, now called the Broholmer after his estate at Funen. He knew full well that there had been an intermediate mastiff-like dog, in between the Brabanter/Boxer size and the much heavier mastiff type. Only in Britain did the in-between dog lack recognition. Incidentally, gamekeeper Crabtree's long, low, brindle "mastiff" bitch, named 'Duchess' by him, was mated to Holdsworth's 'Lion' of the Bold Hall strain. A bitch from this mating was later mated by Crabtree to Waterton's 'Tiger', a red fawn Great Dane, illustrating very clearly the mixed and often unknown breeding behind the dogs used by gamekeepers.

 "In many parts of the country it is the custom for keepers and watchmen to be provided with night-dogs, and useful co-adjutors they make if only they have been properly trained...Usually the Bull-Mastiff is the breed selected for the purpose, and brindle if possible."
'Breaking and Training Dogs' by 'Pathfinder' 1906

 "...it is better to have a very large animal, whose growls alone are somewhat terrifying, and whose size is bound to impose respect. At the same time, growling is not sufficient; the dog must be able and willing at any time to 'go in' at a nod from his master, and he must take his death, if necessary, when called upon to protect him."
'Training a Keeper's Night Dog' from 'Dog Breaking' by 'Wildfowler' 1915

 "Shortly before the second war, I read that many of them were employed...in guarding the diamond mines at Kimberley. The fifty that went on sentry duty every night round the square mile of barbed wire fencing that protected the mines, did work that had previously been entrusted to fifty armed men. Only four men had to be used with the dogs"
A Croxton Smith on Bullmastiffs in his 'Dogs since 1900' of 1950

 "...the muzzle is deep and broad, showing more Mastiff than Bulldog quality..."
Clifford Hubbard on the Bullmastiff in his 'Dogs in Britain' of 1948

 "This breed was dormant for a great many years, but again grew in favour with those who like a noble animal."
Hutchinson's Dog Encyclopaedia of 1934, on the Bullmastiff. 

Blended Blood

 Of interest to Bullmastiff devotees are the references to bull and mastiff crosses in the last century. In his 'Dogs of the British Islands', 'Stonehenge' wrote that: "...the proportion of bull ought to be small, not exceeding one-eighth...a much worst strain in the pedigree of the mastiff is the cross with the bloodhound, which has been tried in order to give majesty to the expression...the temperament is sadly interfered with...the lips are too pendulous and the eye sunken..." There are plenty of present day Mastiffs with such faults and Bullmastiff breeders must be vigilant too.

Bulldogs in Name Only

 Of even greater interest are the words of a Captain Garnier, quoted by 'Stonehenge': "By crossing, then, the bulldog with the mastiff, we merely combine two breeds which a century ago were identical...In using the cross, however, it would, of course, be advisable to select a brindled or fallow dog...We have an illustration of the bull cross in King and his produce...the under jaw slightly under-hung, a full prominent eye, short muzzle, and square forehead...The shortness of the muzzle makes it look broader than it really is, and the squareness of the forehead makes that part look fuller...in the particular case of King the bull cross has had no very decided effect but that need not prove an objection to that cross, unless it can be shown that the bulldog used was the best of his class. For there are 'bulldogs and bulldogs'; and it is only in the best specimens that the head will measure more round in proportion to their size than the heads of well-bred mastiffs, the squareness of forehead and shortness of muzzle in the bulldog contributing to make their heads look larger and fuller in proportion to their size than they really are."

Bulldogs by Function not Name

 It is very important to keep in mind that the word 'bulldog' was once used to describe any dog used in bull-baiting and these dogs would not have resembled the modern breed of Bulldog. The remark of Capt. Garnier that there are "bulldogs and bulldogs" has relevance too for Bullmastiff breeders of today. In his 'Itinerary' of 1598, Hentzer was recording: "There is a place built in the form of a theatre, which serves for baiting of bulls and bears; they are fastened behind, and then worried by great English bulldogs..." The latter were clearly not the size of the modern breed of Bulldog. In his 'The Every-Day Book', William Hone quotes from 'Zoological Anecdotes' of a lion-bait in Vienna: "In the year 1791, at which period the custom of baiting wild beasts still existed in that city, a combat was to be exhibited between a lion and a number of large dogs. As soon as the noble animal made his appearance, four large bulldogs were turned loose upon him..." A different scholar might have described such dogs as mastiffs but the size of bulldogs clearly varied. In his well-researched 'Brutes and Beasts', John Swain states that: "The pug-dog cross was successful in shortening the nose, but was unsuccessful from a sporting point of view, as they gave the bulldog that extraordinary placidity of temperament for which the breed is famous." There really are 'bulldogs and bulldogs', as Capt Garnier once stated!  

 "The bull-dog differs from all others, even from the mastiff, in not barking as a warning of an attack, but at once grappling with his antagonist, and without in the least estimating their comparative weight and powers. 'We have seen one' says Colonel Smith, 'pinning an American bison and holding his nose down, till the animal gradually brought forward his hind feet, and, crushing the dog to death, tore his muzzle out of the fangs, most dreadfully mangled.'"
'Dogs and their Ways' by the Rev. Charles Williams, 1863

 This account has been challenged over the years as being an unlikely feat. But, as described later,  big game hunters provide valuable corroboration. A smaller dog had the advantage when 'pinning', a larger one when 'holding'.

The Bullmastiff's Inheritance

 Against a background of Mastiff, Bulldog and night-dog breeding at the end of the last century, is the breed of Bullmastiff any more manufactured than the modern breed of Mastiff or Bulldog? Behind the Mastiff as a recognised breed is Great Dane, Bloodhound, the old fashioned St. Bernard, 'Alpine mastiff', Thibet 'mastiff' and both Bullmastiff and Bulldog blood. Behind the Bulldog is the blood of the Spanish 'alano', introduced by the renowned Bill George, the baiting dogs of mixed and varied ancestry, small Mastiffs and the Pug. Clearly, such mixed blood needs skilful blending if a uniform type is to emerge and then be stabilised. The immense bravery and boldness of the Bullmastiff was acknowledged early by the leading expert of his day on guard-dogs, Lt Col EH Richardson, in his 'Watchdogs' of 1924: "The bullmastiff, while not so large, can also be too vehement for average purposes, and takes a male to control him. He has his uses, however, when a man is faced by an exceptionally dangerous and lonely situation at home or abroad. Absolutely undaunted in attack, and with his reputation alone carrying added value, this is a fine breed for special circumstances." This is a remarkable tribute from a man not given to lavish praise and indicates how quickly the 'new' breed's reputation had spread.

Early Breeders

 Early pioneer breeders include JH Biggs of Osmaston Hall in Derbyshire, W Burton of Burtonwood kennels in Nottingham, JH Barrowcliffe (later president of the Midland Bull-Mastiff Club), HEV Toney, VJ Smith, J Barnard and SE Moseley. In his 'The Complete Book of the Dog' of 1922, the leading writer on dogs of his time, Robert Leighton, was recording: "...the most popular of all half-breeds, as a watchdog, is the Bull Mastiff, who is almost worthy to be called a distinct breed." In 1924, the Kennel Club gave official recognition to the breed. The Midland Bull-Mastiff Club was registered in 1925 and The National Bullmastiff Police Dog Club in 1926.
Incorrect Pedigrees
Moseley's Farcroft Fidelity was the first winning Bullmastiff, with his Farcroft Silvo being made up as the first Bullmastiff bitch champion. Moseley also bred Mastiffs, one of them at least bearing the Farcroft name, Farcroft Watchman. Moseley, in 1925, was found guilty by the KC of conduct injurious to those interested in canine matters and censured. He had attempted to pass off an illustration of a Mastiff in a well-known book as his Bullmastiff Farcroft Formidable, supplied incorrect pedigrees and obtained an Alsatian bitch puppy by means of a trick. He was an influential but untrustworthy breeder. I would not consider his pedigrees to be accurate.

The Role of Moseley

 His breeding formula too doesn't make any sense genetically. He is alleged to have summarised his breeding technique as:
"Taking a mastiff bitch and a bulldog I produce a 50/50. A bitch of these I mate to a mastiff dog and gave me a 75% mastiff 25% bullbitch, which I mate to a 50/50 dog. A bitch from this litter is 62 1/2% mastiff 37 1/2% bulldog. I mate this to a 50/50 dog, and a bitch from this litter I put to a 62 1/2% mastiff 37 1/2% bulldog which gives me approximately my ideal 60% mastiff 40% bulldog." Now read the words of Bateson in his 'The Progress of Genetic Research' of 1906: "...dogs for example, derived from a cross a few generations back have been spoken of as 1/8 bulldog, or 1/32 pointer blood, and so forth. Such expressions are quite uncritical, for they neglect the fact that the characters may be transmitted separately and that an animal may have only 1/32 of the 'blood' of some progenitor, and yet be pure in one or more of its traits." I suspect that Mr. Moseley bred on the phenotype until by trial and error he obtained consistently a lighter Mastiff. His Farcroft dogs didn't usually display any evidence of Bulldog blood. Bullmastiff breeders in the 21st century must be careful not to produce dogs called Bullmastiffs, but in reality Mastiffs with Bulldog's heads. The Bulldog head is genetically very dominant.

Wrong Sires

 In April 1921, Sir Roger, a dog sired by Poor Joe (Bullmastiff) and out of Peggy (Bullmastiff) was registered as a cross-breed (Bullmastiff). In August 1921, Poor Jerry, from the same litter was registered as a Mastiff. In 1922, Peggy herself was registered as a Mastiff! King Baldur and Penkhill Lady appear as the same sire and dam in both Mastiff and Bullmastiff registrations. The first Bullmastiff to win a prize at Crufts, Farcroft Fidelity, was actually sired by Shireland Vindictive but was sent for a service from his alleged father Vindictive, the truth only being extracted much later. It also transpired that Shireland Vindictive's sire was in fact a Bulldog called Wellington Marquis, and not Vindictive at all. Farcroft Fidelity had not a little influence on the developing breed of Bullmastiff; are his papers of any value? The registration of Farcroft Formidable was cancelled by the KC in 1925 after the owner of its claimed sire, Gower King, stated that this was impossible! Are any of the Farcroft pedigrees reliable?

False Records

 Breeding even in registered dogs was not always carefully conducted one hundred years ago. Here are just a few examples from the turn of the century, based on data promulgated in Britain's Kennel Gazette. In 1901, Mr John Fox's Mastiff Clifton Lass was registered as a Mastiff and as having been born in 1894. In 1903, Mr Fox registered Clifton Terror and Clifton Hall as Mastiffs, out of Clifton Lass by Thorneywood Terror. In 1905, Mr W Blackburn registered Ratcher Hill Bessie as a Mastiff, again out of Clifton Lass and by Thorneywood Terror. There were no caveats on the breeds being mated at a time when cross-breeds were regularly registered. In 1912, Mr C Richardson registered two Bullmastiffs, Diamond, born in 1911 and Grip, born in 1907. Both these Bullmastiffs came from a mating between Thorneywood Terror and Clifton Lass, previously listed as Mastiffs. When tracing early Mastiff descent it is important to know that Wolseley and Wolsey, Scaufell and Scawfell are the same dogs, with varied spellings.  

Worthless Records

 Even more startling, the pedigree reveals that Clifton Lass gave birth to Diamond when she was 17 years old! Is that likely? Here is just one exposed case in which not only are breeds treated in a cavalier manner but human credulity stretched to the limit. Breeding records like these are worthless, making not only a mockery of the system still being perpetuated today but of every painstaking examination of breeding records of those times. Thorneywood Terror, incidentally, was considered to be the most effective night-dog in Britain, giving demonstrations of man-catching at livestock shows around the country. He was a brindle weighing about 90lbs and had evident Bulldog blood; he was without doubt a prototypal Bullmastiff. He was widely used as a Mastiff sire, of Stanford Busker (born 20 July 1902) and Allestree Judy (born August 1902) for example. There is merit sometimes in crossing two breeds in pursuit of enhanced function or virility but false records help no breed.

Conserving the Real Breed

 The Farcroft kennel of Moseley (which also contained the odd Bloodhound) was however undeniably influential in the stabilising of the emerging breed and its introduction to the show circuit. His motto was admirable: "Farcrofts are what Bull-Mastiffs should be - Faithful and Fearless but not Ferocious. Big enough to be powerful but not too big to be active". He played a leading role in the eradication of Great Dane and smooth St Bernard crosses. His desire to produce a breed that was 60% Mastiff and 40% Bulldog needs to be kept in mind whenever the breed is judged or bred. Only then can the authentic breed be perpetuated. The long trail from big game hunter to heavy hound, then from bullenbeisser to keeper's night-dog, is a remarkable story of how a functional type can survive non-pedigree breeding for centuries to emerge as a distinct type which breeds true.

Wiser Breeding

 The Bullmastiff fanciers of today owe a great deal to the named and unknown devotees who handed this splendid breed on for us to safeguard in our lifetimes. We should honour their work by breeding dogs which they would have admired: physically and mentally sound and truly functional. The pursuit of show success must never be the over-riding aim. Breeding mainly from dogs awarded prizes by incompetent judges is extremely unwise; breeding your precious bitch to a sire which wins but has no family strength is the sign of a lack of knowledge. But this is the pattern in the British show scene of the 1990s. We must be careful not to under-promote this English breed; 672 were registered in 2013, only a third of the 2004 totals. May the new millennium produce greater wisdom and enhanced skill in the breeders of this fine breed. That 'greater wisdom' already resides in the Finnish Bullmastiff Association's Breed Committee's rules, set out below:

Rules of the Breed Committee:
The stud/bitch must be
1. Nice tempered and healthy.
2. At least 18 months old before mating.
3. Placed at a minimum of 5 shows by at least 2 different judges as puppy or in open classes, with at least 3 excellent grades and 2 very goods.
4. Officially X-rayed for HD, not earlier than at 18 months of age.
5. Officially eye-examined for hereditary eye diseases. 
6. Officially X-rayed for elbow dyspasia; the litter will be registered whatever the result.

For breeding, a dog or a bitch cannot be used if
1. it is shy, nervous or aggressive.
2. it has a crank tail.
3. it has more than two of the following defects - weak muzzle, thin bone, poor rib-cage, insufficient angulation, too much loose skin, rose ears or too light an eye.
4. its bite is not according to the breed standard.
5. its X-ray result is HD E1 or E2.
6. its testacles are not normal.
7. it has suffered from severe growth problems in its legs.
The following mating combinations must be avoided:
1. if both display too much black i.e. too 'sooty'.
2. if both have a big white mark on the brisket.
3. if both have a worse HD-result than B2; if one has C1-D2, the other must be free.
4. if both have uneven teeth.
5. if both have a long or sway back.
6. if both are under or over the standard height at the withers.
Do any of our Breed Clubs actually have a breeding committee?

Capitalising on the Guarding Instinct                                           
The changes in temperament as well as in anatomy from show ring criteria in a number of the more popular mastiff breeds has undermined their capability as guard/patrol dogs. But I believe the instinct is still there and just needs awakening. For two and a half years, in the mid 1990s, I used two Bullmastiffs to patrol the 1,000 acre country estate I was managing then. The estate embraced woodland, pastureland, a fast flowing river, formal gardens, the historic hall and the usual obstacles such as culverts, farm gates, stone walls and dense undergrowth, especially bracken and rhododendron. There was extensive public access and every type of farm animal grazing there. There was also plenty of game and a wide variety of vermin, including mink. The estate was threatened by vandals, poachers, trespassing picnickers, dumpers of illegal waste and thieves. My dogs had to be steady to stock, trained to ignore game and able to negotiate every kind of obstacle, whether clearing fences or wriggling under wire fencing. They had to operate under voice control, off the lead.
Some years before a large garden ornament had been stolen, and, before my dog-patrols, a couple of valuable items had been stolen from the Hall. There was a need for visible security and a perceptible deterrent. I had used dogs before, when serving as a soldier: Alsatians (before their renaming as GSDs) as patrol and anti-ambush dogs and Labrador Retrievers as tracker dogs and body/explosive detecting dogs. The requirements were of course very different indeed. The Alsatians were trained to indicate any human presence ahead during jungle operations; the Bullmastiffs had to spot human presence and react to identified activity, whether it was children inflicting minor damage or walkers quite legally on a footpath. In other words, they had to exercise discretion, perform beyond their training, never act on impulse, in short - think for themselves.
Much is written about intelligence in dogs. I had working sheepdogs for thirty years and they were superb dogs, easy to train, quick to respond, clever and eager to please. But which is the brighter dog, the one which is easy to train and will do exactly what it is told to do, nothing more, or one which may be less easy to train and more measured in its responses but thinks instinctively for itself? Is it really more intelligent to spend your days doing man's bidding, only using the training skills instilled and just responding to instructions, or, to assess each situation separately using inherited skills?
When using my Bullmastiffs as patrol dogs on an estate open to the public I could not possibly allow them to bark menacingly at a law-abiding rambler or threaten a child playing hide and seek. Luckily Bullmastiffs rarely bark and have a great love of children. Similarly, I did not want them to wag their tails at travellers seeking a future illegal campsite or livestock thieves carrying out a reconnaissance. The Bullmastiffs I used lived with us as pets; they were not trained to act as guard-dogs. Yet never once in two and a half years did they 'misread' a contact; they eyed suspicious characters with justified suspicion, they 'noticed' harmless human activity without their hackles going up or their throats rumbling with the beginnings of a growl. That is instinctive behaviour at work. A breed which doesn't bark reactively, as so many so-called guard-dogs do - often out of fear, is a bonus too.
Controlled Power
On one early Sunday morning estate patrol, I came across two men on a fungi-foray, harmless trespassers it turned out. They were clearly very frightened of my dogs, and, in a friendly conversation, I asked them why. "Because they look so formidable!" said one. And a nine stone Bullmastiff with a strong head, black mask and muzzle and a steadfast gaze - that studies strangers with an uncompromising focus, a definite deterrent. Snarling guard-dogs straining on a leash look savage; a powerful silent is dog, unleashed but under voice control, eyeing you disconcertingly, leaves a lasting impression of controlled power. As an infantry soldier, I conducted anti-terrorist operations from Cyprus to Singapore and from Brunei to Belfast. These often involved searching for armed men in caves, outbuildings, house-to-house raids and in thick undergrowth. If you asked me to choose the type of type of dog I would prefer to accompany me on such dangerous activities, I would go for the broad-mouthed, mastiff type such as the Bullmastiff, the Dogue de Bordeaux, the Neapolitan Mastiff, the Perro de Presa Canario, the Tosa, the American Bulldog or the Fila Brasileiro. I would never go for the shepherd dogs however easy it is to train a German, Dutch or Belgian dog. When your life is being threatened who would you prefer to stand with you, a dog bred to guard sheep or a dog originally bred to pull down big game, such as buffalo, boar, bull and stag? Which dog would take the most punishment and fight on? It may only happen once!
Of course, the surviving mastiff breeds are bred for show by breeders who rate appearance ahead of character and working ability, (Such dogs are also threatened by strangely-motivated policemen conducting anti-dog operations on the basis that any dog of substantial build, with a strong head and displaying 'extreme persistence' is a menace to the public. Yet a policeman with such attributes is rightly promoted!) The genes of the old 'holding dogs' are still there however and the key instincts merely dormant. One of the British mastiff breeds, the Bullmastiff, developed as a gamekeeper's night-dog. It is odd though for today's breeders to extol this working past and then breed dogs which couldn't carry out such a role.
Bullmastiffs are fiercely loyal to their owners and famously protective of their family and property. They may not be instinctive retrievers; mine could never see the point of retrieving an object only to see it thrown away again! They may not be built for agility work or temperamentally suited to automaton-dog activities like heelwork. I don't want my dogs to glue their heads to my knee. I very much admire and treasure the Bullmastiff's desire to know why it is required to carry out an instruction. Give me a thinking dog ahead of a clockwork model any day! As the great night-dog man Burton said a century or so ago: "Teach the dog to rely on himself". But we really should exercise their tracking, searching and detaining skills.
A number of breeds take part in Schutzhund or protection dog work. I suspect that the Bullmastiff would instinctively 'down' a man rather than worry an arm protected by a canvas sleeve. Early in the last century, a London vet, Charles Peirce, used to encourage his Bullmastiffs to 'down' a man on command.  Peirce's most celebrated Bullmastiff was a brindle called 'Lion', descended from a famous night-dog Osmaston Viper. Peirce had a fenced-off 'ring' in his yard and he would wager against any man being able to stay on his feet when opposing 'Lion' for just five minutes in this ring. 'Lion' never lost a wager for his owner despite many takers. The dog never harmed his 'challengers', just put them down and 'held' them until ordered to release them. This is instinctive behaviour for a 'holding dog'. It is instinctive behaviour which service-dog providers have never capitalised on. A criminal held by one arm can still fight or even wield a knife or fire a gun. It is a different matter if the criminal is pinned to the ground by a powerful dog - that makes no attempt to savage him. Shepherd dogs have the jaws for savaging. The mastiff breeds have the jaws for 'holding'. A 'holding dog' had to be brave not savage.
Instinctive Behaviour
Like the infantry in battle, the holding dogs had the task in the medieval hunt of closing with the enemy. Close-quarter combat was their speciality. Nowadays we choose breeds because of their so-called trainability rather than their instinctive behaviour. It may save training time and therefore training funds but does it save policemen's lives when the chips are down and a life-or-death struggle between a desperate criminal and a lone policeman is being enacted? Police trainers list the qualities needed in a police dog as: soundness of temperament, courage, stamina, good health, working ability, versatility, controlled aggression, agility and fitness, drive and determination and genetic clearances. No mention is made of instinctive behaviour, the most compelling force in a dog's performance.
There are over 2,500 police-dogs in the UK, 67% are German Shepherds, with Weimaraners, Malinois, Rottweilers, Bouviers and German short-haired Pointers also featuring and interest being shown in the big Russian Black Terrier, I understand. The Bullmastiff was once the choice of Liverpool dockland police and an early breed club was a police one: The National Bullmastiff Police Dog Club, the premier organisation until 1933. What did the policemen of those times know that today's policemen do not? They had the knowledge to appreciate the breed of Bullmastiff. Colonel EH Richardson, Commandant of the War Dog School in the early part of the 20th century, selected and trained thousands of dogs in his long career. He recommended the Bullmastiff for those times: "...when a man is faced by an extremely dangerous and lonely situation at home or abroad. Absolutely undaunted in attack, and with this reputation alone carrying added value, this is a fine breed for special circumstances." Who is listening to a man with unrivalled experience of service-dogs? It is quite extraordinary that in Germany and sadly in the south-east of England too, policemen are waging war on the mastiff breeds, breeds which would offer them the greatest protection when they are under attack from violent criminals.
The 'special circumstances' mentioned by Richardson refers to exactly that kind of life-or-death encounter. Anyone attacked on patrol with a Bullmastiff would have a dead dog before they had a dead patrol-man! A sad but comforting thought. A Bullmastiff looks you in the eye as an equal; some dog trainers actually dislike that. I welcome it. This is a breed seeking a partnership with its handler. From such a partnership comes superb support. This is a sensitive breed, despite their formidable appearance. Anyone wanting a dog on automatic pilot should steer clear of this breed. I like dogs to think for themselves and not depend entirely on commands or instilled reactions. When that emergency comes, you really do need a dog with initiative - and great courage. Try the Bullmastiff!               

"Personally I want no better dog than a Bull Mastiff for police work, and I am ready to back it against any other breed. It may interest you to know that I have made an offer to one of my comrades, who is an Alsationist, to train a Bull Mastiff against an Alsatian to track and be more steady on the trail. I will do all in my power to further this grand all-English breed. Fearless and faithful I have proved it. A gamekeeper friend recommended it to me, and said I should never regret having one. His words were true."
Sgt. Cordy, Police Station, Walsingham, Norfolk. (Quoted in 'Hounds and Dogs' The Lonsdale Library, Vol XIII, Seeley, Service & Co.Ltd, 1932).

"A night-dog should not be less than 80lbs, and if he is 100lbs, strong and active, so much the better. He ought to be able to jump a gate with ease...A night-dog is more valuable for catching a man than fighting one...Teach the dog to rely on himself..."
Mr W Burton, of Thorneywood Kennels, the most knowledgeable nightdog trainer and most experienced user of nightdogs of his day.      

Retaining Type
 In a breed representing a blend of Mastiff and Bulldog blood, it is vital that these two principal ancestor breeds do not separately come through too strongly and change type in the breed. The Bullmastiff has been a breed in its own right long enough to have established its own precise breed type, as drawn up in the word picture of the breed, the Breed Standard. These words apply equally to the Boerboel, the Neopolitan Mastiff, the Cane Corso and the Dogue de Bordeaux; each of these too can become far too Bulldoggy, as this strong ancestral trait manifests itself in some litters. Sadly, some mistaken breed fanciers seem to favour this type, it appeals to their apparent need to have a visibly-pugnacious dog rather than one true to its own breed title. Breed identity matters and breed promotion must always rest on breed type, both in temperament and physique.
The only sad feature of walking a Bullmastiff for me is when other dog-walkers enquire whether the dog is a Rhodesian Ridgeback or worse, in pre-docking ban days, a Boxer 'with a tail'. For English people, in the heart of England, to be able to come up with the name of a Rhodesian or German breed of dog and not be familiar with a native breed is, to me anyway, maddening. It reflects perhaps on past breed fanciers of Bullmastiffs, who have got on with 'fancying' and done little to educate the public or promote the breed. As a direct result there are probably more Dogues de Bordeaux in Britain now than there are Bullmastiffs. The appalling ignorance of those behind the disturbing anti-bullbreed prejudice in some European and North American countries recently, as well as the loose logic behind our now discredited Dangerous Dogs Act, shows what can happen if breed promotion is overlooked. The popular press is not good on dog breeds; when dogs misbehave you can read of 'American Bullmastiffs' when they probably mean American Bulldogs.
But, on the other hand, if a Bullmastiff is so badly bred that it resembles a hefty Pit Bull Terrier, the breed's cause is not helped, especially with the police, who have to implement the DDA. Some years ago, a couple came to my house to purchase a copy of my book on the breed; with them was their 'Bullmastiff'. This dog, friendly and well cared for, looked more like a Boxer than a Bullmastiff, a Boxer that is with a hare-lip! The dog's owners had been told by the well-known breeder of their dog that it would 'grow into that lip'. They really needed to be told too that it would never grow into a proper Bullmastiff!
Conflict with Critiques
I have rarely read a truly definitive article on what constitutes 'type' in any pure-bred breed of dog, so how on earth can judges spot it or indeed breeders breed for it? Oh, lots of writers have repeated sections of the Breed Standard or listed breed points as exemplars of breed type. But breed points can vary in value to the breed; type in any breed is only there when the essential breed points are displayed. Every breed needs type to define its identity. The word 'type' itself shouldn't be left to each individual to define, it needs one agreed meaning. My definition would be on these lines: Type is the manifestation in a breed of those particular innate physical and mental characteristics that, without exaggeration, distinguish the traditional form that a breed should take. In using these words I am seeking to preserve and perpetuate the character and conformation that was stabilised and then established when distinct breeds evolved – nearly always in pursuit of a specific function. I groan when I read show critiques, often by experienced judges, when they praise virtues in exhibits  which are not embraced by the Breed Standard. That surely can only lead to the eroding of breed-type. You only have to look around the contemporary show rings to see that different Bullmastiff breeders are seeking noticeably different varieties of the breed.
So what constitutes true type in the breed of Bullmastiff? No breed standard tells you what is essential in each breed; it is for the Breed Council perhaps to set out the breed's stall. Too difficult to obtain agreement, the pessimists would claim. It varies from kennel to kennel, I was informed by one prominent breeder; so much for breed type! It's all in the Breed Standard, advised another breed elder; but is it? Why does the Standard not state that the nose of a Bullmastiff should be black? The Standard tells us that the ears should be 'folded back', but they are not actually desired to be so. What really makes the Bullmastiff the breed that it is?
How beneficial it would be, before any all-rounder judged the breed for that judge to be handed, not just the Breed Standard, but those essential points which distinguishes the breed of Bullmastiff from say the Dogue de Bordeaux, the Mastiff, the Perro de Presa Canario or the Boerboel. All had a common origin yet have distinct differences, differences which really matter. Is a fawn Boerboel with a full tail not easily confused with a Bullmastiff? Is a brindle Mastiff, 26" at the shoulder, not very very similar to a Bullmastiff? I have seen a Dogue de Bordeaux, with a black nose, looking very much like a Bullmastiff with the same degree of 'wrinkle'. Would a fawn Canary Dog without cropped ears not look like a Bullmastiff?
No One Head
If the Bullmastiff really is, in that damaging expression, a 'head breed', which of the different heads being presented to  show ring judges at the moment, is the one most representative of the breed? If you read 'Exchange and Mart' magazine or attend unofficial bullbreeds' shows or rallies, you will know that Bullmastiffs are being crossed with Dogues de Bordeaux, Neapolitan Mastiffs and American Bulldogs. Bullmastiff devotees may not like it, but it is happening. Unless essential breed type is established for the Bullmastiff, breeders of these hybrids can pass off their pups as pure-bred Bullmastiffs; plenty of genuine Bullmastiff pups are sold without papers.
The Breed Standard of the Bullmastiff does not mention the word 'mask' and does not stipulate a black nose. It could be argued that a black muzzle brings a black nose with it and that dark markings around the eyes constitute a mask. But why not spell it out and reduce the likelihood of arguments? If the black muzzle is essential, why isn't the black mask too? If the coat should be pure and clear in colour, how can two-tone coated dogs become champions? As they have. If the head typifies the breed, how can dogs win with muzzles far less than one third of the distance from the centre of the occiput to the tip of the nose? The words of the Breed Standard don't always protect the breed from its own breeders.
The Bullmastiff is expected to have well-boned forelegs but not well-boned hindlegs, yet be symmetrical in general appearance. Show critiques make constant mention of 'great bone' but the Standard doesn't. A foreign judge at a 2001 championship show placed a Bullmastiff first in Group 2, stressing its 'outstanding bone'. Was he judging shire horses or a breed designed to be active? Another judge's critique in February 2001 stated that: "I found so many which had ultra-short muzzles; a number with over-wrinkled skulls and quite a few with loose flews." There are clearly Bullmastiffs being entered for major shows which defy their own Breed Standard. Do their owners actually know this to be the case?
Ignoring Type
One Bullmastiff kennel seems to favour the Boxer-chin and has champions made up carrying this feature. Surely that is untypical? There were several exhibits at the BBL Spring 2001 show with lurcher tails and brown not fawn coats. No doubt they were bred from! The breed standard has its faults but is quite specific on coat-colour and tail requirements. The judge at the Manchester 2000 show wrote: "This year marks the 75th anniversary of the KC recognition of the Bullmastiff as a pure-bred dog, yet after all this time there is still such a wide variation in type. In some of the classes I was hard pressed to find two of a kind." At the 2001 World Dog Show, a much younger breed, the American Staffordshire Terrier, attracted an entry which looked as though they had all come out of the same dam, so even was their appearance. Is it just a British inability to breed for type?
One Breed Council has pioneered a breed survey scheme and tries to grade breeding stock. If the breed of Bullmastiff is to maintain essential type, perpetuate the classic breed we inherited and not go forward as 'any variety mastiff-type', there is work to be done. The Breed Council could for example set out the ten essential points which embrace breed-type and persuade clubs to put up prizes for the entrant best encapsulating breed-type. Ah, the destructively-minded will claim: Surely the best dogs at the show must encapsulate breed-type. Nice try! But what if the dogs are judged on 'outstanding bone', have brown coats and lurcher tails? It is vitally important, not just for the Bullmastiff - under consideration here - but in every Mastiff breed, for the essential elements of that breed, what actually makes it a breed in its own right, to be clearly laid out and then bred for. Bloodhoundy Mastiffs are just as untypical as Bulldoggy Bullmastiffs!