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Monday, February 11, 2008

Bandogges History A Breed in Progress by Martin J. Leiberman

**With New Commentary Below**

Bandogges History A Breed in Progress
by: Martin J. Leiberman

In the middle nineteen sixties John Bayard Swinford, VMD began crossing American Pit Bull Terriers with English Mastiffs. I had a similar ideology and we were eventually introduced by a mutual acquaintance. John and I remained friendly for over three years. During that time we combined ideas and collaborated on a number of breed specific issues. Our goal was to breed a large super Mastiff, "a dog fearing nothing made of flesh." Our work began by crossing English Mastiffs with Pit Bulls. However, over time it became apparent that garnering English Mastiffs for this project was increasingly difficult. We needed to bring in an infusion of outside blood. We looked at our options and came up with the Italian Bull Dog, an ancient European Mastiff.

We liked the primitive over done appearance of the dog. We liked the natural suspicion exhibited by the breed. In addition, we liked the hard bonding characteristic of the breed. We didn't like the differential in skull size between the bitches and dogs. We also had a problem with the breed's lack of (prominent) dentition. Plus, many of the Italian Bull Dog bitches have a condition called cat face. These dogs lack length of muzzle (often times) and it impedes endurance and the ability to bite. The late Luigi Forina bred Italian Bull dogs, as they were affectionately called in those days. That was well before folks called them Neapolitan Mastiffs. Senior Forino lived on Logan Street in Brooklyn, not far from the queen's border. Luigi, allowed us to harvest blood from a well-made 240-pound stud dog. This blood was crossed back into our (existing) brood bitches.

We now had the fresh blood our project needed. The impact of the hybrid-vigor factor surfaced immediately. Without question we had created a superior mastiff. This being the first responsibility of the Bandogge project. Conversely, we also created an inferior American Pit Bull Terrier. However, the goal of the Bandogge breeder should not be to improve the Pit Bull Terrier, as this would prove to be futile. However, to improve the mastiff, with their many faults would be a reasonable challenge. Our primary focus would be to improve motor skills, to thicken nerves and capture a higher degree of gameness. One must never loose sight of an important historical fact. It took three hundred years to create the perfect bull and terrier cross. Having said this, it is also safe to assume the larger the dog the longer the journey to perfection.

One must view the Bandogge as an ongoing work in progress of a breed in progress. It is my opinion that our first generation breeding produced pups that were vastly superior to their Mastiff parents. This is not arrogance, but fact. Ergo, I am comfortable stating that the first segment of our genetic journey was a success. The breeding that followed continued to demonstrate reasonable gains. John Swinford died in the fall of 1972. I continued to breed and promote our project well into the next decade. I guess I became distracted by responsibility. I have not put pups on the ground for many years. In truth, I no longer have the temperament to deal with the voluminous numbers of un-coachable puppy buyers. Today's breeding environment has endless options. The modern breeder of Bandogges has a wealth of outside blood to infuse into his or her kennel. Rare breeds are no longer rare! The world has become smaller, more transparent and less mysterious.

In terms of the Bandogge project, I feel the best has yet to come! It is nice to see young people like Mario and Vicki Governale realize the true potential of the Bandogge. More importantly they are willing to run with the torch and tackle (endless daily) kennel chores. Mario and Vicki own the Thunder Dome facility. The kennel is spacious; the atmosphere is feral and clean. I am pleased that folks like Mario and Vicki are so passionate about the development of the Bandogge. I am certain it would please John Swinford as well.


"John and I remained friendly for over three years" - This shows that Mr. Leiberman's efforts occurred both independent of, concurrently to and thereafter Dr. Swinford's. It shows that whilst they did indeed collaborate, it was for a relatively brief period of time (certainly by dog breeding standards in respect to the fixing of a line(s)) in view of common perceptions and that whilst there were shared elements in terms of standards, Mr. Leiberman's views should be treated as both distinct to and equal of Dr. Swinford's, yet Swinford is seemingly attributed with a disproportionate degree of credit as a result of fame garnered through the books released by one Carl Semenic.

The entire "Swinford concept" was embraced to varying degrees by a number of individuals both in terms of breeding the actual 'Swinford' dogs (Swinford, Leiberman, the Grimm family etc.) and in terms of furnishing the component breeds (Kelly, Ashton, the Sottile family). With Swinford's passing, the concept continued on as it had done for hundreds of years beforehand in Europe, Africa, Asia and beyond, yet the specific Swinford program itself was not sustained, despite the fact others maintained an affinity toward the concept. There will no doubt be opinions as to why this might be, but one part of the explanation must be that insufficient progress had been made to produce a consistent, worthwhile line to preserve or even to play a significant role within the continuing programs of others:

The Sottile family were one of the earliest to import numbers of rare breed mastiff and continued to own and breed these dogs; Neapolitans and Cane Corso amongst them.

The Pitbull fraternity continued along their path as before, with the concept holding little to no interest for 'serious dog men'

The Grimm family were never sufficiently happy with the Swinford dogs and later gave them up upon discovery of the American Bulldog, which was described as being that which the Swinford was always meant to be; so much so that this sentiment was conveyed by the family through David Putnam's popular publication, "The Working American Bulldog".

Mr. Leiberman's efforts continued on for a period after Swinford's death; "I continued to breed and promote our project well into the next decade" and he also went on to set-up a very successful business within the pet/working dog industry, which in part may explain in part how he "became distracted by responsibility".

As pertains to the use of the Neapolitan, Mr. Leiberman makes quite clear his likes and dislikes in the aforementioned article. He also clearly states the the majority of issues pertained to the females of the breed and that they made use of a male for purposes of their breeding. The effect of this infusion of Neapolitan into the existing EM and APBT combinations was that "Without question we had created a superior mastiff."

Whilst it is mentioned that "Conversely, we also created an inferior American Pit Bull Terrier" it must be remembered that at this time, dog fighting was by and large a "tolerated activity" by the authorities and still a persistent albeit small part of 'popular male culture'. The only context in which this comment holds any pertinence is in the context of the 'box' or fighting dog. However, as Leiberman clearly goes on to state, "the goal of the Bandogge breeder should not be to improve the Pit Bull Terrier" instead it is to "...improve the mastiff".

This returns to the point of breeding in the modern age. Thunderdome Bandogges made use of the very same combinations of breeds employed by Dr. Swinford and Mr. Leiberman; indeed the EM, Neo, Bull & Terrier and also the American Bulldog combined to produce the very dogs that Mr. Lieberman referred directly to in his glowing endorsement of the Thunderdome programme with owners "so passionate about the development of the Bandogge" producing dogs to such a standard that, as Mr. Leiberman himself puts it "I am certain it would please John Swinford as well."

Mr. Leiberman's thoughts clearly were not in isolation, as the dogs Mr. Leibermans comments were based upon (amongst them Thunderdome's Silver Belle, Bodacious Bo, Hurricane Rosie and Mad Max) and their descendants (Gator, Harden's CJ, Blockbuster's Porsche, Taboo, Atlas, Lara, Zara and through cooperation with DK9; Storm Bruin, Richie's Hondo etc.) have actively been sought out and used to provide foundation stock for numerous programs around N. America (Blockbuster, Jim Harden, DK9 to name but three) and around the world (for example: Bandog Farm and On/Off Bandogges in Greece).


Whilst other kennels have enjoyed relative success, only two other programs from N. America have exerted such an influence over quite literally, "the Bandogge world", these are:

Working Class Kennels (WCK9) of California, who have also shipped dogs internationally (Canada, Peurto Rico, America) for commercial and personal security applications. In addition, to along with Hardball Kennels, WCK9 also provided the foundation stock for Elite Kennels and also coincidentally, has more recently contributed fresh blood to the Thunderdome program not to mention gained notoriety for the abilities of its foundation stock to perform in the entertainment industry for Movies such as 'Hulk' and TV including 'Fear Factor'.

Mr. James Walsh, who has seen demand for his dogs as far afield as Denmark, Holland and Italy where they have proven themselves useful not only for security, but also in the arena of weightpull competitions.

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