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Saturday, January 24, 2009

courtesy of Dan UK

The Dog

Captain James Dickie

Hutchinson & Co Limited, 1933

The Mastiff

In ancient days there existed a dog called a Molossus, or Dog of Molosiss in Greece, and from this dog both the bulldog and the mastiff, possibly also the pug, descend. Edmund de Langley, writing in the fourteenth century, mentions the Molossus (mastiff) and the Aluant (bulldog). This appears to be the first occasion when the breeds were mentioned separately. Dr. Caius, on the other hand, mentions only one breed “ the Mastive or Bandogge ” in a book written about 1570, so we presume that, in the Middle Ages, the breeds were frequently cross. I suggest that in future bull-mastiffs be called Bandogges – surely a more attractive name!

The present-day mastiff is an excellent dog from every point of view. He is dignified and is not given to barking, except when necessary, intelligent and very courageous. His traditional job is to act as a guard and companion, and this he does extremely well. In these hard times big dogs which are expensive to keep and do not work for their living (as, for instance, do gun-dogs) are in danger of losing ground as they did during the war. The mastiff is one of our oldest British breeds, a dog possessing the traditional virtues of the Englishman, and it is to be hoped that this breed will not be allowed to suffer.

The Bull-Mastiff (Bandogge or Bandog)

When the Bull-mastiff Club was formed, to standardize a small handy mastiff or large old-fashioned bulldog, there was a dispute as to the name: some wished to call them night-dogs, some bull-mastiffs, some bandogs. Queen Elizabeth or her physician, Doctor Caius, would have been in no doubt at all : bandog is the traditional name.

Though earlier writers distinguished between the Alaunt or Canis Anglicus (bulldog) and the Canis Molossus (mastiff) Caius fails to mention the smaller variety: the “ mastive of bandogge ” was “ An huge dogge, stubborne, eager, burthenous of body and therefore of but little swift-nesse, terrible and fearful to behold and more fierce and fell than any Archadian curre. ”

In Vero Shaw’s opinion this description refers to the bulldog rather than to the Canis Molossus or “mastive” of Edmund de Langley which, being supposed to be of Greek origin, was doubtless the “Arcadian cur.”

In any event, the bulldog and the mastiff were freely interbred between the fourteeth and the nineteenth centuries; the hard and fast line of demarcation appears to be of fairly recent date.

The present-day bull-mastiff, considered simply as a dog, is a magnificent beast.

He was evolved by crossing the old type bulldog (not the toad-like variety) with the mastiff. The result was a dog similar to the Dogue de Bordeaux and the Spanish bulldog (both, it is believed, descended from English bulldogs of the old type).

Some have “ crank ” tails, but the majority of tails are straight.

The dog has enormously powerful jaws, the more so because they are short (the “punishing jaw” business is nonsense from the purely mechanical as well as the practical point of view), an excellent nose and plenty of brain room. For his size he is active. He has a sense of property and is game
without being quarrelsome.

His only fault as a guard might be over-friendliness.

The Bulldog

THREE varieties of “ Alauntz ” are mentioned in The Mayster of Game, written in the fourteen century: “ The which men clepyn Alauntz gentil. Other there byn that men clepyn Alauntz ventreres. Other byn Alauntz of the bocherie.”

The first variety is so “gentil ” that Edmund de Langley, in giving a list of the animals which it would attack, mentions oxen, sheep and swine, “ or to men or to other hounds, for men have seen Alauntz sle her mayster.”

Evidently a nice pet to leave with the children. This variety was shaped like a “ greyhounde ” except the head, “ which shuld be greet and short.”

The second and third varieties were evidently more heavily built, and “ Thei holde fast of here nature.”

They were used for bull-baiting and boar-hunting in company with greyhounds.
Edmund de Langley alludes to mastiffs in addition, but it is fairly clear that they and bulldogs descend from the same parent strain.

Bull- and bear-baiting continued up till about 1850, and it was believed that to bait a bull before slaughtering improved his flesh : to this day many people believe that the flesh of a coursed hare is better than that of a shot one. It may be so.

In old pictures of bull- and bear-baiting the dogs shown are like small, active mastiffs. They were magnificent specimens physically and, necessarily, brave to a fault.

When bull-baiting became unfashionable the dogs were kept only by the lowest classes until, about 1860, they first appeared at shows.

The shows did the dogs more harm than the bulls, bears of Bill Sikes. Lest I be accused of prejudice, I will quote the Natural History Museum : “ Other characteristics are the short, wide skull, the small loins and hind limbs and the strength of the forequarters. These features are exaggerated in the present breed, which is useless for fighting. The skull for instance (as shown by the specimen in the table case), is so broad and underhung as to be a monstrosity, while the outward bending of the legs is excessive.”

It may be noted that the specimen alluded to (a show champion whelped in 1901) is far less of a monstrosity than present-day champions.

The present-day bulldog is born old ; he is a wheezy amiable creature, useless for any purpose, but, usually still retains the indomitable courage of his ancestors.

Doubtless, if a club were formed to revive the old breed it could be done. It would only be necessary to pick out and breed from the least deformed puppies produced by parents themselves not too inbred.

The rapidity with which dogs will throw back to ancestral and natural type is proved by the Brancaster Basset hounds Q. V.

Revive the National Dog

I HAVE been accused by no less a person than the secretary of the London Bulldog Society: he said that I had tried to discredit the National Dog.

I replied that my regret was that the national dog is extinct, or almost so, and has been replaced by a useless, wheezing monstrosity. Underslinging of chassis may improve motor-cars, but it does not improve dogs.

Meanwhile, a correspondent wants a mate for a bull-terrier bitch which is a throw-back to the old bulldog, and there seem to be no bulldogs of the authentic type. Here is a head study of a typical bulldog of seventy years ago : the fact that his ears are cropped gives him a somewhat ferocious appearance, but he has a kind, intelligent eye and plenty of brain-room ; he has a powerful jaw (none of your useless “punishing” length), and terrific muscles to work it.

He has a good nose, too: the flews are not too tight and the nose itself is big, with wide-open nostrils, rather like a Gordon setter’s.

Altogether a magnificent head for a companion dog. His body was equally good.

His courage was proverbial : such dogs attached and were killed by lions and bears in the “good old” cruel days.

This is the Alaunt of old days – the real National Dog of England.

Above is a picture of a bulldog from Jesse’s Anecdotes of dogs (1846). The accompanying text says : “ The bull-dog has been called the most courageous animal in the world …His strength is so great that, in pinning a bull, one of these breed …has been known, by giving a strong muscular twist of his body, to bring the bull flat on his side.

“In consequence also of his high courage and perseverance, a bulldog has gone a greater distance in swimming than any other dog has been known to do. In a match that was made for the purpose, one of these animals fought and beat two powerful Newfoundland dogs.”

All of these statements may be true. The body of the dog has enormous power and heart room for his size ; his build shows speed and agility, only his poor broken face is ugly.

The “ smashed-in face ” was produced by methods that would not be tolerated to-day (cutting of ligaments and beating with a mallet) and has been exaggerated and perpetuated by “ the fancy.” The correct head was illustrated in my last article.

Is this magnificent breed of dog to be allowed to become extinct?


UNFORTUNATELY for the whole race of dogs, nearly all breeders want to sell their puppies as expensively as possible.

The public will give more money for the progeny of a show champion than for an ordinary dog. Naturally, therefore, the breeder caters for the demand regardless of other matters.

Actually it is the sire of the champion who has proved a success, from the breeding point of view, not the champion himself, whose stock may be of indifferent quality.

Logically, therefore, if one wants champions, one should breed from the sires and dams of champions rather than from champions.

Whether from the show or the working point of view, there are many factors, other than the actual parents and their history, to be considered. In race-horses, where pedigrees are more carefully kept than is normally the case with dogs, many horses, themselves big winners, have failed at the stud.

Points to Consider

Presuming, for the moment, that we are breeding for points (in my opinion an undesirable proceeding if carried to excess), we should first consider the dam’s faults.

Suppose we find that our Labrador is long in the back and flat-sided, but has an excellent head and an exceptionally strong foreface, it would appear obvious that she should be mated to a short-coupled, well-ribbed up dog.

Not only that, but the sire should come of a family of strong-bodied dogs.

If his head is faulty, the question arises whether the ugly head is a family trait ; above all, whether he is inbred to an ugly-headed dog. If so, the ugly head will be a pre-potent trait, which will certainly show itself in the pups.

If his ugly head is purely a personal affair, and his good body a family matter, we have our perfect sire, all else being equal, a great deal a better sire than a champion who happened to be the only strong-bodied dog of a weak family.

Once in twice out, is the traditional rule in breeding dogs and horses ; breeding out and out tends to cause reversion to original type. Inbreeding in fact, accentuates peculiarities, outbreeding tends to eliminate them.

It must be remembered, however, that inbreeding tends to accentuate and fix bad points as well as good ones. Physical or nervous weakness, especially the latter, may become dominant and ineradicable from future generations.

In Scottish terriers, for instance, there is a nervous strain ; they are charming and plucky little dogs as a rule, but many years ago someone inbred to a nervous dog and his characteristics still keep cropping up.

From the breeding point of view mental characteristics are more important than appearance. Scientific selective breeding will alter the appearance of a race of dogs in a few generations, but disposition is far more difficult to influence. There are, for instance, untrainable strains of show gun-dogs, which breed true-all useless and untrainable.

A Case in Point

Generally speaking, the sire is the stronger influence as regards type ; the dam influences size and disposition. Remember the mule and the jennet. The mule is big, like his dam, but otherwise like his donkey sire; the jennet is in every way more like a pony than a donkey, but is small, like his donkey dam. The same principle applies to dogs.

Do not worry, therefore, if the sire is on the small side ; a big dam will usually compensate.

When it is desired to breed from an old dog the mate should be young. I once mated a Labrador aged eight to her own great-great-grand-nephew ; she had a large and healthy litter. If I had mated her to a dog of her own age she would probably have had fewer and less healthy pups.

Breeding for Type

MOST breeders breed for appearance, some for qualities combined with “correct” type, a few –the wise ones- bother little about appearance and breed for qualities.

Except, however, in the case of working dogs, this last category is almost non-existent. For this reason a pup from a working strain usually makes the best companion.

It is this point which is forgotten by a correspondent who suggest reviving the old English bulldog by crossing in the German “boxer” instead of breeding out and out from those available puppies which are anatomically sound and so “worst” from a show point of view.

Doubtless the boxer cross would be a short cut as regards appearance, but if the idea is to revive the national dog, why introduce outside blood?

Especially is this so when it is the dog’s courage and tenacity which we wish to preserve; any outside blood might bring in a change of disposition which would persist in the breed long after all appearance of the foreign blood had been bred out.

Many gun-dog breeders have found out this fact to their cost by crossing into a working strain useless show blood, with the idea of improving the appearance of their dogs; the result in such vases has frequently been to spoil the strain from both points of view.

Beware, in gun-dogs, of the holder of many challenge certificates who is not a champion ; there is only one reason-he is untrainable.


TELEGONY is “ The (hypothetical) influence of a previous sire seen in the progeny of a subsequent sire from the same mother” (Oxford Dictionary), and is widely believed in by dog breeders.

It is, in fact, a very ancient belief, but scientists (who do not deny its possibility) have, so far, failed to trace a single indubitable case of it in any animal.

An example, quoted in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, is that of the Baron de Parana, who breeds thousands of mules.

In hundreds of cases mares (dams of mules) subsequently produce pure-bred foals with no trace whatever of mule about them.

Sir Everard Millais experimented for thirty years with cats, rabbits, mice, sheep, cattle, fowls and pigeons, and never saw a certain case of telegony.

My Own Experience

Many cases are, of course, duly vouched for. I bred a litter of Gordon setters myself; two of twelve were all tan, the remainder black and tan. Both parents were in the Kennel Club Stud Book. Had the dam ever been mated to an Irish setter here would have been a clear case of telegony, but she never had been so mated and had never had a tan or red pup in her life!

The tan pups, in fact, were either sports or throw-backs: the probable explanation is that, as Gordons were very scarce in war-time, an Irish dog had been crossed in and that this dog was an ancestor of both sire and dam.

All unknowingly, I was probably inbreeding to an Irish dog seven or eight generations back.

The incident, in fact, was not a case of telegony but a warning against crossing outside blood into any breed.

Breeding – Some Theories and Facts

MANY scientists deny the possibility that acquired characteristics can be transmitted to puppies by parents: docked dogs for instance, do not produce ready-docked puppies: mental characteristics, however, seem to be different and to be transmissible. Thus a trained retriever dog will sire more easily trained puppies than his untrained litter brother –this, at least, is the opinion of every breeder I have ever consulted. Scientifically minded readers (if any) will find that Weissman admits the possibility of modification of the germ plasm in the body of the individual host.

Another point: purely female characteristics are transmitted through the sire: thus, a cock from a good laying strain sires prolific hens, a bull from a good milking strain, sires cows which give a lot of milk. Similarly, a dog from a prolific strain will sire bitches which will have big litters.

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