The Gamekeeper's Night Dog
"Mr. Burton of Thorneywood Kennels brought to the show one night a dog (not for competition) and offered one pound to any person who could escape from the securely muzzled dog. One of the spectators who had experience with dogs volunteered and amused a large assembly of sportsmen and keepers who had gathered there. The man was given a long start, and the muzzled dog slipped after him. The animal caught him immediately and knocked him down with the first spring."
"The latter tried bravely to hold his own, but was floored every time he got to his feet, ultimately being kept to the ground until the owner of the dog released him. The man had three rounds with the powerful canine, but was beaten each time and was unable to escape."
This fascinating cameo of a man vs. dog contest appeared in The Field on August 20, 1901. With poaching (especially deer poaching) on the increase again, with human staff costing so much nowadays, and the law of the land almost favoring trespassers - especially those apprehended as poachers who plead "trespass" as their only offense - it is surprising that the "gamekeeper's night dog" isn't more widely used.
The "night dog" referred to is, of course, the Bullmastiff, the only British breed ever specifically produced for guard duties and from the two oldest, purest and bravest breeds. Technically created in modern times, it existed for centuries in the form of the lighter Mastiff when used as a hunting dog, and the bigger, faster Bulldog when used for bull-baiting. It can be argued that the Bullmastiff is a truer descendant of the original Bulldog than the modern breed of that very name.
Not recognized by the Kennel Club as a breed until 1924 - but used previously by gamekeepers - these dogs have the mastiff instinct to pin their quarry rather than to bite, and to attack a man and throw him to the ground every time he tries to get to his feet - without ever using their teeth to savage him.
Mr. S. S. Moseley, from his Faircroft kennels, stabilized the modern breed after many previous trial crosses of Bulldog and Mastiff. There are similarities with the French equivalent, the Dogue de Bordeaux and the Neapolitan Mastiff, indicating a breed-type in history, perhaps together with the Brazilian Guard Dog, the Tosa - the Japanese Fighting Dog - and the now extinct German Bullenbeisser.
What was being sought was a "gamekeeper's dog". Just as the poacher needed his "Lurcher" to locate, chase, kill and retrieve game silently and slickly, so the gamekeeper required a powerful, well-disciplined dog to find, seize and detain the poacher. This was not a task for a light, nervous, noisy, fidgety, ill-disciplined dog, but the strong, silent type, able on command to knock down a young, healthy country-man, possibly after tracking him or quietly observing his acting illegally.
The requirement decided, the end-product was then designed for the purpose in mind. Undoubtedly, more than two components were involved: the Great Dane and the yellow Labrador type of gundog, which was beginning to emerge about that time, being likely ingredients. But in essence, it was the cross between the Bulldog - tough, tenacious, fussless, brave and with silent self-reliance: and the Mastiff - immensely powerful, trustworthy, fearsome in appearance but stable by nature, loyal and brave, which produced the Bullmastiff - 27 inches at the withers, some ten stones (Ed. note: a stone = 14 pounds) of muscular guard dog.
From these carefully selected ancestors - specifically purpose-bred - came a strapping, fearless, superbly proportioned, imposing looking animal, combining the massiveness and sheer pugnacity of appearance of the age-old beautifully natured Mastiff breed, with the famed courage and proven endurance of the renowned Bulldog.
These two famous breeds gave the modern Bullmastiff three priceless qualities, ideal in combination for a guard dog: superb temperament - even tempered, level-headed, magnanimous and never excitable: a silent, steadfast, almost arrogant bearing: and most importantly, the instinct to pin the quarry rather than to bite.
The powerful Bullmastiff doesn't savage its target or "worry" the arm of a standing "wanted" man. He has all the necessary strength to use his inherited impulse to pin his victim to the floor or a wall. But before the action ever begins, there is the considerable deterrent value of the Bullmastiff's sheer physical size, pugnacious, black-masked face, and his impressive, almost regally impassive composure. He really looks the part.
Capable of quite astounding speed off the mark, immensely strong and - although large and heavy - an essentially active dog, the Bullmastiff has superb self-reliance. he stands as if he owns the ground he stands on, looks you in the eye as an equal and yields to no one. Don't expect subservience from this breed. However, gain the confidence on one, together with his respect, and you have on of the best guard-companion of all dogs.
Not to be chained up in a backyard or confined in a small run, the Bullmastiff must be made a member of the household and ideally taken to a training class to get used to other dogs. Well-trained from young puppy-hood, they are most trustworthy. With his keen, hard expression and well-arched neck, a young Bullmastiff is very proud and full of himself. This admirable self-assurance has to be utilized to good effect by firm, consistent training so that he becomes equally proud of his self-restraint.
Yet this formidable dog is well-behaved with children, never loses its temper and tolerates endless teasing. He is responsive to training, intelligent and faithful by nature. Used as a guard dog in such widely separated situations s the Mau-Mau emergency in Kenya, in the Kimberley diamond mines in South Africa, and on John D. Rockefeller's huge country estate in New York State, the Bullmastiff is now used mainly by discerning private owners as a companion/guard.
Other breeds seem to be favored as professional guard dogs: Alsatians, Doberman Pinschers, Rottweilers and Giant Schnauzers. The last three breeds, however, have varying temperaments, require a very firm hand and by instinct "savage" their quarry. The Alsatian, when well-bred, well-trained and kept in suitable circumstances, has many admirable qualities. I suspect that for professional guard dog duties - by security firms, in prisons, on country estates and in burglar or vandal prone premises - the Bullmastiff would be extensively employed if only his qualities were known.
Yet sadly, quite unsuitable breeds are being used by ill-advised people. but who wants to be sued because a so-called guard dog has savaged straying, adventurous children? Who wants to be taken to court over an endlessly barking "security dog"? The temperament, the instinct and the physical impression of a guard dog are the vital components for a success in the job.
The Bullmastiff doesn't snap or nip and rarely barks. he can track as well as guard, is easy to train and control, and tolerates - perhaps more than any other breed - children. On duty, he does not savage his prey but silently and effectively detains it. That great, powerful head with the ferocious, scowling, black mask and the lasting impression of physical power, make the Bullmastiff a formidable, commanding figure for any wrongdoer to confront.
A loyal, faithful, even-tempered, noble breed. Bullmastiffs make superb companion-guards and do not have the restless energy which demands vast amounts of exercise. But, when all is said and done about the various breeds available as guard dogs, the Bullmastiff is the professional. He was bred for the part. After all, who would employ a shepard as a night watchman when a security guard is available?
And which would you prefer to be guarded by, a lion or a wolf? The Bullmastiff is the lion of the dog world. He is massive, powerful and brave - a truly underrated, undervalued king among dogs.
OFFICIAL BREED STANDARD
GENERAL APPEARANCE- That of a symmetrical animal, showing great strength; powerfully built but active. The dog is fearless yet docile, has endurance and alertness. The foundation breeding was 60% Mastiff and 40% Bulldog.
HEAD-Skull large, with a fair amount of wrinkle when alert; broad, with cheeks well developed. Forehead flat. Muzzle broad and deep; its length, in comparison with that of the entire head, approximately as 1 is to 3. Lack of foreface with nostrils set on top of muzzle is a reversion to the Bulldog and is very undesirable. Nose Black with nostrils large and broad. Flews not too pendulous, stop moderate, and the mouth (bite) preferably level or slightly undershot. Canine teeth large and set wide apart. A dark muzzle is preferable.
EYES- Dark and of medium size.
EARS- V-shaped and carried close to the cheeks, set on wide and high, level with the occipital and cheeks, giving a square appearance to the skull; dark in color than the body and medium in size.
NECK- Slightly arched, of moderate length, very muscular, and almost equal in circumference to the skull.
Compact. Chest wide and deep, with ribs well sprung and well set down
Forequarters-Shoulders muscular but not loaded, and slightly sloping. Forelegs straight, well boned and set well apart; elbows square. Pasterns straight, feet of medium size, with round toes well arched. Pads thick and tough, nails black.
Back-Short, giving the impression of a well balanced dog.
Loins- Wide, muscular and slightly arched, with fair depth of flank.
Hindquarters-Broad and muscular with well developed second thigh denoting power, but not cumbersome. Moderate angulation at hocks. Cow hocks and splay feet are bad faults.
Tail-Set on high, strong at the root and tapering to the hocks. It may be straight or curved, but never carried in hound fashion.
COAT- Short and dense, giving good weather protection.
COLOR- Red, fawn or brindle. Except for a very small white spot on the chest, white marking is considered a fault.
Dogs, 25 to 27 inches at the shoulders, and 110 to 130 pounds weight.
Bitches, 24 to 26 inches at the shoulder, and 100 to 120 pounds weight. Other things being equal, the heavier dog is favored.
General Appearance That of a symmetrical animal, showing great strength, endurance, and alertness; powerfully built but active. The foundation breeding was 60% Mastiff and 40% Bulldog. The breed was developed in England by gamekeepers for protection against poachers.
Size, Proportion, Substance
Size--Dogs, 25 to 27 inches at the withers, and 110 to 130 pounds weight. Bitches, 24 to 26 inches at the withers, and 100 to 120 pounds weight. Other things being equal, the more substantial dog within these limits is favored. Proportion--The length from tip of breastbone to rear of thigh exceeds the height from withers to ground only slightly, resulting in a nearly square appearance.
Expression--Keen, alert, and intelligent. Eyes Dark and of medium size. Ears--V-shaped and carried close to the cheeks, set on wide and high, level with occiput and cheeks, giving a square appearance to the skull; darker in color than the body and medium in size. Skull Large, with a fair amount of wrinkle when alert; broad, with cheeks well developed. Forehead flat. Stop--Moderate. Muzzle--Broad and deep; its length, in comparison with that of the entire head, approximately as 1 is to 3. Lack of foreface with nostrils set on top of muzzle is a reversion to the Bulldog and is very undesirable. A dark muzzle is preferable. Nose--Black, with nostrils large and broad. Flews--Not too pendulous. Bite--Preferably level or slightly undershot. Canine teeth large and set wide apart.
Neck, Topline, Body
Neck--Slightly arched, of moderate length, very muscular, and almost equal in circumference to the skull. Topline--Straight and level between withers and loin. Body--Compact. Chest wide and deep, with ribs well sprung and well set down between the forelegs. Back--Short, giving the impression of a well balanced dog. Loin--Wide, muscular, and slightly arched, with fair depth of flank. Tail--Set on high, strong at the root, and tapering to the hocks. It may be straight or curved, but never carried hound fashion.
Shoulders--muscular but not loaded, and slightly sloping. Forelegs--straight, well boned, and set well apart; elbows turned neither in nor out. Pasterns straight, feet of medium size, with round toes well arched. Pads thick and tough, nails black.
Broad and muscular, with well developed second thigh denoting power, but not cumbersome. Moderate angulation at hocks. Cowhocks and splay feet are serious faults.
Short and dense, giving good weather protection.
Red, fawn, or brindle. Except for a very small white spot on the chest, white marking is considered a fault.
Free, smooth, and powerful. When viewed from the side, reach and drive indicate maximum use of the dog's moderate angulation. Back remains level and firm. Coming and going, the dog moves in a straight line. Feet tend to converge under the body, without crossing over, as speed increases. There is no twisting in or out at the joints.
Fearless and confident yet docile. The dog combines the reliability, intelligence, and willingness to please required in a dependable family companion and protector.
Approved February 8, 1992
Effective March 31, 1992
Country of Origin: England Lifespan: 10-12 Years Male Height: 25-27 Inches Male Weight: 110-130 Pounds Female Height: 24-26 Inches Female Weight: 100-120 Pounds
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The Bullmastiff is a strong and powerfully built animal that possesses great intelligence and a willingness to please, making them ideal family companions and protectors. Although large, the breed remains both agile and active and is successful in conformation, obedience, agility, tracking, carting and therapy work. The Bullmastiff’s coat may be red, fawn or brindle.
A Look Back
The Bullmastiff’s known history in England begins around 1860, when they were developed to keep large estates and game preserves free of poachers. Gameskeepers needed a dog that could track quietly, cover short distances quickly and pin and hold poachers without mauling them. The foundation breeding was 60% Mastiff and 40% Bulldog; breeders were hoping to create a dog faster and more aggressive than the Mastiff, yet bigger than and not as ferocious as the Bulldog.
Right Breed for You?
The Bullmastiff is fearless and confident, yet remains docile and sweet-natured with his family. They are natural guardians of the home, but do not bark much, as silence was a virtue when guarding estates. Bullmastiffs are independent thinkers and may not respond to traditional obedience training. The breed does not require much exercise or grooming, and can live happily in a house or apartment.