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A brief History of the Mastiff
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The Mastiff 'type' is known to have been around in the what is now the U.K certainly since medieval times where it was bred as a working dog for guarding duties on farms and estates around the country. Obviously due to the the nature of the society of the time the Mastiff would have been owned by the more affluent members of society but it is known that these powerful guards were kept by the working man to guard his own masters crops and livestock from poachers and predators.

Shakespeare refered to Mastiffs as " The dogs of war" and it is a matter of historical fact that several hundred Mastiffs were given by Henry the 8th to King Charles the 5th of France to be used as fighting dogs on the battle field. This produces a most frightening image of these powerful beasts charging across the battle fields of the era which surely would have given their masters an incredible psychological advantage over the enemy not to mention the odd victory.
It has to be realised that in those days there was no breed standard for any dog and no Kennel Club to define any breed but early descriptions of fearsome large canines with huge head, mighty body and great voice clearly referred to an early Mastiff type canine.

One early Mastiff type which was clearly defined was that of the ' Lyme Hall Mastiffs ' these were bred and documented and bred only at Lyme Hall forming a strain which lasted several hundred years. Pictures show these early Mastiffs to have been smaller of head than the Mastiff of today but clearly anyone could recognise the dogs as having been Mastiffs.

Unfortunately probably the darkest period in the history of this great dog was that of the Elizabethan era where Mastiffs were used in the activities of Bull and Bear bating. Thankfully these alleged sports declined as did with them unfortunately the number of Mastiffs. This decline in numbers can be of no surprise since even at Elizabethan food prices a Mastiff could not have been the most economical canine companion.Thankfully there were still Mastiffs kept apparently for the more appropriate purpose of guarding the large country estates of the time including Mastiffs kept at Lyme Hall.

The ancestors of todays Mastiffs were those bred by several well known breeders of the early Nineteenth Century including Sir George Armitage and his gamekeeper , George White a well known dog dealer of the time and a Mr T.H Lukey. On the back of the interest of a small group of people a modern type was being formed and built upon and interest in the breed began to increase. If todays pedigrees could be traced far back to these times many of todays Mastiffs would be shown to be descendent of a few dogs owned and kept by this small group of people.

Between the mid Nineteenth century and the beginning of the Twentieth Century the Mastiff breed was to become far more popular and sound in its foundation and in 1859 the first dog show was held. A dog show at the great Crystal palace in 1872 attracted over eighty Mastiffs and in 1873 The Kennel club of Great Britain was formed followed 10 years later in 1883 by the Old English Mastiff club of great Britain .

In the years of the 1st world war the Mastiff was to suffer some decline of numbers this again can be of little surprise to most people as these would have been hard times as some people who would read this article may remember (unlike myself) but between the 1st and 2nd world wars several influential Breeding Kennels emerged including those of the Havengore Mastiffs and the Hellingly Mastiffs. In 1939 war was upon the nation yet again and yet again the Mastiff was to suffer and in fact by the end of World War Two Mastiff numbers were pitifully low as a result of which a pair of Mastiffs were sent over to the U.K by a Mrs Heather Melhuish of British Columbia in Canada.These were Heatherbelle Stirling Silver and heatherbelle Portia. Other important Mastiffs were imported from North America and this much needed stock did much to help this desperate shortage.

From the Nineteen Fifties onwards the English Mastiff breed grew and grew in number and to this day the breed is firmly established as a popular pet and show dog renowned for its massive size together with its loving and sociable nature. As I have been asked by so many newcomers to the breed the Mastiff as it is known in the uk is also known around the world as the English Mastiff or the Old English Mastiff, this is of course exactly the same breed of dog.

Several books have been produced re the Mastiff by people with a great knowledge of the breed but by writing this article I claim no great personal knowledge , I hope only that perhaps a few people will enjoy what is a small taste of the history of The English Mastiff and perhaps go out and buy one of several good books available on the subject written by people far more knowledgable on the subject than myself.

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