Saturday, April 22, 2006

Moseley & Training

Part II of a post by Dan Balderson regarding Moseley and Burton

Moseley's program was based predominantly on police dog style training. He also bred purebred mastiffs and was involved with other breeds, including the GSD/Alsation, which was still only ever found in the UK as a police dog at that time. He never directly made use of Bull Terrier or Boarhound/Suliot/Ulmer/Great Dane blood or Bloodhound. In fact, he abhorred it and tried to keep his dogs much smaller. He found dogs over 27" tall lost too much quickness and agility, plus carried too much size for the best endurance and ability to use their bodies to overpower a man. It was Moseley who largely eliminated these other breeds from the BM, but also he who was strongly involved in developing the fawn/fallow-smut dogs with black masks, clearly demonstrating that he did make use of the more modern version of Mastiffs and Bulldogs. His 'recipe' was well documented as being 60:40 Mastiff:Bull, though his percentages are not exactly scientifically correct by modern standards.

As for training, these dogs were trained in Gamekeeping and Police dog trials that pretty much set the tone for modern sport as people know it today. This included suit work, extensive use of muzzle work, relatively little if any sleeve work, agility, and OB. They commonly competed with the standard set by the much smaller Airedales, and dogs from the likes of Burton were more highly esteemed than the continental shepherds by those who could obtain them, right up until the 1920's, when the lines essentially died-out due to social/political change and the wars, which destroyed the Gamekeeping and working Mastiff populations of the UK, a terrible shame.

The agility and OB included scaling walls and many of the tests still found in the KNPV such as the ability to jump a ditch/navigate and retrieve a stream/river using gun dog style commands for send-aways. Scale walls, stone walls, and hurdles were all used, as were gates and hedge jumps. Unlike modern sports that are patterned, you would not really know what exactly you would encounter, just have an idea. OB routines like modern WT today were not conducted in manicured rings, but instead could see you being directed into all manner of terrain; long grass, trees, water, toward people shooting shotguns, etc. Environmental soundness around firearms, livestock, and non-threatening people would all have been tested.

Directional control was also prominent, and conducted in similar ways to gundogs today. This would be used to detect and apprehend poachers and conduct other such tasks. In contrast, dogs were also expected conduct maneuvers such as those seen in the Military today; dogs would be expected to down in a ditch, often at night (obviously night testing was a mainstay), with their handler. They were expected to remain totally alert and focused, even if the handler covered their eyes to prevent glimmer/reflections. A 'poacher' would then approach from out of sight, but with the wind in the dogs favor. The dog would then be expected to detect the poacher, alert the handler silently, until released to apprehend him.

Protection work was brutal and the helpers were frankly instructed to attempt to drive the dogs in any means they saw fit. I have documented examples of courage tests, one in fact of Terror during the Crystal Palace exhibition, whereupon an athletic man of 200 lbs was set a lead of 200 or so feet, equipped with a stout stick of birch/ash (about 1"-1.5" thick and 1' to 2.5' long) and tasked to escape capture. The dog (Terror in this instance) was released in the muzzle (which itself was a formidable weapon compared to today's examples) and set upon the man instructed to pin him before he reached the designated escape zone. Terror was a specialist in this task, demonstrating it frequently, and was never bested, despite the blows rained down upon him by his 'fugitive' with their stick/cudgel. He was so efficient, he seldom took much punishment himself, and indeed could repeat the exercise until the man gave up, at which point another would often replace him, particularly as Burton tended to offer cash prizes in order to incentivise 'victims'.

The suit work was also regularly conducted with and without muzzles, though the 'suit' was generally a double or triple layered Hessian sack cloth affair, the type of material sport folks imprint dogs on...and others buy potatoes in! There were also tests with men using no suits, instead 1 or 2 newspapers rolled around their arms and/or legs to afford the most minimal of protection to them, but the maximum test of 'reality' to the dogs. These methods were continued with other breeds, like the Shepherds, and indeed were witnessed by folks like Koehler, who would go on to make these often harsh teachings quite famous.

The last point of interest for those who have followed so far, is that "sport" was never viewed about points, as points were about owners and pride. Sport was according to the original definition, non lethal means preparing one for war. As such it was a pass/fail affair. Whilst owners would like to do well, they sought judging praise rather than dogs. The aim was to demonstrate control, but in the process , obtain dogs whom judges described as; 'pronounced', of 'merit' or 'distinction. These were breed-worthy dogs to the breeders of this time. A dog that was picture perfect but that lacked sand or conviction was viewed as average, irrespective of 'scores'. The final reason for "sport" was that it allowed keepers to widen their breeding selections by actively watching and identifying dogs that offered qualities to their programs that would allow them to improve. Gamekeeper and Hound shows were amongst the very first dog shows, and indeed, they included conformation also, but as an addendum to the working activities, and to allow keepers to get a hands-on view of dogs they were possibly considering to breed to.

Thursday, April 20, 2006


This is a post by Dan UK regarding Thorneywood Terror and Moseley. In the Historic Bandog Pictures section I erroneously posted the letter from Sgt. Cordy under Thorneywood Terror's picture. Instead it belonged under a Moseley dogs picture. My mistake sparked some very interesting information :)

By Dan Balderson

Moseley had nothing to do with Terror, Terror preceded the majority of Moseley's dogs by some time, and was bred by Burton, who was quite probably the premier working dog breeder in the world at that time, although Moseley would go on to achieve great things, including probably the greatest demand for the export of working dogs of his generation. Think Czech/DDR and KNPV Mals of today, well Moseley was exporting dogs in the same way as a result of the demand, across the entire world, although predominantly the "Commonwealth" countries.

Burton resided in a different area of the UK to Moseley, and had a totally different program. The nature of his breedings are unknown, as he was not a highly publicized breeder, which is common with some of today's more successful B&M/Bandogge breeders also. It is likely that his breedings comprised working mastiffs that were free from influences of Pug, St. Bernard, Newfoundland, Modern/Atavsistic Bulldog and Alpine Mastiff. It is also unlikely that he utilized the blood either directly or otherwise, of Bloodhound or Great Dane. It is remotely possible that some Tibet dog was involved,and also that of El Perro de Presa/Alano or the old working DDB, as both breeds were imported to the UK several hundred years ago and are suspected of having found into working Mastiffs hands as the EB community increasingly repelled against anything showing health or ability. The Alano/Presa of the time was still a very competent working dog, normally around 25-26" with all the main male imports documented, having weighed 90 lbs. They were also working dogs, either Pit, or more commonly animal dogs, such as (true) Bulldogs. The documented accounts held by the KC state that several were highly scarred upon entry into the UK and also observes the movement against Spanish dogs by EB breeders seeking to 'preserve' the British Bulldog. If it weren't so sad...

Burton's dogs were almost always brindle,and seldom above 90 lbs working weight. They also weren't that tall. His dogs were also often dual registered, initially as BM's then as EM's...which the KC was happy to accommodate at the time in order to maintain the quality and number of EM's. Terror is behind a large number of EM's in the KC studbooks...if you go back far enough...and believe all the paperwork filed, much of which is fallacious to put it bluntly (not from Burton but thereon).

Burton likely used the original mastiff/bandogge blood still present in England, as stated with possible European breed influence. I would also suspect that Burton used Game English Bulldog blood, either in preserved form, or by way of Pitbull blood, primarily comprising lines that influenced the Bulldog rather than the Terrier blood. The Pitbull has many breeds behind its influence depending upon the regions of England and latterly Ireland that it originated. In some areas the dogs were as much as 30:70 Terrier:Bull, right through to 70:30 Terrier:Bull
Burton's part of the world likely had the more Bully dogs, as from pure recollection, it wasn't a particular hot bed for the boomingly popular sport of dog fighting that had really taken a hold around the early/mid 1800's. As for anything else in Burton's 'recipe' I think he took it to the grave with him. Some of his dogs were known to be slow to mature (2 to even 3 years) so I would be inclined to suppose it was mostly the old mastiff stock.

Depending on where in Britain you looked, the type of B&M varied. Some had very prevalent Pitbull make-up, mostly bred to English Mastiffs. Some were composed of the 'new' mastiffs and Bulldogs...culled extensively until they recovered the old qualities. Some had a great degree of Bloodhound and Mastiff influence, to the extent that dogs in South Wales were often 'Fila Brasiliero's'...before the breed existed. It is even conceivable in some lines (though not Burton's) that the St. John's dog was used, this being the main progenitor of the Lab and Newfie and a popular Game Keeper's breed in the South/South-West of England. It was much more lithe, but still sturdy and mastiff-like a dog than the modern Lab, and of course was very tractable. It was also known to have been used for a period as a (casual) fighting dog, had guarding ability and of course was both exceptional in the water (prime territory for finding poachers) and generally black in colour.

DaveUK actually grew up right on the doorstep of one of the great, and last remaining B&M breeding estates and gamekeeper families. He is one of the few people to have personally known gamekeepers that worked some of these famous old dogs, dogs like Osmaston Turk, who was mostly Mastiff and Bloodhound with a dab of Bull blood to make him, amazingly enough...more biddable than the pure EM/Bloodhound dogs the Welsh normally used. Turk was getting on when he reached Osmaston, but those Dave knew, saw what he had, as well as other dogs of the line. Turk's dam was known as a man killer in South Wales, with several (justified) documented kills to her name. One can only imagine how many men she actually killed, as these things were only ever documented if it were unavoidable (i.e. if witnessed, or involving a local person).

These were incredibly hard dogs, raised and worked hard, often with quite short lives (though Turk I believe lived way past 10), the gamekeepers were similarly hardy sorts themselves, often ostracized by their own villages and towns by the locals, because poaching was often vital to the survival of the poor working families. They also held a lot of sway, as in the privacy of the woods, good keeper's would have their master's ear, and also great resources to develop the dogs needed to police the estates. Many keepers were also quite frankly, crooks themselves, working scams with neighbouring keepers to rip-off their masters who often had more money than sense. Many head Keepers worked the nights alone, with just their dogs, because they didn't even trust their Juniors not to poach whilst on patrol. Still, life was dangerous for all keepers, as the advent of railways in particular made poaching an activity conducted by large, violent and armed city gangs that operated in a highly organized fashion. Game warranted a premium on the black market and the railway allowed the gangs to venture out, catch and return with their catch still fresh enough to demand top price. If you were caught, the penalties were stiff, ranging from death, to banishment off to the colonies in American and Australia, so to many, capture was not an option.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

The Gamekeepers Nightdog by Colonel David Hancock and some mastiff history links

More on Thorneywood Terror and info. on the origins on the Bullmastiff

More on Bullmastiffs

Saturday, December 03, 2005

The English Mastiff, just a Bandog?

This was originally written by DaveUK and posted to an English Mastiff board.

Credit for references in this article are due to Colonel David Hancock, MBE

The history of the English Mastiff is somewhat confusing. Apart from the unreliable claims of research workers, the numerous references in early works cannot be relied on as the name molossus, which is usually mistranslated to Mastiff and is often applied to any large breed dog.

The wishful thinkers seeking a long and pure ancestry for the EM would be wise to ignore the absurd claims of English Victorian breed enthusiasts, and accept that in previous centuries the Mastiff was, in modern terms, a very large mongrel. Idstone writing in his The Dog of 1871 states, "We cannot visit a fair or market in any provincial town without seeing this mongrel Mastiff on guard amongst travellers carts, generally brindled, frequently blazed and blended with greyhound." Thomas Berwick recorded in 1790, "The Mastiff in its pure unmixed state is now seldom to be met with. The generality of dogs distinguished by that name seem to be compounded of the Bulldog, Danish Mastiff and Bandog."

The word Mastiff is believed by some to come from the French 'Metif', in old French 'Mestif', in middle English 'Mastyf' or 'Mastiv', meaning mixed breed or mongrel. Others consider it comes from the middle English, obscurely representing the old French 'Mastin', based on the Latin 'Mansuetus' or tame. Chamber 20th century dictionary states it is from "an assumed old French Mastiff" probably a variant of old French 'Mastin.' In the dictionary of word origins 1994, it states that the word seems to have come into the language as an alteration of the old French 'Mastin' ; 'Mastin' in time became 'Matin' translated as Mastiff, a cur or scoundrel, clearly no compliment. These original meanings should not be seen as demeaning to the breed of Mastiff today; pure breeding is a modern phenomenon.

In RA Harcourts The Dog in Prehistoric and Early Britain of 1794, he sets out his examination of the bones of all dogs unearthed in the immediate pre Roman period and found no massive heavy headed dogs, but plenty of medium sized hounds. An examination of dog bones in Romano British times revealed the presence of much larger dogs. The Alan's provided the Roman Calvary; Marcus Aureliu sent 5,500 Alans to Britain, where they guarded Hadrians Wall. They left Alanic place names behind them in Britain. The Alans were accompanied by their Alaunts, huge hunting Mastiffs. Could they have been the first hunting types in England? It certainly was the case in Italy.

Chaucer makes reference to Alaunts as big steers. The word Mastiff was not in general use in Britain until the end of the 18th century. The middle English 'Bandogge' was used before then. Dictionaries give the origin of bandogge as band+ dog, a dog kept on a lead or chain. It is unlikely this means a tethered yard dog however, but a dog kept leashed in the hunt until needed, i.e. , as a catch dog. Medieval paintings show this in the hunting field. There is an old English ballad from about 1610 that includes the lines, "Half a hundred good band-dogs came running over the lee." There is little indication of solitary tied up yard dogs in those words.

The Romans found not Mastiff like strong headed dogs in Britain, but course haired, strong headed, medium sized fighting dogs. Opian described British fighting dogs as monkey faced. As the distinguished historian Toynbee states, such fighting dogs were much more of the Irish Wolfhound phenotype. Despite this, books on the mastiff, the English breed, all relate to how Romans found this breed in England. There is simply no evidence for this that withstands scrutiny. There is however much mistranslation by Victorian enthusiasts which contributes little to peoples understanding of how and where this breed originated.

Famous names on early Mastiff breeding records indicate the remarkable mixture behind the breed. The esteemed 'Coushez' was in fact an Alpine Mastiff. Waterman's Tiger was a Great Dane from Ireland. Lukey's Pluto and Countess were reportedly of Tibetan Mastiff type. The Mastiff breeder HD Kingdon, writing in Webbs Dogs of 1882, mentions "breeders who insist no Mastiff has a pedigree 40 years withstanding, and who have 'manufactured' for our dog shows a big cross bred dog that has been exhibited under the name Mastiff."

James Watson in his book The Dog Book of 1906, wrote that, "The patent facts are that from a number of dogs of various types of English watchdogs and baiting dogs, running from 26" to 30" in height, crossed with continental types such as the Great Dane and old St. Bernard, the Mastiff has been elevated through the efforts of English breeders to the dog he has become about 20 years ago." HD Kingdon wrote, "We do not believe the purity of Mastiffs over thirty inches tall." This statement bears weight in that the universal Mastiff type is between 24-28 inches. The flock guardian breeds are bigger than this and it is obvious that the smooth St. Bernard and the Tibetan Mastiff have been used to produce this size in the mastiff. The thicker coat of the Alpine Mastiff, the Great Dane cranium and the Tibetan Mastiff's upward curving tail are all features that can surface to the detriment of the true Mastiff type. Breed type once lost, takes decades of devoted breeding to restore.

Edward Ash recorded in 1931, "In 1867 we read that the Mastiff was being crossed to the Bulldog to get a shorter face, for the Mastiff head then was longer. Bloodhounds were also used. The heads became narrow, the eyes sunken, and the jaw exaggerated."

Stonehenge wrote, "A much worse stain in the pedigree of the Mastiff is the cross with the Bloodhound." Today so many show ring Mastiff's resemble the early importations of the smooth St. Bernard, only the solid fawn coat differentiate them as a Mastiff. Is this what the famed Mastiff of England should look like? "The island of England breeds very valiant creatures. Their Mastiff's are of unmatchable courage." ~William Shakespeare

There is plenty of evidence to show that the Mastiff, the English breed of that name, has not always been enriched by the breeders who bred it or the breed historians who wrote about it. Flowery accounts have been composed on how the breed was brought to Britain by the Phoenicians, without a shred of evidence to back them up. Every mention of the word Mastiff itself, for several centuries, meant any large mongrel or huge formidable dog, regardless of coat color, shape of skull, or function. The confused background in no sense degrades the modern breed of Mastiff. It merely indicates a lack of wisdom in its fanciers.

Despite the Mastiffs confused history, the Mastiff as it should be is a magnificent breed, however its misuse by man as a show freak is quite appalling. At dog shows througout the world, including the FCI world show and Crufts, the Mastiff is a dreadful, sluggish, shambling, overweight specimen of a superb breed gone seriously wrong. Their movement is awful, their construction disastrous, their eyes sunken and sad, their flaws exaggerated beyond comfort, and their ultra heavy bone a needless handicap. Any group of breed fanciers can lose their way, but when a dog this size is ill bred, indirect cruelty is involved. The modern show Mastiff is heavier than any past function could justify. They seem to be valued now simply for their sheer size.

Arthur Croxton Smith wrote in 1948, "Breeders seem to have concentrated more and more upon getting immense size and great bulk, usually bring the evil of unsoundness in its train. I have seen plenty of perfectly sound Mastiffs, such as could move well and were really active, but latterly the proportion of unsound ones is alarmingly high, for it is extremely difficult for breeders to get soundness in alliance with bulk."

No breed can lead a healthy lifestyle if its sole purpose is at the mercy of the human whim. Any breed no longer bred for function, even if that function has lapsed, has a doubtful future. The Mastiff is a classic example, some would say, THE classic example, of the broad mouthed dogs, which were used by primitive hunters to pull down big game, such as auroch, bison, wild bull, boar, and even bear. They were heavy hounds. They are sometimes called holding dogs, gripping or pinning dogs. Such dogs were recklessly brave, many being killed by their quarry. Eventually there became a separation between the running/hunting Mastiffs, and the "killing" Mastiffs of the butcheries. The former were par force hounds, used in the chase, the latter were used to close with and kill its quarry. These dogs needed great courage, immense tenacity, massive determination, and considerable agility, or they didn't live long enough to breed. They needed colossul muzzle strength, provided by wide jaws with abundant length, as every depiction of them shows.

When one sees Bullmastiffs with the head structure of a pug it is quite despairing. No holding or gripping dogs could effectively do its job without length as well as breadth of muzzle. And when one hears the hoary old tale used to justify muzzles of Bulldogs, of how this feature was necessary to enable the Bulldog to go on breathing while gripping the bull, it's laughable. One does see Mastiffs with short muzzles in British show rings. It gives a coarse ignoble look to a breed with a natural lordly manner.

Many believe it was the success of a dog called "Crown Prince" that was the ruination of the Mastiff. Crown Prince was a show champion and a much sought after sire. Even with his worrying resemblance to a St. Bernard. To breed from such a shambolic dog simply because he had been selected as a winner by a misguided judge is folly and irresponsible.

The Mastiff as it was, a hunting and gripping killing dog, a guardian of great estates of the Aristocracy is all but extinct. There are a few examples that hark back to the days when the Mastiff was a superior working breed, but these examples are far too few and widespread for any concerted effort to restore them, to be successful. It is very regrettable and sad that a once formidable, majestic, fearless breed has been reduced to the role of show freak by its breeders and fanciers.

In closing Dave says, "As far as I am concerned, its the dogs that deserve the credit. If any one of those people that continually use those message boards to vent their vile personality flaws had even 1% of the character and courage of the dogs they brag about, they'd be 1000 times the people that they are. These dogs humble us, show us what we ought to be in terms of character, loyalty, unconditional love and patience. Very few owners live up to the dogs they have at their side."