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THE MASTIFF…………… BIG BODY, EVEN BIGGER HEART

C. Cuthbert

Throughout history the mastiff was a dog that when looked upon, did command respect. The size and calm self- assured attitude seemed to say that they were in charge, but if treated properly would be your companion and guardian for life. If we were to follow their evolution throughout history, they changed some in size and some in appearance and certainly their role in society stretched from fighting dog ,to guard dog, to companion and for a period of time, a dog that was hunted as many other animals were.

Throughout that long period of history the mastiff gene pool found its way into many of the dogs that we now recognize as our pure-breds. Also throughout that long period of time the population of the mastiff declined and so did the available gene pool. The mastiff in England and those that found their way to the United States make up the foundation from which our present day mastiffs came.

There is evidence that a Mastiff Club was formed in Toronto around 1920, then disappeared and the Mastiff Club of America was formed and incorporated in New York in 1929. This group met and developed a Constitution, by-laws, a Breed Standard and a plan to protect the integrity of the breed. This plan was called the Adoption Plan and it seemed like an owner would only adopt a dog out for breeding and in that way control each breeding. I do not see how that plan worked, but then again there must be consideration given to the small number of mastiffs available at that time. If we skip ahead, as the number of English Mastiffs increased in this country, the Mastiff Club of America applied for membership in AKC and was accepted in 1941. The number of English mastiffs registered has steadily increased since that time.

This breed is somewhat a contradiction when one begins a discussion of care. If prospective owners have done their homework and have made a concerted effort to understand what the ownership of a very large dog entails, they will have searched out a breeder who has done all in their power to enhance the probability that you will have a healthy, sound dog. If they have not, then there are, as in all large breeds, orthopedic problems, along with other health issues that can occur. A reality with all breeds is that if veterinarian care is ever required, most medications and most procedures have a cost proportional to size (weight) and a large dog equates with a large vet bill. In the mastiff community there has been a great emphasis on testing for genetic issues and x-raying to assure soundness. We must always keep in mind though, that a reputable breeder does all he/she can do to enhance that probability of selling you a healthy dog. But there are never any real guarantees.

I said that the mastiff was somewhat a contradiction when it comes to care and what I meant was that if you have selected carefully and have only the need to deal with the normal care as you would with any dog, the English Mastiff is a wash and dry dog. No real grooming necessary.

In any conversation involving a description of the English Mastiff the word large is used, massive and powerful are others. One that is often overlooked is symmetrical. There is an appearance of symmetry as you view the mastiff and also there is an air of a calm, dignified demeanor. The impression of size is carried throughout the dog. The head is large and does not seem out of place when viewed with the heavy bone and powerful muscle. When viewing the English Mastiff while standing you are able to appreciate the strength and power in this dog but you also have to combine that with the fact that this is a dog that should be capable of doing work, and that involves movement. The gait should denote power and strength and there should be evidence of strong drive in the rear and good reach in the front.

I really do not believe that the present day English Mastiff does much work, but they do represent a breed that is as devoted a companion as you will find anywhere. They are by no means an “outdoor dog”…………. They need to be in the house next to you. Anyone who has owned this breed will attest that their devotion to owner and family is their goal in life. Own one, and you will soon own two and the English Mastiff will be your breed forever. As a final comment from one who has owned the English Mastiff for over thirty years………..The biggest decision any mastiff makes is where to lay down next!