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Mastiff History


Video on the History of the Mastiff

The history of the Mastiff stretches back over 2,000 years ago in England; however, ancient Babylonian artifacts showing pictures of Mastiff-type dogs date back nearly 5,000 years! There are Asian arts that show Mastiff-type dogs around 1121 B.C., and they are included in writings of Herodotus, Caesar, Marco Polo, Chaucer, and Shakespeare.

The Mastiff was bred to be a war dog, which is hard to believe if you are the beloved parent to a Mastiff! History shows Mastiffs hunting lions, fighting bulls, and even driving an elephant to its knees. Mastiffs were also known to be led into war by the thousands and being fierce fighters! There are even records of them being fought in the Roman Coliseum against bears, lions, tigers, bulls, boars, other dogs, and humans.

Even though their reputation was as a vicious fighter, they were also well known as guard dogs and loyal companions. In later years, the Mastiff was bred less to attack and more as a guardian and pet. When visitors came to the castles, the Mastiff was trained to walk close to the guest and lean heavily against them and growl. This was a show of, "I'm watching you!" rather than, "I'll eat you," and if you've ever had a 250 lb. dog lean all its weight against you and lowly growl, you can see that it's enough to know that you're on notice and best behave yourself.

During harder years, Mastiff numbers waned, as people couldn't afford to care for such large dogs. As times improved for the human population, Mastiffs were crossbred with a number of other types of dogs, and it wasn't until around 1873 that pedigree records began to be kept, and the breed we know today began to be developed. In 1883, the Old English Mastiff Club was formed, but again by the 1900's, wars again diminished the Mastiff numbers.

By 1912, there were no registered Mastiffs in the United States. A breeder from Canada named C. W. Dickinson from Wingfield Kennels is responsible for keeping the Mastiff breed alive, and today, almost all Mastiffs have descended for Wingfield's breeding! In 1929, the Mastiff Club of America was formed, and today, America has more Mastiffs than anywhere else in the world. 



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