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
"gamekeepers 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 two of the oldest, purest and bravest breeds. Technically
created in modem times, it existed for centuries in the form of
the lighter Mastiff when used as a hunting dog, and then 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 modem 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. Moseley, from his Farcroft 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 new extinct German
What was being sought was a "gamekeepers dog". Just as the
poacher needed his "Lurcher" to locate, chase, kill and retrieve
game silently and slickly, so the game-keeper 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 for the strong, silent type, able on
command to knock down then hold down a young, healthy countryman,
possibly after tracking him or quietly observing his acting
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 gun
dog, which was beginning to emerge about that time, being likely
ingredients. But in essence it was a cross between the
Bulldog--tough, tenacious, fuss less, 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 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
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 the 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 even begins, there is the
considerable deterrent value of the Bullmastiffs 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 of one, together with his respect,
and you have the best guard-companion of all dogs.
Not to be chained up in the backyard or confined to 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 puppyhood, they are the 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
This formidable dog is well-behaved with children, never
loses his 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 as 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
The Bullmastiff doesn’t snap or nip and seldom 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 that restless energy
which demands a vast amount of exercise.
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 shepherd 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, arrogant, powerful and
brave--a truly underrated, undervalued king among dogs.