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There is no doubt that dogs of the Bullmastiff "type" have been present in the British Isles and probably Europe for many hundreds of years, where the need for a holding dog has been evident in many spheres, be it hunting or guarding.
Mention of "Bull & Mastiff" crosses are littered throughout early canine writings and most agree that these mating's were between Bulldogs of the time and large Mastiff types of dog. Certainly the Bulldog of the17th and 18th centuries bore little resemblance to its modern day counterpart, being far more athletic and less "pug" like, and probably more akin to the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Whatever the exact formula, it is evident that this type of dog was much admired, so much so, that it became the ultimate deterrent as far as gamekeepers of the time were concerned.
It must be borne in mind that the law at this time was weighted heavily in favour of the landowner, and that any poacher would receive little in the way of mercy if caught. He was therefore, likely to be extremely dangerous if cornered, and a powerful, active, intelligent and brave breed of dog would be required to tackle such a man. Evidence of the success of the Bull & Mastiff type in this role is well documented, but the exact makeup of the majority of these dogs is not. It is likely that individual breeders may have introduced other breeds, such as Bloodhounds, Great Danes and St Bernard’s into the formula.
It was not until the early part of the twentieth century that any real effort was made to standardise the breed. It was men like S.E Moseley (Farcroft), J.H.Biggs (Osmaston) & V.J.Smith (Pridzor) who pioneered the breed at this time.
Not until 1925 did the Kennel Club give the breed official recognition and not until 1928 was the Bullmastiff granted Challenge Certificates at shows governed by Kennel club rules.
1925 proved to be a significant year for the Bullmastiff, it was in this year that "The Midland Bullmastiff Club" was founded (later to become The British Bullmastiff League) and the first standard drawn up. This early standard underwent many slight alterations over the following 10years with rival Clubs imposing different height and weight restrictions, and certainly many of the early Bullmastiffs barely weighed 100lbs.
1928 saw the first pair of Challenge certificates on offer at Crufts, with Vic Smiths Tiger Prince taking the dog C.C. and Sam Moseley’s Farcroft Silvo taking the bitch C.C.
In 1934 the Bullmastiff was recognised in the United States of America.
Since these early days, the popularity of the Bullmastiff has gone from strength to strength and this most British of breeds has firmly established itself throughout most of the world.
There is no doubt that the appearance of the breed has altered dramatically since the days of Sam Moseley, but all of us would like to think that the original spirit, devotion, intelligence and ability of the breed lives on.
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