Mastiff Dog Breed Origin and History
The history of the Mastiff goes all the way back to 2500 B.C. In fact all of the mountain dogs of European countries such as Turkey , Spain and France and even the Balkan areas have genetic roots tracing back to the Mastiff. Even dogs native to China such as the Chow Chow, which previously was thought to be the only dog to have descended from the bear has genetic roots to the Mastiff. Ironically, the pug, often only weighing in at fifteen pounds, is now believed to have originated as a form of Mastiff dwarfism.
Mastiff type dogs were depicted in wall murals in the Babylonian palace of Ashurbanipal . These murals now on display permanently in a British museum depict large dogs, very much like the modern day Mastiff hunting desert lions near the Tigris River . Other than the undeterminable colour of these ancient Mastiffs, the height and weight of these dogs bears a remarkable resemblance is portrayed to the modern day Mastiff.
Theories as to how the modern day Mastiff came to exist have been expounded on and explored by various authors. Relying on urban legend and various folklore stories there are some generally accepted principles of the earlier Mastiffs.
Marco Polo wrote off 5,000 huge dogs bearing the description of the Mastiff that were kept in a kennel like environment for hunting and war by Kubla Khan.
The Roman leader Hannibal is believed to have travelled across the Alps , with an army battalion of trained war dogs who interbred with neighbouring dogs on their travels, producing the modern day Mastiff.
Phoenicians are thought to have established the Mastiff to the British Empire . It is in fact the British who have kept the Mastiff in its purest form, despite some accepted facts that at one point the Romans took the Mastiffs to be yet another fighting dog in their blood thirsty arena and used them as guard dogs to guard various prisoners.
Other folklore on the Mastiffs includes the Celts supposedly using the Mastiffs in battle as a warrior type dog. Scare written records of the journey of the first pilgrims to America list a dog that could possibly be have been a Mastiff accompanying a Spaniel, two of the first dogs to supposedly set foot on American soil.
Mastiffs have been used by British royalty for centuries. Henry VIII is reported to have given 400 Mastiffs to Charles V of Spain to help guard his Castle and empire. King James I in an ongoing friendship with Spanish royalty is said to have sent two Mastiffs to Philip II of Spain .
In fact many historical British buildings show huge stone dogs at the entrance, bearing various resemblances to the modern day Mastiff. What is factually known is that the British royal family did use these dogs several centuries ago to guard their homes and Estates.
Some of the oldest written laws of England , known as the Forest Laws, mentioned the Mastiffs, one of only several breeds of dogs to be talked about. The Mastiffs were documented as a guard dog and were done so primarily for taxation purpose for the English government to collect additional funds from the public.
Due to their size Mastiffs were thought to be an endangerment to deer, which at the time could only be hunted by the royal family. It was the job of the tax collector to ensure the middle toe on the two front feet of the Mastiff was removed so they could not run fast enough to catch any deer. This practice was rarely enforced.
During the Elizabethan era in Britain there was the rise of the Mastiffs again and they were primarily being used as for the purposes of fighting dogs. Wild animals were captured and set up to fight with the Mastiff in an arena primarily for the amusement of the Queen. When this gruesome practice ended, various Dukes began breeding what was to become the modern day Mastiff.
The emergence of the first dog shows in the mid-1800′s led more and more aristocracy to keep and show Mastiffs. The breed was registered with the Kennel Club in England , which at the time was the only one in the world.
Then the late 1800′s saw a decline in these large animals until resurgence during WWI when these huge animals lost their place in polite society and were used to pull ammunition carts in Britain . Other Mastiffs were transported to the USA where they were used as guard dogs.
After 1920 the Mastiff all but disappeared in Britain . They were no longer needed for war purposes, and the great depression of the 1930′s meant few could afford to feed a dog who could eat as much as a human. By the end of WWII the breed was almost extinct. Wanting to see a regrowth in Mastiffs led them to be re-imported to Britain from Canada and the USA .
Once again successful acceptance of the breeds, the Mastiffs is still used by British royal family as guard dogs. Although a large dog, the Mastiff is surprisingly gentle and well behaved despite its warrior like past. They make an ideal pet for the royalty with their majestic appearance and large size, which probably accounts for them being so favoured by the British royal family members.