King Hill Mastiffs

The History of Mastiffs

"What a lion is to a cat the Mastiff is to a dog, the noblest of the family; He stands alone and all others sink before him. His courage does not exceed his temper and generosity and in attachment he equals the kindest of his race". Cynographia Britannica


The ancestors of the mastiffs came from Central-Asia, and the dogs were brought to Britain by Phoenician traders. Mastiffs are a descended from the Molosser and the Alaunt at least this is the most common assumption, even if there do exist other theories. The British liked these dogs, simply because of their impressive size and brutal strength. In the past man's interest in organized fighting between different dogs and between dog and bear were among the most popular dog activities. The mastiff was used for the blood sports of: bear-baiting, bull-baiting, dog fighting, and lion baiting.

The Romans also found the mastiff to be a war-dog. During the Roman occupation of Britain many mastiffs were exported from Britain to Rome. These dogs had to fight for their lives against whatever the Romans brought back home from their long and numerous expeditions. African animals like lions were popular in the arenas. The mastiff was thought to have been Cesar's favorite dog as it fought along side the British soldiers.

In the fifteenth century a large part of the English population were desperately poor. There was so little food for the common man, that the only way to survive was to hunt for animals. The upper classes also were the owners of the most important forest areas, and it was deemed illegal to hunt there. The temptation became too big for some of the poor and illegal hunting often became a problem for the landowners. Mastiffs were used to solve that problem and were trained to scare hungry hunters off the landowner's property. These dogs were then, as now, someone you wouldn't like to have as your enemy.

In the first part of the 20th century, only a very small number of mastiffs still existed. A few people in England decided to try and save the breed from extinction and started rebuilding the mastiff. The breed was no longer rare and dog shows with high quality mastiffs were not unusual. Then World War II started which was a disaster for all dogs, especially the big ones. Mastiffs simply ate too much in a time when food was a luxury. The mastiff became known as the Butchers Dog as they were the only people capable of feeding them enough to survive during these trying times. At the end of 1947 only seven mastiffs were still alive in England. In 1948 two promising puppies from District of Columbia (USA) were sent to England, and these two individuals created the foundation that prevented the breed from extinction.

Throughout the history of the Mastiff, it has contributed to the development of many other breeds. There are a number of different types of mastiffs. The most common are Neapolitan Mastiff, Pyrenean Mastiff,Spanish Mastiff,French Mastiff and Bull Mastiff. The English Mastiff is looked upon as the "main-mastiff", and is therefore often simply called "The Mastiff". The Mastiff Club of America was formed and currently America has more mastiffs than anywhere else in the world. Mastiffs are no longer bred for war dogs, sport fighting or hunting. Today, Mastiffs are bred with high intelligence, even temperaments, extreme loyalty, and a desire for solid companionship. The Mastiff is part of the Working Group and used to perform tasks such as carting, weight pulling, rescue and therapy work.

The history of a mastiff has developed through time but one thing remains the same, The mastiff is the oldest of the English breeds and the largest of the American Dogs.