Modern Molosser asked some Bullmastiff breeder-judges from around the world to answer these questions:
1. Please briefly summarize your involvement and successes in the breed.
2. Name three Bullmastiffs you have personally seen that you admired most (not your own), and what their best features were. Which one of your own was the best?
3. What important characteristics do you feel are most often overlooked in Bullmastiff judging?
4. What virtues do you think are most difficult to maintain in the breed? Which faults are the most difficult to eradicate?
5. What part of the AKC, FCI or KC standards do you think is most misunderstood? Is there any part of the standard you would change if you could?
6. Share an embarrassing or funny moment with the breed, in the ring as a judge or exhibitor.
7. Tell us something about you that most dog people don’t know.
Dorking, Surrey, England
Breed involvement: I have owned Bullmastiffs since 1976, although to be honest my first dog was a complete pet but was every bit a Bullmastiff. Going to shows, I was very lucky to strike up a friendship with Harry Colliass of the famous Oldwell Kennels, and for the next 25 years until his death Harry was both mentor and friend. Since then I have handled some great Oldwell champions and assisted Anne Colliass in maintaining this great kennel. I have judged Bullmastiffs all over the world, with specialities in most European countries. Australia and the U.S., culminating with the American Bullmastiff Association National Specialty in Boston in 2010.
Dogs of note: The three best Bullmastiffs excluding Oldwell that I have ever seen are in chronological order:
Ch. Craigsylea Sir Galahad: A son of the famous Ch. Pitmans Gentleman Jim, I remember this dog vividly. While you can sometimes look back with rose-colored spectacles, I remember this dog as a big, powerful animal but not overdone, with a real presence in the ring and outside. Tremendous bone and substance, he was a real eye catcher, and did much to popularize the breed during the ’70s and his group win at Crufts.
Ch. Dajean Red Dragon: A stunning red dog that I feel did a lot to change the way the breed was going. He was smart, agile and flashy, words that were not usually associated with Bullmastiffs, especially at a time when the breed was becoming heavy and cloddy. He broke this mold, and while he had his critics within the breed, the all-rounders loved him and he was a breath of fresh air. A real showman, he was one many people would loved to have owned ...
Ch. Bastion’s Music in the Glen: An absolute favorite. I first saw him as a puppy and fell in love with him then. Lovely balance, good substance and not over the top. Very much like my first two in that he has that indefinable something that we call presence. A dog is born with this, and you can count yourself very lucky if you have it in a dog as well put together as this one. A fabulous mover, this dog is one of the breed greats, so if you get a chance to see him in the flesh, do not miss the opportunity.
Ch. Bastion's Music in the Glen.
Ch. Dajean Red Dragon.
The most important characteristic of the Bullmastiff is the temperament, unfortunately it is difficult to assess this properly when judging. I would not object to some sort of testing being devised by breed specialists, and perhaps in these anti-dog days it might eventually happen.
I think that great movement on a Bullmastiff is sight to see and a stunning Bullmastiff in flow is hard to beat, but if not careful it can so easily be lost in breeding and is a nightmare to get back. But for me the most difficult thing to breed is consistency in type. This is a breed that has been established for many years, and has a number of clever breeders throughout the world, but time and time again the breed classes resemble any variety Bullmastiff. Long, short, heavy and light. Heads like pumpkins and others like Great Danes. Take your eye off the ball for a fraction and you will pay the price.
If you are unlucky enough to have a Bullmastiff with a gay tail, wry mouth or a twisted front, then without immediate attention they will manifest in every litter you produce.
On the standard: For me, the part of the standard that causes the most confusion is within the American one. I have to say I like the American standard, a great deal of thought has gone into it, but the sentence under size which reads “Other things being equal, the more substantial dog within these limits is favored” is dangerous and confusing, as I think some breeders and judges ignore the “within limits” part and do seek out the biggest dogs they can find.
Funny story: While judging in the Ukraine, I was asked to judge Dobermans. In the Champion class, a nice dog presented himself, and all was well until I opened his mouth and was confronted with a lovely set of gums. “Sorba?” I asked, proud of my newly acquired Russian. The handler delved in her pocket to produce a highly polished assortment of teeth. I looked at her with some surprise, and she looked at me and said, “Eee angs on trees,” as if that explained it all ...
Little known: Not a lot of people know that I won a choir scholarship to St. Pauls. I never took it up, and since my voice broke, I can’t sing a note.
Wickford, Essex, United Kingdom
Breed involvement: I have been involved with Bullmastiffs since 1985. Although we have made up several champions, our greatest achievement was at Crufts in 1992 when our bitch, Lepsco Lady Elise of Flintstock, was awarded the Bitch Challenge Certificate, together with Best of Breed. Following a year off for maternal duties, she returned to the ring in 1994, where, once again, she took the Bitch CC.
My personal involvement in the breed includes being secretary of both the Southern Bullmastiff Society and the British Bullmastiff League. I have been breed correspondent for the weekly canine newspaper Our Dogs for more years than I can remember. I am the author of “The Pet Owner’s Guide to the Bullmastiff” (Ringpress 2000) and am currently working on the breed for the Pet Book Publishing Company’s “Best of Breed” series. I judge Bullmastiffs at Championship level both in the U.K. and overseas, and have the honor of being invited to judge them at Crufts in 2014.
Dogs of note: I have seen so many Bullmastiffs I have admired over the years that it almost seems unfair to select only three. However, after much soul-searching, I have selected two from the past and one from the present. The first is Ch. Saturn of Graecia; the second, Ch. Galastock Danny Boy and finally, the current breed record holder, Ch. Jaynos Big Bopper JW. All these dogs possessed the type, size and substance that is so often lacking in the breed. All had strong heads with good square muzzles, well-filled cheeks and broad underjaws, set off by excellent ear carriage. All three had strong bone, were well balanced throughout, and each had that indefinable ring presence that made them stand out from the rest.
UK Ch. Galastock Danny Boy.
Ch. Jaynos Big Bopper.
As for my own best dog, I consider Ch. Flintstock Mad About the Boy to have been closest to my ideal. He had all the qualities I strive for, coupled with a strong but kind nature, which he passed down through his progeny.
Overlooked by judges: I am of the opinion that far too many all-rounder judges, in particular, are simply so ambitious to acquire another breed for their resume that they grasp at judging appointments without having any true knowledge of the breed. To me, breed type is everything – without type, you have no breed identity and too few judges understand, or take the time to learn about, type. Luckily, some judges do exist who have an “eye” for a dog, and that is something that can’t be taught. It is sometimes said that too much emphasis is placed on the head of a Bullmastiff, and, while I agree that it should be accompanied by soundness and correct construction, a Bullmastiff without a typical head loses its unique identity.
Ch. Lepsco Lady Elise of Flintstock.
Virtues and faults: Ours is a breed of “if onlys” – “if only” this dog with the good head had a better bend of stifle, “if only” this dog with the good, deep chest had a shorter back, “if only’ this near-perfect dog had better pigment! And so it goes on. It has been noticeable in the U.K. over recent years that poor fronts and excessively straight shoulders have been creeping into the breed; shallow and “cathedral” fronts not only seem to be accepted but bred from and passed on to the progeny.
On the standard: I think the KC standard is fairly straightforward, although there are two small points that are confusing. In the U.K. standard, the ears are described as “V-shaped, folded back,” when we all know that the ears should be held forward. I would prefer the description in the AKC standard – “V-shaped and carried close to the cheeks” – which is more accurate.
The second point is confusion on whether the height should be measured from the shoulder (in the U.K. standard) or the withers (AKC standard). I am constantly being asked to explain exactly where the shoulder should be measured from so, to avoid confusion, I would change the U.K. standard to state “withers.”
Ch. Saturn of Graecia.
Funny moment: One incident has remained in my mind from many years ago when I was showing Great Danes. I was but a shadow of the person I am today, but enthusiastically handled my own dogs. One of these was a very tall and exuberant male called Jimbo with whom I had to run full pelt to keep up with him. On this occasion, he started to get away from me and managed to catch my ankle, tripping me up and sending me flying on my face, completely winding me! So shocked was he to see me prone on the ground, gasping for air, that he didn’t quite know what to do, so he came and stood over me, then, very carefully, sat down on my back! The stewards came and hauled me to my feet and I finished my turn. I think the judge placed me out of sympathy!
Little-known: I was one of the original Playboy Bunnies when the club opened in Park Lane in London some 45 years ago!
Marston Green, Birmingham, United Kingdom
Breed involvement: I fell in love with Bullmastiffs in 1978, obtaining my first dog in 1980. I began judging in 1988 in the rather random way that one does in the U.K., and awarded my first set of Challenge Certificates in 1997. Since then, I have judged both in the U.K. and in mainland Europe. I have been invited to judge at the World Dog Show in Paris in 2011 and also at Crufts in 2013, which must be the highlights of any judge’s career!
I have never considered myself a breeder. Full-time teaching and litters of puppies are not ideal companions, so I have bought in most of my Bullmastiffs. I have only owned two champions, Ch. Copperfield Sampson, my first boy, and Ch. Molosser Alexander, whom I bred, but I have lived with three or four Bullmastiffs.
I have served on the committee of the Southern Bullmastiff Society for at least 20 years, and am currently the secretary of the Bullmastiff Breed Council, a body that acts as a liaison between the Kennel Club and the individual breed clubs. I am involved in many of the educational initiatives involving the breed and am the breed correspondent for Dog World.
Dogs of note: There are three Bullmastiffs that really remain in my mind. Ch. Maxstoke Monty, Ch. Copperfield Cicero and Ch. Optimus Holly were outstanding show dogs. They were all extremely well constructed, with excellent breed type and balance. They moved well, they were well muscled and fit for function, and they had real ring presence. There are good dogs out there but who lack the sparkle that makes a star.
Ch. Copperfield Cicero.
Holly was a quiet and reserved girl out of the ring, but once she crossed the threshold she lit up. Monty was always a joker at home and in the ring, while Cicero would bark loudly if he thought that he was being overlooked. They all had their faults, too, but their charisma was undeniable.
Ch. Copperfield Sampson was probably my best Bullmastiff, but being my first I did not realize just how good he was until I started to look for a successor!
Ch. Copperfield Sampson.
Overlooked by judges: A Bullmastiff was bred to be an athletic working dog, and too many judges seem to accept poor movement while being impressed by good head type. Yes, the head is important, but it doesn’t catch poachers all on its own! Clever handlers of poorly constructed dogs with resultant poor movement often move them far too fast or string them up on the move in an effort to disguise faults. A Bullmastiff has a particular speed and a characteristic profile on the move.
Virtues and faults: At present in the U.K., we have a huge variation of type, and this seems to be our major problem. Size, construction and balance are probably the most important aspects of the breed, and also the most difficult to maintain. The breed standard is the blueprint against which all dogs should be judged, and moderation should be the keyword. Personally I think that it is easier to correct faults in head type than it is to rebuild a faulty body.
Ch. Optimus Holly.
On the standard: If you look at the standard, there is a huge amount describing the head, but only a small comment about the mouth and bite. This leads me to deduce that the head proportions are more important than the teeth. I have delivered enough talks on the breed to all-rounder judges to realize that they are all obsessed with teeth! If only the standard stated that slightly undershot was preferred while level was accepted, we would be able to persuade people that a broad underjaw was a prerequisite. A level bite tends to lead to a narrower underjaw and a tendency to produce heads more akin to Labradors than Bullmastiffs.
Embarrassing moment: Molosser Diogenes was a splendid ambassador for the breed. He loved people and social occasions, and went to shows in order to chat. However, he hated showing, to the extent that two of our best breed handlers, Bill Warren and Peter Myers, gave up on him. At one show he was busy talking to a smart young bitch when I rudely interrupted his conversation and took him into the ring. He was not best pleased, so he went completely rigid, leaning slightly, with an expression that looked as if he was eating lemons. I endeavored to right the canine version of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but I failed! He did move for me, and we ended up with a second place, but that was his and my last appearance in a ring. You just have to recognize when you are beaten!
Ch. Maxstoke Monty.
Little-known: Bullmastiffs are my first love, but I also have a passion for Hereford cattle and am very privileged to have a small share in a friend’s Hereford herd. One of my favorite ways to relax is to lean on a gate watching these amazing beasts. The bull weighs 1.3 tons, and the fact that he comes over to have his head scratched still fills me with wonder!
De La Basse Roche Kennel
Hervault, Ecueillé, France
Breed involvement: I fell in love with the Bullmastiff in the early 1970s. I bought my first bitch in 1971. She was a daughter of Bullstaff Festival, son of Bullstaff Achilles, a very famous Bullmastiff in the U.K. by the late ’60s. She was not a show dog, but had a very nice temperament. Then I bought a son of Bullstaff Festival who became multi-champion.
I got involved in the breed club in 1977, and became a judge in 1981, going to Crufts for the first time that year and returning every year after to watch Bullmastiff judging. I used to go to Westminster each year, too. I have judged the breed all over Europe, as well as in Russia, Israel and Australia.
Since 1995, I have been the chairwoman of the French breed club (Club Français du Bullmastiff et du Mastiff). I have written two books on the breed.
Dogs of note: Two dogs come to mind that were in my opinion good examples of the breed: Bullstaff Festival, bred by Ruth Short in 1970, and Optimus Holly, a lovely bitch who won BOB at Crufts. Compact, with good head proportions, powerful but not cumbersome, with strong hindquarters and a good front. I also love this picture of Green Dragon Galadriel, who won the breed at the Helsinki European Dog Show. Or also this lovely head from Balboa du Mont de l’Aigle.
My best was Indra des Verts Paturages, nicknamed Igor. He became a French champion in 1976, won all the French specialties the same year and was BIS Reserve at Nevers CACIB International all-breed show.
Overlooked by judges: Soundness is essential, particularly movement, and it is unfortunately sometimes overlooked. Reach and drive from the hocks is essential.
The standard is accurate on the topic of weight and size, and specifies clearly that the Bullmastiff is powerful but not cumbersome. It is essential to remember that Bullmastiffs were selected as working dogs to help gamekeepers; they cannot be too heavy, but needed to have substance and strength to block poachers without being aggressive.
Virtues and faults: Sound construction and movement, as it is difficult to keep this quality regularly except if a breeder has made it a priority in his or her breeding program. It is easier to get good heads.
Concerning the head, year after year we have seen hypertypical heads with too-short muzzles and exaggeratedly wide jaws. It goes together with exaggerated overshot bite and small irregular placed teeth, which contradict the standard. It is not good for the breed’s health, nor for the dog’s functionality. This trend came first from the U.K., and spread all over Europe. It is essential to keep in mind the proportion of one third for the muzzle; this “fad” has driven the breed to hypertype.
Balboa du Mont de l'Aigle.
On the standard: The Bullmastiff standard allows differences in types, which is a good thing for a breed. In the AKC standard, “stop moderate” can be misunderstood. It is the same with “moderate angulation at hocks,” which is in both standards. As in many breeds, when problems come up, it is, in my opinion, more a question of fashion than a question of misunderstanding the standard. That was the case with too-short muzzles and exaggerated overshot bites. But on the other hand, we have seen recently in the U.K. snipey muzzles that are not broad enough under the eyes.
Green Dragon Galadriel.
Funny moment: It was in Spain in Villaverde judging, and there was only one Bullmastiff entered at the CAC show on Saturday. When he first came into the ring, I thought he was a dream of a Bullmastiff, but I stayed quiet and waited until he moved … and the movement was as marvelous as when the dog was standing. I told the exhibitor that he had a really top Bullmastiff; he had obviously no idea about his dog’s qualities. In the evening, in the main ring, he won Best of Group.
The following day at the CACIB show, with another judge, he won BOB and beat the Champion Class. After my judging, I met the owner and let him know again how nice his dog was. He told me that he was a Great Dane breeder and bought a couple of Bullmastiffs on the Internet somewhat by chance. His dream has always been to win a Group with his Great Danes but it never happened. And at the end of the second day, for the CACIB Show he won Best Of Group Reserve with this Bullmastiff!
Little known: I also love cats and horses and am happy to live with my English Mastiffs, a Pyrenean Sheepdog, two horses and three cats in the French countryside.
Breed involvement: I bought my first dog in 1969 and made him my first champion. Since then, I have owned, co-owned, bred or co-bred probably more than 100 champions, including the top-winning Bullmastiff in the history of the breed, four Best in Show Bullmastiffs, five national specialty winners and 19 Register of Merit top-producing sires/dams. I am approved to judge the entire Working and Hound groups, and have judged the American, Canadian and New Zealand nationals, and most recently the Bullmastiff World Cup in Hungary.
Dogs of note: There have been many contributors to the success of the Bullmastiff breed over the years. I loved the dog Ch. Ashlock’s Most Wonderful Time, ABA National winner, and a Best in Show and Westminster winner. “Tank” was a very correct, typey, sound dog, with everything that fit together. I also showed Ch. Tundra’s Pinewood Baron at the 1990 ABA National and won Best of Breed from the veteran class. “Butkus” was very much like Tank ... and a valuable contributor to the Bullmastiff gene pool. One of my favorite bitches of all time was Ch. Beauty of Bullmast ... I never saw her in person, but her photos depicted a very typey, square bitch that exuded breed type.
Beauty of Bulmas.
I think my best effort was Ch. Banstock Bruno of the Northeast, co-bred with Chris Lezotte and Alan Kalter of Happylegs Bullmastiffs, who was top-producing sire two years in a row, and a major contributor of correct breed type in his progeny. “Bruno” satisfied both the breeder-judge as well as the all-rounder with his beautiful type and lovely angles, which he used in the Group ring.
Ch. Banstock Bruno of the Northeast.
Overlooked by judges: I believe that judges can miss the typey dog in the breed, then reward the more “generic” Bullmastiff in the Group, a dog with a good bite, great pigment and flashy side gait, but a dog without correct breed type ... the generic Bullmastiff. I don’t think a lot of judges recognize true Bullmastiff type: the nearly square body, the cube-on-cube head, and just look to the soundest-moving dog to reward in the breed and Group. Judges must first recognize the typey dogs, then find the soundest movers out of them. I use this mantra when presenting seminars: “Long is wrong.” Nearly square every bit depicts breed type as the squareness of the head and muzzle. Proportion is what defines the difference between the Mastiff and Bullmastiff, and sometimes you can’t tell the difference in the Group ring. I would also like to see judges pay more attention to condition and temperament.
Virtues and faults: If nature bred dogs, they would never look like Bullmastiffs. Although size seems not to be an issue in the breed right now, size and substance and that beautiful head will soon disappear, and breeders must be ever diligent to look for those characteristics when breeding and placing puppies as show prospects.I also think that some breeders are condoning the rectangular dog instead of nearly square to please the Group judges. Like many breeds, we are seeing many generic as well as long and low Bullmastiffs. My feeling is that fronts are hardest to correct, otherwise we would see better fronts in this breed, and we see far too many straight, stuffy shoulders and narrow fronts. A Bullmastiff with a correct front is a rarity in the breed ring.
Ch. Ashlock's Most Wonderful Time.
On the standard: Although our illustrated standard depicts head type well, the standard does not adequately describe correct proportion in the head. Head type in the Bullmastiff is not readily understood, not by breeders or judges. We see far too much diversity in head type in the show ring.
Embarrassing moment: Once one of my children (I have three: Helaina, Mathew and Julia) overheard me on the telephone telling a Bullmastiff anecdote to a good friend and commented, “Mom, you’ve already told that story too many times.” My reply was, “But, oh, it was such a good story!”
Breed involvement: I have had Bullmastiffs since my childhood. I have been active as an exhibitor, judge and national rescue coordinator. I’ve bred many champions, BIS and BISS winners, but perhaps the greatest success I feel is when I am able to rehome an abandoned Bullmastiff.
Dogs of note: I have seen and judged many Bullmastiffs that I have admired. My own all-time favorite was Am. Int. Span. Ch. Blackslate’s Boston Blackie, ROM.
Overlooked by judges: Judges should judge the overall dog. The head obviously is important in our breed, but a dog with a beautiful head that doesn’t move correctly shouldn’t be rewarded. Handlers should not be allowed to race the Bullmastiff around the ring.
Virtues and faults: Bad bites, toplines (roach backs) and gay tails can be difficult to eradicate in a breeding program. Correct size and bone can be difficult to maintain. I see lots of bitches in the show ring that are too small.
Embarrassing moment: As I was about to start judging the 2010 French Bulldog Club of America National Specialty, my stockings fell down. Fortunately, I had time to run up to the hotel room and get a new pair that fit better.
Little-known: I majored in African history in college.
Breed involvement: My love affair with Bullmastiffs began in the mid-1960s. At a record-breaking entry of 35 Bullmastiffs at the Pittsburgh benched show one year, I spotted the dog that tipped me over the edge, the great Ch. Pixie’s Imp of Cascade, also known as “Igor.” He was a son of Ch. Ambassador’s Imperator and grandson of the great English dog, Ch. Ambassador of Buttonoak. In time, I contacted Igor’s owner and breeders, Mabel and Bert Kreutzer of Elyria, Ohio, and after another year’s wait was finally able to procure an Igor puppy. Her name was Ch. Ladybug Becky of Cascade, CD, and she produced my first Group-winning Bullmastiffs.
It was a matter of luck that I could recognize quality in the breed, managed to procure a beautifully bred bitch as my foundation, and had wonderful mentors in Bert and Mabel. The plan right from the start was to breed outstanding bitches rather than to concentrate on males. My thinking was, if the girls could be the best, the boys would tag along, too. That came to full bloom with two events. The first was when Ch. Ladybug IM Angelica Rose became the number-one Bullmastiff in the country (all systems) for two years. The second was when her sister, Ch. Ladybug Seastar Gem, became the first bitch to win Best in Show, quickly followed by another sister, Ch. Ladybug Lady Caitlin, TD, and then a niece, Ch. Ladybug Seastar Rosebud, a daughter of Angelica Rose. Ladybug boys winning BIS included Ch. Ladybug Staff Sargent, Ch. Ladybug Thorne of the Rose, and Ch. Ladybug Shastid Brahminson. My proudest moment as a breeder came at the ABA National when Ann Rogers Clark gave the final nod to Caitlin for Best of Breed and gave Awards of Merit to Cait’s three sisters Angelica Rose, Ch. Ladybug Charlotte Wyn and Ch. Ladybug Mary’s Ayla.
I judge Bullmastiffs, as well as Mastiffs, Akitas and Doberman Pinschers. I still enjoy mentoring newcomers to the breed, and also have mentored many prospective Bullmastiff judges over the years.
Dogs of note: I have deeply admired many Bullmastiffs, and it’s very difficult to limit myself to just three favorites. The first was Ch. Pixie’s Imp of Cascade, an outstanding dog for his time with beautiful type, a correct headpiece, a naturally hard muscular body, and a sense of presence about him that let a person know that he was special.
Ch. Pixie's Imp of Cascade.
When I first saw Ch. Blackslates Boston Brahmin at the age of six months, he gave me a great sense of excitement. He was a gangly red pup, and wild as a March hare, but his proportions were right-on and his head, although juvenile, was gorgeous. Once mature, he was the kind of dog who could be photographed from the side, as he had nothing to hide. He had good bone, compactness, excellent proportions, glorious color, and a beautiful head and expression. He also had a delightful outgoing personality and a sense of humor that resulted in some playful antics in the show ring.
Another selection for one of my all-time favorites would have to be the beautiful English dog Ch. Dixon of the Green. I saw him once as a puppy at a show in the Midlands, and immediately looked him up in the catalog. It was my assured pleasure to have been able to judge him some years later as a mature dog. He was of correct type in all things, not overdone but just what the standard describes. He was athletic, powerful, magnificent, and had an excellent demeanor. He could easily have won here in the U.S. as well as in England, where he garnered an unheard of two all-breed Bests in Show.
Ch. Ladybug Lady Caitlin, TD, at the Garden in 1993.
As for which one of my own dogs was the best, it impossible to choose. I loved them all for their many different attributes. Angelica Rose, co-owned with Peggy Graham, was nearly unbeatable in the breed ring for two years. Caitlin won two Nationals and six Bests in Show with her owner/handler Denise Borton, an unforgettable pair. Staff Sargent was a majestic dog who could float around the ring. Brahminson was a beautiful dog with a sweet clownish personality that made him a joy to live with as well as to show.
Alan Levine handling Ch. Ladybig Angelica Rose.
Overlooked by judges: I believe that one of the most important considerations for a Bullmastiff judge is the overall package that identifies this breed alone. The outline, proportion, head, substance and balance should be easily identifiable as Bullmastiff. Although not exactly a square breed, both AKC and English standards refer to the term in reference to head. Both call for rather compact dogs, rather than the rectangular outline of Mastiffs. I use the term square as a guide in judging Bullmastiff: The breed should have an appearance of squareness, meaning that the less square in either general proportion or in head, the less correct the dog becomes as it approaches the Mastiff standard.
Virtues and faults: The breed is in pretty good shape overall. The dogs are generally sounder, better balanced, and a bit more unified in size, topline, angulation and type than in the earlier years. This is true in North America, as well as the U.K. and Europe. A personal pet peeve of mine is a dropped-off croup or an overly tilted pelvis that gives a rounded, hound-like appearance to the rear. The most difficult thing to achieve is the compact, squared outline while maintaining enough balance to allow strong, true movement.
Ch. Ladybug Mary's Ayla.
On the standard: The main problem with the Bullmastiff standard in any country is probably that not enough attention is paid to it. For a standard to have relevance, it must be read, studied and committed to memory. I often question whether most breeders are familiar with even our current standard, let alone earlier developmental ones or those from other countries. Although we each must adhere to our own accepted version of the standard, when all of them are studied, it gives added background, nuance and meaning to the words. Perhaps we are too used to getting instant knowledge from the Internet rather than to take the time to delve or go beyond the basics.
Funny story: Many years ago I was sitting at ringside at a large foreign show watching a woman show a large, untrained male. Her husband kept loudly berating her from the sidelines. Nothing she did was right as far as he was concerned, so at last he jumped up, marched over and snatched the lead just as it was time to gait the dog. The dog was obviously unimpressed with the man’s bravado so had to be dragged and wrestled across the ring. Then the dog got a glint in his eyes, jumped up and grabbed the man around the waist as they started back. The fellow simply couldn’t disengage the dog. He tried his best to retain a shred of dignity, but it was difficult with the dog humping along vigorously as they struggled down the mat to the judge, who was trying very hard to keep a straight face. When the duo stopped, the man used both hands and a knee to pry off the amorous dog, handed the leash back to the wife, and announced to her, “That’s the way it should be done!”
Little-known: Before I became involved with Bullmastiffs, I was considered a “cat person.”
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Breed involvement: My father bought my first Bullmastiff for me in 1988, when I was 16. I traveled with him when he was successfully judging and showing Australian warmbloods and stock horses. This allowed us to share a hobby of exhibiting animals, and we have owned Bullmastiffs for the past 22 years. We have bred and exhibited several Best in Specialty Show winners, a multi-all-breed Best in Show winner and a number of international champions. We have imported several Bullmastiffs from England and have established one of the most comprehensive collections of Bullmastiff frozen semen. In 2005, we were the first and remain the only people to send a Bullmastiff from Australia to England. The bitch was an Australian champion and became UK Ch. Gameguard Platinum via Graecia. She also won the Reserve Challenge Certificate in Crufts in 2005.
I achieved my worldwide Bullmastiff championship judging status in Australia in 2003, and have judged at several all-breed and Bullmastiff specialty shows in Australia and overseas. The Dominion Bullmastiff Club of New Zealand was a highlight, and more recently the Bullmastiff Club of Victoria (Australia). I have attended British, European and American shows in order to broaden my knowledge of the worldwide gene pool. I currently judge the whole Utility Group, which is the one in which the Bullmastiff is placed in Australia.
Ch. Kangala Hana of Oldwell.
Dogs of note: My all-time favorite was the famous UK Ch. Graecia Mercury. For all-round class, construction, movement and headpiece, you couldn’t find better. If I could breed a dog anywhere near his quality, I would be a proud breeder. In Australia there was a bitch called Ch. Kangala Hana of Oldwell, not to be confused with the actual Oldwell kennels in the U.K., however. She had an excellent outline and such a strong frame with well-sprung ribs, she was extremely well put together.
And last but not least, the American Ch. Banstock Bruno of the Northeast, another class animal whose outline was remarkable. One of the few dogs whose front was exquisite. The well-laid shoulders and good length of upper arm placed his forelegs well under his rib cage, he had excellent width in front and prominent prosternum. What is even more impressive is that this front assembly was rarely seen elsewhere in the breed!
Ch. Banstock Bruno of the Northeast.
In regards to my own animals, my current show and stud dog Australian and New Zealand Champion Gameguard Yukon (“Spud”) has to be my favorite. He is a multi-champion, Bullmastiff of the year winner and Multi Best in Specialty winner. He is a great character and ambassador for the breed. He has an excellent outline, with the proportion and outline I always look for with a short, level back.
Overlooked by judges: Unfortunately some non-breed specialists tend to reward a more generic dog with greater ring presence and speedier movement over correct specimens who aren’t as hyped up. They sometimes tend to reward a fault at the expense of another desirable trait. While our standard requires a 1/3 to 2/3 for the ratio of muzzle to skull, it is extremely difficult to maintain this with a level mouth. Some judges will place a dog with an incorrect elongated muzzle with a level bite (which is easier to obtain) and comment that they did so because it had the better mouth! They fail to realize that they have rewarded a completely foreign head style.
Virtues and faults: As I wrote above, correct head proportions and level bites are a difficult marriage. I’ve seen the odd breeder attain a few dogs with these attributes, but more often than not they have a receding chin with what I describe as a “frog like” expression. Not a good look! These dogs often produce their share of overshot offspring, too. Either way, it ruins the headpiece completely. As far as I am aware, we are the only breed to expect a 1/3 to 2/3 muzzle to skull ratio and not equally reward an undershot bite in the standard! Slightly undershot, with a broad jaw and evenly placed large teeth is the ideal in my mind, and is usually found on the best-headed dogs.
Light eyes are incredibly hard to breed out. I’ve seen breeders with relatively good eye color in their dogs produce super-light eyes out of the same stock. Mate to a dog with a light eye, and it’s an incredibly hard effort to get away from it!
Short-backed dogs are almost nonexistent these days. “Off square” is about the right proportion where the length of the body is just greater than the height. It does expose your dog’s constructional weaknesses, as the legs collide if they aren’t put together properly. This is why many people breed longer dogs, it’s just easier. However, when really long dogs are being shown, the correct short-backed dogs look out of place.
Correct fronts are also so hard to breed. In my travels I have realized that there are all but a handful with what is needed. It is easy to breed straight fronts with “tacked on” shoulders with no length of upper arm, but the wide fronts with well-laid-back shoulders, good length of upper arm, obvious prosternum shown on profile are rare as hen’s teeth. If you know any stud dogs with these traits that produce them consistently, let me know! Even better, put his semen on ice so you never lose it!
Ch. Graecia Mercury.
On the standard: As mentioned previously I believe the “level bite preferred” does throw confusion into the mix of non-breeder judges. This also goes hand in hand with “approximately a third” when describing the length of muzzle. To the letter of the standard that means a dog with 1/2 head and 1/2 muzzle deviates from the standard as equally as a dog with 1/4 muzzle and 3/4 head! The deviation from the 1/3 is the same with both examples! I’m sure we agree that neither of those dogs are acceptable. It’s time to delete “approximately” from the standard, in my opinion.
With the extra scrutiny from animal-welfare groups, I think there could be an easy addition to all standards that would compliment and enhance them. Breathing problems are becoming more frequent within the breed, either from palate problems or narrow nostrils. I would like to see something along the lines of “Nostrils to be large and wide to allow for ease of breathing” and “Any shortening of the muzzle that appears to affect breathing to be penalized to the level of its perceived impairment.”
I think the Canadian standard tackles proportions and angles better than the other standards.
Embarrassing moment: I was showing multi-Ch. Gameguard Arion in the Group line-up when he was sniffing the ground as the judge approached to assess him. I jerked him on the lead to get his attention, whereupon he turned around, looked at me, cocked his leg and peed down my trousers. You have just got to laugh with the audience with that one!
Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom
Breed involvement: My father started the Copperfield kennel in 1947, and I was born into a family that owned 30 Bullmastiffs. I have spent my entire life with the breed and handled my first dog at three years old, and with Copperfield Rosa Bud gained my first CC at the age of 11. Along with my partner Vikki, we bred our most successful Bullmastiff: UK Bel. Fin. Int. Ch. Copperfield Cicero, who took Reserve BIS from an entry of 14,000 dogs. Copperfield has bred more than 50 champions worldwide. I have been fortunate enough to judge in many countries and was honored to judge Bullmastiffs at the World Dog Show in Finland in 1998. A lifelong ambition has been to organize a world Bullmastiff show, which along with Franky Loeckx of Woodbull Farm and Sandor Trefan of Pi-et-ra of Trefilio, we achieved in 2009 with the first Bullmastiff World Cup.
Dogs of note:
Ch. Torneto vom Frankental for his balance and breed type. Ch. Lady Face vom Frankental for her strength and substance while still remaining feminine, and Ch. Graecia Mercury for his sheer class. Ch. Casameyer Dark Saxon of Copperfield JW is probably the best for type balance and construction, and has a head to die for.
Overlooked by judges: I feel that the most overlooked characteristics are construction, balance and correct Bullmastiff movement. There are no real “fads” at present, however, in the U.K. the new rule of not being “exaggerated in any way” is being taken to the extreme in some cases, and breed type can be ignored.
Ch. Tornetto vom Frankental.
Virtues and faults: At present, level toplines and correct lay of shoulder are difficult both to achieve and maintain. Although not seen so much today, two of the most difficult faults to eradicate are wry mouths and light eyes.
Ch. Casmeyer Dark Saxon of Copperfield JW.
UK, Belgian, Finnish and Intl. Ch. Copperfield Cicero.
On the standard: The breed standard is basically adequate, but the weights are not conducive to modern feeding. A personal pet hate is the level bite, which I feel is a contributing factor to the loss of head type.
One of the most embarrassing moments as an exhibitor would have been when an esteemed but elderly and eccentric judge wearing a large brimmed sun hat squatted down for a better view of my dog’s movement, and ended up on her bottom in the middle of the ring minus the hat, which had been removed by my bitch.
Little-known: I am as fascinated today by a litter of newborn puppies as I was when I saw my first litter delivered.