Mr. Burton, of Thorneywood Kennels, is reputed to be one of the oldest breeders of Bull-Mastiffs, and certainly is an excellent judge of the dog. He is owner of the famous Thorneywood Terror, whose photograph is here reproduced, and who fought on the stage at the Crystal Palace many years ago. Mr. Biggs, of Osmaston Hall, Derby, owns some wonderful specimens, and is very interested and keen. On more than one occasion he has owed his life to his dogs, and Osmaston Diasy and Osmaston Grip, whose photographs are printed, have taken more poachers between them than any other dogs living. I owe, however, my introduction to the breed to Mr. J.H. Bennett, of 99 Bromspring Lane, Sheffield, and I reproduce the photograph of my 7½ months bitch which I bought of him.
The author’s Bull-Mastiff pup, Nada the Fearless.
Before recounting any reminiscences or tales of this breed I have just set forth a few plain facts reproduced from papers. I am condensing the plain, unvarnished truth, and not giving the whole of the extracts which were pubished. Some people may run away with the idea that these dogs are savages, but they are trained to obey a command, and, curious as it may be to relate, in every instance the dogs who have captured poachers, thieves and desperadoes, have always been muzzled. No Airedale could chase and down men armed with sticks or gun barrels and hold them down until assistance arrived. Bull-Mastiffs know no fear and are never beaten. Naturally all this requires a course of training, which is dealt with in The Training of Dogs as Guards and Defenders – at least I think that is the title of the book.
The dog is started at about ten months old on a dummy and is gradually taught to face a man with anything in his hand. Were the police armed with these dogs in dangerous districts there would be very few murders. Criminals will face anything rather than a savage dog, and if they frightened at Airedales they would be absolutely panic stricken if they had to face a Bull-Mastiff, which is not pretty at the best of times. Moreover, it is very difficult to fire at a dog and hit it, although some of these poor animals have lost their lives saving people. They are highly intelligent and seem to be possessed of wonderful quickness and scenting power, and for a long time I confess I was baffled to find out whence they got their speed and wonderful noses, as neither the bull-dog nor the mastiff could be looked upon as very fast dogs or possessing a wonderful scent. Personally I think at times the strain of bloodhound has been introduced, and that the old-fashioned bulldog was used and not the modern dog.
I think it says something for the sagacity of these dogs that when Mr. Bennett was a little boy out with his sister they were frightened by a tramp. “Watch him, Dick,” said Mr. Bennett to the dog. The dog in his hurry to get at the tramp knocked over Mr. Bennett’s little sister into a shallow running stream; he came back and pulled her out first, and then held up the tramp until the children got back to their house, and was holding him up when Mr. Bennett Senior arrived. On another occasion, when their father and mother were out, a man tried to force an entrance into the front door, saying he would wait for their parents’ return. They had been playing in the hall with a rocking-horse, and the man had to push somewhat to get in at the front door. Meanwhile, the servant let loose one of the Bull-Mastiffs. The dog held the man up in the hall from 9 o’clock that night until 3 o’clock the next morning, when the parents came back from the party which they had attended. The children sat up in blankets too frightened to go to bed; no one could call the dog off, food and everything was tried, and the man promised and cried to be allowed to go, the front door was still open and the cold and snow were blowing in; no one dare shut the door, and all the children’s coaxing could not move the dog. When Mr. Bennett Senior arrived one half of the man was numbed through cold, and still the dog “stood it all,” holding up the intruder. The police were sent for, and the “gentleman” in question was found to be a notorious house-breaker and scoundrel and was relieved of his jemmy and revolver, and as Mr. Bennett tersely puts it “revolvers are not much good if a dog won’t let you draw them.”
A splendid specimen. Osmaston Turk. Weight 120 lbs. Dam, Old Nell, half Bloodhound, half Mastiff. Owned by Mr. Biggs.
Mr. Biggs, who is an old man, was set upon by poachers one night and desperately attacked. It was a melee, and a struggle for life on the ground, and his bitch, though terribly knocked about, “outed” the three poachers in the end, and during the whole of the struggle she stepped over and about her master’s body like a lamb. I have many other instances to relate about these dogs and their masters, and proofs shown as puppies of the extraordinary character they develop in their affections. This I shall do at a later period, and I hope in the meanwhile I shall have interested many who will look into the claims of a dog that is not only all British but combines wonderful pluck and endurance with the gentleness of a lamb, and whose only aim and request is if necessary to be allowed to take its death serving its master or mistress. One cannot buy devotion, the next best thing to it is to buy a Bull-Mastiff.
It is only right to chronicle that curiously enough the biggest authorities on the Bull-Mastiff, and chiefly the gentlemen mentioned in this article, all seem to disagree about the exact origin of the breed. I am inclined to think that the bloodhound has occasionally played its part and in a few instances Great Dane. Mr. Burton considers the Bull-Mastiff rather dangerous to go about in the ordinary way, but then he is speaking of the trained dog. My contention, and that of the majority of authorities, is that the dog has the pluck, power and endurance to take punishment that is necessary, and this can be developed or not according to in whose hands the dog may be. A savage dog does not mean a plucky dog, and any savage animal not under control should be shot irrespective of the breed. Naturally the Bull-Mastiff might have a tendency to be more savage, and certainly more determined in its attack. The majority of breeders from my own personal experience tell me that they are one of the safest dogs in the world to be trusted with children or ladies. It is true they might be more alert than most watch-dogs, and a little keener to tackle anybody while they are guarding, but that is the beauty of the breed.