-A +A
Marie Moore at High Hope Farm in 1958. The Mastiffs are brothers Rhinehart and Falcon of Blackroc. Photo courtesy of Joan Turner Moore
Marie Moore at High Hope Farm in 1958. The Mastiffs are brothers Rhinehart and Falcon of Blackroc. Photo courtesy of Joan Turner Moore

Mysterious Marie

Marie Moore helped re-establish the Mastiff in the United States in the last half of the 20th Century. But who was she, really?

In December 1984, Mastiff fancier dee dee Andersson received a handwritten note from Marie Moore, one of the undisputed doyennes of the breed. In her spidery, precise handwriting on rich cream paper, Moore replied to Andersson’s invitation to judge bitches at the Mastiff Club of America National Specialty.  

“ … after years of real abuse by rival Mastiff owners and breeders, I hesitate to intrude,” Moore wrote in response to the invitation, which she nonetheless accepted. “In the old days, winning was not the road to popularity. One year, the President of the MCOA threw the BOB Challenge trophy at me, believe it or not!”  

Moore died less than three years after that letter was written. But the excerpt captures her sometimes contradictory character – intensely competitive and solitary by nature, but also wanting the approbation of her breed community and, sometimes, feeling its absence when it did not materialize.   Arguably the nation’s highest-profile Mastiff breeder in the 1950s and ’60s, Moore was one of three women – Eve Olsen Fisher of Willowledge and Patty Brill of Peach Farm were the others – who re-established the Mastiff in North America during the latter half of the century. A woman of means, Moore stocked her Mooreleigh Kennel at High Hope Farm in The Plains, Virginia, with some of the best imports Britain had to offer, from kennels such as Havengore, Withybush and Blackroc. Her string of specialty winners – Mooreleigh Mastiffs won eight of the 11 national specialties between 1955 and 1965 – were the envy of any Mastiff breeder.  

Though she stopped breeding in the late 1960s, Moore continued to influence the breed through her judging assignments around the world; in 1970, she was the first American to judge Mastiffs at Crufts, that most British of British shows. An unabashed Anglophile, Moore made it a point to visit Crufts as often as possible, and she was an honorary member of Britain’s Old English Mastiff Club. Moore shared her travels and observations in the AKC Gazette’s Mastiff breed column, which she penned for a decade after its inception in 1965. And her 1978 book, titled simply The Mastiff, was the first book about the breed published after World War II, when it had narrowly escaped extinction.  

Beyond the breed she devoted herself to, Moore also made an appreciable impact on the dog fancy at large. A relentless collector, she was the single most significant donor to the AKC Museum of the Dog, now the permanent home of her extensive collection of Mastiff art and antiques. She endowed a seat of humane ethics and animal welfare at the University of Pennsylvania, currently occupied by James Serpell, PhD. (Ironically, Serpell’s negative opinions about the breeding of purebred dogs, used in the scathing BBC documentary “Pedigree Dogs Exposed,” would likely have had his university benefactress seething.)

   

Moore showing one of her first British imports, Meps Berenice, to her national-specialty win in 1955. She was the first American bitch champion since 1937.

Moore showing one of her first British imports, Meps Berenice, to her national-specialty win in 1955. She was the first American bitch champion since 1937.    

 

But for all her accomplishments and accolades, Moore remained an enigma to most of her contemporaries in the Mastiff world. She held her breeding stock close, and only a handful of fellow breeders – among them the well-known handler and later Basenji icon Damara Bolte and her mother Adelaide – were able to procure bitches or stud service from Moore’s kennel, which in its heyday numbered upward of 40 dogs. Intensely private and from all accounts difficult to approach, Moore made herself synonymous with the Mastiff, but shared little else: Some in the breed knew of her involvement with thoroughbred racehorses – she owned Gallorette, widely considered one of the finest racing mares in the history of the sport. But few knew of her personal background – who she was, and where she had been before she moved to Virginia in the 1940s and soon began breeding Mastiffs on her optimistically named High Hope Farm.  

 

•••

 

Born in 1907 in New York City, Moore’s maiden name was Marie Antoinette Clemens. She was named after the ill-fated French queen, as her mother and her mother’s mother had been before her.   Moore’s father was James Brentano Clemens, reportedly a cousin of Mark Twain and a socially prominent physician in Manhattan. A throat specialist, Clemens had attended the University of Pennsylvania, as had his father and grandfather, which likely explains Moore’s generosity toward the university in later years.  

Moore’s mother, Marie Antoinette Heye (pronounced “high”), was the daughter of German immigrant Carl Friederich Gustav Heye, who earned his fortune in the oil industry, working as an executive for Standard Oil magnate John D. Rockefeller. Carl Heye had one other child, George Gustav, who during his lifetime amassed the largest collection of Native American artifacts ever assembled by a single individual. Those million or so items later became the nucleus of the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. When George Gustav Heye died in 1957, press accounts named Moore as one of his few surviving relatives. Perhaps Moore’s passion for collecting was inspired by her uncle’s almost manic acquisition of Indian artifacts, which began on a 1897 trip to Kingman, Arizona, where he saw a Navaho woman chewing the seams of her husband’s deerskin shirt to kill lice – and bought it on the spot.   The Heye family fortune, placed in trusts by Moore’s grandfather, provided income for future generations, including, eventually, Moore.  

 

Mastiff Marie Moore on horseback 1918

Moore at 11 years old riding on a family vacation in 1918.

 

During Moore’s childhood, the Clemenses resided at 10 East 71st Street, just half a block from Central Park. The address still exists, but the original building is no more, having been razed in 1934 to build the 13-story Frick Art Reference Library. Even today, the Upper East Side block, lined with limestone townhouses and mini-mansions that date to the early 1900s, bespeaks a 19th Century life of privilege. The copper-roofed view from the former Clemens address is “as blue chip as you get in New York,” one real-estate agent opined in a recent New York Times article.  

Despite such an elite upbringing, Moore’s daughter, Joan Turner Moore of Middleburg, Virginia, says her mother’s childhood was not a particularly happy one. Much of Marie Antoinette Heye’s attention was trained on her older daughter Dorothy, eight years Moore’s senior, who she launched into the New York social scene with a fervor. On July 9, 1922, the New York Tribune noted that it had taken film footage of Dorothy Clemens, then a debutante who was spending the summer at Briarcliff Lodge in the Westchester Hills with her family. “Miss Clemens, who took part in a number of the entertainments given by New York’s fashionable younger set last winter, is busy these days bettering her already splendid golf game under the tutelage of Archie Sanderson, the popular ‘pro’ at the Sleepy Hollow Country Club,” the paper reported breathlessly.  

Turner Moore says her mother turned to John Clemens for the attention and affection she was seeking. “Her father was the one who gave her the first Pekingese” – Moore owned the flat-faced breed for years, though her mother detested them – “and he was the one who took her riding in Central Park.” Those trots and canters through the 843-acre park in the center of Manhattan cemented Moore’s love for horses, which continued for the rest of her life: She played polo as a schoolgirl, and as an adult showed horses at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto.   

On January 13, 1925, the New York Times carried an announcement of the engagement of Moore – then still Marie Antoinette Clemens – to Theodore Lang Baily of Ardmore, Pennsylvania. Moore was not even 18 years old when her “troth was pledged,” as the paper put it so quaintly, and her husband-to-be had not yet graduated from Princeton. But less than two years later, Moore had married, moved to Haverford, Pennsylvania, and welcomed the arrival of their son, Theodore Lang Baily, Jr.   In 1930, the Bailys had a daughter, Susan. But much had changed in the interim. Moore’s beloved father had passed away. Soon Moore’s marriage, too, faded.

 

A 20-year-old Marie Moore with her firstborn, son Teddy, in 1927.

A 20-year-old Marie Moore with her firstborn, son Teddy, in 1927.

 

Within four years, Moore remarried and had her third child, Joan Turner Moore, born in 1934. Turner Moore thinks her mother may have met her father, who was her second and last husband, at a model-airplane flying show – John Turner Moore, Jr., would later become a pilot and colonel in World War II – or a horse show, as Moore kept, rode and competed with horses in Pennsylvania. John Turner Moore was an entrepreneur, inheriting his father’s Rebat factory in Redding, which produced car and motorcycle batteries.  

When their daughter was around 7 years old, the couple decided to part ways, and Moore moved to a rented farmhouse in Warrenton, Virginia. It had a beautiful shed-row barn for Moore’s horses, which she would later decide to breed. But soon there was bad news from New York. “Her mother was so upset with her at dissolving the second marriage that I know she cut her off from all the funds,” Turner Moore remembers, adding that later bank officials reversed the moratorium. “But Mother was somehow able to make ends meet and get me to school.”  

Moore’s slight frame and seeming bird-like fragility belied her determination. She acquired three cows and installed them in a Quonset hut that stood on the property. Each morning, she made her way out to the makeshift barn to milk the Jerseys, along with a hired hand named George Washington. “Some days it was freezing cold, and the cows had ice hanging off their teats,” Turner Moore remembers. “She’d bring the milk in, we’d separated the cream, churn and make butter. Then Mother would take the butter to town and get gas stamps. It wasn’t all roses.”  

Turner Moore remembers her mother as being tough – a survivor. “She smoked Camels – and Pall Malls and Parliaments,” she recalls. In later years, at her farm in The Plains, Virginia, Moore had a Toro push mower that she would propel along the eighth-mile-long driveway until the grass had a satisfactory crew cut.  

But while Moore was “inordinately strong and capable,” she was “so unsure of herself emotionally,” her daughter remembers. Several years after Turner Moore was born, her parents had had another child, a baby boy named after his father, Johnny. He died in his first week. “Mother once said to me that she knew Daddy wanted a boy,” Turner Moore recalls, “and had he lived, things ‘might have been different.’”  

Soon after Moore’s move to Virginia, Turner Moore remembers that her father visited, with a puppy in tow. “It was huge, and it had these big ears and a very long, docked tail” – possibly a Boxer, but with a deep chest and massive paws that harkened to some unspoken Molosser in his pedigree.  

“Blynken” – or “Blinky” for short – was intended as a peace offering, “a kind of make-up, but it didn’t work,” Turner Moore says. “That night, my mother resentfully accepted the dog” – but not the reconciliation with her soon-to-be ex-husband.  

At the end of World War II, Moore acquired High Hope Farm in Virginia, which is where Mastiff fanciers knew her life in the breed to have begun. Blinky the prototype Mastiff, who grew to more than 100 pounds, accompanied her there, living to the ripe old age of nine or 10. After he died, Moore began her search for the breed that would define the remaining four decades of her life.  

 

The circumstances that prompted this 1968 ad in Popular Dogs are not clear, but it is fair to say that Moore’s financial resources, often brusque manner and enviable win record fostered some resentment in the Mastiff community.

 

•••

 

While the Mastiff had had its heyday in America in the latter part of the 19th Century, by the time Moore began looking to acquire one, there were only a handful of breeders in North America. Of them, Patty Brill of Peach Farm in Newark, Delaware, was the most prolific. Overseas, British breeders were still working to stabilize the breed, helped immeasurably by the North American import Valiant Diadem, who was sent over in the late 1940s to help turn the tide.  

Moore’s first acquisition was Peach Farm Michael (Austin of Chaseway x Peach Farm Belinda), bred by Brill and whelped in 1952. Turner Moore remembers him as being very unsound in the rear, with “dreadful, post-straight hind legs.” Indeed, his most widely published photo shows him lying down. In her May 1966 Gazette column, Moore wrote this about the acquisition of her first dog, presumably Peach Farm Michael: “When I started my kennel, a number of years ago, I visited the few remaining breeders in America but found only one puppy that I liked. Unfortunately he developed into a very unsound dog … ”  

 

Moore’s first Mastiff, Peach Farm Michael, acquired in 1952 from Patty Brill of Peach Farm in Newark, Delaware.

Moore’s first Mastiff, Peach Farm Michael, acquired in 1952 from Patty Brill of Peach Farm in Newark, Delaware.

 

Despite his conformational deficiencies, “Mickey,” as he was called, was bred to Lady of Clearview (Valiant Dreadful x Mattie of Clearview), originally bred and owned by Raymond Pope. The 1955 breeding, for which Moore was the breeder of record, produced Mooreleigh Maurice. In 1954, Moore acquired Wey Acres Wanda (Withybush Magnus x Peach Farm Priscilla) from breeder Helen Weyenberg.  

 

An early Mooreleigh acquisition, American-bred Wey Acres Wanda, at five years old. Photo courtesy Virginia Bregman

An early Mooreleigh acquisition, American-bred Wey Acres Wanda, at five years old. Photo courtesy Virginia Bregman

 

It was not long before Moore looked across the pond for suitable breeding stock. Starting in the latter half of the 1950s, she imported a flurry of British-bred Mastiffs, among them Adonis of Sparry (Faithful Gillard of Sparry x Semper Fidelis of Sparry), a three-time national-specialty winner, and his sister Ariadne of Sparry.  

But Moore’s most significant imports from that initial wave were unarguably her first, from the Meps kennel of Marguerite Perrenoud: Meps Berenice (Ch. Vyking Aethelwulf of Al Salyng x Withybush Beatrix) and her brother Meps Bing, whelped in 1954. (Their dam was sired by the American import Valiant Diadem, who clearly had succeeded in his mission to reinvigorate British breeding stock.) When put to Moore’s American-bred bitch Wey Acres Wanda, Meps Bing produced the two-time national-specialty-winning Ch. Mooreleigh Moby Dick and the brindle Mooreleigh Monarch, who was Moore’s most-used sire – she never used an outside stud dog – until the Blackroc dogs came on the scene.  

 

Megs Bing, littermate to Meps Berenice and a Group-placing Mastiff.

Megs Bing, littermate to Meps Berenice and a Group-placing Mastiff.

 

In the 1960s, Moore imported her two best-known dogs, the brothers Rhinehart and Falcon of Blackroc, both bred by William Hanson. Gracing the cover of Moore’s book, “Rusty” was a fawn of impressive bone and substance, though his head was not his strongest feature. Hanson made Rusty up as a champion and won two all-breed Bests in Show with him before sending him to the States – with Moore signed on as an owner before he titled. In due course Rusty became the breed’s first dual champion, winning the 1964 Mastiff Club of America national specialty owner-handled by Moore, a feat they repeated the following year.  

Rusty’s younger brother Falcon, a brindle, was by many accounts the better dog conformationally, though he was used sparingly at stud. A Crufts breed winner the year before he was sent to Moore in 1965, he, too, was an English and American champion, and Moore bragged about him in her advertisements. “BRINDLE … a beautiful color, gaining in popularity every day. It is, according to history, the original shade identified with the Mastiff breed,” read a June 1968 Mooreleigh ad, accompanied by photos of Falcon. “With ten individuals, all beautifully marked, we believe we have the largest concentration of brindle Mastiffs of any kennel in the country.” And, indeed, Moore was just as likely to import, breed and keep brindles as she was fawns or apricots, avoiding the anti-brindle sentiment that affects many judges and fanciers even today.  

 

Gipsy of Havengore, dam of Moore’s two best-known males, Rhinehart and his brindle brother Falcon of Blackroc.

Gipsy of Havengore, dam of Moore’s two best-known males, Rhinehart and his brindle brother Falcon of Blackroc.

 

Ch. Rhinehart of Blackroc (Ch. Drake of Havengore x Gipsy of Havengore), arguably Moore’s best-known dog, was the first Mastiff to be a dual American/English champion.

Ch. Rhinehart of Blackroc (Ch. Drake of Havengore x Gipsy of Havengore), arguably Moore’s best-known dog, was the first Mastiff to be a dual English/American champion.

 

Ch. Falcon of Blackrock in 1965. Though Moore favored his fawn brother Rhinehart, Falcon was considered the better dog, and better producer.

Ch. Falcon of Blackroc in 1965. Though Moore favored his fawn brother Rhinehart, Falcon was considered the better dog, and better producer.

 

•••

 

Mooreleigh Winners

Mastiffs owned or bred by Mooreleigh won eight of the 11 national specialties between 1955 and 1965.   

1955 Meps Berenice, Eng. imp.  

1956 Adonis of Sparry, Eng. imp.

Mastiff Marie Moore Adonis of Sparry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1957 Mooreleigh Moby Dick (owned by Florence Ewald)

 

Mastiff Marie Moore Mooreleigh Moby Dick

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1958 Adonis of Sparry

1959 Mooreleigh Moby Dick

1960 Adonis of Sparry

1964 and 1965 Rhinehart of Blackroc, Eng. imp.  

 

•••

 

 

Not only did Moore have large numbers of Mastiffs in her kennels, but the overall quality of the dogs was undisputed. This was, quite simply, one of the best assemblages of Mastiff blood in the world. And the scope of Moore’s acquisitions is likely underappreciated by fanciers. According to kennel-club records of the period, some of Moore’s imported British dogs – such as the males Havengore Comedian of Mansatta and Cedric of Copenore, and the bitches Havengore Milady of Moonsfield, Arabella of Havengore and Venus of Beechwood – were never registered with the American Kennel Club, and presumably not bred. In fact, Moore did not AKC-register most of her British imports unless they were eventually used for breeding, as at the time dogs registered with the Kennel Club still had their AKC championships recorded without cross-registration. For example, Adonis of Sparry, who won the Mastiff Club of America national specialty in 1956, 1958 and 1960, was not AKC registered until April 1958. (Bred to Meps Berenice in 1961, he produced Mooreleigh Barbara, dam of Damara Bolte’s foundation bitch, Ch. Mooreleigh Joyce.)  

 

Ch. Rhinehart of Blackroc in England in the 1960s with his breeder William Hanson, before coming to Mooreleigh.

Ch. Rhinehart of Blackroc in England in the 1960s with his breeder William Hanson, before coming to Mooreleigh.

 

Moore’s reluctance to sell dogs – and even to breed the many dogs in her kennel – was a source of frustration to her kennel manager, Alan Stockwell.  

“Her breeding program mainly was non-existent,” says Stockwell, of Reading, Berkshire, England. A Great Dane man, he worked for Moore as her farm manager, overseeing both the dogs and the horses, from 1962 to 1968. “I bred litters, but we didn’t sell them.”  

 

Falcon of Blackroc in 1968, with Alan Stockwell.

Falcon of Blackroc in 1968, with Alan Stockwell.

 

His employment at High Hope Farm started off “wonderfully,” Stockwell recalls. (Click here to read his letter to the editor in response to this story – Ed.) “We had the stock to do great things. We could have been the force in Mastiffs in America: She had the money, the connections and the stock.”  

But in some respects, the kennel began to resemble the art collection that Moore was assembling in her contemporary house up on the hill – something more retrospective than prospective, more about preservation than progress. It was a parallel Moore drew herself: In a 1959 ad in Popular Dogs, she ran a photo of a 1883 oil painting “from the collection of Mastiff art at Mooreleigh,” juxtaposing it with a photo of her brindle Mooreleigh Munchausen, who, she noted, is from “the collection of Mastiffs of Mooreleigh.”  

 

Two-year-old Mooreleigh Munchausen, “son of the only champion bitch in America” at the time, Ch. Meps Berenice. Photo courtesy Virginia Bregman

Two-year-old Mooreleigh Munchausen, “son of the only champion bitch in America” at the time, Ch. Meps Berenice. Photo courtesy Virginia Bregman

 

“If someone advertised a Mastiff bitch of breeding age, she’d drive hundreds of miles to bring it back,” Stockwell says. “But basically, she didn’t want to breed because she felt no one else should have them. Absolutely she thought no one should have Mastiffs but her. And she went to great lengths to make sure that was so.”  

Theirs was “a sort of a love-hate relationship, I suppose you’d call it,” Stockwell continues. Moore was extremely generous to Stockwell, moving him and his family from their cottage to her former house once she relocated up to her newly built home on the hill, and insisting on buying him a new car every two years. But one of Stockwell’s greatest frustrations was “she wouldn’t let me do anything – I was a pet,” he says. “I’d collect her email, and sit and have coffee with her while I read the mail to her. If I said, ‘I’ll go to the pasture and fill up groundhog holes,’ she’d say, ‘No, that’s what we have grooms for.’”  

Stockwell did manage to get some litters bred: It was at his insistence, he says, that two litters by Falcon were whelped. And a small clutch of breeders did acquire Mooreleigh Mastiffs, among them Adelaide Bolte and her daughter Damara, who has bred both Basenjis and Mastiffs under the Reveille prefix. The Boltes took their Ch. Mooreleigh Joyce to Rhinehart, producing Ch. Reveille Sentinel, along with champion siblings Reveille Defender, Reveille Juggernaut and Reveille Tribute.  

 

Damara Bolte was one of the few breeders who was able to obtain Mooreleigh stock. She bred her bitch Ch. Mooreleigh Joyce to Rhinehart to produce Ch. Reveille Defender, shown here going Winners Dog at the 1965 MCOA National specialty under British judge Stanley Dangerfield. Photo: Gilbert

Damara Bolte was one of the few breeders who was able to obtain Mooreleigh stock. She bred her bitch Ch. Mooreleigh Joyce to Rhinehart to produce Ch. Reveille Defender, shown here going Winners Dog at the 1965 MCOA National specialty under British judge Stanley Dangerfield. Photo: Gilbert

 

The success of that litter – a homebred Mooreleigh bitch taken to one of Moore’s most successful imports – demonstrates the impact the kennel might have had if more breeders had been afforded access to breeding stock and sires. By contrast, registration records show that Moore rarely registered more than one puppy from any litter produced at Mooreleigh; by all accounts, the kennel culled heavily.  

Virginia Bregman of Lazy Hill Mastiffs wrote to Moore in the early 1960s to inquire about buying a puppy. Moore sent back an envelope full of postcards of her dogs and puppies, with comments written on the back. Despite the pictures, “she was not at all interested” in selling her a puppy, says Bregman, who now lives in Ocala, Florida. “I think she thought they were too good to sell.” Thwarted, Bregman went on to acquire her first dog from Patty Brill.  

Moore had good reason to want to show off her dogs and kennel facilities: Both were exemplary. “She took good care of what she had,” remembers Damara Bolte, adding that “the kennel facilities were the best for a giant breed: walk-in ‘cottages,’ big, grassy paddocks and double fencing,” so visitors could walk between the enclosures and view the dogs.

 

Another of Moore’s many British imports, Havengore Comedian of Mansatta, at 14 months.

Another of Moore’s many British imports, Havengore Comedian of Mansatta, at 14 months.

 

Moore had very firm ideas about what she wanted done in the kennel, and, once her mind was set, she could not be dissuaded. Distressed at seeing the Mastiffs develop thick pads on their elbows from lying on the hard ground, Moore decided to carpet all their outdoor runs, despite Stockwell’s strong objections.  

“The carpets lasted one day,” he remembers. “As soon as the dogs started running down them, the carpets rolled up. And as soon as they rolled up, the dogs tore them to pieces.”  

 

•••

 

Gallorette at High Hope

Marie Moore didn’t just raise and breed only Mastiffs. Her High Hope Farm was home to racing thoroughbreds – including one of the most famous American mares of all time.  

Born in Maryland in 1942, Gallorette was an imposing chestnut, standing at 16 hands, one inch. “She was a big mare,” wrote Kent Hollingsworth in The Great Ones (Blood-Horse, 1970), “as big as most of the colts she raced against, tougher than some of them, faster than almost all of them.” In the 1940s, races for fillies older than three were limited, with relatively small purses, so Gallorette spent most of her career running against the boys – and winning.

 

Above, Gallorette in 1948, the year Moore purchased her, and below with a foal at High Hope Farm, date unknown. Photo courtesy Joan Turner Moore.

Above, Gallorette in 1948, the year Moore purchased her, and below with a foal at High Hope Farm, date unknown. Photo courtesy Joan Turner Moore.

Mastiff Marie Moore Gallorette with foal

 

During her racing career from 1944 to 1948, Gallorette won or placed in 54 of her 72 starts, with lifetime earnings of $445,535. In 1962, she was inducted into the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame, and Blood-Horse magazine ranked her 45th among the top 100 American thoroughreds of the 20th Century – the third-highest ranked female of all time.  

At six years old, Gallorette was sold to Moore, and went to live at High Hope Farm as a brood mare. Published guesses of her selling price were between $150,00 and $250,000. According to the Miami News, “Mrs. Moore admitted [the figure] to be ‘over $100,00.’”   

Gallorette produced seven foals, though none of them came close to approximating her sensational racing record. She died at High Hope Farm in 1959, reportedly of blood poisoning. Her headstone read: “The Greatest Mare In the History of the American Turf.”  

 

•••

 

Moore knew altogether well “the bittersweetness of showing and breeding,” as she termed it, so it was no surprise that by the late 1960s, she had bred the last of her champions, Mooreleigh Quentin. An advertisement that ran in Popular Dogs in 1969 noted that Mooreleigh had finished 16 champions – a number that could have easily been tripled or quadrupled had Moore been more inclined to breed or sell.  

Increasingly, she turned to writing and judging (she was the breed’s first American breeder-judge) to share and promulgate her views on the Mastiff. And there, too, she encountered rivalry and conflict.  

It was no secret in the breed that Moore and Eve Olsen Fisher of Willowledge Mastiffs in Canaan, Connecticut, were constant sparring partners.  

 

Moore’s homebred apricot Mooreleigh Quentin (Mooreleigh Ivan x Mooreleigh Katrina) was Best of Winners at the 1968 national. His daughter Gynlfyn Gingerbell won the puppy class. “Quality is our sincere objective,” said Moore in one of his ads. Quentin was Moore’s last champion.

Moore’s homebred apricot Mooreleigh Quentin (Mooreleigh Ivan x Mooreleigh Katrina) was Best of Winners at the 1968 national. His daughter Gynlfyn Gingerbell won the puppy class. “Quality is our sincere objective,” said Moore in one of his ads. Quentin was Moore’s last champion.

 

Fisher, who now lives in Stuart, Florida, owned Falcon’s litter sister, Ch. Raven of Blackroc. In fact, in what must have been an excruciating encounter, the two women bumped into each other on the gangplank of the boat that brought both Mastiffs across the Atlantic in 1965.  

As a crew member walked a brindle Mastiff toward them, Fisher remembers Moore exclaiming, “Oh, it’s beautiful – it’s my dog!” But as the distance closed, Fisher says Moore realized it was a bitch, not a male. “It’s not much of a dog – I guess it’s yours, Eve,” Fisher says Moore declared.  

In addition to competing in the ring, Moore and Fisher clashed on club business, including changing the standard’s description of height.  

“She wanted to drop the standard on height, and I was saying no, you’ll be too much like Bullmastiffs. If you drop height, the dogs will get fatter and wider, and the chest will be below the elbows,” Fisher remembers. “She was furious.”  

Turning to her Gazette column, Moore buttressed her position in print, arguing that correct structure and temperament should never be sacrificed for sheer size.  

“To re-build any breed that has come close to extinction, soundness of mind and body are the first stepping stones to be placed in a solid foundation. This can be accomplished only by breeding the best individuals with those qualities regardless of whether they measure the minimum height of 30 inches or not,” she wrote in January 1966. “After a true line has been established, then and only then is it possible to branch out in an attempt to breed for height or type or anything else. …  

“The argument that Mastiffs and Bullmastiffs are separated only by height is really ridiculous,” Moore continued, in what was likely a dart at Fisher. “They are two distinct breeds, each bearing its own characteristics and cannot be confused by anyone who knows anything about dogs.”  

Moore’s AKC columns give some insight into not just her feelings on the breed, but also her self-image. Her February 1967 column began: “It is difficult to believe, I am sure, but I have been asked by several people to continue this column. I really didn’t think anyone was interested in reading what I have to say, so I was more than pleased to find that I was mistaken.”  

Lack of communication from members – some of whom may have been too intimidated to respond – was a constant refrain. “Although I have begged and pleaded, in person, by mail and at meetings, I cannot get anyone to send me news,” Moore wrote a year later, “so be prepared for some of the dullest reading you’ve ever known.”  

Other columns got down to the brass tacks of breeding: “In the frantic effort being put forth to breed taller dogs, the massiveness, the heavy bone and the great head are being neglected,” Moore warned in one. In others, she railed against cheap champions, advised newbies on how to go about getting a puppy (“It would seem that a bitch is a better investment …”), and commented on the Mastiff’s aversion to indoor shows. (“You only have to look in their faces to see that begging ‘Please, let’s go home expression’ that undoes me so completely.”)  

 

Mooreleigh Quivera, a sister to Mooreleigh Quentin, showing finishing her championship in 1965 at 11 months old – “believed to be a record for the breed,” Moore wrote. “She is all Mooreleigh home breeding.”

Mooreleigh Quivera, a sister to Mooreleigh Quentin, showing finishing her championship in 1965 at 11 months old – “believed to be a record for the breed,” Moore wrote. “She is all Mooreleigh home breeding.”

 

Joanne Williams of Petaluma, California, who has bred Mastiffs for 43 years under her GelWil prefix, would visit with Moore whenever the latter went west for dog shows. She describes Moore’s demeanor as somewhere between “grumpy” and “matter of fact.”  

Williams, whose first show dog was a Falcon grandson, says she and Moore connected over the subject of horses, a main topic of conversation. “When her thoroughbreds were 18 months old, she would send them to England to be trained,” Williams says. “She didn’t like the racing system in the U.S. at all. She felt horses should not be on the track before three years old,” because of the risk of fractures and injury.  

Indeed, most of Moore’s horses were raced in England and Ireland. “Her White Gloves won the Irish St. Leger, the Ballymoss Stakes and the Desmond Stakes two years in succession,” Stockwell remembers. “He was trained by Vincent O’Brien, who turned out numerous winners in Mrs. Moore’s purple and green colors.”  

Much of Moore’s philosophy regarding the care and rearing of the Mastiff came from her experience with horses, continues Williams, who herself always had her equine vet treat her dogs and who would use liniments for lame dogs as she did for horses. “Marie said to me one time, ‘You’re one of the few people who goes along with my theory that you can treat a Mastiff very much like a horse.’”  

But in Moore’s December 1965 Gazette column, those strongly held beliefs backfired. Commenting on finding a paucity of Mastiff puppies on a recent trip to London, she wrote: “Personally, and it may be poor taste for me to say it, I do not believe any of the large breeds can be raised successfully under the conditions under which they are being kept. With all animals, it is a known fact that obesity and lack of muscular tone will contribute to a degree of sterility. I know, from the experience I have had with horses, that it is almost impossible to get an extremely fat mare to conceive, or an obese stallion to remain fertile. Lack of exercise will contribute greatly to unsoundness in the large breeds, many of which are phlegmatic by nature. I saw a lovely young Mastiff about 11 months old, that could have grown into an excellent individual with the proper opportunity, but he was so enormously fat he had no muscular development or co-ordination. A Mastiff will not exercise by itself. He must be taken for long walks and allowed to run free, to gallop up and down hills, developing lungs, muscles, agility and co-ordination.”  

The column must have unleashed a torrent of criticism, likely from British breeders, for whom Moore had an unfettered admiration, because in the magazine’s May 1966 issue, she apologized with uncharacteristic humility: “The feeling seems to be that the remarks were detrimental to the Mastiffs in England and was written for self-aggrandizement,” she wrote. “As breeders both in this country and Europe experience difficulty in getting their bitches to whelp, it was foolishly thought that some suggestions concerning weight control and exercise would be of help. I am sorry, truly sorry, for the annoyance caused.”  

In most other situations, however, Moore was unapologetic about her strongly held beliefs. “She felt people didn’t understand her because she was opinionated. Probably nine times out of 10 she was very correct in her criticism, and people don’t like to hear that,” Williams says. “Marie was very much a loner. She’d go back to her farm, and nobody would seek her out.”  

When she judged, Moore was well known for excusing dogs for lack of merit, expressing her feelings about an entry by shaking her head as the dogs trotted around the ring – or being excruciatingly plain-spoken to exhibitors who made the mistake of asking her opinion of their dog.  

On one occasion, Williams remembers Moore going up to an exhibitor whose bitch had just placed fourth in a class of four and saying, “This is a very nicely dispositioned dog. Take her home and love her.” The exhibitor was indignant, but “she was trying to tell him in a nice way that his dog didn’t have much to offer the breed,” Williams says. “She let her feelings be known.”  

 

•••

 

The Collector

Damara Bolte remembers what it was like to walk into Marie Moore’s newly built house on the hill at High Hope Farm.  

By the door was “Queenie,” a magnificent carousel Mastiff carved in the 1800s. And hanging on 12-foot-high walnut wall, beneath the cathedral ceiling, was the 1865 Richard Ansdell painting “The Poacher,” depicting a game-thieving intruder brought to the ground by a brindle Mastiff.  

Today, that Andsell painting – along with dozens of other paintings, bronzes and objets collected by Moore throughout the decades – can be seen at the American Museum of the Dog in St. Louis, Mo.  

 

Carousel horse carved in the late 19th Century by the Looff Factory in Brooklyn, New York, one of three companies that manufactured these fanciful merry-go-round creatures.

Carousel horse carved in the late 19th Century by the Looff Factory in Brooklyn, New York, one of three companies that manufactured these fanciful merry-go-round creatures.

 

One of the crown jewels of Moore’s collection, “The Poacher,” 1865, by Richard Ansdell.

One of the crown jewels of Moore’s collection, “The Poacher,” 1865, by Richard Ansdell.

 

William Secord, who operates an eponymous art gallery in Manhattan specializing in dog art, was the first director of the museum, from 1981 to 1986. That’s when he met Moore, who had just removed 300 of her loaned works of art from Lyme Hall in the United Kingdom because the castle museum wanted to temporarily store them and display a clock collection. (This was shades of Moore’s uncle Gustav Heye, who withdrew his collection of American Indian artifacts from the Museum at University of Pennsylvania, and would not donate it to the American Museum of Natural History because he wanted it exhibited apart from the main collection.)

Secord met Moore in the early 1980s, noting with affection that she was “a self-described old woman.” “She was a character – always pencil thin, and she was definitely grumpy, which didn’t bother me,” Secord recalls. “She didn’t mind being disagreed with as long as you could back up what you were saying.”  

Eventually, Secord persuaded Moore to deed her collection to the AKC Museum of the Dog. Among the treasures was some stunning jewelry, including a platinum and brilliant diamond-cut brooch study of Ch. Meps Berenice, and a gold cigarette case with a portrait of Mastiffs.  

Moore’s collecting criterion was “it had to be a Mastiff – period,” Secord says. The collection ranged from dog collars to match safes. Some of the representational works are a bit of a stretch, as breed morphology in centuries past was rather loose, and some dogs might just as accurately be considered Great Danes as English Mastiffs.  

“A lot of her things are on display today” at the museum, says Secord of its single greatest donor. “It is an extraordinary legacy.”  

 

A sentimental oil painting from Moore’s collection, “In Times of Peace,” 1877, by Edwin Frederick Holt.

A sentimental oil painting from Moore’s collection, “In Times of Peace,” 1877, by Edwin Frederick Holt.

 

Mastiff porcelain inkwell, circa 1840, marked “Chamberlain-Worcester.” It is on display at the American Kennel Club library in New York City.

Mastiff porcelain inkwell, circa 1840, marked “Chamberlain-Worcester.” It is on display at the American Kennel Club library in New York City.

 

•••

 

For all her impatience with the humans around her, Moore was by all accounts far more tolerant of the dogs. Betty Baxter of Farnby Mastiffs in England remembers one of Moore’s judging assignments there in the late 1960s. “She was not the sort of person that you made instant friends with,” Baxter recalls. “She was very much a wealthy lady, she knew her place, and you knew yours.” At the show, Baxter showed a 10-month-old bitch, Alice. “Dear Alice got hold of Marie’s dress, and they went down the ring together.” Rather than being annoyed, “Marie was fine about it,” Baxter recalls. “All was well.”  

In one Gazette column, Moore described a visit to Welsh breeder Anne Davies, who introduced her to the “completely extroverted, untaught and uncontrolled” silver fawn Emrys O’ Nantymynydd. “Mrs. Davies was brought, literally speaking, into the room on the end of Emrys’ leash,” Moore recounted. “His delight at seeing company knew no bounds, so he leapt over the back of the sofa, neatly crashed into the coffee table, sending ash trays, papers, books and a vase of flowers sailing, and then planted his feet firmly but not gently on my shoulders.”  

Mrs. Davies fell flat, and Moore, sitting in an easy chair, was pitched over backward. Eventually, Emrys got up off Moore, “and around and around the room they went, Mrs. Davies calling at the top of her lungs for Mr. Davies to come to her rescue.” It took three people to corral the unruly Emrys, and Moore declared it “a wonderful way to wind up the happiest of Mastiff weekends.”

 

Moore judging Mastiffs at Crufts in 1970. She was the first American to be given the honor of judging the breed at Britain’s highest-profile show.

Moore judging Mastiffs at Crufts in 1970. She was the first American to be given the honor of judging the breed at Britain’s highest-profile show.

 

At home, Moore’s house dogs were just as indulged. Turner Moore remembers having a date settle into the couch, only to emerge with his blue blazer and gray pants plastered in Mastiff hair. “If any friends came over, the dogs would race outside to the car, and just stick their heads in the window,” she recalls. “They would eyeball you right through the window,” though her friends soon learned that these giant dogs were really “pussycats” at heart.  

Despite being a self-described “temperament fanatic,” Moore seemed to have a respect for those dogs who expected others to honor personal boundaries much as she did. Stockwell remembers Rhinehart of Blackroc having a less-than-friendly temperament, and when Bolte tried to accompany her maiden bitch “Pumpkin” (Ch. Mooreleigh’s Joyce) into Rhinehart’s pen to assist with the breeding, “he lifted his lip at me, and I said, ‘I guess you can do it yourself.’”  

But Rhinehart was one of Moore’s favorites, and New York City art dealer William Secord remembers Moore telling him how she had worked to win over the great fawn dog: “She went in the kennel, literally sat on the floor, and waited until the dog came to her.”  

When she watched Moore judge the 1986 national specialty in Hampton, Virginia, dee dee Andersson remembers being struck by how Moore approached an imported bitch in one of her classes.  

“Have you ever seen a Mastiff that tries to look at you out of the side or top of their skull, maybe showing the whites of their eyes? Well, this was not that bad, but it could easily have become so,” Andersson says. “The bitch stared at Marie as though daring her to touch her. Marie stared back, and they silently spoke together. Then, ever so slowly, Marie approached, and, with the merest touch possible, like the weight of a butterfly, Marie put her hand on the top of the bitch’s head.”  

Moore did not attempt to check the bite, and never, at any time, did the two break eye contact, Andersson remembers – even as the bitch was sent around, she continued to watch Moore over her shoulder.  

“I was always impressed by what happened between the two of them, which is why I have never forgotten it,” she concludes. “That bitch told Marie, ‘If you push me, you will be bitten.’ Marie told the bitch, ‘Do not be afraid, I will not hurt you.’ It was a tense moment, but it spoke volumes about how well she knew her breed.”

 

Unidentified mother, father and son at Mooreleigh. Photo courtesy Virginia Bregman
Unidentified mother, father and son at Mooreleigh. Photo courtesy Virginia Bregman
 
 
Joanne Williams remembers that Moore also owned a Tibetan Mastiff. “Marie said it wasn’t a breed for everyone,” she remembers. “She loved that dog, but she said, ‘He’s very aloof and you have to be very careful with him.’”  
 
Perhaps Moore was drawn to these difficult dogs because she understood their need for self-protection, to be on the defensive and so less vulnerable.  
 
“It saddens me a little bit, but a lot of people thought Mother was different, that she was fey, that she was difficult, but she was really so far ahead of her time,” Turner Moore says, adding that her aloofness was really a means of self-protection.  
 
“I think there were times when Mother seemed panicked – at that time, women weren’t taught how to manage money at all, and I think at times, Mother had no concept” of how she was going to accomplish her ambitions, which she was fiercely determined to achieve, Turner Moore continues. “I think there was this knowing that she didn’t know. She went through life, in my opinion, so totally misunderstood. Being an ice queen was the only protective front she knew. She didn’t trust a lot of people – because she wasn’t connected that way."  
 
Whatever Moore’s internal struggles, they manifested themselves in a woman who was an assemblage of contradictions – one who wanted relationships, but also wanted control; one who didn’t like to be contradicted, but in the end respected – if grudgingly – those with the backbone to stand up to her. She built a shelter on the corner of her property because Fauquier County, Virginia, did not have one, and would drive for miles to rescue animals that had been horribly abused, knowing all the while that the dearth of homes meant they would likely have to be euthanized. She came from a successful family and had her fair share of accomplishments as well, yet she walled those off from many who were close to her: Turner Moore says she only found out about her famous great-uncle Gustav Heye and saw the gorgeous trophies from her mother’s show-jumping and polo-playing youth when Moore was on her deathbed.  
 
Eve Olsen Fisher, who was perhaps Marie Moore’s greatest rival in the breed they both championed, remembers the two would go “head to head,” and when Fisher had a judging assignment, she says she sometimes found Moore ringside, critiquing her decisions.  
 
“I think I was a thorn in her side, but at the same time I think she respected me because I was gritty right back to her. She appreciated the fact that when I had made up my mind about something, I’d get up and fight for it,” Fisher muses. Moore herself was equally as tenacious. “You couldn’t move her if she had an idea – you couldn’t move her left or right. She would never give in. You could never break her. Like a Mastiff … just not as friendly.”  
 
Fisher later went on to breed Chinese Shar-Pei, and was instrumental in lobbying to get the breed AKC recognized. When Moore died, she bequeathed Fisher a small statue of a Shar-Pei. The note on it read, “Fondly, with kind memories, Marie.”  
 
Fisher was floored, and saw the gesture for what it was – an expression of affection, as best Moore could muster it. “That, in a way, touched my heart,” she admits.  
 
Marie Antoinette Moore died in her home on June 10, 1987. All her Mastiffs were put down, and, as her will instructed, there was no funeral or memorial service. She left the breed as mysteriously as she arrived, her ashes scattered on her beloved High Hope Farm.   

 

 

© Modern Molosser Magazine. This article may not be reposted, reprinted, rewritten, excerpted or otherwise duplicated in any medium without the express written permission of the publisher.