English Mastiff breeders share a common anecdote: by the end of the second World War, the English Mastiff all but vanished from Britain. American breeders helped to revive the breed in England.
This intrigued me. Plans for a historical novel began to take shape, a post-war romance in which a young widow and an army veterinarian come together in the pursuit of exporting puppies to British breeders. The book is sidelined by other needs for now, but still resides in the task-list, which keeps growing longer.
My research for this book brought to light events that differ only slightly from the breeders’ version.
Let us thank a mastiff named Sally. According to the Rockport Mastiffs Kennel in British Columbia, Sally was the last breeding bitch in England by the end of the war. Bred to the willing Taurus, she produced a large litter. In this litter was a very special bitch named Nydia.
A lot of this may seem strange. I asked myself why the big deal—there were lots of dogs! Breeders, however, are looking for the one dog or bitch who shows champion qualities. The rest, sold to loving homes, are pure pets, like our own Toby from Mystic Mountain Mastiffs in Oregon. Although her parents Shock and Awe, who prefers his nickname Patton, and She’s Simply Amazing, who will only answer to Maisy, are of champion quality, most of their 10-pup litter were, well, not so up to snuff. So of the Sally and Taurus family, only Nydia would be chosen to carry on the standards of the breed.
But where was papa going to come from? He just wasn’t available.
Then began the rush to import Mastiffs from Canada and the U.S. However it took some convincing of the Old English Mastiff Club—OEMC—that dogs from the colonies and other British possessions could be included in their registry.
(If you haven’t seen the film “Best in Show”, I recommend it. The breeding world is really, truly, like that.)
Canadians to the rescue. British Columbia’s Heatherbelle Kennels sent fawn puppies to England. Desperation or perhaps just good sense impelled the OEMC to allow these two Canadian Mastiffs to be registered in England. From Nydia’s first litter, the hunky stud Valiant was born. He hooked up with Sally, and the puppy population exploded.
Still, though, not enough budding stars of the show ring were born. More North American dogs came to England to help. And the British sent their dogs here, to mate with selected parties. Lincoln, born in the U.S. and responsible for multiple matings, jump-started the breed, so-to speak. OEMC hampions began flooding the shows again by the 1950’s.
(I like to picture Lincoln and his enthusiasm for his job. While much of the breeding today is done by artificial insemination, I rather doubt that technique was much used in the 1940’s? I could be wrong, but still I like to think Lincoln was every inch a “stud”.)
Our boy Conan, offspring of mom,I Have a Superiority Complex appropriately called Super, and dad, One for the Money whose call-name is unknown to me, both certified champions, is also of champion quality, but we bought him as a pet. He’d been sold once but re-homed with his loving breeder. Luckily he came home to us.
Honestly I knew nothing about this breed before I married my husband, who introduced me to this wonderful dog. Now I’m hooked. We always remember to smile and laugh when some one shouts: “Where’s the saddle?”