Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

have had more to do with the foundation of our present strain than some people would imagine. The Duke of Devonshire had an old strain of mastiffs at Chatsworth, but this has been lost, and so have those that were once known at Elvaston Castle, near Derby, in the family of the Galtons. at Hadzor Hall, Worcester. There had been a special strain at the Duke of Sutherland's, at Trentham, and the author of the “History of the Mastiff" mentions strains kept by Colonel Wilson Patten, at Bold Hall, which had been at this seat since its occupation by the Honourable Peter Bold; and later by Mr. John Crabtree, of the Kirklees Park, near Halifax. The latter was head gamekeeper to the Armitage family, and he, about 1820, came into the possession of a brindled mastiff bitch, which he found caught in one of his fox traps that had been set in the park. From this bitch, and by judicious crossing, he obtained a strain of dogs highly spoken of by Mr. Wynn, which, it seems, Mr. F. Crabtree used principally as assistants to himself and his under-trappers in the apprehension of poachers. Mr. J. W. Thompson, another Yorkshireman, about 1830 and later, gave considerable attention to the breeding of mastiffs, but to Mr. H. V. Lukey, of Morden, Kent, must modern admirers of the mastiff turn to find the man who has done most to improve or to develop the breed. His first mastiff came into his possession about 1835. This was a brindled bitch, with cropped ears and docked tail, said to be an Alpine mastiff from the kennels of the Duke of Devonshire. This seems to be something of an anomaly, though vouched for both by the late Mr. Lukey and by Mr. Wynn, and the latter tells us the ears of the Alpine mastiffs were cut to prevent them becoming frost bitten. Personally, I should think they would be far more likely to suffer from the attacks of frost-bite when cruelly cut than if left intact. However, this by the way. The bitch in question was obtained from a dealer named White, at Knightsbridge, who was the predecessor of the late Bill George, of such great celebrity as a dog dealer, and father to the present Alfred George, of Kensal Town, equally well known in canine matters. This bitch mated to a black dog belonging to the Marquis of Hertford, produced two puppies, one of which died. The other, a bitch, was in time put to another so-called “Alpine mastiff,” and so came Mr. Lukey's and subsequent modern strains. It would seem strange that, with all the pride Englishmen have had in their dogs and in the ancient

reputation they have borne, that of our modern mastiff so much is due to an animal that was known as the Alpine mastiff, and which in reality cannot have been more nor less than a smoothcoated St. Bernard. One writer has written that the black dog of Lord Hertford's was a Thibet mastiff. Most likely he was a very dark coloured brindled dog of our English strain, for certainly none of Mr. Lukey's dogs ever showed the hound type and bloodhound expression which would have been obtained from a cross with a Thibetian dog; and if it had been used, the evil would have kept cropping up generation after generation. Writing in “Dogs of the British Isles,” Captain Garnier came into prominence as a mastiff breeder, and his communication is worth reproducing here in part. He says: About this time (1847) I bought of Bill George a pair of mastiffs, whose produce, by good luck, afterwards turned out some of the finest specimens of the breed I ever saw. The dog Adam was one of a pair of Lyme Hall mastiffs, bought by Bill George at Tattersall's. He was a different stamp of dog to the present Lyme breed. He stood 30%in. at the shoulder, with length of body and good muscular shoulders and loins, but was just slightly deficient in depth of body and breadth of forehead; and from the peculiar forward lay of his small ears, and from his produce, I have since suspected a remote dash of boarhound in him. The bitch was obtained by Bill George from a dealer in

Leadenhall Market. Nothing was known of her pedigree, but I am as convinced of its purity as I am doubtful of that of the dog. There was nothing striking about her. She was old, her shoulders a trifle flat, and she had a grey muzzle, but withal stood 29in. at the shoulder, had a broad round head, good loin, and deep, lengthy frame. From crossing these dogs with various strains I was easily able to analyse their produce, and I found in them two distinct types—one due to the dog, very tall, but a little short in the body and high on the leg, while their heads were slightly deficient in breadth; the other due to the bitch, equally tall, but deep, lengthy, and muscular, with broad massive heads and muzzles. Some of these latter stood 33in. at the shoulder, and by the time they were two years old weighed upwards of 190lb. They had invariably a fifth toe on each hind leg, which toe was quite distinct from a dew-claw, and formed an integral portion of their feet. By bad management, I was only able to bring a somewhat indifferent specimen with me on my return to England from America—a badly reared animal, who nevertheless stood 32in. at the shoulder, and weighed 170lb. This dog Lion was the sire of Governor and Harold, by Mr. Lukey's bitch Countess, and so certain was I of the vast size of the breed in him that I stated beforehand, much to Mr. Lukey's incredulity, that the produce would be dogs standing 33in. at the shoulder—the result being that both Governor and his brother Harold were fully that height. In choosing the whelps, Mr. Lukey retained for himself the best marked one, an animal that took after the lighter of the two strains that existed in the sire; for Governor, grand dog and perfect mastiff as he was, compared to most others of the breed, was nevertheless shorter in the body, higher on the leg, and with less muscular development than Harold, while his head, large as it was, barely measured as much round as did his brother's. I, who went by the development of the fifth toe (in this case only a dew-claw), chose Harold, a dog which combined all the best points, except colour, of both strains, and was a very perfect reproduction on a larger scale of his dam Countess. This dog was the finest male specimen of the breed I have met with. His breast at ten months old, standing up, measured 13in. across, with a girth of 41 in., and he weighed in moderate condition 14olb., and at twelve months old 160lb., while at 13% months old Governor only weighed in excellent condition 150lb., with a girth of 40in. ; and inasmuch as Governor eventually weighed 18olb. or even more, the size to which Harold probably attained must have been very great. His head also in size and shape promised to be perfect. I will mention three other dogs. The first, Lord Waldegrave's Turk, better known as “Couchez,” was the foundation of Mr. Lukey's breed. This dog has frequently been described to me by Bill George and Mr. Lukey, and I have a painting of his head at the present moment. He stood about 29%in. or 3oin. at the shoulder, with great length and muscular development, and, although he was never anything but thin, weighed about 130lb. Muzzle broad and heavy, with deep flews; skin over the eyes and about the neck very loose ; colour red, with very black muzzle. He was a most savage animal; was fought several times with other animals, and was invariably victorious. The second was a tailless brindled bitch, bought by Mr. Lukey from George White, of Knightsbridge. She was a very large massively built animal, standing 30in. at the shoulder. Her produce with Couchez were remarkably fine. “Long-bodied, big-limbed, heavy-headed bitches. They were mastiffs Mr. Lukey had in those days " is Bill George's eulogium of them. This bitch was bred by the Duke of Devonshire, and must therefore have been one of the Chatsworth breed. The third animal, L'Ami, was a brindled dog of such vast size and weight that he was taken about and shown in England, in the year 1829, the price of admission being one shilling. Of the head of this dog also I have a drawing, and it shows him to be very full and round above the eyes, with a broad heavy muzzle and remarkably deep flews, the ears being cropped close. This dog, with the exception of rather heavy flews, answered exactly to the type of Vandyke's mastiff. Now the point to which I wish to draw attention is, that both Couchez and L'Ami came direct from the Convent of Mount St. Bernard. The mighty dogs which used to be kept at Chatsworth (and one of which stood 34 in. at the shoulder) were pure Alpine mastiffs, as also were the two magnificent animals C

« ForrigeFortsett »