Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Working Spanish Mastiff: A Lion, Not a Mouse

Tall, regal and lion-like in bearing, heavy headed, 
massive bone and loose skin forming a double chin, or "papada".  A true molosser.
When the anti-large sized Spanish Mastiff people post "old photos" of much smaller and finer boned "old working Spanish Mastiffs" they take great pains to omit photos like this which proves not all"old working" SM were snipey headed, thin boned, frail dogs that looked like someone slipped some greyhound into them. 
In fact - were many of those dogs even Spanish Mastiffs - or just aboriginal working crossbred dogs? 
Below, another old time Spanish Mastiff - truly a molosser, not a slightly built sighthound.

As of late, there has been - for lack of a better description - an online hate campaign to discredit large, heavy Spanish Mastiffs as only being "show dogs" and not "true working Spanish Mastiffs".  The people behind this are terribly misguided. They are tearing down a great breed of dog in doing so. This post is going to address this mudslinging campaign, and hopefully shed some much needed sane input based on experience, on this topic of "small vs. big".

Much of the bad mouthing of large Spanish Mastiffs comes from a few people who have not had actual experience with this breed.  In fact, much of this misguided smear campaign against larger Spanish Mastiffs is spearheaded by a non-Spaniard Canadian Caucasian woman who blogs in Spanish, and goes by several fake aliases on the Internet and Facebook - a woman who has never owned a real Spanish Mastiff in her life.  

Two crossbred mongrel dogs being called "Spanish Mastiffs".
They are not Spanish Mastiffs.

Some of these people are so obsessed with discrediting any large Spanish Mastiff, that they take photos of other breeds, such as the Kangal, and try to use them as an example of a "working Spanish Mastiff" to compare to a "show Spanish Mastiff", such as in the photo below.

In this meme pictured below, a Turkish Kangal dog that I sold to a ranch in Canada, is pictured on the left as a "real working Spanish Mastiff"!  The dog on the right, meanwhile, is a real working Spanish Mastiff that I bred myself and sold to a sheep and goat farm in Nevada.  This shows such lack of credibility and truth as to be nauseating.

A Turkish Kangal on the left, a dog that I sold to some Canadians,
 being called a "working Spanish Mastiff".  Not hardly.
The dog on the right that I bred is a working Spanish Mastiff.

The parents of the dog Oso pictured above on the right, are Furiano de Puerto Canencia (Int. Ch. Baruc de Puerto Canencia x Yeza de Abelgas) and Tioda de Abelgas.  The dog pictured and his parents are all working Spanish Mastiffs who guard livestock on ranches.  Furiano, or "Furi" as I call him, is probably one of the largest, if not one of the tallest, Spanish Mastiffs in America at 38" tall.  He regularly produces litters of tremendous sized pups who all go on to work as livestock guardians in this country, on farms and ranches.  They guard cattle, sheep, goats, chickens, homes, estates, farms and ranches.  Some of those pups working weigh over 200 pounds, have zero health or structural issues, and are phenomenal guardians.  They are huge, heavy, wrinkled dogs. 

Once confronted over the obvious and ridiculous mistake, the person behind the picture above, hastily changed the photo to another photo of a crossbred, nondescript "working Spanish Mastiff" which is more likely a crossbred LGD of some sort, perhaps an Anatolian cross (the hair being too long for a real SM):

On the right: a son of Furiano - a working Spanish Mastiff I bred.
On the left: a cross of who knows what?

Above: more misinformation.  My huge, working SM Pia, in the lower right, mislabeled as a "show dog" simply because the people producing these badly executed memes don't know what they are talking about.  Big dogs CAN guard and do….no matter what these people claim.

Furiano de Puerto Canencia - a giant working Spanish Mastiff

As much crossing of LGDs that goes on in America, it is an easy bet that the same is and has gone on in Spain as well - farmers crossing Kangals or sighthounds on Spanish Mastiffs, and calling them - Spanish Mastiffs.  That is a harsh comment no one wants to hear, but upon reviewing numerous photos of some of what is being passed off as "working SM" in Spain, it is pretty obvious to the trained eye, that most of these slim, slight, and almost frail looking dogs most likely possess as much or more sighthound or Anatolian, Akbash or lighter LGD breeds blood in them than they do any real molosser blood. In other words, CROSSBREEDING is going on in transhumance countries just as much as it does here in America.  Also, here's something else no one seems to want to address: health.  Some of these slight, small "working Spanish Mastiffs" I see photos of, look like they are chock full of worms, sickly, some even look like their hips are poor.  Some look grossly underfed and you can count their ribs.  Does that make the smaller dogs "better" than bigger Spanish Mastiffs?  No it does not!

"Working Spanish Mastiffs"?  Or Anatolian crossbreds?
The only real Spanish Mastiff I see in these four photos is the one
in lower left.  The others look suspiciously like LGD crossbreds.

Sadly, even some credentialed American "researchers" have bought into the "if it's big and heavy it possibly can't guard livestock" line of bunk - and that is exactly what it is: bunk  Shame on them!

What the papered up researchers and inexperienced book readers and armchair experts don't want to look at let alone admit, is this: American farmers do not  practice transhumance as done in Spain or other countries.  Even our open range, public lands grazing commercial sheep outfits pale in comparison to what full time full scale transhumance is in Europe.  Most ranchers and farmers here run stock under fence; that is a fact.  Most do not spend six or eight months trekking across states with sheep and goats.  What does this mean, you ask?

What this means is, that what works for a shepherd in Spain or a Turk on the unfenced deserts of Arabic wastelands, does not necessarily mean it will work for the American farmer and rancher running stock on 100 fenced acres.  Light, hyperactive, nervous and uber athletic dogs will quickly grow bored and restless being confined under fence on small properties.  And as this blog has pointed out regularly in many previous posts, those are the dogs who jump fences, dig out, and escape.  And the owners of said dogs are the ones filling up badly-led Facebook LGD forums with posts bemoaning their lost Akbash, Kangals, or fill in the blank breeds, who regularly escape because they are not staying in one place.  Those are the breeds flooding shelters and rescues.

A heavier, more lethargic yet still powerful and formidable Spanish Mastiff does not jump fences or long to roam 10 miles away from it's livestock.  It packs twice the punch and more of a lighter, smaller dog.  It's jaws can snap bone like toothpicks.  But it lacks the wanderlust.  It stays within, and close, to it's livestock.  That is what I love about my Spanish Mastiffs, and why I raise them (and their cousin the similarly close guarding Pyrenean Mastiff) and prefer their guarding style.

One of the most famous breeders of working SM in Spain is Duelos y Quebrantos.  Francisco's dogs easily top 200 pounds and regularly protect his cattle and sheep from giant vultures and wolves on his massive acreage in Spain.  Yes, these huge dogs WORK.

A large Duelos y Quebrantos dog - GUARDING sheep.
No mistaking THIS dog for a Kangal or something else.

Working Spanish Mastiffs of Duelos y Quebrantos.
No mistaking these giants for anything BUT a Spanish Mastiff.

Gregorio Fidalgo Tejedor is world-famous for his working lines of Abelgas Spanish Mastiffs, and I was the first American allowed to import them here.  His dogs are lighter than the line of Francisco's however, still show great type, skin, massive bone, and height.  In other words, there is no mistaking an Abelgas Spanish Mastiff for a crossbred cur or another breed.  They don't look like Kangals or Anatolians.  They are elegant, powerful, fiercely protective dogs as all of mine have proven to be here.  

Spanish Mastiffs of Abelgas - working Spanish Mastiffs who really LOOK like Spanish Mastiffs -
not crossbred greyhounds, Anatolians or Kangals.

Finally, what all the "show line" bashing people neglect to take into consideration is the way the pup is reared, the caliber (or lack of it) of the breeder, and the instinct it possesses - and it's mind.  When you see a "researcher" saying a Spanish Mastiff "isn't a working dog" merely because it has excess skin and a "papada" -  a double chin - well, its obvious they are NOT doing their homework. But that's what you get when you listen to people who learned everything they know from books or college courses - and not real life experience…..

I have brought over many many imported Spanish Mastiffs to America, in fact, the most of anyone in this country to date.  Some are from lines that are considered to be "show".  Tornado Erben, Lu Dareva, Dartibo.  When they got here, the most amazing thing happened.  Because I reared them up in my pack of working dogs, they too, grew up to be phenomenal working dogs and great guardians.  This "in spite of" their coming out of International show Champions!  

What does this say?

It shows the thinking people out there with brains, will be willing to research this in more depth, because there is more to this than what many claim.

It promotes a discussion of the dog's mind, of temperament, of inherent guardian abilities and instinct, and of the quality of the breeder, i.e., how the pup is reared up.  If I can take heavy, show line Spanish Mastiffs as puppies and rear them up here into fantastic livestock guardians, this says something (and yes it speaks to my ability to do that too). Again it tells you that there is much much more to consider than merely the size of the dog.  Just because the dog has excess skin, and is huge, does not mean it cannot, or will not guard livestock!  On the contrary, it can, and will, if from good stock and brought up correctly by a competent breeder!

Above: Pia and Zaca, two huge, heavy WORKING Spanish Mastiff females.  Don't let the photos fool you.
These two "couch potatoes" keep coyotes away from goats and recently ran off a wolf.
Zaca is a daughter of Int. Ch. Quanto Tornado Erben. Pia weighs 190 pounds.

Pia (Amaya Dartibo) and Zaca Tornado Erben are two Spanish Mastiffs I imported from the Czech Republic.  They are living their "retirement years" in Michigan.  They regularly fend off packs of coyotes from their owner Chuck Avila's goat herd on 40 acres.  Recently, these two "retired show type Spanish Mastiffs" ran off a wolf from the farm. 

"Show" Spanish Mastiffs doing what their detractors
claim they can't do: guarding livestock.  Zaca's two litters have gone on to be great livestock guardians.

That is precisely what some people out there don't want you to read, or hear, or know, or even think about.  They don't want you to know that large Spanish Mastiffs can work AND stay healthy.  They want you to think they don't have any guarding instinct.  They want you to think they could never deter wolves (when they definitely can).   I have news for you.  Those people are wrong. 

And the ultimate slap in the face to the "big Spanish Mastiff haters" is this: Zaca has hip dysplasia in one hip; Pia has an old injury to one of her tibias.  Both girls are what some people would call "crippled". In spite of this, they regularly deter coyotes and wolves!

Again, when it comes to what does and does not work in terms of Spanish Mastiffs, do not look at the tall, heavy and larger SM and tell me they can't work.  I know better. I know they can if bred from good stock and raised correctly - mine do!


People come to my ranch and see my Spanish Mastiffs and say "WOW: there stands a lion amongst dogs".  My Spanish Mastiffs are not tiny or stunted. They are big. And they produce big pups.  This breed is supposed to be just that.  A healthy, LARGE dog of quality and substance, size, courage, magnanimous bearing, nurturing nature, protective instinct and self confidence and discernment.  That is what my Spanish Mastiffs are. That is what the core of this great breed is, and should remain to be: the giant in size AND heart AND courage, amongst Livestock Guardian Dogs.

A lion…not a mouse!