AMERICAN BULLMASTIFF ASSOCIATION, INC. Q&A
share my passion for breeding and showing dogs. It is a big part of all of our lives. I worked as the manager of a veterinary hospital for 30 years. I have been breeding and training dogs for almost as many years. I started in 1980 with Rottweilers and Escalade Bullmastiffs, but in 1990, I chose to focus my attention on the Bullmastiff breed. I am a board member of the California Bullmastiff Fanciers club, a member of the American Bullmastiff Association, and a 2020 ABA National committee chairperson. I am also very active in local char- ity events. When I get involved in a project, interest or hobby, I am all in! I love working with people and helping others whenever I can. I try my best to “pay forward” good will to others as a way of thanking the incredible people who have mentored me in my life- long journey with dogs. How important are the head and body proportions in the Bull- mastiff? Both are extremely important. When breeding Bullmas- tiffs, it is essential that form follows function. The function of the 19th century Bullmastiff was to serve as the English gamekeeper’s dog. His job was to protect the game on large estates and assist in capturing poachers without mauling them. The Bullmastiff was developed to have a moderate, well-proportioned structure that allowed the dog to track and cover ground quickly. The moderate, square head with the wide under jaw aided the Bullmastiff when knocking down and pinning poachers. This working dog was a family member that came in every night to lie by the fire. His devo- tion and reliable temperament were crucial characteristics in the Bullmastiff’s development. Does the average person on the street recognize the breed? I would say no. There are many times I’m approached and asked, “What kind of mixed breed is that?” Or, “Is that the Turn- er and Hooch dog?” Or, “Look, Mom! It’s the dog from the Sandlot movie?” Is there a color preference/prejudice in the show ring? During my 30 years of exhibiting Bullmastiffs, I have noticed that fawns, red fawns, and reds do the most winning. Regrettably, the brindle, which was the foundation color in England and provided natural camouflaging, is not as frequently rewarded. The biggest misconception in the breed? Bullmastiffs do not get nearly enough credit for their intelligence and loyalty. Are there any misconceptions about the breed I’d like to dis- pel? Yes, the misconception is that Bullmastiffs are just big, sloppy, couch potatoes that lack the capability and/or aptitude for earning working dog titles. This is farthest from the truth! Extremely intel- ligent dogs! I’m proud to say I know several owners and their dogs that are stellar in this area. What special challenges do breeders face in the current econom- ic and social climate? Wow, these days we are faced with challenges in our world that few of us could ever have imagined. Covid-19 has changed all of our lives in one way or another. Some of us have and will be more profoundly affected by personal losses than others. My basic nature is to be an optimist. My response to this crisis is to encourage people to reach out and band together as we never have before. If we are to return to any degree of normalcy in the months to come, we must work together. At what age do I start to see definite signs of show-worthiness? I start watching my puppies at around five weeks. I begin evaluating puppies at eight weeks and continue to evaluate them up to one year of age. During this time, I am mindful of temperament, conforma- tion, breed type, head piece, and balance. Most breeders make our best estimates of show potential between seven and eight weeks. The most important thing about the Bullmastiff dog for a new judge to keep in mind? The Bullmastiff Breed Standard was writ- ten to be the criterion for our breed. The headpiece, specifically the muzzle, was not intended to be long or narrow. The Bullmastiff
What is the most important thing about the breed for a new judge to keep in mind? The Breed Standard reads: “Other things being equal, the more substantial dog within these limits is favored.” It should be understood that this does not mean that bigger is better. It means that, with animals of equal merit, the larger dog within the Standard’s guidelines is to be favored. Our Breed Stan- dard describes a Bullmastiff within ideal weight and height param- eters. Dogs should weigh between 110 and 130 pounds and stand between 25 and 27 inches at the withers and bitches should be from 100 to 120 pounds and 24 to 26 inches at the withers. Sometimes a slightly bigger or a bit smaller dog may be the better animal. Size is by no means the only thing that makes a Bullmastiff a Bullmastiff. What’s the best way to attract newcomers to our breed and to the sport? We were very lucky as newcomers. So many people were so welcoming. We would wish that for anyone wanting to learn about Bullmastiffs. We found a wonderful mentor and also met many other fanciers who reached out to us and made us part of their community. We hope that we never forget what it was like to be the new kids and what it is like to have friends with whom to ask questions, share ideas, and celebrate our dogs. Inclusion and information are the means by which we can ensure that new people choose to become fellow fanciers. Our ultimate goal for the breed? We hope that the Bullmastiffs of the future are the products of the wealth of education and experi- ence available to breeders today. We have depended so much on the veterans of the breed who came before us. So many breeders have been incredibly generous in educating us and in sharing their expe- riences. We have achieved our success because of their dedication and desire to mentor us as much or more as by our own work. We all need to be mentors, for the good of our breed. Someday, we hope to look back and feel as though we left the breed a little better than we found it, that our dogs contributed mental and physical health to the breed, as well as correct conformation, and that we played a small role in sound Bullmastiffs for the future. Our favorite dog show memory? That also depends upon which one of us answers the question. We had a recent Best In Specialty Show win with a young bitch we bred at the Celtic Cluster in York, Pennsylvania, that we mentioned earlier. As breeder/owner-han- dlers, we won’t soon forget that win with Gilda. The Bullmastiff is not for everyone. We have found their stead- fast nature and independent spirit to be among their most admi- rable qualities, but for some people those traits have the potential to translate as stubbornness and intractability. Our mentor told us when we were new Bullmastiff owners that we should train the pup- py to be the dog we wanted to share our home with for the next ten years. Bullmastiffs are independent workers–they were bred to be. So if they are given few guidelines and little training, those adorable wrinkly-faced puppies will take as much control as they can and make their own rules. We have fostered a number of Bullmastiffs as rescue volunteers and so many of them are adolescents or young adults whose owners did not invest the necessary time and energy in training.
PAM HENSON People who know me say that I smile—a lot! Most of the reasons behind those smiles I owe to my two beautiful children, Jamie and Justin; my family; and my cherished friends. I was born and raised in California, and I have been owned by dogs all my life. I have been blessed that my children
152 | SHOWSIGHT MAGAZINE, MAY 2020
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