Mastiffs in one form or another have been around since before written history began. Carvings from the Babylonian palace of Ashurbanipal (these carvings are on display in the British Museum) show large Mastiff-type dogs hunting lions in the desert near the Tigris River.
Mastiffs as war dogs
When the Romans invaded Britain around AD43, they took Mastiffs back to Italy and used them to protect property and guard prisoners, in addition to fighting in the arena. The Mastiff is said to have been Julius Caesar's favorite dog. Kubla Khan had a kennel of 5,000 Mastiffs for hunting and war use. When Hannibal crossed the Alps, he took several battalions of war Mastiffs.
From the 12th through 19th centuries, Mastiffs were used for bear-baiting. This "sport," in which dogs attacked chained-up bears, bulls, and even tigers, was especially popular during Queen Elizabeth's time. Such fights were often staged for the queen's entertainment. The size of the Mastiff and its need to eat about as much food per day as an adult man made a Mastiff too costly for most common folk, except butchers, who had enough meat scraps to feed a Mastiff well. Therefore, the Mastiff was often called the "Butchers Dog."
During the World Wars, Mastiffs were commissioned to pull munitions carts at the front lines. However, their popularity was declining at the same time, partly because of their size: It was considered unpatriotic to keep a dog that ate as much in one day as a soldier. By the 1920s, Mastiffs were almost extinct in Britain, and by the end of World War II, Canada and the United States were sending Mastiffs to Britain to save the breed. Now, the breed is well-established in both continents.
Autumn C. Louther is a Mastiff owner who adores the Mastiff breed Autumn owns and runs http://www.mastiff-secrets-revealed.com/