Early authors

The Mastiff by Joannes Caius

This kind of dog , called a Mastiff or Bandog , is vast , huge , stubborn , ugly , and eager ; of a heavy and burdenous body , and therefore but of little swiftness ; terrible and frightful to behold ; and more fierce and fell than any Arcadian cur , nothwithstanding , they are said to have their generation of the violent lion .

They are called Villatici , because they are appointed to watch and keep farm places and country cottages sequestered from common recourse , and not abutting upon other houses by reason of distance; when there is any fear concieved of thieves , robbers , spoilers , and nightwanderers . They are serviceable against the fox , and the badger ; to drive wild and tame swine out of meadows , pastures , glebelands  , and places planted with fruit ; to bait and take the bull by the ear , when occasion so requireth . One  dog , or two at the uttermost , are sufficient for that purpose , be bull never so monstrous , never so untameable . For it is a kind of dog capable of courage, violent and valiant , striking cold fear into the hearts of men ; but standing in fear of no man ; in so much that no weapons will make him shrink , or abridge his boldness .

Our Englishmen [to the extent that their dogs might be the more fell and fierce] assist nature with art , use , and custom . For , they teach their dogs to bait the bear; to bait the bull , and other such like cruel and bloody beasts [appointing an overseer of the game] without any collar to defend their throats ; and oftentimes they train them up in fighting and wrestling with a man , having [for his safeguard of his life] either a pikestaff , a club , or a sword .

And by using [accustoming] them to exercise as these, their dogs become more sturdy and strong. The force which is in them surmounteth all belief ; the fast hold which they take with their teeth exceedeth all credit . Three of them against a bear , four against a lion are sufficient , both to try masteries with them , and utterly to overmatch them .

This dog is called , in like manner , Cathenarius , à Cathena , of the chain wherewith he is tied at the gates, in the day time ; lest being loose , he should do much mischief; and yet might give occasion of fear and terror , by his big barking . And albeit CICERO , in his oration Pro S. Ross had been of this opinion , that such dogs as bark in the broad daylight should have their legs broken ; yet our countrymen on this side of the seas , for their carelesness of life , ‘setting all at cinque and sice’ are of a contrary judgement. For the thieves rogue up and down in every corner , no place is free from them ; no , not the Prince’ Palace , nor the countryman’ cottage . In the day time , they practise pilfering , picking , open robbing , and privy stealing ; and what legerdemain lack they ? not fearing the shameful and horrible death by hanging.

The cause of which inconvenience doth not only issue from nipping need and wringing want ; for all that steal are not pinched with poverty : but some steal to maintain their excessive and prodigal expenses in apparel ; their lewdness of life, their haughtiness of heart , their wantoness of manner .Their wilful idleness , their ambitious bravery , and the pride of the saucy Salacones vain glorious and arrogant in behaviour , whose delight dependeth wholly to mount nimbly on horseback , to make them leap lustily, spring and prance , gallop and amble , to run a race , to wind in compass , and so forth ; living altogether upon the fatness of the spoil .

Othersome there be which steal , being thereto provoked by penury and need , like masterless men applying themselves to no honest trade , but ranging up and down impudently begging ; and complaining of bodily weaknesses where is no want of ability .

But valiant VALENTINE the Emperor , by wholesome laws provided , that such as having no corporal sickness, sold themselves to begging , pleaded poverty with pretended infirmity , cloaked their idle and slothful life with colourable shifts and cloudy cossening , [cozening] should be a perpetual slave and drudge to him , by whom their impudent idleness was bewrayed and laid against them in public place ; lest the insufferable slothfulness of such vagabonds , should be burdenous to the people ; or , being so hateful and odious , should grow into an example .

ALFRED , likewise , in the government of his commonwealth , procured such increase of credit to justice and upright dealing by his prudent acts and statutes , that if a man travelling by the highway of the country under his dominion , chanced to lose a budget full of gold , or his capcase farced [stuffed] with things of great value , late in the evening ; he should find it where he lost it , safe , sound , and untouched the next morning ; yea , which is a wonder, at any time for a whole space if he sought for it , as INGULPHUS Croyladensis , in his History , recordeth . But in this our unhappy age ; in these I say , our devilish days , nothing can escape the claws of the spoilers ; thought it be kept never so sure with the house ; albeit the doors be locked and bolted . 

The Mastiff by  Wm Harrison

Near the beginning of Elizabeth' reign , Reginald Wolfe the Queen' Printer , with the splendid audacity characteristic of that age , planned to publish a ‘universal Cosmography of the whole world & therewith also certain particular histories of every known nation .

Raphael Holinshed had charge of the histories of England , Scotland & Ireland which were issued in 1577, and have since been known as ‘Holinshed' Chronicles’. From them Shakespeare drew most of the material for his historical plays .

Among Holinshed's collaborators was one William Harrison , chaplain to Lord Cobham , and later Rector of Radwinter in Essex & Canon of Windsor. To him was allotted the task of writing the ‘Descriptions of Britain and England’ from which the following chapters are drawn .He gathered his facts from books , letters , maps , conversations and , most important of all, his own observation & experience ; and he put them loosely together into what he calls ‘this foul frizzled treatise’.

Yet , with all his modesty, he claims to ‘have had an especial eye to the truth of things’; and as a result we have in his pages the most vivid and detailed picture in existence of the England into which Shakespeare was born .

In 1876 Dr Furnivall condensed Harrison' chapters for the New Shakespeare Society and these have since been reprinted by Mr Lothrop Withington in the modern dress in which the most interesting of them appear here . No apology is needed for thus selecting and rearranging , since in their original form they were without unity , and formed part of a vast compilation . Harrison's merit does not lie in the rich interest of his matter alone . He wrote a racy style with a strong individual as well as Elizabethan flavor ; and his personal comment upon the manners of his time serves as a piquant sauce to the solid meat of his historical information .

Dogs of the homely kind are either shepherd’s curs or Mastiffs. The first are so common that it needeth me not to speak of them . Wherefore I will leave this cur unto his own kind , and go in hand with the Mastiff , tie dog or band dog , so called because many of them are tied up in chains and strong bonds in the daytime , for doing hurt abroad , which is a huge dog , stubborn , ugly , eager , burthenous of body and therefore of but little swiftness , terrible and fearful to behold , and oftentimes more fierce and fell than any Arcadian or Corsican cur .

Our Englishmen , to the extent that these dogs may be more cruel and fierce , assist nature with some art , use  & custom . For although this kind of dog be capable of courage , violent , valiant , stout & bold - yet will they increase these their stomachs by teaching them to bait the bear , the bull , the lion & other such like cruel and bloody beasts either brought over or kept up at home for the same purpose without any collar to defend their throats , and oftentimes there too they train them up in fighting and wrestling with a man having for the safeguard of his life either a pikestaff, club , sword , privy coat , whereby they become the more fierce and cruel unto strangers .

The Caspians make so much account sometimes of such great dogs , that every able man would nourish sundry of them in his house of set purpose , to the end they should devour their carcases after their deaths , thinking the dog’ bellies to be the most honourable sepulchres .

The common people also followed the same rate and therefore there were tie dogs kept up by public ordinance , to devour them after their deaths : by means whereof these beasts became the more eager and with great difficulty after a while restrained from falling upon the living . But whither am I digressed ? In returning therefore to our own , I say that of mastiffs , some bark only with fierce and open mouth but will not bite ; but the cruelest do either not bark at all or bite before they bark , and therefore are more to be feared than any of the other .

They take also their name of the word ‘mase’ and ‘thief’ or ‘master-thief’ if you will , because they often stound and put such persons to their shifts in towns and villages , and are the principal causes of their apprehension and taking . The force which is in them surmounteth all belief , and the fast hold which they take with their teeth exceedeth all credit : for three of them against a bear , four against a lion , are sufficient to try mastries with them . King Henry the Seventh , as the report goeth , commanded all such curs to be hanged , because they durst presume to fight against the lion , who is their king and sovereign . The like he did with an excellent falcon , as some say , because he feared not hand-to-hand match with an eagle , willing his falconers in his own presence to pluck off his head after he was taken down, saying that it was not meet for any subject to offer such wrong unto his lord and superior, wherein he had a further meaning .

But if King Henry the Seventh had lived in our time what would he have done to our English Mastiff , which alone and without any help at all pulled down first a huge bear , then a pard , and last of all a lion , each after other before the French King in one day , when the Lord Buckhurst was ambassador unto him , and whereof if I should write the circumstances , that is , how he took his advantage being let loose unto them , and finally drave them into such exceeding fear , that they were all glad to run away when he was taken from them , I should take much pains, and yet reap but small credit : wherefore it shall suffice to have said thus much thereof .Some of our Mastiffs will rage only in the night , some are to be tied up both day and night . Such also as are suffered to go loose about the house and yard are so gentle in the daytime that children may ride on their backs and play with them at their pleasures . Divers of them likewise are of such jealousy over their master and whosoever of his household , that if a stranger do embrace or touch any of them , they will fall fiercely upon them , unto their extreme mischief if their fury be not prevented .

Such a one was the dog of Nichomedes , King sometime of Bithynia , who seeing Consigne the Queen to embrace and kiss her husband as they walked together in a garden , did tear her all to pieces , maugre his resistance and the present aid of such as attended on them . Some of them moreover will suffer a stranger to come in and walk about the house or yard where he listeth , without giving over to follow him : but if he put forth his hand to touch anything , then will they fly upon them and kill them if they may . I had one myself once , which would not suffer any man to bring in his weapon further than my gate : neither those that were of my house to be touched in his presence . Or if I had beaten any of my children , he would gently have essayed to catch the rod in his teeth and take it out of my hand or else pluck down their clothes to save them from the stripes : which in my opinion is not unworthy to be noted .

PS - Mr Hay Hutchinson (signature HH) depicted into the advert hereabove was the artist who drew the Mastiff picture displayed at the start of this Harrison article  ;  Mr Hutchinson was a regular illustrator of The Illustrated Kennel News , forerunner of the present Dog World Magazine in Great Britain .

The Mastiff by Linnaeus

Carolus Linnaeus [1707-1778] , the designer of modern plant & animal classification invented the practice of naming all species by two names , a genus name followed by a species name , a practice that is still followed by all biologists . He also invented the practice of grouping species hierarchically into orders, classes and kingdoms . He was fascinated by plant reproduction , and classified the plants according the structure of their reproductive organs , a classification that did not reveal phylogeny , but which is still often used as a practical tool when identifying plants .

He placed our own species in the order Primates , together with apes and monkeys , an idea that was controversial at that time , although in Linnaeus' philosophy this did not imply that humans were descendants of other primates . He was an enthusiastic and popular teacher at Uppsala University, and he sent diciples to many parts of the world , where they collected animals and plants which they sent back to Sweden for scientific study . Carolus Linnaeus was born in southern Sweden as the son of a Lutheran priest . He came to Uppsala University in 1728 .

In 1735 he went to the Netherlands where he took his Doctor's degree . He returned to Sweden in 1738 , first to work in Stockholm , but in 1741 he became a Professor in Uppsala . His most famous publication is called Systema Naturae , of which he wrote many editions . In 1761 he was granted nobility and changed his name to Carl von Linné .

At left ~ from Edward Cecil Ash ‘ The Practical Dog Book  plate 6 , no 6 ~ The Bulldog , 1808 ~ presumably also published in Reverend William Bingley ‘ Memoirs of British Quadupeds' . An   illustration of interest , especially when comparing a/o its cat-like expression to the drawing at right  ‘The Mastiff & The Lamb‘ by Samuel Howitt published Nov 3àth 1819 by J Wheble & J Pittman , 18 Warwick Square London .

THE MASTIFF [Canis Anglicus aka bellicosis - Linnaeus] DIVISION III HEAD TRUNCATED - SECTION IX - WATCH-DOGS , WHICH HAVE NO PROPENSITY FOR HUNTING from Captain Thomas Brown’ Biographical sketches & authentic anecdotes of dogs , published in 1829 .

This is a large and powerful animal , much stronger than the Bulldog ; his ears are longer and more pendulous ; his lips are full and loose , the upper one hanging considerably over the lower at the two extremities ; his aspect is grave , and somewhat sullen ; and his bark loud, deep-toned, and terrific , particularly during the night .

The Mastiff differs in form from the Bulldog in being much longer in the legs , and not so deep in the chest ; and while his head is large in proportion to his body , he wants the projecting under-jaw of the latter .

Buffon was of opinion that the Mastiff is not an original race , but a mongrel generated betwixt the Irish Greyhound and the Bulldog . This , however , must be mere conjecture : for the Mastiff , in his pure and uncontaminated state , has a much more dignified aspect than either of these dogs ; and we are rather inclined to believe him to be an original breed peculiar to Britain . We are borne out in this opinion , as we find it on record , that , so early as the time of the Roman emperors , this country was celebrated on account of its dogs of this kind ; and at the period Great Britain was under the Roman yoke , an officer was appointed to live here , whose sole business it was to breed , select , and send to Rome such as promised , by their size and strength , to become fit for the combats of the amphitheatre . Dr Caius , in his Treatise on British Dogs , tells us , that three Mastiffs were reckoned a match for a bear and four for a lion .

This dog , from his large size and commanding aspect , is naturally calculated to intimidate strangers ; and he is admirably suited for and principally used in protecting large and extensive premises containing property of value , which he watches with most scrupulous care and assiduity . He is so instinctively impressed with the importance of his charge , that he will only quit it with the loss of his life , which he will rather forfeit than betray the confidence reposed in him. With his naturally commanding and imposing appearance , calculated to keep at a distance the ill-intentioned , he is nevertheless possessed of the greatest mildness of manners , and is as solicitous to gain attention , and as faithfully grateful for favours bestowed , as the most diminutive of the canine tribe .

The Mastiff displays one peculiarity which seems inherent ,—his ferocity is always increased by the degree of restraint in which he is kept . If constantly on the chain he is much more dangerous to approach than when in a state of liberty ; from whence it evidently appears , that what may be considered a friendly kindness on one side , is always productive of confidence on the other .

The Mastiff usually shows a remarkable and peculiar warmth in his attachments , and, on the other hand , he is equally distinguished for inveteracy in his dislike . If he is once severely corrected or insulted , it is almost impossible to eradicate the feel ing from his memory , and it is no less difficult to obtain a reconciliation with him . He seems conscious of his own strength , power , and authority , and will seldom condescend to lower his dignity by servile fawning ; while he appears to consider his services as only befitting a trust of the highest importance .

This dog is naturally possessed of strong instinctive sensibility , speedily obtains a knowledge of all the duties required of him , and discharges them , too , with the most punctual assiduity . In the protection of gardens , houses , wood-yards , and widely-extended manufactories , his vigilance is very striking : he makes regular rounds of the whole premises like a watchman , examines every part of them with a careful ey e: his penetration reaches even the remotest corner , and not a spot is passed by , until he is satisfied that all is in a state of perfect security . During the night he gives a signal of his presence by repeated and vociferous barkings , which are increased upon the least cause of alarm ; and , contrary to the spirit of the Bulldog , whose invariable practice is to bite before he barks , the Mastiff always warns before he attacks .

This breed is very difficult to be obtained in purity , from the various admixtures and experimental crosses which have taken place . The genuine old English Mastiff is now rarely to be seen , although we have dogs of various sizes and colours which go under that name . Notwithstanding frequent proofs of extensive depredations upon the timid and unresisting part of the animal creation , instances are but rare of his making a determined attack upon the human species , without the most palpable provocation . Here below a drawing by Captain Brown .

The Mastiff by Captain Thomas Brown [1785–1862]  see portrait at left

Born in Perth – Scotland , he was educated at the Edinburgh High School . At the age of twenty , he joined the Forfar and Kineardine Militia , raising to the rank of captain in 1811. When he was quartered in Manchester , he became interested in nature , and edited Oliver Goldsmith' Animated Nature . After his regiment was disbanded he bought the Fifeshire flax mill . But this burned down before Thomas Brown had the opportunity to insure it and he then started to write books about nature for a living . In 1840 he became curator of the Manchester Museum for twenty-two years . He wrote several natural history books , a few dealing with conchology . He became a Linnean Society’ fellow , member of the Wernerian , Kirwanian & Phrenological Societies , and president of the Royal Physical Society .

Here beneath some excerpts from his Biographical sketches and authentic anecdotes of dogs [1829] regarding Mastiff behaviour .

In opposition , however, to the received opinion of the almost unimpeachable fidelity and implicit obedience of this animal , and in verification of the ancient remark, that ‘ there is no rule without an exception ‘, we shall introduce the recital of a circumstance which occurred in 1803 at Mitcham , in Surrey .

INDISCRIMINATE RESENTMENT . A butcher of that place having reared a true-bred Mastiff from a puppy , became much attached to him , and the latter was so fond of his master , that it invariably followed him as a spaniel, whenever he went from home . During this scene of mutual confidence , the master had purchased some horse-flesh for the dog , of which he had given him a part ; but, not completely satisfied with what had been allotted to him , the animal , by some means , possessed himself of that which was reserved . In the master' endeavour to take away the food , the dog seized his arm with the most incredible ferocity , and tore away the flesh in a dreadful manner ; after which he made a sudden transition to his throat , where he fastened himself with the utmost obstinacy , and from which he was not disengaged till he was nearly strangled by a rope fixed round his neck by the neighbours , for that purpose . Upon feeling the painful pressure of the cord upon his neck he was compelled to relinquish his gripe ; but so enthusiastic and extraordinary was the attachment of the master to his most unworthy favourite , that , although his life was for some time in imminent danger , he would never give his consent that the dog should be destroyed .

The resentment of the dog was considered the more extraordinary , as the animal had been always remarkable for his docility and peaceable disposition. Whether any sudden effect arising from the horse-flesh , to which he had been unaccustomed , or instantaneous impulse of passion at being deprived of so luxurious a repast , was the occasion of this temporary fury , could never be ascertained , though certain it is the dog quietly returned to his previous calmness, obedience , and domestic fidelity .

CONTEMPTUOUS REVENGE . A blacksmith of the name of Smith , at Stirches , near Hawick , had a large Mastiff , which generally lay on the smithy hearth in cold weathe r. One evening a farmer' servant in the neighbourhood who had come for some plough-irons which were repairing , gave the dog a kick , and possessed himself of his place on the warm stones . The Mastiff , in the meantime , only looked sulky at him , and lay down at the door , but when the man went away with his plough-irons on his shoulders , the dog followed him , and , at the distance of sixty yards from the smithy , flew upon him , and, seizing him by the collar , brought him to the ground . He offered him no personal injury , but treated him in a manner which strongly indicated his sovereign contempt for the delinquent .

FEROCITY APPEASED . A large and ferocious Mastiff , which had broken his chain , ran along the road near Bath , to the great terror and consternation of those whom he passed . When suddenly running by a most interesting boy , the child struck him with a stick , upon which the dog turned furiously on his infant assailant . The little fellow , so far from being intimidated , ran up to him , and flung his arms round the neck of the enraged animal , which became instantly appeased , and in return caressed the child . It is a fact well known , that few dogs will bite a child or even a young one of their own species . One I at present possess will not allow any one of my family to take a bone from him except my youngest child .

GENEROUS AND HUMANE . On the 21st October , 1797, a large Mastiff belonging to Mr Hilson of Maxwelhaugh , seeing a small dog that was following a cart from Kelso , carried down by the current of the Tweed, in spite of all its efforts to bear up against the stream , after watching its motions for some time attentively, plunged voluntarily into the river, and seizing the wearied diminutive cur by the neck , brought it safely to land , in the presence of several spectators .

UNFEIGNED SORBOW . A Mastiff Dog belonging to the Honourable Peter Bold of Bold , Esq , attended his master in his chamber during the tedious sickness consequent on a pulmonary consumption . After the gentleman expired , and his corpse was removed , the dog almost every moment entered the apartment , making a mournful whining noise , and continued his researches for several days through all the rooms of the house , but in vain : he then retired to his kenne l, which he could not be induced to leave , but, refusing all manner of sustenance , died .

Of this fact , and his previous affection , the surgeon who attended his master was an eye-witness . Some may hesitate to call this reason , but certainly a deeper sense of sorrow and gratitude could not have been shown by any creature whatever .

GUARDIAN OF THE LAW . At the castle of a nobleman in Bohemia (see pictoresque scenery here below at right) , a large English Mastiff was kept , that never failed to go every Sunday to the village church . The other dogs in the neighbourhood used to follow him thither, so that the church was often full of these animals . This being considered a nuisance , orders were given by the magistrates , at one of the petty courts held for regulating the affairs of the village , that the inhabitants should be enjoined to keep all their dogs locked on every Sunday during the time of divine service . The magistrate who presided in this court said , in a loud and authoritative tone of voice – ‘I will suffer no dogs in the church; let me not see one there in future ‘.

The Mastiff happened to be lying under the table in the court when these words were spoken , to which he appeared to listen with great attention . On the ensuing Sunday the dog rose at an early hour , ran from house to house through the village , barking at the windows , and at last took his station before the church-door , to see whether any of his companions would venture to approach it notwithstanding the prohibition . Unfortunately one of them appeared. The dog immediately fell upon him with the utmost fury , bit him to death , and dragged him out into the street . He continued in the same manner for several subsequent Sundays to stand sentinel without entering the church .

PRUDENT FORBEARANCE . About twenty-four years ago , a farmer in the neighbourhood of Falkirk had a large Mastiff Dog which used to go regularly to church  and was always accompanied by a very small mongrel . In their way to and from the place of worship they had occasion to pass through the town , in the principal street of which a number of butchers resided , whose dogs were generally very troublesome to all strange curs which might happen to pass on the road. Every Sunday they were very clamorous while the couple in question were on their way to and from church , but they never ventured actually to attack them , probably having had sufficient proof of the Mastiff' courage and strength on some former occasions.

So that the latter passed on with a dignified composure , paying no attention to their barking . It happened , however , one Sunday , that the small dog , from some cause or other , actually began to fight with one of these assailants , which the Mastiff discovering , turned back to his assistance . The butcher' dog was intimidated at his approach , and scampered off . The Mastiff did not attempt to follow him , but took his little friend by the neck , and carried him to the extreme end of the town , and then set him down , after which they quietly went home together .

BENEVOLENT ATTACHMENT . A large dog of the Mastiff breed , hardly full-grown , attached himself to a very small spaniel , ill with the distemper, from which the former was himself but newly recovered. He commenced this attention to the spaniel the moment he saw it , and, for several weeks , he continued it unremittingly , licking him clean , following him everywhere , and carefully protecting him from harm . When the large dog was fed , he has been seen to save a portion , and to solicit the little one to eat ; and in one instance he was observed to select a favourite morsel , and carry it to the house where the sick animal lay. When the spaniel was , from illness , unable to move, the Mastiff used to sit at the door of his kennel , where he would remain for hours , guarding him from interruption . Here - was no instinct , no interest , — it was wholly the action of the best qualities of the mind .

The father of wood engraving ‘  Thomas Bewick [1753–1828] & some contemporaries

Illustrator of books on natural history and not only was it used in many fine books printed in his time , but he made wood engraving popular as a technique popular . His work was of such quality that it was not until photographic methods of reproduction were used that it was bettered. 


The engraver Thomas Bewick was born at Cherryburn on the Tyne , near Newcastle . In 1775 he won a seven guinea prize from the Society of Arts for his woodcut The Huntsman and the Old Hound . He then travelled in the Lake District and lived in London , but the city did not attract him , and in 1777 he was back in Newcastle , where he went into partnership with his old master , Beilby . In 1779 he made the woodcuts for Gay’ Fables and in 1784 Select Fables . However it was in 1789 with The Chillingham Bull that his mature style first manifested itself , with increased delicacy , especially in the treatment of foliage .

In 1790 came his General History of Quadrupeds  [vide Mastiff above at right] , which was successful enough to require two reprints in subsequent years . Bewick achieved a delicate and naturalistic style reflecting his close study from nature . He also advanced over other workers in the field by avoiding cross-hatching and other devices to make the wood engraving simulate other techniques , rather taking advantage of the nature of his material as it was .

Memoirs of British Quadrupeds , 1808 , by the Anglican Reverend William Bingley [1754-1823] , illustrative principally of their habits of life , instincts , sagacity , and uses to mankind . It also contains a wood engraving of an old type Mastiff  . The work counts 44 engravings from original drawings , executed chiefly by Samuel Howitt [1756-1822] , a son of a Nottinghamshire family of squire . Howitt became a professional artist specialising in Sporting subjects .


Samuel Howitt began as an amateur but due to financial difficulty he turned professional . He worked at a private academy in Ealing as a drawing master early in his professional career . His first exhibition was in 1783 at the Incorporated Society of Artists, where he continued to exhibit and went on to establish a formidable reputation - perhaps second only to George Stubbs [1724-1806] - for his accurate and lively depictions of natural history and sporting subjects .

His ‘ New Work of Animals ~ Principally Designed from the Fables of Aesop , Gay , & Phaedrus ‘ London, Edward Orme, 1818 ~ a classic work , in which Howitt' superb animal studies bring to life the classic fables of Aesop and Phaedrus , and the poetry of Gay . The fables of Aesop , each of which has a strong moral , or ‘application’ as it is called here , were very popular in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

The chained Mastiff drawing by Reinagle aside  (to present later on) , Bewick Mastiff drawing here on top may be considered as an early XIXth C breed icon published  quite a lot in canine literature , sometimes displaying another background . The very 1st 'Molosser Magazin' edited by Mr C Habig as an International Journal in 1981 had the Bewick Mastiff on its front cover subtitled as - Order 3 , Genus 12 , Species 1 ,  Variety 14 Molossus or Mastiff ; this print presents a neutral  background while the Bewick Mastiff here on top is placed in front of a rural scenery incl a farmstead , trees & an array of diverging canine species in multiple ways of interaction  , ie playing , barking  , fighting , &c  . 

Most , if not  all , Mastiff drawings by these British artists show high-spirited pied-bald specimens of 'working dog' abilities free from any form of excess , rather in lean condition , loins tucked up , almost no dewlap or apparent levels of wrinkle , folds or flews    , the latter even more restricted in Howitt' drawings , a/o here above at right a bold 'rural' Mastiff displaying a shoebox-like head form complemented by a muzzle cut off squarely &  ears semi-erect as if referring to the Bulldog' Rose ear  .     It seems these examples may (approx) represent the then average phenotype to be found in rural Britain but perhaps not the Mastiff type inherent to the large estates of nobility , a type more houndy lacking apparent stop & fullness in underjaw while perhaps more docile in nature having become a true  home companion as demonstrated by a/o the XVIIth century  painting by Anthony Van Dyck featuring a large Mastiff amidst   the five children of  King Charles I .