Posts Tagged ‘Alaunt’

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Photo by Terra Presotto.

It took me a while to get all of my information on this particular dog together.  I’m am sorry am a little late in answering this question.

One the surface, it appears to be one of those old farm bulldogs that are native to the South. One could be forgiven for calling it an American bulldog, but it is very likely that this dog is actually the ancestor of the Johnson and Scott bulldogs. These bulldogs retain much of their ancestral multipurpose utility, a trait they share with many American pit bull an American Staffordshire terriers.

The dog above is not an Alapaha blue blood bulldog, although the main center for its breeding and preservation is within the state of Georgia.

Although the English bulldog has become rather infamous for its deformed conformation, which makes it–among other things– very difficult to breed. It is also known for being quite hard to train.

In fact all bulldog-types have developed a touch of stubbornness. American bulldogs and boxers are notable exceptions. Alapahas are supposed to be a either “a bit stubborn” or very stubborn.

However, there is a bulldog with the temperament of an English shepherd.

And just like the English shepherd it can be used for herding.

The dog in question is officially called a white English bulldog (WEB). It is claimed to be something like the original bulldog, which was a multipurpose farm dog.

Just like the English shepherd.

This is not to say that other bulldog breed aren’t capable of herding, but this particular breed has been selected for it. The WEB has been bred to be very tractable and to have relatively low levels of dog aggression:

Photo by Terra Presotto.

According to their preservation society, the original bulldog was a farm dog, not a baiting or fighting animal. One must remember that in England during the Middle Ages and in the Early Modern Period, “mastiffs” were quite common among the populace. It is even possible that our word for dog, which is unique among Germanic languages in that it is not the cognate for “hund,” is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word for a mastiff-type dog (“dogca”).

Medieval peasants used their mastiff in much the same way the Swiss used their large tricolored farm dogs. They guarded the home and helped bring in and manage livestock. They also protected this livestock from predators, both human and lupine.  Various kings promulgated forest laws that strictly regulated the ownership of mastiffs near the forests, which were useful to the peasant and commoner. Under Canute, all mastiffs owned by commoners had to be hamstrung to keep them from wandering around the forests and hunting the royal game.  Henry II changed this law under his forest charter, which required that the mastiffs be expedited. Expedition required that the commoner’s mastiff have three toes on one foot chopped off with a chisel. This procedure would also keep the dog from wandering and hunting red deer and wild boar that were reserved for the nobility and their various hounds. These dogs wold have been useful only as guarding animals, but the animals that were in agricultural areas still would have been left intact.

In those days, cattle and other livestock wandered about freely. The Medieval manor had very little fencing, and one of the rights commoners had was access to common lands. These commons were vast areas, and the cattle and hogs wandered about. These two animals, although domesticated, readily go wild without regular human contact. To control these half-wild herds, the Medieval farmer needed a dog that could herd but was also tough enough to put up with cattle and hogs that were quite unwilling to be herded. Some of these mastiffs would actually grip the stock to get them under control. One might remember from the film Old Yeller, in which the big yellow cur dog is forced to body slam a free range dairy cow so that she and her calf can be brought in. It is very likely that these farm mastiffs would have had to do this behavior.

Cattle were generally not eaten during the Middle Ages, simply because they had so much utility as milk and draft animals. However, as feudalism began to transform into early mercantilist capitalism, a modest demand for beef began to develop. This demand for beef would skyrocket with the Industrial Revolution, which made draft oxen nearly obsolete, and generate an even larger market for beef. But in those early years of the beef industry in England, the cattle were still free range, which means hat their meat was quite tough. Further, the meat animals in those days were typically those cattle who were no longer productive as draft animals or milkers.

So the meat needed to be tenderized. Knowing that some of the farm mastiffs would grip a bull or cow, the butchers of that era began to use the dogs as meat tenderizers. We would consider this practice quite in humane slaughter today, but the butchers would let some mastiffs fight a bovine until its flesh became tender and flavored with lactic acid. Annie Dillard saw a similar tenderizing technique used on a captured deer in Ecuador. The natives tied the deer to a tree and then beat it every little bit, just so that its flesh would be more palatable when they slaughtered it.

The butchers began to breed their own strains of mastiff for this purpose, and these dogs became known as “Alaunt de Boucherie.”  The white mastiff of Medieval England was always called an “Alaunt.”  These dogs, according some fairly decent historiography and some legend, came to Western Europe via the Alani people. These were an Iranian people, closely related to the modern Ossetians, who originally lived in the Caucasus. They migrated West into Europe, eventually reaching Gaul in the early 400’s. They supposedly brought with them white mastiff-type dogs that were used for war, guarding and controlling livestock, hunting, and hauling loads.

These dogs made it to England and Spain, where they founded the aforementioned white mastiffs and the Spanish alano dogs, which were also used for herding.

The butcher’s dogs  in England became more and more specialized. Although Medieval farmers had selected for trainability in their white mastiffs, butchers were more interested in having a dog that could really fight the bull. Some dogs became renowned for their prowess in fighting large bulls, and it wasn’t long before these dogs became known as “bulldogs.”

The white mastiff continued on as the commoner’s farm dog. Many English colonists to the New World brought these dogs with them. One of the two dogs brought on the Mayflower was a mastiff. Richard Whitbourne and William Wood extolled the virtues of this mastiff in the New World, for they very easily can subdue the North American wolf. Whitbourne would also describe his own mastiff running for days with a pack of Newfoundland wolves, which shows that at least some of these mastiffs were very docile with other dogs.

These mastiffs continued on as farm dogs, although they were becoming distinct from the butcher’s dog, which was also being transformed into a baiting animal. Bull and bear baiting became popular activities in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and early nineteenth centuries. Whole strains of bulldog developed for this purpose. These events were competitive events that used the butcher’s bulldog. Think of them as something like a working trial for a butcher’s bulldog. These events were popular until 1835, when they were banned by the Cruelty to Animals Act.

As we know from other types of working trial, trials change dogs, and such was the case with the baiting-bred bulldog. They were bred for even stronger prey drive and for even higher pain tolerance. The tractability that had so characterized the white farmer’s mastiff went out the door.

At the same time England, the Enclosure movement radically changed the countryside. The smaller allotments that had once characterized English farms gave way to huge estates. Millions of agricultural workers were streaming into the burgeoning industrial cities to find work in the factories. The landed gentry– many of them nouveau riche– began buying up vast tracts of land, first to raise vast flocks of sheep and then to set up shooting estates. Walls and fences sprung up throughout the countryside, and the various dogs that comprise the greater collie landrance came to fore.

The old white mastiff’s days in England were numbered. However, as late as 1797, “the mastiff” was still categorized as a farm dog in the Encyclopædia Britannica:

But the popularity of baiting soon took over what was left of the bulldog in England.

The other English mastiff breed, the one we call the mastiff today, began to develop as an estate guardian dog. It could have possibly consumed some of these white mastiffs, and one breed of estate guarding mastiff, the bullmastiff, has definite “bulldog” ancestors. This other mastiff was primarily based upon a line developed at Lyme Hall in Cheshire. Supposedly, one of the mastiffs from Lyme Hall guarded his wounded master at Agincourt. This master was Sir Peers Legh II, and his family residence was Lyme Hall. Legh died from his wounds, bu the mastiff supposedly returned home to Cheshire, and from this dog, the whold Lyme Hall mastiff strain was developed.

These dogs were not the same breed as the white mastiff, but because so many old resources are very loose with what we are referred to as mastiffs, mastiff and bulldog history winds up a bit intertwined. Suffice it to say, the white farmer’s mastiff was much more common in England than the the estate guarding and war mastiff. They probably were related, but the white mastiff was from the Alaunt landrace and the other mastiff from the Molossus complex. As estates needed dogs to assist the gamekeepers in controlling poachers, the remnant white mastiff in England melded into this population.

More controversially, it also likely melded into the sheep dogs.

Let me explain.

Have you ever seen an English shepherd with a blocky head and heavy bone?

(Source for image)

Many English shepherds I’ve seen of this type tend to take guarding much more seriously than others. They also tend to be larger in size.

Although English shepherds are traditionally regarded as an American breed, they were derived from various English farm and sheepdogs. Dogs of this type could still be found in Northern England as recently as 1901.

These dogs are different from the Scottish shepherd’s dog or the collies that were developed in England. They were said to resemble either a setter or a Newfoundland dog and were found throughout the south of England.

Traditional sources claim that the mastiff features that appear in some of these sheepdogs were the result of Roman cattle dogs, but there are some accounts that suggest that these sheepdogs were the result of breeding the proto-collie-type with a mastiff. In this case, mastiff would mean the herding white mastiff, the ancestral bulldog.

James Watson wrote in The Dog Book, Volume 1 (1906) about the use of “small mastiff” and its relationship to the English sheepdog He contends that the smooth-coated sheepdog or smooth collie was derived from this shepherd’s mastiff:

Quite a number of writers on the collie have quoted from Caius’s description of the “shepherd’s dogge” in treating of the rough collie, but he did not write of that dog at all, but the light mastiff or bandog, which was used as a sheep dog. If we recognise that mastiff meant simply mongrel or common dog, and that it included pretty nearly everything outside of hounds, spaniels and terriers, and not a specified breed such as we know mastiffs, we will the more readily understand what produced the English sheep dog, and that, as we have already said, he is not a collie proper, though now known in England as the smooth collie. As Caius wrote only of the smooth dog, he will be quoted in the chapter on that breed.

As we shall show when it comes to discussing the smooth dog, the latter was developed from the common English dog of the farm, the small mastiff that went by the name of bandog because he was the dog that was kept on a band or collar and chain—a watch dog, in fact (pg. 346).

Watson’s biases are showing here, because he fails to recognize the herding mastiff as a landrace that bred true among the commoners’ herds and flocks, but it still points to a relationship between the collie-type dog of England and the herding mastiff.

Chambers’s Encyclopædia (1878) described the drover’s dog as possessing some mastiff ancestry:

The Drover’s Dog is very often a cross between the shepherd’s dog [the collie-type] and the mastiff, the foxhound, the pointer, or the grayhound. It displays many of the best qualities of the shepherd’s dog, and if too frequently very different from it in its cruel treatment of sheep, the fault is originally that of the brutal master.

James Hamilton Fennell also wrote about herding mastiffs crossing into collie-types in A Natural History of British and Foreign Quadrupeds (1841):

This breed [The English sheep-dog or Southern sheep-dog] seems to have originated in a cross of the colley with the mastiff. While the former is the Scottish and Welsh sheep-dog, the present animal is the original or true English one, although the colley is now in general use on the extensive downs of Wiltshire, and in some other parts of this country. Our old English authors term it the shepherd’s mastiff; and this perhaps will account for some modern writers having improperly termed it the ban-dog, whereas that name belongs to the true English mastiff alone (pg. 148-149).

Although many collie and English shepherd historians suggest that the Molosser features in many strains of English shepherd are because of Roman cattle dogs, it seems much more logical to consider that these features actually came from the shepherd’s mastiff, the ancestral bulldog. It is unlikely that the majority of English shepherds living today have a high amount of bulldog blood– none are true smooth-coats– but it is possible that the last remaining shepherd’s mastiffs were part of the early English shepherd’s ancestry.

If this possibility is true, then the shepherd’s mastiff was absorbed into three different types of dog:  Some were bred into the old war mastiff-type to make a better estate guardian.  The majority evolved into the baiting bulldog. And a few were absorbed into some of the English collie-type landrace, which later became prominent in the North American countryside as a working farm dog.

The baiting bulldog would eventually evolve into the modern pet bulldog breeds. After bull-baiting was banned, the dogs were bred to be fashionable pets. One man instrumental in this effort was Bill George, a dog dealer who produced many different strains of pet bulldog from the former baiting stock.

However, the fortune of the shepherd’s mastiff was much better in North America. As I mentioned earlier, mastiffs were ubiquitous in the English colonies. They were used as they were in England, as guardians and stock dogs. They were also used to hunt wolves and to do some modest hauling work.

These were common dogs in the colonies and on the frontier, especially in the South, where a vast subtropical wilderness proved to be the ideal place to run vast herds of hogs and cattle. The white shepherd’s mastiff would have been ideal for those conditions, for they strongly resembled the open field system that existed in feudal England. Later, as the slavery-based agrarian economy spread through the South, the white mastiff was able to live in a society that was very similar to that of feudal England.

Although most of us are aware of the social constructs (and absolute evil) that was slavery, the South’s demographics also included a substantial number of yeoman farmers. It was on these farmers that Jefferson envisioned his ideal republic:  small farmers living sufficiently in rural settlements.

As the shepherd’s mastiff had been the ideal farm dog for commoners in England, it would prove to be the ideal farm dog for the small Southern farmer.

The White English Bulldog Preservation Society claims that the dogs the Southern colonists and farmers used were derived from the Spanish alano, which is another herding mastiff. Although it is very likely that Spanish had alanos tending their herds in Florida, it makes more sense that these dogs were of English origin. The Spanish did settle in Florida and other parts of the South, but their influence was nothing compared to the vast onslaught of English settlers, many of whom were escaping religious or political persecution in the old country. The Spanish may have been in the South longer than the English were, but they did not settle as extensively as the English did. If alanos made up these working farm mastiff, they were probably very small in number compared to the English shepherd’s mastiff.

The mastiff was a very common dog in the English colonies and in the early days of the United States. However, the Industrial Revolution took hold in the North, the mastiffs, curs, shepherds, and hounds that were developed in that region nearly disappeared. People no longer lived on the land, and because of the wealth that was created through industrial production, the majority of people were able to buy imported European breeds.

The South did not experience the full brunt of the Industrial Revolution until after the Civil War. It remained an agrarian, quasi-feudal society well into the twentieth century. Because of this “stunted development” (part of which was actually caused by the war and Reconstruction), the South was able to retain many of its traditional breeds.

Including the white shepherd’s mastiff.

Americans preferred to call this dog a bulldog. They were similar to the bulldog of England, even though they were used for a very different purpose.

These bulldogs were general farm dogs– just like the English shepherd and the blackmouth cur.

Here is a description of a farm bulldog that lived in the early part of the twentieth century:


This type of bulldog was very common in parts of the South. It was entirely unlike the show bulldog that was developing. It was a biddable animal, taking direction where ever it was given. It was gentle with children– even those who try to cut its ears with scissors– and with other animals. It was aggressive towards people or other dogs only when it or its family were attacked.

Although it was known there were differences between this dog and the show bulldog, no one knew which came first– or cared.

It was only when efforts to preserve the Alapaha blue blood bulldog came to the fore that it was realized that there was another distinct strain bulldog type in the South. From this realization came the White English Bulldog Preservation Society in 2006.

And through the society’s research that they realized that the white English bulldog was actually the original bulldog-type. Much of their research comes from the work of Col. David Hancock, perhaps the greatest living dog historian.

The old white shepherd’s mastiff may have disappeared in England, but its descendants continue to live on in North America. This dog may be a vestigial remnant of what was once the empire of the herding mastiff, but because it is preserved, we can fully understand the real story of the bulldog.

It began as a rugged multipurpose farm dog– and now it can’t even mate without human intervention.

Such a sad story.

But the real bulldog still lives:



A special thanks is in order for Andy Ward of Old Time Farm Shepherd for helping me do some research for this post. And another special thinks to Terra Presotto for providing me with more information on WEB and for letting me use her photos of her WEB in this post.

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After watching that short Farley Mowat documentary yesterday, I was reminded of a dog.

She was born to my useless golden retriever bitch and itinerant neighborhood boxer, who reveled in passing on his puggy visage to as many offspring as possible.

When the golden whelped the litter, my heart raced at the black coloration.

The were part Labrador!

Goldadors were great dogs. I had known this from reading about the various golden/Lab crosses that were being used in assistance dog programs.

Then I noticed their muzzles were really short.

And they had white markings on their chest and toes– more so than one would expect on Labrador or golden.

At the time, designer dogs weren’t such a big deal.  So my dad has the litter euthanized.

Except one bitch pup.

We kept her.

The Roots miniseries was being run when this pup was born, and one of the characters in that series– which is based upon Alex Haley’s historical novel about his own African genealogy–was named Kizzy (supposedly Mandingo for “stay put.”)

And the dog wound up with that name.


I don’t remember who named  her.

She grew from a black lump of writhing fur that we call a newborn puppy into the fellest beast that ever graced that part of West Virginia since the dire wolf went extinct.

In her prime, she exceeded 80 pounds. A really big dog with powerful jaws.

But a generally docile nature.

She possessed a melange of water dog and alaunt features. She had the thick retriever’s coat, which was slightly wavy but quite thick.  Her coat was black in the winter, but a bronze tinge came through during the high summer days, when the sun bleached some of the blackness away.

She had the well-sprung ribs of the retriever and very broad chest of the boxer. Her shoulders were as muscled as any bulldog or molosser’s.  Her body was rock hard when she was younger, but it grew little plump as she aged.

When she walked, she moved with the fluidity of a panther.

Indeed, I imagined her as something like a Beast of Bodmin Moor when I would watch her crossing the pasture. Those rippling shoulders pumping along in much the same way I had seen a black jaguar pace near the glass at the Cincinnati Zoo’s cat house.  The illusion was further promoted with her long tail, which trailed off her body like a black rate snake. Hers was the tail of the bulldog and bullenbeisser of yore, which has long since been bastardized into the little nub that we see on modern English bulldogs.

However, the irony was that for as much as she looked like a big cat, she had a penchant for killing the smaller domestic ones.

Now, in this part of the world, the cat is valued by rural principles.  It has low economic utility. And it’s not unusual for farm people to buy cat to kill the mice and then leave it to its own devices. It then wanders the countryside, killing things and generally making a nuisance of itself to those who appreciate birds and small mammals.

Why we are not overrun with feral cats is more a testimony to the wonders of coyote predation than to the responsibility of cat owners. Coyotes are wonderful animals for what they do to feral cats. I am sure the songbirds would sing them praises if they knew how many cats they dispatch every year.

But for 7 or 8 years, the coyotes had company.

Kizzy was a cat killing aficionado.

When Kizzy was 3 or 4 years old when she got her first cat.

It had been raining most of that day in mid-May, so when the sun finally broke through, I decided to take the two dogs for  walk. Goldie, the real golden retriever with the really creative name (who was not Kizzy’s mother), and Kizzy were my boon companions in those years. Long walks in the woods with those two dogs were among the happiest times in my life. They were my connection to the world my species once knew as it wandered the wild parts of the world, dogs smelling and man seeing.

The raindrops fell from the trees as both dogs motored ahead. Goldie smelled the air for traces of birds, while Kizzy sniffed the ground for traces of small mammals.

As we rounded a bend in the road, Kizzy stopped short at a fallen young white pine. Her hackles rose. She let loose a bestial growl.

Something hissed.

And growled back.

Within a few seconds it was all over.

The great black dog charged into the pine branches and jerked out a small gray animal from its hiding place.

At first I thought she was fighting the neighbors’ recalcitrant miniature schnauzer, but even he wasn’t stupid enough to fight a dog of that size.

And this gray animal was much smaller.

Kizzy grabbed the animal by the head and crushed it  in her jaws.

The animal squalled and squalled, but as the dog’s jaws grew tighter, the sound grew quieter and quieter.

Until there was silence.

By the my rapid advance slowed. My eyes finally registered the identity of the gray animal.

I could make out the clear stripes on its body and its long tail

It was a gray tabby cat.

My dog was a killer.

That whole realization stopped me short.

Here was a dog that was so gentle with people, so sweet with little children that we thought of her as better “kid dog” than any golden.

But I had allowed myself to be deluded. It is a delusion that virtually all dog owners buy into.

Our dogs love us. They become part of us. We love them. We let them become part of our families, and they often become closer to us than any human friends.

But within the dog there is a lupine capacity, which they normally keep in check in order to live with us.

The lupine capacity is the ability to revert back to the predator– like when a beloved sheepdog surplus kills a whole flock or when a springer spaniel becomes infamous at chasing chickens.

When Kizzy encountered that cat, her wolfishness sprang through. With a wolf’s jaws, she crushed the life out of that tabby. It was a now wolf’s eyes that stared into mine when I approached.

In that momemt, she was no longer that sweet dog.

She was a predator.

She was savage.

The cat was a feral. No one one it.

And no one cared.

But it bothered me that a dog had this capacity.

However, after some time passed, I grew to accept that predator that lay beneath my friendly dog.

You see, Kizzy also  learned something in that moment: She found her métier.

For the rest of her life, she was a cat killer.

Because she lived in rural West Virginia, where dogs are valued far more than cats, she was allowed this vice.

Some saw it a virtue.  An old country saying is that one knows he has a good dog if it hates cats.  And when one bobcat hunter heard of her exploits, he suggested that she run with his redbones, who often shirked at hunting the larger bobcats, simply out of self-preservation.

Kizzy never ran afoul of a bobcat.

She went after any felines but the domestic variety.

She never really hunted other furred creatures, except that she did start to target skunks. after the feral cat population dissipated.

One would think that a dog who would attack skunks would learn its lesson once, but Kizzy hunted skunks with almost as much gusto as she hunted cats.

In the middle of summer, I particularly going for long walks at dusk, and my two canine companions would always tag along.

One evening, charged off the trail and growled. She had been running just ahead of me, but she had veered off into a tall copse of grass. Something had her attention.

My guess was that it was a snake, because Kizzy was very good “snake dog.”  A snake dog is one of those dogs that gladly kills every snake it sees. And because she had been bitten by a copperhead when she was about two, Kizzy had an antipathy toward all thing serpentine. I. She would kill a snake through shaking it, which would usually do it in very quickly However, the muscles on a snake will twitch for a long time after it’s dead, and Kizzy would continue to attack it, rending it into as many small pieces as possible. She  once shook snake guts all over a door, when she killed one near the house.

More rural people value a “good snake dog” more than just about anything.

But they really don’t much value skunk dogs.

So I kept on walking, thinking that Kizzy had just bayed up a black snake.

As I passed by where Kizzy was standing, I was only about 6 feet from her.

It was at that moment that she grabbed something furry in her jaws and began to shake.

A haze filled the air. My eyes watered. My mucous membranes were irritated.

Kizzy had killed a skunk and had received the requisite spray.

And I was collateral damage in the skunk’s chemical warfare.

It took me about a dozen baths to get rid of the smell, and because it was summer, Kizzy slept outside for a while!

So my late teens were spent with two dogs that would be a pain in the butt for just about any other environment. I had a hard-driving working-strain golden that was too clever and too driven for the average home.

And I was living with either the real Barghest or Black Shuck. This horrific image was amplified with her demonic green eye shine.

If she had been around in recent years, I believe she would have been easily marketed as that sort of dog. Or maybe call her the West Virginia alaunt or the Mountain bullenbeisser.

With people, she was very friendly– although delivery men and meter readers were very frightened of her.

She was okay with other dogs– unless they tried to hump or attack her.

A full-of-beans English shepherd attacked her once, and she tossed him into the air.

A beagle that an acquaintance brought over for the purposes of rabbit hunting tried to have his way with her.

She didn’t receive his advances quite as well as he’d hoped.

She was spayed anyway, and she had no time for that nonsense.

The only animals that ever really had her number were Guinea fowl. The neighbors had about a dozen of the chattering, screeching things, and they responded to the big black canine leopard in the same way their ancestors would respond to the real thing. They would advance in a screaming phalanx, heads and chests pointed forward as if daring the dog to make a move. No dog, no matter what a killer it thinks it is, can stand this display, and Kizzy backed off.

Kizzy didn’t have bird dog instincts– or so we thought.

But in her last October,  the family decided to stalk bobwhite quail on the property.

The scent of the quail turned her into an instant quartering flushing dog.

She would hunt just as any good spaniel would, scenting the edges of a pasture in search of birds.

She’d flush them, but because they were stocked quail, they really didn’t fly much.

The foxes and hawks had a quail smörgåsbord that fall.

Kizzy had fun those last few months.

She was 11, arthritic, and grizzled around the muzzle.

Gray hairs dispersed throughout her black coat, giving her a particularly frosty look.

It was the day after Christmas when she started limping.

The vet put her on painkillers.

She was fine for a week.

Then she started limping again.

Another vet diagnosed even worse arthritis and put her on a diet that was rich with Omega 3’s and chondroitin. She actually liked the diet, because it was so fishy.

But it didn’t work.

Her limping got worse. her shoulder started to swell

Another trip to the vet.

The diagnosis was crushing:


And it had already spread to her lungs. No amputation could save her.

Just make her comfortable and prepare for the end.  She was given Rimadyl to ease the excruciating pain that she was about experience.

That was all that could be done.

I remember one day shortly after finding out her diagnosis.

Everyone was gone.

And she looked up to me with those bulldog-retriever eyes.

There was so much love in them. This ferocious beast had always loved me. She had always looked to me with such deep adoration.  She was my friend. She was my dog.

But I could also see the pain in those eyes. She looked worn and ancient– a look that I had never seen in her before.

At that moment, I dropped to the floor and held dear Kizzy in my arms. Tears gushed down my face.

No one could see me crying. In fact, I have never talked about this to anyone until now.

As I held her, she felt at peace.  She let loose some gentle but heavy sighs. She farted.

She relaxed as I stroked the thin leather of her boxer ears.

This tough dog who had spent her life scrapping with cats, throttling skunks, and chasing coyotes was dying.

She never once whined in pain, although the cancer destroyed bones from the inside out.

When she was eventually euthanized, she was in such terrible pain that she couldn’t stand up at all. The Rimadyl no longer helped. It was time for her to go. Time for her to be at peace.

Every time I see cat cross the pasture, I think of her. I know that if she were around, that cat wouldn’t be cockily prowling around.

I know that she taught me many things about dogs. She reminded me that dogs still have a predator nature, and though they can be friendly and gentle with us– and truly love us– they can be as fierce as any wild carnivore when they slip back into their lupine mode.

As much as the cat killings put me off, I came to appreciate her as a predator, as a being whose nature can be controlled through training and selective breeding– but is still there. Just below the surface of the dog is a wolf. Different dogs express their wolfishness in different ways.

Kizzy expressed it by killing cats and skunks.

In our modern world, there is little place for a dog like that. If a dog kills an owned cat, one can easily lose a homeowner’s policy, get ticketed, or have the animal labeled as vicious

But Kizzy not vicious toward people. She was very safe around children.

She was just a predator whose nature was to attack its prey.

Just as the great white attacks the sea lion and the lion attacks the Cape Buffalo, my dog killed cats.

I loved a predator.

And she loved me.

I appreciated her in all her sweetness and all her terror.

This is an experience that very few dog owner will know.  In most situations, a dog like this would be trained out of the behavior, and if it couldn’t adapt, it would be euthanized.

Most of us know only dogs who can be fully domesticated.

I knew a dog who couldn’t be.


This post was not politically correct, and I’m sure some were offended by it.

That’s okay.

I had to tell this story.


















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These dogs are Alanos, which were sometimes called Spanish bulldogs.

I never knew that the semester of art history I had in undergrad was going to be useful.

But on this blog, I am forever bringing up works of art that depict historical dogs, including those that are extinct.

The dogs in this sketch are Alanos, which were almost always referred to in English as “Spanish bulldogs.” The sketch is by Francisco de Goya, and it is dated to 1816.

The direct descendant of the Spanish bulldog still exist, but the animal is bit distorted from its original form.

The Spanish originally used these animals to catch unruly livestock.

But the Conquistadors used them to subjugate the indigenous peoples of the Americas and the Canary Islands.

The dogs later became used as fighting dogs in some parts of the Spanish Empire,  but in Spain itself, the dogs were primarily used in packs to catch livestock and wild boar.

There are two Spanish breeds of bulldog that are likely descendants of the Alano: the Alano Español and the Ca de Bou.

The Presa Canario is most likely a descendant, as are several Latin American bulldog-types.

Other breeds of the bulldog and mastiff type probably share some ancestry with this dog.

We do know that the modern bulldog was developed with the addition of at least some “Spanish bulldog” blood.

Bill George, the Victorian dog dealer, was one of the first people to promote the bulldog as a pet.  He was among the first to breed “toy bulldogs,” the progenitors of the French bulldog and the Boston terrier.

But he also dealt with big bulldogs.

In 1840, he imported an Alano-type from Spain named “Big-headed Billy,” which he then bred to his English bulldogs, who were without a job once bull-baiting was outlawed in 1835. One of his bulldogs  that descended from the Alano weighed 65 pounds, which was large for a bulldog of that day. Anyone who claims that bull-baiting English bulldogs were huge dogs hasn’t looked at the evidence very closely.


George is certainly worthy of post, which I would like to have published on here in the next couple of days, so I’ll just leave you with that little teaser.


Current Alanos Españoles do not come in white or pied. Indeed, they aren’t allowed to have large areas of white at all.

Their ears are still cropped, but they are bred to be sociable with other dogs.

After all, they were meant to hunt in packs.


I’m going to do some histories on bulldog types at some point. I’m going to start with the Alaunt.

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Flock St. Salvator was an early boxer, but  today, this dog could be mistaken for an American bulldog or a pit bull.

Flock St. Salvator was an early boxer, but today, this dog could be mistaken for an American bulldog or a pit bull.

As controversial as this may sound, the boxer, the old-fashioned bulldog types, and the bull and terrier types are really nothing more theme and variation on the same basic dog. Yes, the dogs have somewhat different temperaments– that’s exactly what you’d expect when dogs are bred for many generations for different tasks.

These dogs all descend from the Alaunt de Boucherie and the Alaunt Veantre. The Alaunt de Boucherie (“Alaunt Butchers” as it was known in English) was the dog that worked free roaming cattle and half-wild swine and also guarded small estates. It was a dog of the common people in England, France, the Low Countries, and the German-speaking world. In those days, the land was free of fences and walls as we know today, and the dogs were needed to keep stock in line. The Alaunt Veantre was the early hog-dog type, the dog that the nobles used when hunting wild boar and bears.

The white dogs are Alaunts acting as Medieval hog dogs.

The white dogs are Alaunts acting as Medieval hog dogs.

These dogs were very common. Different strains were used as war dogs and guard dogs, while others were used as catch dogs for big game and for controlling errant livestock.

And for centuries, the dogs evolved along those lines.  Then in the reign of Henry VIII,  bear-baiting became popular in England, and the dogs used for that particular practice were of the Alaunt Boucherie type.  Bears, of course, were being imported from the English colonies in the New World, and large populations of them were bred to keep the baiting pits full of victims. Then bull-baiting became a popular activity, and the dogs that were bred for this became known as “bulldogs.”

On the European continent, especially in the Low Countries and the German speaking world, the bear and bull-baiting dogs were augmented with outcrosses to the Alaunt Veantre-type. These dogs became known as bullenbeiszers and baerenbeiszers– literally “bull-biters” and “bear biters.” These dogs were very similar to the English bulldog-types and probably were augmented with occasional cross-breeding.

Now, following the English Civil War, those who supported Charles I fled en masse to the Southern Colonies. They brought with them these bulldogs, which were kept as guard dogs and livestock managers. They also were used to catch the growing herds of feral livestock that once teemed across the American South, which today is only represented with the large population feral pigs that roams this part of the country. It is from these dogs that these “old-fashioned” bulldogs evolved.

The bulldog in England changed significantly, but it was later used to develop the boxer and bull and terrier breeds before it lost most of its functional conformation and behavior.

The latter was developed as the fighting dog for the pits. A touch of terrier was introduced to the strain to make the bulldogs a bit gamer. These dogs would eventually evolve into the pit bull-type and Staffordshire bull terrier. The dog we call the “bull terrier” today is actually not exactly from this strain, but it was instead developed from breeding white bulldogs to a pet white terriers. It was offered as a pet for gentlemen and was not primarily a fighting dog.



The boxer is derived from a cross between the bullenbeiszer from Brabant and the baerenbeiszer type. It was designed to be a gentlemen’s guard dog in Munich, and it was well-known that English bulldogs were crossed into that strain. Yes, these dogs had a touch of the modern show-stain of bulldog in them.

Now, these dogs have certain similarities. That is why it is so easy to confuse some boxers with pit bulls. It is also why someone might confuse an American bulldog with a pit bull or that same breed with a white boxer. These dogs all descend from a common type, and the differences that exist among them are all the result of selective breeding from this common type.

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The white dogs are from a breed  that was known as the Alaunt Gentil. The brown ones are heavy hounds, probably ancestors of the bloodhound/St. Hubert hound.

The white dogs are from a breed that was known as the Alaunt Gentil. The brown ones are heavy hounds, probably ancestors of the bloodhound/St. Hubert hound.

When you look at breed histories carefully, you notice that a lot of breeds that are thought of as ancient are really recreations of the original form.

The Irish wolfhound is a very good example. The Irish wolfhounds were rare in the eighteenth century. Indeed, the last of the Irish wolfhounds died off around the turn of the nineteenth century. When wolves became extinct in Ireland in 1786, the dogs were out of work, and they fell on very hard times, not unlike the hard times in which otterhounds, Skye terriers, and Sussex spaniels now find themselves. By the middle of the nineteenth century, there were dogs that could reasonably be thought of as having wolfhound ancestry, but then their luck got better. A Scottish soldier by the name of Captain Graham recreated the breed using the deerhound, the mastiff, the Great Dane (German mastiff, which probably a very close relative of the wolfhound), and the borzoi.

Now this tendency is very strong in the dog fancier world. Take the Cavalier King Charles spaniel. An American dog fancier named Roswell Eldridge offered a prize of 25 pounds for any English toy spaniel (King Charles spaniel) that had the longer nose of the toy spaniels of the seventeenth century. When one of these dogs was located, it was bred over and over to establish the type.

Now, I’ve always found these projects interesting.

But I’d thought I’d heard of all them until a few days ago.

It seems there is a recreated Alaunt.

A what?

An Alaunt. You know– the ancestral catch dog from whence the bulldog and its kin descend.

Supposedly, these catch dogs were brought to Europe by the Alani, who are the ancestors of the modern Ossetian people. They migrated from the Caucasus to France (Gaul) and Spain (Hispania)  in the last years of the Roman Empire, bringing with them these ancestral catch dogs.

Now, I don’t know if a single word of the theory that these dogs descend from Alani dogs is true. The depictions I’ve seen of them represent a dog that has a bit of sight hound in it with maybe a bit of mastiff. Supposedly the mastiff in the cross is something like the Caucasian Ovtcharka, which actually isn’t my first guess for an ancestor of a catch dog.

However, this breed went extinct or rather was absorbed into the bulldog breeds in the Middle Ages, as well as probably being a major source for the European sight hound breeds. Indeed, the French had two separate types of Alaunt. One of these was the Alaunt Gentil, which was basically a greyhound-type dog, and the other was the Alaunt Boucherie, which was called “Alaunt Butchers” in England. The Alaunt Butchers was the ancestor of the bulldog and its relations.

The Alaunt Gentil eventually evolved in the Alaunt Veantre, which sounds more like a sight hound breed.  These lighter French sighthounds were crossed with the St. Hubert/bloodhound type dog to make the lighter hounds, which have had a long history in France.

It’s now conjectured that the Alano dog of Spain and the White English Bulldog of Florida are very similar to the Alaunt Butchers.

Again, it’s conjectured. I have no idea whether any of these assertions is true.

Now, one would think that a breed that has so many different descendants wouldn’t be the first breed one would try to recreate.

And it wasn’t.

The person most responsible for the resurrected Alaunt was Brian Plummer. Yes, it’s the same fellow who developed his own strain of hunt terrier.

Plummer was a dog expert and a careful breeder with a very good imagination.

He decided that he wanted to breed back the lighter built Alaunt.

He took a greyhound cross, which we’d normally call a lurcher, and he bred her to a bull terrier. He kept a puppy from that breeding, which was then bred to a different bull terrier. Then he took a pup from that breeding and bred it to a greyhound.

And then from those dogs, he bred to a bullmastiff. He then added some more bull terrier to the strain, and then some more bullmastiff.

And the result was a dog that well, um, resembles Zuul from Ghostbusters.

(That’s a joke! I don’t mean anything by it!)

Now, as recreations go, it was very carefully planned, and health matters actually did play a role in developing the breed. The strain of bullmastiff used in the breeding was chosen because it was deemed free of most genetic defects.

The British Alaunt Society isn’t bad as breed clubs go. They are very concerned about genetic diversity, and they want their dogs to be working dogs. That’s a lot more than you got from Captain Graham, who only wanted his dogs to look like the original wolfhound.

I don’t know whether these dogs are anything like the Alaunts of yore.  But of all the recreations I’ve heard of, this is the only one that is based on trying to make the dogs healthier, more genetically diverse, and not exaggerated in body type.

I say that’s a whole lot better than any other attempts are reviving long gone breeds from the dead. It’s very interesting, and I’m interested in hearing from anyone who owns this strain of Alaunt. You have me intrigued!

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