Category Archives: PUPPIES!

Posts about available puppies, puppy stories, puppy advice, puppies, puppies, puppies!

Mastador Coat Colors

Charlemagne of Covenant Farm, our 1st Generation Mastador stud.

Today we’re going to look at where the myriad color combinations in the Mastador breed (English Mastiff x Labrador hybrid) originate. It all has to do with coat color genetics between the two breeds. I will try to make this as non-technical as possible.

First, a simple introduction to coat color genetics is in order. You need to get this before the rest makes any sense. Both Mastiffs and Labs have recessive coat color genes. Recessive genes (like blue eyes in people) require that the gene be present in both parents, in order to show up in their puppies.

The Labrador Retriever has a very simple coat color genetic. There are three colors only: black, yellow and chocolate (all other colors are variations of one of those three). Black is the dominant color, while yellow and chocolate are recessive. That means, in order for chocolate or yellow to show up in puppies, the color must be present in both parents. As a result, 1st Generation Mastadors (where the parents and Mastiff and Lab, not two Mastadors) are usually the dominant Lab color, black, as the other two colors are cancelled out, by not being present in both parents. It is the strongest color gene between both breeds. That is why you get all black puppies from a yellow Lab and any kind of English Mastiff. About 90% of the time, 1st Generation puppies are black, some with white markings on the feet or chest.

Ancestral Markings

St. John’s Water Dog, from which the Labrador Retriever and the Newfoundland Dog were cross-bred. The last one died in 1982.

Ancestral markings are color anomalies that you do not normally see in a purebred dog. Ancestral markings in Labs are usually represented as white “blaze” on the chest, or white toes or sox. When the Labrador Retriever was developed as a cross-breed, one of the foundation breeds was the St. John’s Water Dog. This was a black dog with white chest blaze and white socks. While the white has been bred out of the Lab, the genetics of the white spots are still in the DNA, so they come out from time to time. In English Mastiffs, white blaze or toe tips is a common phenomenon, so the gene from the Mastiff hooks up with the ancestral gene of the Lab, and produces blaze and white sox.

As an interesting side-note. The St. John’s Water Dog was also used as a foundation breed for another new breed, The Newfoundland Dog. The Newfie was actually the cross between the St. John’s and the English Mastiff! So, the genetics between these two breeds has proven to be very compatible over the last 150 years.

Shelby, our reverse brindle Mastador puppy.

The English Mastiff has very complex coat color genetics that still have genetic experts trying to lay it out in a way that can be understood, but they are an ancient breed, with so much involved in their development over more than a thousand years. As recently as World War II, the English Mastiff was down to only six breeding females. In order to save the breed, one of the owners of the females bred them to the Great Dane, and the other bred them to the Bullmastiff. The English Mastiff never lost its “purebred” status, despite being cross-bred.

There are basically three English Mastiff colors in modern times, fawn (light, off-white color), apricot (red) and brindle (striped). In brindles, there are dogs with fawn (sometimes looks like silver) in the stripes, and others with apricot in the stripes. But there is so, so very much more possibility in Mastiff coat colors that are latent genes, just looking for an opportunity to express themselves. The expression becomes possible, apparently, with the pairing of the Lab genes.

Black & tan, an ancestral Mastiff coat color in a 2nd Generation Mastador.

Between 1883 and 1916 there were Mastiffs registered with the AKC as Blue Brindle, Black and Tan, Cream, Chocolate and White Spotted, according to one source I looked at. Eventually, standards were imposed by AKC and The Kennel Club (UK) and many of these color variations were bred away from. So, it makes sense that any color variation seen in the Mastiff world could still be expressed in a modern English Mastiff, as we see ancestral markings in Labs. That, in turn, most likely explains how a small percentage of 1st Generation Mastadors can come out in any number of variant colors and markings. There is some genetic piece in Lab DNA that occasionally finds a match with one of the ancient color gene possibilities of the Mastiff, and it comes out in the puppies.

Our own stud, Charlemagne of Covenant Farm is just such a color anomaly. He is tri-color, apricot, black, and tan, and comes from a fawn English Mastiff dad, and a black Labrador mom with chocolate markings on her legs.

Chocolate 2nd Generation lass with cinnamon sox and muzzle, colors of both Lab and Mastiff.

Breeding into the next generations

In the second and third generations of Mastador breeding, the huge plethora of available color genes start showing up in every litter, often with various color combinations that outnumber the black puppies. The possible combinations are nearly endless, because of the color genes of the Mastiff, previously explained. How many of these colors will still be here a century from now is anybody’s guess, just as so many of the original Mastiff colors are no longer seen. On the other hand, ancestral colors and markings of the Mastiff that are now showing up in the Mastador, may well see a revival because of the genetic makeup of this new breed!

Picking the Right Puppy

Everybody loves puppies!  One of the greatest insults folks jokingly make when they are describing someone they don’t like is, “he probably hates puppies!”.  Lots of folks call me up, eager to get on the waiting list for a new puppy, ANY puppy.  Quite a few are turned away, either permanently, or for the litter that I have available. Why?

Raising a puppy is no easy task. It takes epic_12dedication, lots of time and attention, proper training and a willingness to give him or her the quality of diet and medical care that will keep them healthy and bring long life. The cute, fuzzy puppy doesn’t last all that long!

SHOULD YOU EVEN HAVE A PUPPY? That’s the first question to ask. Here’s a good rule of thumb, and one of my basic requirements for placing a puppy in a new home: There must be human companionship for the puppy throughout the day. If both adults work, and the pup will be left home for 4-8 hours a day, you should NOT get a puppy. If folks are away 3 or 4 hours a day, I will make an exception if the puppy will have the companionship of another dog or puppy.

Puppies are far too social and needy to be left home alone for long periods of time. They will get bored and usually destructive with chewing and such, and with nobody around to consistently train that behavior, it only gets worse. Then when the owners get home (and pick up all the destroyed books, paper, shoes, and examine the chewed furniture), the pup is a neurotic basket case that is actually not that much fun to be with, and is out of control.

puppy_destructionI can’t tell you how many times I had puppies returned to me back in the early days when I did not screen buyers as carefully as I do now. I would take back puppies that were said to be “out-of-control” and “untrainable” and “destructive”. After one week of being here at the farm with us, playing with the dogs, and doted on by my family members, they were like new dogs! Those dogs are all grown now, with never a complaint ever heard from their new owners, who were carefully screened.

So, am I saying that working folks shouldn’t have a dog? NO! I’m saying they shouldn’t have a puppy. Those families are excellent candidates for adult dogs that are fully past the puppy stage and can take being alone without going nuts. Even then, you need to find a dog that has lower drive and calmer temperament. I have adopted out some of my retired breeding dogs to such families, and it works out really well.

I have also found that older couples of retirement age have a high rate of puppy return. They often are convinced they have the energy to raise a puppy, but it turns out to be a bit more than they realized it would be. I have had three such returns in the last two years. I have also had some very successful situations involving retirement-age couples. I don’t necessarily refuse them, I just want them to strongly consider the work load and commitment involved, and make sure they are up to the task.


Our American lass, Cami. Always playing.


This is an important question. If you want a dog that is primarily a house pet and will lead a fairly sedentary life, you definitely don’t want an American Lab! Field Labs have a high drive that is easily trainable, but MUST be trained, or you will have a serious troublemaker on your hands. They are very affectionate and intelligent, but they are always looking for something to do. If you lead a very active life, have a yard at your home, love to take your dog to the water, they have opportunities to run and play often, the American Lab is perfect for you. You will find their companionship to be the most satisfying type. If you are looking for a hiking, running or hunting companion, perfect!


Our yellow English stud, Rob Roy

English Labs have a tendency to be lower drive, some with very little drive at all, virtual couch potatoes (after they are past the puppy stage). That sometimes makes them more difficult to train, because they are not as eager to do stuff, and to please you. But they are often better behaved as house dogs for that reason. They also have a tendency to be larger in size. Some are actually very agile and love high activity, but are still of a much calmer demeanor than filed Labs.

English Mastiffs make great house pets or outdoor pets. They aren’t necessarily great running or hunting partners, but hiking and walking are great for them. They love to be physically close to you, even touching you, so they make great therapy dogs and mobility assistants.


Harvey, a Mastador

Mastadors are the best of both worlds (if you can find them) They are more agile and playful than Mastiffs, less high-drive and rambunctious than Labs. They love the water, love to run and play, love to lay around and just be near you.

The perfect puppy for you may be not be any of the dogs I breed. Perhaps you need something smaller or hypoallergenic. But I urge you to carefully consider all of these things before you are just plunge headlong into puppy parenting because of the super cute pictures on a web site.

This is a 10-15 year commitment on your part. Keep that in mind right up front.