There has always been a significant amount of debate as to which is the correct coloured mask for the Dogue de Bordeaux - the black mask or the red mask. Over the years, various authorities on the breed have either advocated for one mask colour or the other.
Whilst there are actually three mask colours for the Dogue de Bordeaux – black mask, brown mask and no mask, most of the debate surrounding the correct mask for the breed has only referred to the black mask or the red mask. The red mask being a combining together of both the brown mask and no mask.
The information below gives a brief history of the differing opinions, some information for those judging the black masks and also some information of those interested in the genetics of breeding with both black and red mask Dogues.
The question of where the black mask came from has been raging since before the first standard was written by Pierre Megnin in 1896. Megnin firmly believed the black mask was a result of Dogues being crossed with English Mastiffs. 1 When judging in 1889, Megnin dismissed a young Dogue called “Raoul” with the comment that this is a young dog “with a lot of promise, but disfigured by a black mask”.2
In his description of the Dogues “Sultane” and “Buffalo”, whom Megnin believed displayed classic examples of breed characteristics and on whom he based his description of the breed, he listed “Colour overall uniform fawn, more or less light, without black mask, face slightly reddish, nose leather reddish brown”. 3
His document outlining what he believed were the true characteristics of the DDB , and which could be regarded as the first standard, he stated “short coat of a uniform golden fawn colour, or just a shade darker on the face”. 4 Neither mask colour were specifically mentioned, yet the “just a shade darker on the face” indicates he was advocating the red mask.
In the “Characteristic points of the DDB” by Richard Annual, published around 1897 – 1898, it was stated that “The mask can be either red or black. Everything else being equal, generally red masked Dogues de Bordeaux are preferred. But in the end of the colour of the mask is of no great importance and should by no means be considered as a criterion of the purity of the breed”. 5
In the Standard written by Professor J Kunstler in 1910, Kunstler is in total opposition to Megnin. “The best mask is black or dark brown….the black mask is the normal mask for the Dogue de Bordeaux”. 6 “Wrongly the red mask, with insufficient pigment, has been considered to be a specific characteristic.” 7
So the question of black or red masks has also been quite a hot topic for well over a centuary.
Professor Raymond Triquet provides information on the extent of the black mask and what is and is not acceptable for those judging black mask Dogues.
Some of the statements include: "The black mask of the Dogue de Bordeaux is very particular: First, it's never wide spread. It doesn't reach the region of the skull. Some black may be found on the brows, but it's never very dark, it doesn't form 'dark glasses'.....It is never so extensive as in the Mastiff and above all, it's not so deep. The fawn of the coat can always be seen through the black of the mask, or is at least hinted at.....Black may be limited to the front of the muzzle, to the front part of the upper lips , and the rest is banded hair, fawn and black, giving the impression of a shaded area on a lighter ground......In the past one used to say the Dogue de Bordeaux shouldn't resemble the Mastiff.....it was also the very black and pronounced masks which are not at all typical of our dogue." 8
Needless to say, if both black and red masks are being judged, they should be judged equally on correct type, not mask colour.
If one looks back in the pedigree of their DDBx, and I mean look further than the 3 generation pedigree on their registration certificate, then one will repeatedly see such names as:
Xohor de Fenelon
Lutteur de Gorge d'Or
N' Hems du Domaine des Sources
Benjamin v d Hofreite
Marius de Tropez
Halto de l'Etang de Mirloup
Cid de la Vallee de Goliath
Emilion du Terroir Bordelais
They are all black masks and many of them have had significant influence in the development of the breed and appear in the majority of pedigrees of today’s Dogues.
Hence, the black mask has always played a significant role in the development of the breed over the past century.
Although many people do prefer the red masks, fortunately there have always been a number of breeders around the world that do appreciate the black masks and have ensured their continuation in the breed. I’m immediately thinking here of kennels like “de Tropez”, “des Chartrons” and “Garde d’Honneur”, all of whom have been breeding both black and red masks for many many years.
Those kennels are more interested in correct type and whether the dog has a red or black mask is irrelevant. This has helped ensure that the black masks used in breeding truly were excellent examples of the breed.
More recently, the black mask has had an increase in following and there are some stunning examples around. On an international level, Cetje van't Bulscampvelt has been flying the flag high for the black masks and he has produced some stunning offspring, including the beautiful bitch Brandoux Black Velvet Blackx. Bull de Al Faree, brothers Payk and Poseidon z’Orisku and Lincoln z’Orisku are another four males that immediately come to mind.
In Australia many of the black masks come down from the stunning male, Aust. Ch. Zamadeus Garde D'Honneur du Monde (Imp Blg). Zam was imported by Moloscyg Kennels and his contribution to the breed and the black mask in Australia has been significant.
For those with black mask Dogues, the genetics of breeding with black and red masks Dogues is interesting.
The black mask is actually the dominant colour and the red mask recessive. As such, in any breeding of black x red masks or black x black masks, red mask puppies will usually occur.
Below is part of a discussion from the Bordeauxmania forum. It was a discussion about the genetics of black masks and it was written by Gabriel Vandenameele and Muriel Druart.
"Actually, black mask is dominant.
It means that if you dog is red mask (phénotype) he has necessarily both allèles coding for the red - (let's write rr)
Most of black mask are heterozygote (rB), so they are carrying red - but phénotype is black.
So when you cross 2 reds you can only get red (rr)x(rr)
When you cross a red with a black (heterozygote), you get half red and half black (rr)x(rB)
When you cross 2 black heterozygote together, you get ¼ red and ¾ black (rB)x(rB)=> ¼ (rr) , ½ (rB), ¼ (BB)
So you can have, in this case, homozygote black. They are very rare in the population and what happens when you marry a black homozygote with any other color? You get only black.
(BB)x(rr)=> 100% (rB) = phénotype black and so on.
NB: ¼, or ½ are a probability - you must give a statistical treatment to these numbers. I mean, when you throw a coin, you have 50% of the chances to make tails and 50% of the chances to get heads. You'd think that if you throw 10 times a coin you should get 5 tails and five heads, but it's not true. You cannot predict it - sometimes you get 10 tails and no heads.”
With regard to the “statistical treatment” referred to above, it has been known for a black x red mask mating to produce all red mask puppies. There were no black masks in the litter at all. In another instance a red x black mask mating produced 9 black and 3 red mask puppies.
As to which colour mask is actually “correct” for the breed, the answer is both. Both masks are equally acceptable.
Below are some photos of some black mask Dogues that we hope you appreciate.
- Triquet, Prof. Raymond. “The Saga of the Dogue de Bordeaux”, Bas Bosch Press 1997 p165
- Triquet, Prof. Raymond. “The Saga of the Dogue de Bordeaux”, Bas Bosch Press 1997 p171
- Triquet, Prof. Raymond. “The Saga of the Dogue de Bordeaux”, Bas Bosch Press 1997 p173
- Triquet, Prof. Raymond. “The Saga of the Dogue de Bordeaux”, Bas Bosch Press 1997 p175
- Triquet, Prof. Raymond. “The Saga of the Dogue de Bordeaux”, Bas Bosch Press 1997 p179
- Triquet, Prof. Raymond. “The Saga of the Dogue de Bordeaux”, Bas Bosch Press 1997 p190-191
- Triquet, Prof. Raymond. “The Saga of the Dogue de Bordeaux”, Bas Bosch Press 1997 p191
- Triquet, Prof. Raymond. “The Saga of the Dogue de Bordeaux”, Bas Bosch Press 1997 p36