Sunday June 11th 2006 marked the passing of Ruth Short who with her husband Ralph owned and bred the world famous Bulstaff Bullmastiffs. The kennel was started in the early 1950s in Caterham where Ruth and her family lived at the time.
When the Shorts first became involved with the breed many of the pioneer breeders who were the mainstay of the breed from its first recognition by the Kennel Club in the 1920s were still active so they were able to share and benefit from their knowledge of the earliest known dogs from which the breed is descended.
I met Ruth for the first time in the early 1960s when I saw her pilot Ch Bulstaff Achilles to BOB at the City of Birmingham Show under Douglas Oliff who was awarding CCs for the very first time.
Ruth and Ralph were both very proud of this magnificent dog who won 26 CCs (including three at Crufts) under 25 different judges at a time when the breed was restricted to 14 sets of CCs per year added to which the dog was never shown at any of the Scottish shows. I have never seen or judged a Bullmastiff which in my opinion came as close to completely fulfilling the requirements of the breed standard as did Achilles.
He was line-bred to the Buttonak dogs owned by Colonel and Mrs Terry who counted Reserve Best in Show at Crufts amongst their many successes and took his final CC as a veteran when Mrs Josephine Creasey judged at the British Bullmastiff League and was famously photographed with the actor Richard Todd who was the Club’s Patron at the time.
His pedigree went straight back to such early dogs as Ch Roger of The Fenns and Ch Springwell Simba who were widely used by many of the pre-war breeders. There were numerous other Bulstaff champions and a good number of Achilles’ offspring became champions both in the UK and abroad and for many years his name appeared in the immediate pedigree of many of the most successful home and overseas examples of the breed.
Ruth was Dog World’s Bullmastiff correspondent for many years and was a long serving and highly respected Secretary of The Southern Bullmastiff Society. She was both articulate and incisive and could be a formidable adversary when challenged. She did not always suffer fools gladly but her column in Dog World was always informative and often witty and she worked tirelessly on behalf of the "Southern" during her time as Secretary. She first awarded CCs around 1960 and did so on many occasions over a period of twenty years or so thereafter including twice at Crufts.
When I entered the Royal Veterinary College as a freshman in 1967 I was invited to lodge at Bulstaff Cottage with Ruth and her husband who both proved to be great friends and mentors at that time in my life. Ruth was born in 1911 and was the daughter of a country parson and spent much of her early life in Dorset a county for which she had a particular affinity. After Ralph retired from his work in the City of London they moved to Dorset but Ruth was widowed quite soon after the move and the last Bulstaff litter was bred shortly before she moved back to Caterham to be closer to her family and friends.
In latter years Ruth was plagued by health problems and eventually she had to give up her home and enter residential care and finally a nursing home where she was to remain until the day before she died. Ruth attained the great age of 95 and her passing marks the end of an era but her contribution to the Bullmastiff will always be legendary. She will be greatly missed by her relatives and family and those of us who knew her but most especially by her daughter Penny who remained close to her mother throughout her entire life.
Ronald W James