Bullmastiff Dog History, Health And Care

Introduction Of Bullmastiff Dog

The Bullmastiff is a strong and powerful dog whose known history begins in about 1860 in England, where the breed was developed to protect game from thieves on grand English estates. The breed is probably centuries old, but documentation is scarce to nonexistent. Bullmastiffs are also known as “the Gamekeeper’s Night-Dog.” This is an animal that is fearless yet confident and docile, combining the reliability, intelligence and willingness to please that is sought in a dependable family companion and in a protector. Perhaps due to its loyalty, stability and bravery, this breed has starred in a number of movies, including: “Stay,” “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” “Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star,” “Frank,” “Homeward Bound – Lost in San Francisco,” “Hooch,” and the recent “Hotel for Dogs.” The Bullmastiff was recognized by the AKC in 1933.

Bullmastiff Dog Breed Quick Facts

Affection Level4/5
Apartment Friendly1/5
Barking Tendencies3/5
Cat Friendly1/5
Child Friendly3/5
Dog Friendly2/5
Exercise Need4/5
Grooming Needs2/5
Health Issues3/5

Bullmastiffs – Appearance & Grooming


The AKC Standard for Bullmastiffs states this breed is, “a symmetrical animal, showing great strength, endurance, and alertness; powerfully built but active.” They are large and powerful dogs, but are not overly heavy or lumbering. They have broad, wrinkled heads with short, dark muzzles and a slight underbite. Bullmastiffs ears are dark in color and pendant shaped. Their tales are set high on the body, taper slightly and should reach to the dog’s hocks. The coat is dense, short and comes in fawn, red or brindle. Most dogs will sport a handsome black mask.

Size and Weight

These large dogs stand from 25 to 27 inches at the withers for males and 24 to 26 inches for females. Males weigh in at a hearty 110 to 130 pounds and females weigh slightly less – between 100 and 120 pounds. Show dogs should always be squarely proportioned.

Coat and Color

The coat of the Bullmastiff is dense and short and sheds moderately throughout the year. They come in three colors, fawn, red or brindle and they have dark muzzles and ears. Sometimes they sport small white marks on the chest.

Grooming Needs

Bullmastiffs make up for their food bills in what they save their owners by way of grooming. Regular brushing will keep their average-shedding coat under control. Their wrinkles should be kept clean and dry, and they only require bathing as-needed. Dry shampoos can be used to keep them smelling fresh between baths. The ears should be monitored weekly to ensure that they are not red or irritated, and a veterinarian-approved cleansing solution can be used to prevent infection. Bullmastiffs are prone to bad breath, so weekly brushing of the teeth is often necessary to keep bacteria from building up. Active Mastiffs will wear down t heir toenails naturally, but if nails click on hard floors, it is time for a trim.

Bullmastiff – History and Health


The Bullmastiff was originally developed in England around the 1860’s from a cross between the Mastiff and the Bulldog. Bullmastiffs were specifically created to quietly monitor large estates and game preserves to keep poachers at bay. They had the ability to track independently, cover short distances quickly and silently and pin and hold poachers without mauling them. To this day, Bullmastiffs typically do not bark unless they feel the need to sound an alarm or defend their territory. While the penalties for poaching were severe towards the end of the nineteenth century, it still was difficult for landowners to control the poaching population without the help of powerful, courageous and protective dogs.

Gamekeepers first looked to the Mastiff to fill this role, but it proved too large and slow to accomplish the necessary tasks and was not inherently aggressive enough. The English Bulldog was tried next, but it was too ferocious at that time in its development and not large enough for the needs of the gamekeepers. The owners of these estates wanted dogs that were silent when poachers approached, fearless and would attack on command. They wanted the poachers held, but not killed. Ultimately, they crossed their Mastiffs and their Bulldogs, creating the Bullmastiff which combined the best of both breeds for the tasks required of him. Bullmastiffs performed admirably at managing poachers, especially the dark brindle dogs who disappeared into the night. As the twentieth century approached, the need for game-keeping dogs diminished, although staged contests continued and Bullmastiffs continued to excel in these competitions. As more Mastiff blood was bred into the breed, it became lighter in color and eventually fawns became preferred over brindles, although both are acceptable.

The Kennel Club of England recognized the Bullmastiff as a purebred dog in 1924. The American Kennel Club granted recognition to the Bullmastiff in 1933, and since then the breed has thrived in this country. Today, the Bullmastiff is a devoted, alert, protective but normally not aggressive family companion.

Health Characteristics

The average life expectancy of the Bullmastiff dog breed is between 8 and 10 years. This is slightly lower compared to the median lifespan of most purebred dogs (10 to 13 years), but consistant with most breeds similar in size. Potential hereditary defects and disorders more commonly found, but not necessarily found, in the Bullmastiff are as follows:

  • Allergies: Overreaction by the immune system to an allergen, which is any substance capable of inducing a reaction in that particular animal
  • Bloat (Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus): An extremely serious medical condition where a dog’s stomach becomes filled with gas that cannot escape.
  • Elbow Dysplasia: Leads to malformation and degeneration of the elbow joint, with accompanying front limb lameness
  • Hip Dysplasia: Involves abnormal development and/or degeneration of the coxofemoral (hip) joint
  • Entropion: The inversion, or the turning inward, of all or part of the edge of an eyelid
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Hemangiosarcoma
  • Hypothyroidism: Inadequate production and release of the thyroid hormones triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4)
  • Lymphooma: Cancer (neoplasia) that affects lymph nodes and other organs containing lymphoid tissue
  • Mast Cell Tumors: Abnormal, cancerous (neoplastic) cells that form nodular skin masses in dogs
  • Osteosarcoma
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy: Group of degenerative eye disorders that eventually lead to permanent blindness in both eyes
  • Subaortic Stenosis

Bullmastiff – Temperament & Personality


Bullmastiffs were developed as overseers of livestock and flocks. They took their responsibility seriously and developed a reputation for fearlessness in the face of predators. Bullmastiffs were also invaluable to gameskeepers, patrolling the grounds and stopping poachers from hunting the stock. They were trained not to hurt people and would stalk the poachers and keep them subdued until backup arrived to arrest the trespasser.

Today Bullmastiffs maintain their imposing figure and watchful eye, but make a generally docile family pet. It takes a lot to provoke a Bullmastiff and despite what their appearance may suggest, they get along just fine with children. They make great farm dogs, happily keeping an eye on livestock and accompanying farmers as they do their chores.

Activity Requirements

Weighing as much as 130 pounds, Bullmastiffs need a big house and a lot of room to exercise and should not be kept in an apartment or condominium. Their body size makes getting the proper amount of exercise a challenge – they need enough to stay in shape and keep their minds active, but if exercised too much, they can develop joint problems. They should not be over exercised in summer months.


Bullmastiffs are not for the soft of heart. They are stubborn and willful and need a great deal of consistency and confidence from a leader or they will quickly take over the house. Training should be done with calm-assertiveness, lots of positive reinforcement and plenty of treats. They will test boundaries and employ manipulation to get their own way.

This breed is not for the first time dog owner, either. They need constant reinforcement of leadership roles and their socialization with people and animals should be ongoing. In short, living with a Bullmastiff is a commitment to ongoing work. They are like perpetual teenagers, testing boundaries and ignoring the rules, just to see if they can get away with it. Consistency is the key ingredient to training a Bullmastiff.

Behavioral Traits

They are highly protective of their people and property and it is highly unlikely that a strange animal will ever be welcome in a Bullmastiff’s yard. They do fine in a multiple dog home, if raised alongside other animals, but new dogs (especially of the same sex) should not be introduced into a Bullmastiff’s home. This breed is fearless and will not back down if provoked by another animal.

Despite his protective instincts, when properly socialized around people and animals, Bullmastiffs are generally docile animals and can be trusted with new people.

This breed is prone to drooling, snorting, snoring, and flatulence.

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