The Bullmastiff is a large-sized dog breed developed in the 1860s in England as a companion dog and an estate guard dog. It has a solid built body with a short muzzle, typically weighing between 50 – 59 kg (male) and 45 – 54 kg (female). The Bullmastiff is a brave loyal dog with supreme athleticism which makes for an excellent guard dog. It is sixty percent English Mastiff and forty percent Old English Bulldog. It has a large and square head that wrinkles when the dog smells or sees something of interest. It has well-filled cheeks, a pronounced stop, a short and broad muzzle often with a black mask, black triangle around the eyes and dark ears. The eyes of the Bullmastiff are dark or hazel while the ears are triangular and folded forward. It has a large chest, deep brisket, muscular shoulders, short and straight back complimented by muscular loins and hindlegs. The feet are well-arched, similar to a cat’s feet cushioned by hard pads. The tail is carried straight or curved and reaches to the hocks. The Bullmastiff’s short coat comes in brindle, fawn or red. There is a small white mark on the chest but not on other parts of the body. An adult Bullmastiff stands between 64 – 69 cm (male) and 61 – 66 cm (female).
The Bullmastiff is a man-made breed originally developed in the 1860s in England to guard against poaching, which is a common practice on numerous large estates during those periods. It was bred by gamekeepers by crossing the tough, heavy and aggressive Old English Bulldog (now extinct) with the more docile English Mastiff. The result was a breed built for strength, size, and speed. The breed proved to be successful in fighting poachers that it gained the nickname of “the gamekeeper’s night dog”. The dog’s original colour was brindle which made for an effective camouflage, blending with the background especially at night and proved highly valuable when working against poachers. The fawn coat colour appeared when the Bullmastiff was bred with fawn English Mastiffs while the red colour is said to be a result of the breed being secretly crossed with the Dogue de Bordeaux. The breed was officially recognized by the Kennel Club as a distinct breed in 1924.
Powerful, strong, sensitive, intelligent, and quiet greatly summarizes the Bullmastiff’s temperament. Bred as a guard dog, the Bullmastiff is a courageous breed and is afraid of nothing, though usually mild-mannered in nature. An adult breed is usually calm and quiet but a Bullmastiff puppy is boisterous and loves to play. It is a sensitive breed that requires gentle touches and intensely loyal to his family. It will not do very well if left outside or alone inside the house. It is a very sociable animal that loves personal attention and companionship. It is typically level-headed with strangers but as an intelligent guard dog, it has a well-established defensive and territorial instinct.
The Bullmastiff is an intelligent breed and can be trained quite easily. Its protective instinct runs deep in the veins so it must be trained at an early age so that the breed learns to distinguish the friends from foes. It must also be trained and socialised as a puppy to live with other animals in the house because the Bullmastiff can be aggressive towards other dogs of the same sex and will not readily accept other animals into its territory. It has a stubborn streak and will often test to see if it can have its own way of doing things, so early consistent training with positive reinforcements from a firm handler is necessary.
With a very short coat, the Bullmastiff is a breed that is relatively easy to groom and maintain. It is an average shedder and regular brushing will benefit the coat and keep it healthy and shiny. The wrinkles should be inspected and clean regularly, keeping them dry all the time to prevent the onset of bacteria which can lead to skin problems. Bathe only when necessary. Use dry shampoo to keep the Bullmastiff smelling great in between baths. The ears should also be paid extra attention and should be cleaned regularly using a cleansing solution approved by the veterinarian. Brush the teeth on a regular basis (preferably twice a week) to prevent bad breath.
A Kennel Club survey found out that the Bullmastiff has a median lifespan of 7 and 8 years. It is a slow maturing dog and does not reach full adulthood until 3.5 years of age. Typical of large breeds, the Bullmastiff is affected by canine hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy, bloat, and cancer. There is also a relatively high incidence of lymphoma and mast cell tumours. Arthritis also poses a problem to the breed. The Bullmastiff slobbers and drools especially after eating and drinking, when it is smelling food, when it is warm and hot, or when the dog is stressed. It also sometimes snores loudly when sleeping.
This heavyweight of a dog requires a large house and a lot of space to get enough exercise. It is not the perfect dog to keep in an apartment or condominium and will do best in a house with a large fenced yard or in the countryside where it can run and play safely all day. As a guard dog, this breed needs to stay in shape both physically and mentally to keep it healthy. Exercise must be more than two hours per day, but too much exercise however, may result in joint problems. As a breed with a short muzzle, the Bullmastiff should never be exercised during the hot summer weather.
The Bullmastiff is generally good with children if it is raised with them from a young age. While it is not an aggressive dog, it is designed to be protective and will react accordingly if it senses that a child is in danger. Because of its large size, the dog should always be supervised when it is around small children or it can easily knock them down accidentally. It is not always tolerant with other dogs, especially of the same sex but early socialisation will typically correct this problem. It is also not recommended to have two Bullmastiff males as they will try to dominate each other.