History of the Bullmastiff Breed
While the mastiff is arguably one of the oldest dog breeds in England, the bullmastiff - a direct descendant of the mastiff, which was crossed with a bulldog - is thought to be a breed that has been developed more recently. It is believed that the history of the bullmastiff begins around 1860, even though references have been found indicating its existence as early as 1791. However, many believe that those early dogs were never bred any further. The bullmastiff was apparently bred to protect large estates from game poachers - a problem that had grown so much as to make gamekeepers fear for their lives. The bullmastiff was bred to be a silent, patient and courageous dog, which would wait for a poacher to come within striking distance. It was trained to attack upon command, and rather than maul the intruder, the dog would simply restrain him. The crossing of the bulldog with the mastiff created a faster, larger dog - one that was able to fulfill its role. The bullmastiff was commonly referred to as the "gamekeeper's night dog," and the dark brindle coat was preferred because it made the dog nearly invisible in the pitch of night. Later, as the reputation of this breed became well-known, estate owners used the dog as sentries, and the lighter fawn coated dogs, especially those with black masks, were the preferred color. This coloration was a reminder of the dog's mastiff ancestry. Eventually, rather than repeating crosses between the bulldog and the mastiff, breeders started to pure-breed the line. To this day, the ideal bullmastiff appears to be 60 percent mastiff, and 40 percent bulldog. The bullmastiff was first recognized as a pure breed by the English Kennel Club in 1924, and by the American Kennel Club in 1933. The bullmastiff has enjoyed popularity as a hunting guard, in working with the army and the police, and it is also employed by the Diamond Society of South Africa as a watchdog.
Size and Appearance of the Bullmastiff Breed
Square-proportioned, the bullmastiff is a powerful combination of strength and endurance. The shoulders are slightly sloping and muscular, while the front legs are straight with good bone. The hindquarters feature broad, muscular thighs, and the medium-size feet are rounded with well-arched toes, thick pads, and tough, black nails.
The large skull of this breed features dark, medium size eyes with an intelligent and alert expression. The v-shaped ears are wide-set and carried close to the face, and the muzzle is broad and deep. The large, black nose has broad nostrils. The bite is either level or slightly undershot. The slightly arched neck is muscular and moderately long. The tail is usually straight or curved, and it is high set. The coat of the bullmastiff is short and dense, providing the dog with adequate protection from the weather. This breed comes in a variety of coat colors including: brindle, red, and fawn, often with black markings on the head. The gait of this powerful breed is described as free and smooth.
Quiet and gentle, the bullmastiff can be a devoted family companion, as well as an effective guardian. It is generally good with children, although it is not a playful dog. The bullmastiff can tend to be aggressive with strange dogs, but it is usually good with other dogs in the family, as well as other pets if socialized from a young age. This breed can be stubborn, so a strong owner is important. The bullmastiff is not likely to attack, but if threatened, this dog is fearless. It is reserved with strangers, and intruders will find themselves knocked to the ground by this breed. This dog rarely barks, and it craves human attention. It should be trained in obedience from the start. The bullmastiff is very sensitive to the tone of the human voice, and it does not do well in a kennel. It is known to drool and snore.
Bullmastiff Recommended Maintenance
The coat care of the bullmastiff is minimal. An occasional combing or brushing of the coat with a firm bristle brush is all that is needed. Dead hairs can be removed by a good rubdown using a massage glove or a rubber brush. Bathe only when necessary. This breed does not shed much. Check the feet on a regular basis and keep the nails trimmed short. It is important for this large breed to get daily exercise to prevent obesity. Exercise needs can be met with walks on leash, or play in a fenced-in yard. The bullmastiff does not do well in humid, hot weather; and it should be considered an indoor dog. While this dog is not particularly active indoors, it will do okay in an apartment if it gets enough exercise and there is at least a small yard available. Be cautious about overfeeding this breed.
Life span: 8 - 10 years
Major concerns: gastric torsion, CHD, elbow dysplasia
Minor concerns: entropion
Occasionally seen: PRA
Suggested tests: hip, elbow, (eye)