Bullmastiff

If you were thinking about poaching in England during the 19th century, think again. Chances are you would meet the wrath of a Bullmastiff

While those days are mostly over, the Bullmastiff is still a viable resource. In fact, their compact body and broad muzzles still serve them right as intimidating guard dogs.

A protector of the family, this low to medium energy breed is sweet and affectionate with family. Cross their master’s path, and a new dog emerges.

So what is that makes this breed such a popular choice for dog lovers around the world?

Here is what you need to know about the Bullmastiff.

History

Without a doubt, the ancestry of this breed comes from the Olde English Bulldog and the Mastiff. In fact, breeders were able to create this breed using 60 percent Mastiff and 40 percent Bulldog. 

The Bullmastiff begins its journey in the country of England. At one point in history, during the mid to late 1800’s, landowners had an expensive problem on their hands. Illegal poaching. Poachers in England during the 19th century were dangerous and tricky. You had to be. This was in large part due to the strict laws and punishment. If you were caught poaching, you could face death by hanging.

Of course, criminals react and get clever, but estate owners in England made the decision to be proactive about their problem. This would result in the hiring of “gamekeepers.” Gamekeepers alone wouldn’t solve the problem, so this led to the idea of adding a dog to assist the person in charge with protecting against poachers.

At first, there was failure with using the Mastiff due to the lack of stamina and speed. Then, there was the problem with the over aggressive Bulldog, which could rips people to shreds. Moreover, the landowners made the decision to combine 60 percent Mastiff with 40 percent Bulldog to produce the perfect “gamekeeper” companion.

Bullmastiffs would thrive in their new role. Proving to be the right fit, this breed was capable of tracking quietly, surpassing tricks from the poachers, and when the time was right, pouncing on the subject and holding them at bay. 

The poaching problem in England began disappearing and the breed found a new role as companion and protector of family. The word got out, and in 1933, the American Kennel Club gave the Bullmastiff official recognition. This was ten years after the English Kennel Club’s recognition.

Today, the breed is still great at protecting property and serving as an intimidating presence. The Bullmastiff is the 48th most popular breed among the American Kennel Club’s rankings.

Size

While the Bullmastiff isn’t as big as their relative Mastiff, they are a large breed. The American Kennel Club says that males should stand between 25 to 27 inches. Females should stand between 24 to 26 inches. 

Males can weigh between 110 to 130 pounds, while females may weigh between 100 to 120 pounds.

Personality/Temperament

Once you learn a Bullmastiff, you quickly realize the quality of companionship you have on your hands. Of course, this breed’s creation came about for protecting against property bandits, but like other breeds, the Bullmastiff has become a family dog.

With that in mind, this is a breed that will fight for their family and protect against invaders at all cost. They also understand who is friendly and unfriendly. Somewhat aloof at first, the Bullmastiff learns quick and can distinguish the differences between friend and foe. 

A very loving breed, that is calm indoors and quite honestly nothing more than a gentle giant with family. Good with children, however, you will want to supervise this breed around smaller kids. A lot of this has everything to do with the size of this breed. They should fine with other dogs, but again, they are very loyal to their master. Depending on how aggressive a fellow dog is, the Bully will adapt and make a decision upon threat level.

Obviously great at guarding, the Bully doesn’t require a huge amount of recreational time. That said, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bring your Bully out for a regular walk. Regular exercise is necessary with a large breed dog. In fact, pushing your dog to be more active will help protect them against health issues in the future. Walks, agility, and other canine sports are fine with this breed.

Additionally, this breed can live in smaller spaces such as apartments, where other larger breed wouldn’t fit that narrative. That’s because the Bullmastiff is calm and only barks when necessary.

Always alert and responsive, at the end of the day the Bullmastiff is a courageous breed, that is easygoing among family and tireless when at work.

Health

If you’re looking for a dog that can go into their teenager years, the Bullmastiff probably isn’t the best choice for you. This breed has a life expectancy of 7 to 9 years, which is fairly low in comparison to other breeds.

When you buy from a breeder, it’s always best ensure you’re purchasing from a reputable breeder. They should be able to provide you the proper documentation with health clearances. Couple that with routine visits to the veterinarian, and the chances of a healthier dog is greater.

There is quite an extensive list of precautionary health issues to watch for. This doesn’t mean your Bully will acquire any of these diseases, however, they have been found within the breed and are worth noting.

For instance, Hip Dysplasia, while not at the levels of a German Shepherd, Pug, Lab Retriever and Boxer, the Bully does have a 24.5% occurrence rate. Hip Dysplasia is abnormal growth in the hip joint and causes a great deal of pain, discomfort and at times leads to osteoarthritis. 

Another issue may be Elbow Dysplasia, which is another orthopedic disease affecting the elbows. The same breeds that struggle with Hip Dysplasia usually struggle with this condition. The Bullmastiff has a 13.8 occurrence rate, which falls in the top 15 of a recent study. This puts them in the company of Amstaff Terriers, Chow Chows, Bernese Mountain Dogs, and Bloodhounds.

Of course, since the Bullmastiff is a large breed, the issue of Bloat pertains to them. This is when your dog suffers from an excess of air or gas inside their stomach. The result is a painful twisting and rotating, while the dog isn’t able to release the excessive amount of air. Without proper care, this disease can be fatal.

This breed also suffers various bouts of cancer. For example, the breed has a high rate of Lymphoma. This is a cancer of the lymphocytes usually found first in the lymph nodes, spleen or bone marrow. The result is an enlargement of the lymph node, which is a sign that your dog is encountering this cancerous form. Blood testing is necessary to rule it out.

Second, Osteosarcoma, which are invasive tumors affecting large breed like the Bullmastiff. Pain and swelling around their limbs are symptoms. Again, you may require blood testing or x-rays to see if your dog is suffering from this cancerous form.

There are some other issues you should know about that could affect your Bullmastiff. Progressive Retinal Atrophy, entropion, ectropion are a few to list. These conditions affect the eyes, and since the Bully has such an excess of skin and folds around their face, bacterial conditions can infect your dog’s skin. 

Skin issues, kidney disease, panostetis, and sub aortic stenosis are also health complications that can be found with this breed. The American Bullmastiff Association warns breeders and buyers to keep a careful eye out for these diseases because the breed has a high threshold for pain. This may deter them from complaining or showing signs that anything is wrong.

Care

From the get go, you will need to establish who the pack leader is. The Bully needs to know you’re in charge of this pack. So, consistent early socialization is key for a more friendly and social dog. Training should always be done with positive reinforcement. Agility and obedience are two areas this breed shines at, keeping in mind how well they use to handle their role as protector of game fields.

They should be getting exercise daily. This doesn’t have to be anything extravagant. In fact, if you are looking for a running buddy, this isn’t your breed. Spare them their joint issues in the future, and walk them for 30-45 minutes a day.

Proper fencing is huge with this breed. They can be very protective and they may not understand if the mail carrier is a threat or not. You also don’t want a large dog running free around the neighborhood. 

This is an indoor dog, that should be a part of all family functions. They shouldn’t be left alone for long periods of time. Interaction with smaller children and other dogs is helpful. Introducing this breed to different people will help with strangers.

They aren’t big on cold or hot weather. Keep in mind their skin issues as well as their broad muzzles.

Feeding

Many Bullmastiff owners suggest feeding puppies an adult or large breed for puppies dry food. Either way, you should feed them food that isn’t full of preservatives or fillers. Avoid wheat or anything that can give them food allergies. Meat should be the first ingredient for this breed. In fact, items like lean chicken, turkey, lamb, and salmon should suffice a healthy diet. It doesn’t hurt to find foods rich in Omega Fatty Acids or Taurine.

How much your Bully eats will depend on how active they are. Also, how old your dog is, and their metabolism will play a factor in how much they should eat. Typically, adults will eat between 3 to 4 cups of high quality dry kibble per day. You can balance this between two meals. Two meals helps your dog avoid issues like Bloat. It also allows them to feel like they are on your schedule. Most owners find that resourceful.

Of course, you should always provide your Bullmastiff with fresh drinking water.

Coat

This breed has a short and dense coat that helps protect them against less than ideal weather conditions. They do shed seasonally, so occasional grooming is necessary. That said, they are rather simple to care for. You should only need to bathe them when you notice their coats presenting an odor. 

Some Bullmastiffs have issues with shedding massive amounts of hair. This is something to look out for. 

The coat colors that the American Kennel Club allows are: Fawn, red brindle, red fawn, red fawn brindle, red, fawn and brindle.

Black markings are fine, and white spot markings are acceptable to the American Kennel Club’s standards. However, the white spots can only be found on the chest.

Fun Bullmastiff Facts

  • Swagger is a Bullmastiff that is the Cleveland Browns mascot. 
  • Butkus, is the pet and had a role with his master, Sylvester Stallone, in the movie, Rocky.
  • According to Daily Dog Discoveries, one of the more famous stories of the Bullmastiff is the Thorneywood Terror story. The owner of an estate, Mr. W. Burton, also a big shot kennel owner, would challenge anyone to enter and escape his estate with a ten minute head start against his night guard Bullmastiff. According to the story, the dog would never lose any of the challenges against Burton.

Closing Words

We know the legends, the great story about the Bullmastiff. A friend of the property owner, yet a fair and intelligent foe of poaching criminals.

Things would change and eventually the Bullmastiff found a role being a family dog. This is where the breed belongs. Guarding inside and making sure intruders stay outside. Don’t let their ability of protecting the homestead fool you, this big dog is nothing but a gentle soul, that is easy to care for and a pleasure to be around.