The Bullmastiff is a powerful, active, reliable and resilient watchdog. They are very versatile and can play the role of a guardian, a police dog, a companion dog or a show dog. Confident, sure of themselves and very courageous, they make a very faithful breed who are attached to their friends and need social interaction to flourish.
Key facts about the Bullmastiff
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Origins and history
The Bullmastiff is the result of a cross between the Mastiff and the Bulldog. The intention of first crossing of these two breeds was only to create fighting dogs, both powerful and flexible in nature. However, when official battles came to an end (in 1853), people realised that crossing these two breeds could create a new pure breed with good qualities. Forest rangers were particularly interested: they needed a flexible, powerful dog with a flair for fighting against poachers. Pure breed selection began in the 19th century and was perfected in the late 20th century by S. Moseley, who is considered the creator of the modern Bullmastiff.
FCI breed nomenclature
Group 2 - Pinscher and Schnauzer - Molossoid and Swiss Mountain and Cattledogs
Section 2 : Molossian type
Physical characteristics of the Bullmastiff
Female : Between 24 and 26 in
Male : Between 25 and 27 in
Female : Between 90 and 110 lb
Male : Between 110 and 130 lb
The coat can be all brindle, tawny or fawn. The most important thing is that the colour is pure and clean. A white mark on the chest is acceptable but any other markings are considered a defect. The mask is black and must fade to the eyes.
Type of coat
The coat is short.
The hair is hard to the touch and lying flat. The hair should neither be long, nor silky or woolly, as this does not correspond to the official standard of the breed.
The eyes are either dark or hazel. Clear or yellow eyes are not to standard.
The Bullmastiff is a dog with a strong, symmetrical and powerful structure; but not heavy. Their head is that of a catch dog; their skull must be strong and square. The perimeter of the skull should be equal to the height at the withers. The muzzle is short: the distance between the tip of the nose and the stop is about one third of the total length of the head. The skull-face axes are convergent, and the stop is well marked. The eyes are either dark or hazel, medium-sized, set far apart and separated by a wrinkle. The ears, V shaped or folded backwards are set wide and high on the back of the head. The definition should be strong, with large, separated canine teeth. Clipping with scissors or pliers is allowed: a slightly protruding jaw is allowed but not sought after. The legs are strong and muscular.
Good to know
The Bullmastiff is the ideal breed for those who love big dogs but do not have enough space to accommodate a real giant. Their balanced character makes them a reliable dog in all situations, but first-time owners should beware not to be attracted solely by their magnificent physical characteristics.
The Bullmastiff is generally sweet and affectionate towards members of their adoptive family and they demonstrate a beautiful sensitivity, which allows them to feel the positivity (and also the negativity) that their owners display.
Despite his appearances, this dog is very happy and always ready to interact with members of his social group.
This mastiff, like many dogs of this classification, knows how to remain calm, but beneath the air of good behaviour, lies an energetic and active temperament.
This dog’s intelligence is reflected in their highly-appreciated versatility. For example, they have an excellent sense of smell and is therefore often used as a police dog in England. On the other hand, in the rest of Europe and in the United States, where this breed is fairly widespread, they are mainly used as a guard, companion or show dog.
Hunting is clearly not this watchdog’s favourite activity, but they can, however, show interest in the pursuit of certain game.
Fearful / wary of strangers
Against all odds, this dog is rather sociable with strangers even though they keep a constant eye on them. Indeed, they maintain vigilance in all situations, even the most harmless.
Moreover, this Molosser can perfectly distinguish between a new guest and an unwanted intruder. Their impressive physique is usually enough to deter impostors.
These big Mastiffs are totally devoted to their master. They constantly need to keep an eye on members of their social group and to please them in any way they can.
Behaviour of the Bullmastiff
The Bullmastiff is a true family dog that only flourishes when in company. In fact, they do not appreciate being excluded or being left alone. Thus, early learning of how to effectively manage loneliness is essential.
They must understand that the absence of their owners is not necessarily a cause for concern. Toys should help them pass the time quickly and any absences should not be prolonged.
Easy to train / obedience
They are not the most docile dogs, but their desire to please their masters encourages them to be cooperative if the relationship is based on trust and mutual respect.
A lot of patience and consistency will be needed to get the best results with this dog who, in any case, will never be a perfectly obedient dog. They will always need a little time to think before obeying their master.
However, a clear advantage of this breed is their very good memory. In fact, everything they learn will stay with them for life.
Moreover, given their great size, it is advised to start training as soon as the Bullmastiff puppy arrives home. Life rules and educational bases must be established quickly to prevent any bad habits setting in early.
At first, call-back and walking on a lead without pulling will need to be acquired quickly in order to, on the one hand, keep control over this dog and, on the other hand, to ensure the walk is a pleasant experience.
The help of a professional obedience training and behaviour is desirable.
Rather discreet, the Bullmastiff never barks without reason. If the dog is barking, there is a definite cause for concern.
Tendency to run away
The big-hearted mastiff is too protective of their family to leave home to go on any sort of adventure.
At first, given their impressive jaw, small, low-quality toys will not last for long. This dog is very destructive in this manner.
Moreover, they are capable of “attacking” other objects that do not belong to them and that are left about in the house, especially if they are left alone for too long or unfortunately, have separation anxiety issues.
Greedy / Gluttony
A big eater, care must be taken in order not to overfeed this dog, by balancing their meals and introducing an adequate physical activity to avoid weight issues.
However, their greedy tendencies are advantageous in training as treats may be used to help the obedience process.
An excellent guard dog, the Bullmastiff is committed to protecting their family as the “bodyguard”. They are reliable and must also be given regular missions; guarding the house being their favourite one.
Despite their many good qualities, the Bullmastiff is not to be put into anyone’s hands; let alone beginners. Indeed, a lack of training or socialisation could taint the beautiful image that Bullmastiff breeders try so hard to maintain.
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Bullmastiff in a flat
Unlike this breed’s cousin, the Mastiff, which is slightly bigger, the Bullmastiff is more suitable for life in an apartment. They know how to, despite their size, take up little space if necessary.
Additionally, whatever their living arrangement, this mastiff needs above all, human company. In fact, even if they luckily have a garden space, they will not spend all their time outside, but rather inside in order to spend time with their owners.
Despite possibly being able to adapt to city life, it’s still not the ideal for this dog. They prefer living in a space with a garden, where they are more able to naturally fulfil their role as the guardian.
However, whether living in an apartment, indoors, outdoors, in a city or in the countryside, this breed will need a minimum of 2 walks a day (more if living in an apartment, of course), in order to meet their physical, mental, social and sense-of-smell needs.
Need for exercise / Sporty
Willing to exercise, the Bullmastiff will gladly accompany their owners on long walks in the countryside. Be careful not to work them too hard before they have reached adulthood or even when it’s too hot outside.
Other activities are possible to introduce to this dog for example, tracking, where they will be able to put their excellent sense of smell to use with much joy and enthusiasm. Traction sports are also appreciated by this large, powerful dog, but be careful not to overdo it for the risk of damaging their joints.
Some form of sports activity is therefore desirable but must remain moderate and reasonable in accordance with this powerful Molosser physical capabilities.
Travelling / easy to transport
Even though this dog loves to follow their owners around everywhere and is able to make themselves small, their size will prove to be difficult during journeys.
In addition, their typical Mastiff-like appearance gives them an unfortunate, false reputation of being a nasty breed, which can scare first-time owners.
However, even though they can be delicate in some ways, transport is possible but only when enough preparation has been done (learning about the accessibility of the dog, for example) and adapted equipment is used (an appropriately-sized transportation case/crate, a muzzle for use on public transport etc.)
Moreover, the Bullmastiff’s training and socialisation must be perfect so that they can follow their owners around without problems.
Bullmastiff and cats
Bullmastiff’s are not the most sociable dog of their category but, if from a young age they are used to living alongside a cat, then they are able to tolerate having them around.
Bullmastiff and dogs
Very sure of themselves and sometimes abrupt, the harmony between Bullmastiffs and other dogs is sometimes made difficult because this breed will almost always want to take over and set the rules.
A good-quality socialisation from an early age, mainly within the first 3 months, is desirable, by facilitating controlled meetings with other dogs, always positive and as regularly as possible.
However, two Bullmastiff’s should not be expected to be able to live together, as this can risk ending in frequent fights. It’s better to prioritise having dogs of different genders living together.
Bullmastiff and children
Jovial, active and sensitive, this dog generally gets on very well with children and enjoys having them around. Despite the good-natured character of the Bullmastiff, rules should be established so that children learn to respect the dog’s peace and quiet.
Bullmastiff and the elderly
Even though the need for spending is moderate for this Mastiff, their power and size are not very compatible with elderly owners who can quickly be overpowered, particularly during walks.
The price of a bullmastiff varies according to their origin, age and sex. On average, they cost around £900 for a pedigree dog.
Regarding the monthly budget required for their maintenance (food and conventional care included), it’s estimated at around £60 a month.
Maintaining the Mastiff’s coat is not complicated, brushing it a few times a week is enough to preserve the beauty and protective quality of their coarse-haired coat.
Hair loss is moderate but intensifies during moulting periods, which occur in Autumn and Spring. Brushing it on a daily basis will be required in order to get rid of the dead hair.
Nutrition of the Bullmastiff
Prone to weight issues, the Bullmastiff’s diet must be monitored in order to prevent them from becoming overweight. Moreover, having a sensitive growth means veterinary check-ups are necessary during this time.
Premium-quality biscuits can satisfy this dog, but home-made meals are still their favourite. Be careful though, meals must meet the dog’s dietary needs and be approved by a vet beforehand.
The Bullmastiff must be given meals twice a day to prevent them eating too much at once. A light meal is recommended in the morning and a heartier one in the evening. Having the dog eat whenever they want is to be avoided, especially to avoid an upset stomach, an issue to which this dog is very sensitive.
Health of the Bullmastiff
Life expectancy is estimated at around 9 years.
Strong / robust
The Bullmastiff, like many other dogs in this category, is hardy and of a solid structure.
Their slightly flattened nose may prevent them from regulating their body temperature as efficiently as other dogs. In fact, the heat is not a very comfortable experience for this Mastiff.
During the summer months, it’s best to adapt walk times to the weather, so either early in the morning or late at night.
This dog’s short, coarse hair gives them good protection from bad weather but only to a certain, reasonable limit.
Tendency to put on weight
This dog is sufficiently robust but should not be allowed to put on more weight: as they’re very greedy, it’s necessary to create a suitable feeding arrangement with the breeder and then the vet. Deviating from this arrangement is not advisable, even in the face of yearning pleas from the most insistent dog.
- Cancer (lymphoma)
- Gastric dilation syndrome/ torsion
- Heart disease
- Hip and elbow dysplasia