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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
General Appearance: That of a symmetrical animal, showing great strength, endurance, and alertness; powerfully built but active. The foundation breeding was 60% Mastiff and 40% Bulldog. The breed was developed in England by gamekeepers for protection against poachers.
Size, Proportion, Substance
Size--Dogs, 25 to 27 inches at the withers, and 110 to 130 pounds weight. Bitches, 24 to 26 inches at the withers, and 100 to 120 pounds weight. Other things being equal, the more substantial dog within these limits is favored. Proportion--The length from tip of breastbone to rear of thigh exceeds the height from withers to ground only slightly, resulting in a nearly square appearance.
Expression--Keen, alert, and intelligent. Eyes Dark and of medium size. Ears--V-shaped and carried close to the cheeks, set on wide and high, level with occiput and cheeks, giving a square appearance to the skull; darker in color than the body and medium in size. Skull Large, with a fair amount of wrinkle when alert; broad, with cheeks well developed. Forehead flat. Stop--Moderate. Muzzle--Broad and deep; its length, in comparison with that of the entire head, approximately as 1 is to 3. Lack of foreface with nostrils set on top of muzzle is a reversion to the Bulldog and is very undesirable. A dark muzzle is preferable. Nose--Black, with nostrils large and broad. Flews--Not too pendulous. Bite--Preferably level or slightly undershot. Canine teeth large and set wide apart.
Neck, Topline, Body
Neck--Slightly arched, of moderate length, very muscular, and almost equal in circumference to the skull. Topline--Straight and level between withers and loin. Body--Compact. Chest wide and deep, with ribs well sprung and well set down between the forelegs. Back--Short, giving the impression of a well balanced dog. Loin--Wide, muscular, and slightly arched, with fair depth of flank. Tail--Set on high, strong at the root, and tapering to the hocks. It may be straight or curved, but never carried hound fashion.
Shoulders--muscular but not loaded, and slightly sloping. Forelegs--straight, well boned, and set well apart; elbows turned neither in nor out. Pasterns straight, feet of medium size, with round toes well arched. Pads thick and tough, nails black.
Broad and muscular, with well developed second thigh denoting power, but not cumbersome. Moderate angulation at hocks. Cowhocks and splay feet are serious faults.
Short and dense, giving good weather protection.
Red, fawn, or brindle. Except for a very small white spot on the chest, white marking is considered a fault.
Free, smooth, and powerful. When viewed from the side, reach and drive indicate maximum use of the dog's moderate angulation. Back remains level and firm. Coming and going, the dog moves in a straight line. Feet tend to converge under the body, without crossing over, as speed increases. There is no twisting in or out at the joints.
Fearless and confident yet docile. The dog combines the reliability, intelligence, and willingness to please required in a dependable family companion and protector.
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Sources: American Kennel Club