Like his relatives the Broholmer, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, the Newfoundland, and the Saint Bernard, the Bullmastiff evolved from the ages-old Molosser breed and shares her ancestor’s deep chest, powerful musculature and coloring. More specifically, the Bullmastiff is descended from the English Mastiff and the Old English Bulldog.
Fun fact: A live Bullmastiff named Swagger is the official mascot of the Cleveland Browns and their “dog pound” of enthusiastic fans.
The Bullmastiff we know today first appeared in England during the 1860s. She was bred to guard large properties and help gamekeepers keep the land free of human poachers, which had become a serious problem. It was through these efforts that she earned the nickname “the gamekeeper’s night dog.”
The United Kennel Club (U.K.) recognized the Bullmastiff as a distinct breed in 1924; the AKC followed suit in 1933.
Male Bullmastiffs will stand 25 to 27 inches and weigh 110 to 130 pounds. Females come in slightly smaller, at 24 to 26 inches and 100 to 120 pounds.
Correct coat colors for the breed are red, fawn, and brindle, by AKC standards. Their coats should have no white except a small patch on the chest.
The Bullmastiff of today is both a fearless watchdog and a people pleaser. She rarely barks, so when she does it is in genuine alarm, and her owner would do well to pay attention. Remember, she was bred to protect the family from “poachers” and other intruders.
But she’s also loyal, calm, and brave, qualities that make her an excellent family companion. She has a particular love of children, especially when she’s been properly socialized at a young age. Unfortunately, the very size of this breed can frighten small children, so if you have toddlers, consider waiting a few years before bringing home a Bullmastiff. And, always supervise interactions between dogs and children.
Be firm and consistent when training a Bullmastiff; they can be stubborn. In particular, they need to be trained not to pull on a leash or jump on people; their sheer size can cause injury. Give your dog every opportunity to meet people in different settings and situations; then watch her make friends.
A Bullmastiff can live in an apartment if the owner is willing to give her regular exercise. Her temperament has been described as docile and sweet. However, she has a dominant streak and needs to be the only dog in the house. Cats are also a no-no with this breed, as the Bullmastiff is likely to regard a cat as prey.
Most importantly, your Bullmastiff needs to be part of the family. Isolation makes her miserable.
In general, large-breed dogs lead shorter lives than their small-breed relatives. The Bullmastiff’s life expectancy has been quoted as 7 to 8 years. Your Bullmastiff will need regular vet visits in order for you to monitor her health.
The known health conditions affecting Bullmastiffs are hip dysplasia (24.5% of Bullmastiffs are affected) and elbow dysplasia, which will strike 13.9% of the Bullmastiff population. Other potential problems include hypothyroidism; lymphoma; progressive retinal atrophy (a progressive disorder that begins with night blindness and eventually causes total loss of vision); arthritis; and bloat (a sometimes fatal digestive issue seen mostly in deep-chested dogs). Find a veterinarian you trust and work with him or her to be on the lookout for these or other health issues in your Bullmastiff.
Anyone thinking of acquiring a Bullmastiff should know that they drool. Some owners carry a “drool towel” around the house with them, in order to catch saliva as it appears.
Apart from cleaning up drool, the Bullmastiff owner has it relatively easy in the grooming department. The dog needs only two to three brushings a week, ear cleaning with a gentle formula and available from your vet; and nail trimming.
Bullmastiffs are a popular breed, so rescue groups can be found all over the U.S. If in doubt, visit the Rescue page of the American Bullmastiff Association: http://bullmastiff.us/rescue.html