Choosing a Bullmastiff

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The bullmastiff, a massive yet affectionate member of the "working" breeds, is a combination of the English bulldog and Old English mastiff. The breed has a comparatively recent history and was purposely created to guard large English estates from poachers. Bullmastiffs are not as popular today, but owners are as loyal to the breed as the breed is to their owner.

History and Origin

The history of the bullmastiff begins in England around 1860. At that time, large estates and game preserves were having difficultly controlling the ravages of poachers. Gamekeepers needed a dog that could knock down and hold a trespasser until help arrived. It was decided that the best combination was a cross between the Old English mastiff, for courage and power, and the English bulldog, for strength. After several generations, the final combination of 60 percent mastiff and 40 percent bulldog resulted in a fearless dog that would attack, but not maul, on command.

Until recently, the bullmastiff was primarily a guard and watchdog and was commonly called "the Gamekeeper's Night Dog." By 1924, the breed had been stabilized and was officially recognized by the English Kennel Club. The American Kennel Club recognized the bullmastiff breed in 1933. The breed became popular with police and the military, but today is most often used to protect and to guard, as well as for companionship.

Appearance and Size

The bullmastiff is impressive in stature and strength, with a large broad wrinkled head and massive body. Compact yet powerful, the dog is described as having a noble, even intellectual, look. The hair coat is short, smooth and dense and most often fawn or brindle (dark streaks or flecks on a gray or tawny background).

On average, the bullmastiff weighs 100 to 130 pounds. The height at the shoulders is 25 to 27 inches.


Despite being a strong, powerful dog, the bullmastiff is automatically loyal to family and quite docile and gentle. The breed is known as intelligent, obedient, brave and affectionate.

Home and Family Relations

The bullmastiff naturally assumes the role of family guard and protector, being devoted and gentle, even with children. Bullmastiffs live best in homes with large yards but can live comfortably in an apartment if the owner is willing to provide the necessary exercise. Bullmastiffs can even live outdoors and thrive in inclement weather.


Bullmastiffs are natural guard dogs that respond well to obedience training. They are intelligent and eager to learn.

Special Care

Due to their massive size and strength, bullmastiffs are not for everyone. They take a strong firm hand to control some of their power.

Common Diseases and Disorders

Diseases seen in this breed may include:

  • Hip dysplasia occurs when the hip joint develops abnormally and can result in pain, lameness and arthritis.
  • Congenital elbow luxation – is a dislocation of the elbow joint.
  • Ruptured cranial cruciate ligament is a problem that results from tearing of the cruciate ligament in the knee, causing lameness that may be severe .
  • Gastric torsion, also known as bloat, is a life-threatening sudden illness associated with the stomach filling with air and twisting.
  • Interdigital dermatitis, also known as pododermatitis, is an inflammation of the paws involving the feet and nails.
  • Lymphosarcoma, also known as lymphoma, is a malignant cancer that involves the lymphoid system.
  • Entropion is a problem with the eyelid that causes inward rolling. Lashes on the edge of the eyelid irritate the surface of the eyeball and may lead to more serious problems.
  • Ectropion is a problem with the eyelid that causes eversion of the eyelid margin. It most commonly affects the lower central eyelid.
  • Urolithiasis is a condition affecting the urinary tract resulting in the formation of bladder stones.
  • Vaginal hyperplasia an exaggerated response of the vaginal tissue to estrogen during certain phases of the heat cycle. The vaginal tissue becomes swollen and may protrude through the vulva.

    Although these occur infrequently, the following disorders have also been reported:

    Contact dermatitis, eczema and hair loss.

    Life Span

    The life span of the bullmastiff is 8 to 10 years.

    We realize that each dog is unique and may display other characteristics. This profile provides generally accepted breed information only.

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