The Mighty Bullmastiff: Get to Know the Breed

Updated January 19, 2022
Pet parents loving their bullmastiff dog

The Bullmastiff is one of the largest of all dog breeds. However, despite their size, they are sweet, gentle giants who love their family and who take well to conscientious training. Learn more about how this breed was developed and what you might expect from one as a companion.

Origin and History

The Bullmastiff we know today is the result of breeding mastiff-type dogs to Bulldogs. The purpose behind this cross was to produce dogs of great size who displayed the tenacity and courage of their Bulldog ancestors.

Early specimens were used to accompany gamekeepers on their rounds, helping them to track and catch poachers on their property. This early occupation gained the breed a reputation as being a bit fierce, a perception that still lingers today. However, it should be noted that these dogs are generally reliable companions within their family setting, affectionate and docile under normal circumstances.

Breed Characteristics

Although this breed is known for their enormous size, they are known to be excellent apartment dogs due to their love for lounging. Don't get this wrong, though; they still need sufficient exercise.

Bullmastiff Dog Sits On A Park Bench

Appearance

The Bullmastiff is a powerfully built animal with enormous muscles who can produce a fairly intimidating first impression. Their size might lead you to believe they are a bit cumbersome, but they're actually quite capable of great speed and agility if the situation calls for it.

The eyes of this breed are both soulful and keenly intelligent. The head and neck areas carry folds of flesh that aid these dogs in scent detection.

The average specimen stands approximately 27 inches tall at the shoulder and weighs in between 100 and 130 pounds.

Coats on this breed are quite short and generally easy to care for. A simple brushing with a dense bristle or rubber brush will remove dead hairs and most debris. The loose jowls do produce a significant amount of drool, so keeping a towel handy is useful for wiping it away.

Colors include:

  • Fawn
  • Red
  • Brindle

All colors carry a black face mask.

Temperament

The Bullmastiff is very calm and devoted to their human companions, and also very protective. The breed makes very good guard dogs, since they are not easily intimidated by intruders.

The sheer size of this breed does present a few challenges. First, they are not the ideal companions for children, who are simply too small to control these dogs in all situations. Play should always be supervised by an adult who the dog will respond to.

Bullmastiff laying down in a park next to a stone circle

Second, Bullmastiffs must be thoroughly socialized as young dogs to overcome some of their excessively protective traits. They must also be exposed to other household pets from puppyhood if they are to accept them as part of the family.

For all of these reasons, it's highly recommended that owners enroll these dogs in obedience classes as youngsters.

Training

Bullmastiffs are generally easy-to-train, but do come with a stubborn streak. Make sure you don't allow them to get their way or they'll soon be controlling the show. The importance of early exposure to a diverse range of people, places, noises, and sights cannot be overstated. Socialization is essential with any breed, but because of the Bullmastiff's size, it is especially critical, and will help create a well-rounded adult dog.

That being said, it's important to utilize positive reinforcement with this breed, as with any other. Rewards and praise go a long way.

Exercise Requirements

Bullmastiffs are low-energy dogs, despite their large size. It is sufficient to bring them for a few brief walks or several play sessions each day. As long as they get their regular activities, they can live comfortably in an apartment or condominium.

Bullmastiff enjoying running in the snow

Although they are relatively low-energy, they aren't a lazy breed. Agility, conformation, obedience, and tracking are just some of the canine sports in which the breed excels. Because of their peaceful demeanor, Bullmastiffs are also excellent therapy dogs.

Health

Bullmastiffs are prone to a few of the usual health problems encountered with most large breeds, including:

  • Canine Hip Dysplasia: This is a painful joint and skeletal disorder that tends to affect larger, active dogs such as the Bullmastiff.
  • Gastric Torsion: often referred to as "bloat," this condition more frequently affects deep-chested dogs and can be fatal if not treated right away.
  • Hypothyroidism: A disease of the endocrine system that can lead to weight loss, lethargy, and dull coat, and skin conditions.
  • Cancer: Various types affect many dog breeds, but the Bullmastiff is prone to developing lymphoma.

Lifespan

As a general guideline, expect most Mastiffs to live between 6 and 12 years, with an average lifespan of 8.

Grooming

Brushing your Bullmastiff's coat once a day with a rubber curry is all it takes to maintain. Give them a shower or a bath only when absolutely necessary.

Check the ears once a week and clean them as necessary. Consult your veterinarian if their ears smell or contain a waxy material that resembles coffee grounds, as these are signs of an infection or mite infestation.

Fun Facts About the Breed

This gentle giant, although well-known, has some special characteristics and history that may surprise you:

  • Unlike other guard dogs, the Bullmastiff was trained not to attack intruders. Instead, they were bred to pin and hold poachers quietly without harming them.
  • Most are completely content with a walk or two around the block each day, making them good apartment dogs.
  • John D. Rockefeller imported Bullmastiffs to the United States in the early 1920s to protect his estate from intruders.
  • Swagger, a Bullmastiff, is the mascot of the Cleveland Browns.
  • Due to their gentle nature, they are often used as therapy dogs.

Purchasing or Adopting a Bullmastiff

If you're looking for a Bullmastiff puppy, a good place to start is the American Bullmastiff Association. The club has a breeder directory available as well as helpful tips on how to find responsible breeders with quality dogs. The AKC Marketplace also has a breeder search. Expect to pay around $1,000 to $1,500, although show dogs from champion lines can cost as much as $2,200.

Bullmastiff puppy

Rescue Organizations

If you're searching for a rescue dog, and you aren't set on a purebred, you can begin by checking the directories on PetFinder and Save-a-Rescue. You can also search the following breed-specific rescues:

  • Mastiffs to Mutts: A non-profit rescue organization dedicated to rescuing Bullmastiffs and mixes, among other large-breed dogs, in Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, parts of North Carolina, and parts of New York.
  • Bullmastiff Rescuers: A rescue organization focusing on finding acceptable homes for Bullmastiffs. You must be at least 21 years of age to adopt from this organization and meet the dog you have chosen prior to adoption.
  • Southern States Mastiff Rescue: A nonprofit focused on purebred Mastiffs, adopting to the states of Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi.

Is This the Breed for You?

Owning one of these powerful dogs is not for the timid. They are a wonderful breed in the right hands, but unless you are confident of your superior role in the relationship, you may find your dog has taken on the alpha role, and you are their follower. If you find you can't resist this beautiful breed, then you should do a good deal of research before you make a purchase.

Find one or two professional breeders who are willing to take you under their wing and teach you what is required to own one of these dogs. You should be able to spend time around adult dogs as well as puppies so you can make an informed judgment about how a Bullmastiff will fit into your home and your life.

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The Mighty Bullmastiff: Get to Know the Breed