Bullmastiff: Dog Breed Profile

Characteristics, History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Bull Mastiff laying down
www.bridgetdavey.com / Getty Images

The Bullmastiff is a large-boned and muscular working dog. Its origins as a cross between the mastiff and the bulldog are apparent in its appearance. In personality, this breed is smart, alert, and loyal. Though the Bullmastiff has a natural protective instinct, the breed is typically quite gentle around children and others who pose no threat.

Breed Overview

  • Group: Working
  • Height: 24 to 27 inches at the shoulder
  • Weight: 100 to 130 pounds
  • Coat and Color: Short coat in fawn, red, or brindle
  • Life Expectancy: 8 to 10 years

Characteristics of the Bullmastiff

Affection Level High
Friendliness High
Kid-Friendly High
Pet-Friendly High
Exercise Needs Medium
Playfulness High
Energy Level Medium
Trainability Medium
Intelligence Medium
Tendency to Bark Medium
Amount of Shedding Low

History of the Bullmastiff

The Bullmastiff breed was developed in England during the mid-1800s. Gamekeepers needed a dog to protect their game from poachers, so they experimented with cross-breeding. At the time, bulldogs were fierce and intrepid—much more than today's bulldog—yet the breed was too small to take down a human. The mastiff was too large and slow to do the job, but crossing the two breeds resulted in the ideal guard dog. The brindle color was preferred as it provided natural camouflage. This breed was imported to guard the De Beers diamond mines in South Africa.

Though the Bullmastiff still makes an excellent guard dog, it is better known today as a friendly companion and wonderful family dog. This breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1933.

Team Mascot
The Arsenal football team with their bull-mastiff mascot, Gunner, at Highbury, London. G. Adams / Getty Images

Bullmastiff Care

The Bullmastiff has a short coat that typically needs little more than routine grooming. This breed is a moderately low shedder. Additionally, the Bullmastiff's ears and facial skin folds (if present) should be kept clean and dry. This breed is a drooler, so be prepared when it shakes its head; carrying a slobber rag is in order for this one.

By regular walking, your dog should be able to wear down its nails through activity. Be sure to check them and give them a trim if you hear clicking on the floor. It's also good to pay attention to your dog's dental hygiene and brush its teeth a couple of times per week.

Like all dogs, proper training and socialization are important for the Bullmastiff. Overall, the breed is smart but also has an independent streak. Training will require firm consistency. Curb any habit of jumping on people early as this can lead to hazardous situations once the dog is full-grown.

The Bullmastiff is not overly active, but the breed needs routine exercise to remain fit and motivated. Take your dog for a couple of walks each day and start good leash training from puppyhood. The Bullmastiff will be so large and powerful in adulthood that if it pulls on the leash, you will have difficulty controlling it. The dog probably shouldn't be allowed to run free in a dog park, as it is unlikely to do well with other canines.

The Bullmastiff is vulnerable to overheating, due to its short snout. Don't overdo exercise, and be sure to keep your dog cool in hot weather.

Bullmastiffs are very gentle companions and family protectors that make lovely family pets. They will get along wonderfully with children when properly trained and socialized. As a large dog, they have the potential of knocking down small children or reacting to any mistreatment by a small child. Supervise the dog whenever it is with small children, and consider waiting until your children are older before adding a bullmastiff to your household.

This breed is not a good match for multi-pet households. They have a high prey drive and may harass cats and other small pets, even if they are raised together. Similarly, they don't do well with other dogs. In particular, male Bullmastiffs do not live peaceably with other male dogs of any breed. They will confront any animal entering its territory.

Adult Bullmastiffs are mellow enough for apartment living, as long as you are able to take them out for a couple of walks. They like to live indoors with company, but they do tolerate a household where their people are gone during the workday, as long as they are given attention before and after the absence. However, if left alone in a yard without access to family life, a bullmastiff can develop some destructive behaviors. Above all, the Bullmastiff is a loyal and affectionate house pet that forms a close bond with its humans.

Bullmastiff puppy lying on a lawn
Laures / Getty Images

Common Health Problems

Responsible breeders strive to maintain the highest breed standards as established by kennel clubs like the AKC. Dogs bred by these standards are less likely to inherit health conditions. However, some hereditary health problems can occur in the breed. Some conditions to be aware of include:

Diet and Nutrition

A bullmastiff should be fed twice a day; each meal should consist of 1 1/2 cups and 2 cups of dry dog food, depending on your pet's size and activity level. Always ensure your dog has access to fresh, clean water. Your dog's needs will change throughout its lifespan; discuss this with your veterinarian to develop the right feeding schedule, amount, type of food, and exercise.

Feeding in two meals can help prevent the problem of bloating and stomach torsion (gastric dilatation-volvulus). When a dog gulps down food or eats a large meal, it can lead to excessive gas production. In this breed, the stomach may then twist and cut off the blood supply which becomes a medical emergency.

Monitor your dog's weight and take action if you note additional pounds. Obesity can shorten your dog's lifespan and predispose more health conditions.

Pros

  • Make excellent watchdogs.
  • Don't need a significant amount of exercise.
  • Has short hair that's easy to care for and doesn't shed significantly.

Cons

  • Large and powerful, which can be difficult for small people or children to handle.
  • Potentially aggressive toward other animals and people.
  • Have a short lifespan of just eight to 10 years.

Where to Adopt or Buy a Bullmastiff

Check with your local area shelter or rescue groups to find Bullmastiffs available for adoption in your area. The American Bullmastiff Association's mission is to find homes for unwanted Bullmastiffs, and Mastiffs to Mutts Rescue Inc. provides rescue efforts in the mid-Atlantic states. The ABA also provides a list of breeders but does not guarantee or endorse any particular person or group.

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

Before you decide whether a Bullmastiff is the right dog or you, be sure to do plenty of research. Talk to other Bullmastiff owners, reputable breeders, and rescue groups to learn more.

If you’re interested in similar breeds, look into these to compare the pros and cons.

There are many dog breeds to explore. With a little research, you can find the right one to bring home.