The Bullmastiff: A Large Watchdog That Guards But Does Not Bark Much

Updated on June 8, 2017
DrMark1961 profile image

Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years.

Even young bullmastiff puppies are on the job.
Even young bullmastiff puppies are on the job. | Source

In 18th or 19th century England, estate owners and their gamekeepers felt that they needed a large and alert dog to guard their property. They already had the English mastiff, but because it was so mild, they crossed his line with the Old English bulldog.

They created what they needed. The bullmastiff was born.

What does a bullmastiff look like?

Males 64-71 cm at the whithers (25-28 inches), females 61-66 cm (24-26 inches)
Males 50-60 kilos (110-130 pounds), females 45-55 kilos (100-120 pounds)
Fawn, red, or brindle (White markings allowed only on the chest)
Short, slightly rough, with little shedding
Black, with wide open nostrils
Broad, with a wrinkled muzzle
Scissors bite
General Appearance
Powerful, athletic, but not excessively muscled
Click thumbnail to view full-size
A bullmastiff.Fawn bullmastiffs with dark muzzles are popular.Brindle bullmastiffs were more popular when serving as guard dogs.A brindle BullmastiffBullmastiffs do drool.A bullmastiff at rest.An adult bullmastiff.A bullmastiff puppy.A bullmastiff smile.A bullmastiff watching.
A bullmastiff.
A bullmastiff. | Source
Fawn bullmastiffs with dark muzzles are popular.
Fawn bullmastiffs with dark muzzles are popular. | Source
Brindle bullmastiffs were more popular when serving as guard dogs.
Brindle bullmastiffs were more popular when serving as guard dogs. | Source
A brindle Bullmastiff
A brindle Bullmastiff | Source
Bullmastiffs do drool.
Bullmastiffs do drool. | Source
A bullmastiff at rest.
A bullmastiff at rest. | Source
An adult bullmastiff.
An adult bullmastiff. | Source
A bullmastiff puppy.
A bullmastiff puppy. | Source
A bullmastiff smile.
A bullmastiff smile. | Source
A bullmastiff watching.
A bullmastiff watching. | Source

Training Your Bullmastiff

Since that handsome little puppy will grow up to be so large and powerful, your bullmastiff needs to be socialized early. Socialization really needs to happen when a puppy is in the sensitive period, before 16 weeks of age. You do not need to take her out to a dog park or pet superstore, where she is likely to be exposed to diseases, but you do need to let her meet different people, meet other puppies and dogs that are healthy and vaccinated against contagious diseases, go places with you in the car, go for walks in different places, etc.

Socialization is really important. Most of them are great with kids, but do need to be socialized around other dogs. If you do not adequately socialize your puppy when she is young, you are more likely to end up with a nervous and shy dog. This can be a real disaster when dealing with a dog as large and powerful as a bullmastiff.

Like the mastiff, these dogs are not especially active but do need some special training. They do not really need any special guard dog training since that is such a normal part of the breed´s makeup, but they do respond well to basic obedience training, pulling carts, and even tracking. (Some bulldogs do not do well in this sport because of their short noses, but bullmastiffs do better since they are not excessively brachycephalic like bulldogs.)

A brindle Bullmastiff blending into the background.
A brindle Bullmastiff blending into the background. | Source

Health and Lifespan

If you are considering purchasing a bullmastiff puppy, find a good breeder who has all of her breeding dogs radiographed and certified to be free of hip dysplasia. Some dogs are certified by the OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) but there is also a distraction test developed by the University of Pennsylvania in 1983, the Penn Hip, that does not certify the dog as fit for breeding but may give a better idea of which dogs are likely to carry this problem.

In addition, an AVMA journal from 2001 (Vol.219, No.9) reports that certification can be done as early as 8 months. If a dog is diagnosed that early it may be possible to prevent the development of arthritis in the hip joint. This is no guarantee, of course, and about a quarter of all dogs will still develop hip dysplasia, so this is something all those thinking about getting one of these dogs needs to think about.

They are also prone to elbow dysplasia, retinal atrophy (PRA), cancers like lymphoma and mast cell tumors, and some dogs develop hypothyroidism. Since the dogs are also prone to bloat, some breeders recommend feeding several times per day or feeding from an elevated dish. There is also some holistic veterinarians that recommend feeding dogs like the bullmastiff raw food, since the raw bones make the stomach stronger and make the dog unlikely to ever bloat and suffer from a twisted stomach (GDV).

Do not allow your dog to become obese! If your bullmastiff survives all of the early health challenges, she is also prone to develop arthritis, and extra weight makes it that much harder for a big dog to get around. There are a lot of recommendations to make a dog´s later years more comfortable, but feeding a natural glucosamine source like raw chicken feet may prevent the problem from even developing.

The bullmastiff usually only lives 7 or 8 years old. Although there are no guarantees when choosing your dog, try to find a breeder that focuses on longevity.

A bullmastiff giving those "puppy dog" eyes.
A bullmastiff giving those "puppy dog" eyes. | Source

Are you ready?

Bullmastiffs are really great dogs, and because they look so good have been seen in movies like Rocky II and TV shows like American Chopper. If you read the information on this dog, however, many sites will try to scare you off and just recommend a bullmastiff only be owned by an experienced owner that will dominate the dog with pack leader techniques.

If you are interested in one of these dogs you should not allow those comments to make up your mind. There is a lot of disagreement about the best way to treat a dog, and, although all big dogs need to be socialized, not everyone agrees that you need to be harsh with a dog like the bullmastiff.

With any dog, you should make sure he has plenty of mental and physical exercise, and that he is obedience trained.

You should also enjoy him!

Questions & Answers


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      • Shades-of-truth profile image

        Emily Tack 3 years ago from USA

        My pleasure...I miss those wonderful beasts!

      • DrMark1961 profile image

        Dr Mark 3 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

        Thanks for that great comment, Shades-of-truth!

      • Shades-of-truth profile image

        Emily Tack 3 years ago from USA

        I have owned many Bullmastiffs. Our first one, Gudrida - "Goody" to us - came into our home in 1973. She was a great dog! Since then, we have had several others, from the FL Bullmastiff rescue. They are tremendously wonderful dogs.

        Since I am high-energy, I like my dogs to be on the calm side, and our Bullmastiffs certainly were. I used to take two of them to our jewelry store, every day. Our customers loved them, and their presence deterred a few troublemakers.

        Sadly, all of ours have passed away, but we will never forget their loving, guarding contribution to our family.

      • Bob Bamberg profile image

        Bob Bamberg 4 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

        I had a few customers that I know of who had bullmastiffs, but never brought them in...bull in a China shop worries...our aisles weren't awfully wide. In some of the pet supply stores I visit nowadays, I've seen a few and they really are an intimidating presence. There have never been any problems while I was there, and they sure attract a lot of attention! Another interesting and useful hub, and voted that way.

        BTW, MaryB was asking about you and I told her your situation and she replied with this: "Oh I so wish he would come back maybe start new and see what happens. I loved reading about his life. I even dreamed about his parrot which I'm sure Freud would have a hay day with LOL" Your fans want your back!