The Bullmastiff is not for everyone. Here, we take an in-depth look at the breed, puppies and whether these loyal loving giants could be the perfect dog for you?
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Bullmastiff Dog Breed
The Bullmastiff is a large domestic dog, Confident, extremely loving and placid, a natural guardian he will protect his family fearlessly and can be quite stand-offish with strangers.
Not for everyone, these dogs are expensive to own and demand a lot of time and patience but if you feel you can cope with the size, dominant tendencies, high vet’s bills, gassiness, snoring and excessive drool the Bullmastiff could be the perfect choice.
One of the many different types of Mastiff, the Bullmastiff was developed in the UK during the 19th century by gamekeepers on large country estates to apprehend poachers.
Crossing the now-extinct Old English Bulldog with the largest of the Mastiff breeds the English Mastiff produced the perfect guard dog, and they retain this guarding instinct today although they are more often beloved family pets.
These gentle giants love nothing more than cuddles on the sofa and although they don’t mind being left alone they love the companionship of humans and do not do well living outside which can lead to them becoming territorial.
Being a short-nosed (brachycephalic) breed they don’t cope with heat well and having a short coat means they don’t much like the extreme cold either. Surprisingly they make good apartment dogs as long as they get a couple of leash walks a day they are quiet and some can be lazy.
There is no doubt about it, the Bullmastiff is a huge dog with males standing around 25-27 inches, almost the size of a small Shetland pony whereas females are slightly smaller at around 24-26 inches at the withers.
You wouldn’t like one of these dogs standing on your toe, males weigh approximately 110-130 lbs with females a bit lighter at 100-120 lbs. Some breeders have tried to increase the dimensions of the breed, it isn’t unusual to find some males weighing from 8-12 stone that’s a whopping 168lbs.
A Bullmastiff’s coat comes in 3 colours, red, fawn, and brindle, their muzzle and ears are usually darker and they sometimes have a splash of white on their chests although this is unusual. It is a dense short coat that offers protection against snow, rain and cold temperatures. Easy to keep clean with a quick rub down Bullmastiffs don’t shed much.
As with most large breeds, the Bullmastiff has a relatively short lifespan of 8-10 years. The oldest Mastiff recorded, lived in Australia, she was called Kush and lived to the ripe old age of 15.
Bullmastiffs are quite formidable in appearance, you wouldn’t want to come across one in a dark alley, no wonder they were a deterrent to intruders back in the day. Large powerful muscular dogs they should not be too heavy as it can cause problems with their breathing. They have a broad head with short muzzle with a slight under-bite. The bulldog influence has given them more wrinkled features than other mastiff types.
Bullmastiffs have a square set to their heads which is achieved by their ears lying flat and framing the face.
As puppies, when they are teething, the ears are often rolled back or what is called “flying” they harden in the incorrect position which affects the dog’s appearance. Taping doesn’t hurt or cause any discomfort to the puppy. Find out more about ear-taping here.
Bullmastiffs have a solid deep-chested stance, their backs are short and straight making them look stocky, they have a thick tail especially at the base, strong and set high.
Bullmastiffs are descended from the ancient Molossus dogs which originated in the mountainous regions of the Balkans and are thought to be direct descendants of large dogs from Central Asia namely the Tibetan Mastiff.
Over time these ferocious guardians were introduced to most countries in Europe where they were valued for their impressive size and fearlessness. They were used by the ancient Greeks and Romans for hunting, fighting lions, bears, guarding homes, livestock and as war dogs.
There is a Roman statue in the British Museum known as the Jennings Dog which is remarkably similar to modern day Mastiffs and it is mentioned in history books that they were Julius Caesar’s favourite breed.
In 1415 a British knight Sir Peers Legh brought his Mastiff bitch to fight by his side at the battle of Agincourt. When he was injured she stood defending him ferociously and although he died a few days later from his inflicted wounds his beloved dog was returned to his home, Lyme Hall in Cheshire and it is now accepted that modern Mastiffs descend from this line.
During the 19th century, poachers were the bane of every large country estate throughout England. Gamekeepers were employed by the gentry to protect their lands and needed a deterrent on their nightly patrols.
Bulldogs (very different to the modern breed) were too aggressive, while the Mastiff was too slow and didn’t have the necessary drive to take down the criminals. Hence the two breeds were crossed and eventually the gamekeepers’ ” Night Dog” was created with a ratio of 60% English Mastiff and 40% Old English Bulldog.
This combination was perfect for the gamekeeper’s needs, quiet, they were capable of tracking a man, chasing the culprit and pinning them to ground until apprehension without biting. Brindle was the preferred colour as it was indistinguishable from the forest at night-time.
Poachers were dangerous as they punishment for their crime was hanging so the dogs needed to be brave and tenacious characteristics that remain in the breed to this day making them a challenge for the novice owner give them an inch and they will take the proverbial mile.
The breed was recognised by the Kennel Club in 1924, the AKC accepting the breed 10 years later. The first Bullmastiff to become a Cruft’s champion was Ch Farcroft Silvo a brindle bitch who won in 1927 and 1928.
Over the years more Mastiff blood was bred into the dogs and lighter colours become more common. They became quite rare in the middle half of the 20th century but their popularity is increasing and in 2016 there were 493 Bullmastiff puppies registered with the Kennel Club.
Bullmastiff Vs English Mastiff
Both of these giant breeds are from the working group and both make excellent guard dogs. The English Mastiff is generally more placid and gentle than the Bullmastiff who can be aggressive if not correctly socialised and trained from an early age.
The Bullmastiff will be smaller than the English Mastiff which stands at an impressive 28-36″ and can weigh up to 190 lbs. Although the English Mastiff is one of the largest Mastiffs they are also the least aggressive and most gentle.
Bullmastiffs are influenced by many Bulldog traits and generally are more sensitive with a higher hunting and chasing instinct than the English Mastiff. Neither Breed is recommended for first-time owners and both require perseverance and patience with training.
They have similar health problems but with the English Mastiff being larger they are slightly more expensive to own and vet bills can quickly mount up with large dogs.
Buying a Bullmastiff puppy
Bullmastiffs are influenced by many Bulldog traits and generally are more sensitive with a higher hunting and chasing instinct than the English Mastiff. Neither Breed is recommended for first-time owners and both require perseverance and patience with training.
Before you start looking at Bullmastiff puppies for sale, take a breath. It is essential to do extensive research before considering bringing a Bullmastiff into your home ask yourself these questions.
Once you have answered yes and done your research you can start to look for a reputable breeder of Bullmastiff puppies in your area. Speak to breeders and ask lots of questions. A good breeder should be well-informed on the breed and willing to give you all the information you require.
Check they have done the required health screening on the parents and ask about any health problems in previous generations.
A responsible breeder is more concerned with placing a puppy with the right owner than the colour of your money they will be keen to discuss temperament, health issues and should also be asking you questions about the life you intend to provide for the dog.
They should also provide ongoing advice, puppy pack and insurance covering the first few weeks of ownership in case anything goes wrong. You can expect to pay anything from £700-£2000 for a puppy depending on the lineage and pedigree.
So, you have your new puppy, now what to call it?
Some popular names for Bullmastiffs include:
Alternatively, you may wish to rescue an older dog instead of purchasing a pup, as cute as they are they require a lot of time and effort. It might be the case an adult dog would suit your lifestyle better.
In which case, it is worth checking out some of the specialist breed rescues they are often a great source of advice and many are looking for foster homes so in theory, you could try before you buy making double sure a Bullmastiff is the right breed for you.
The price of adopting a dog is much cheaper than buying a puppy around £100-£200, you will also be able to find out quite a bit about your chosen dog’s personality, hopefully, he will have a modicum of training and you will have the pleasure of knowing you are providing a home for an unwanted pet.
Are Bullmastiffs easy to train?
Bullmastiffs are independent stubborn, intelligent and can be difficult to train especially if you don’t know what you are doing.
They need consistent training from the second you bring them home and have no problem locking limbs and point blank refusing to obey unless they think something is in it for them.
Not too much of a problem when they are 8 weeks old but something that will be an issue when they are 6 months.
They do not respond well to harsh training and yelling will get you nowhere. They need firm consistent training with lots of positive reinforcement, instilling in them the basics, forget about tricks, you want this massive pooch to walk correctly on the lead not perform parlour tricks.
They are dominant by nature so need to understand from an early age their position in the house and that can never, ever, be the boss. Everyone in the household needs to be onboard with this because they will try to push boundaries, especially in adolescence.
Check out local obedience classes before bringing your new puppy home they will help with socialisation and build the skills you’ll need to train your gentle giant. Some good books on training your Bullmastiff include:
Do they need much grooming?
A Bullmastiff has an easy-care coat a daily rub down and weekly brush is usually enough to keep it in good condition. Like most short-haired breeds they shed all year round though not excessively. Many Bullmastiffs suffer from skin allergies and may need to bathed regularly with a medicated or hypoallergenic shampoo.
The loose skin and folds around the eyes and the facial area can become dirty and need regular attention to prevent them from becoming sore and starting to smell, clean weekly using one of the many cleansers available such as an oatmeal, baking soda dog facial cleanser which is suitable for sensitive skin.
Also, make sure the ears are kept clean and free of debris and as this breed doesn’t require much walking it is important to keep nails trim. Being a dominant breed Bullmastiffs often don’t like these sessions so it is important to get them used to being handled from an early age.
Not only does it get them used to the process but grooming is very therapeutic for dog and owner and can be used as bonding time.
Do they need much exercise?
A Bullmastiff is not an energetic dog, a couple of daily walks should suffice but he is a muscular breed and does need some regular exercise to keep him healthy, active and lean.
Although a large breed Bullmastiffs should have good muscle tone and not be fat, as this can lead to health problems. They can be lazy if you let them so it is a good idea to occupy them with play sessions or obedience training in between walks.
Because Bullmastiffs are so sensitive, feeding the correct diet and amount of food is essential for a healthy dog. The breeder should give you information on what food your puppy has been weaned on and it is vital to make any changes to diet slowly and not overfeed.
Bullmastiffs are susceptible to bone and joint problems and rapid growth can exacerbate these problems and as with a lot of deep-chested breeds they can suffer from bloat so mustn’t eat too quickly.
They do well on a raw diet or high-quality dog food. It is preferable to feed your Bullmastiff a few small meals a day rather than large ones to prevent digestive problems and bloat.
A popular misconception is that because these are large dogs they cost a fortune to feed, in fact, they are not greedy or energetic dogs and will eat less than some Labradors. Feeding a good quality kibble or raw food will cost between £8-£20 a week. Remember not to overdo the treats a healthy Bullmastiff is a lean one.
Are they a healthy breed?
Generally, a healthy breed, however, as with all large dogs Bullmastiffs are susceptible to joint problems so it is important to ensure they don’t become overweight. Common health problems for Bullmastiffs can include:
This breed has sensitive skin and can be prone to rashes, irritation, and gradual loss of hair, they are also prone to allergies and can suffer reactions to detergent, household chemicals, additives, pollen or dust which can cause bacterial infections (Pyoderma) It is essential to keep all bedding clean to prevent flare-ups.
A change in diet is often successful if your pooch suffers allergic reactions and human allergy tablets such as Piriton can help but some Bullmastiffs may need long-term treatment with steroids to combat the problem.
An inherited condition suffered by many of the larger breeds. Hip Dysplasia is quite common in Bullmastiffs and is the failure of one or both joints to develop correctly. Although genetic it can be worsened by factors such as obesity, rapid growth, and injuries sustained through falling or jumping.
Signs of the condition include:
For pets that struggle with climbing heights at home, you should look into buying steps and stairs.
If it is suspected your Bullmastiff suffers from Hip Dysplasia, he will need to be x-rayed under anaesthetic.
Hip Dysplasia is extremely painful for your beloved pet and it can be distressing for the owner watching their faithful friend suffer, but there are things you can do to help.
Because the condition is a form of degenerative arthritis, joint supplements such as YuMove by Lintbells can help, as can adding natural supplements to food such as Omega 3 fatty acids. It’s been found that 75% of dogs with Hip Dysplasia lead normal lives using the correct supplements some simple ways their owners can relieve discomfort include
For severe cases, there are several surgeries available similar to human ones including hip replacements. These are expensive and can run into thousands of pounds.
This condition is very common in large and giant breeds and surprisingly is not the same as Hip Dysplasia. The elbow is a complex joint and depends on the joining together correctly of 3 separate bones. If they do not form perfectly it creates stress on various parts of the joint which causes lameness and pain.
Commonly known as bloat this is an extremely serious life-threatening condition that requires immediate treatment. It mainly affects larger deep-chested breeds and usually occurs in older dogs.
The stomach becomes distended with gas normally as a result of gulping down too much food if Volvulus then occurs (The stomach twists or rotates) it results in complete obstruction of the stomach which in turn blocks the flow of blood causing the stomach and spleen to shut down, the animal rapidly goes into shock, if you’re suspect your Bullmastiff has bloat it is essential to get them to the Vet immediately.
Signs of Bloat include:
Your vet will begin treatment by administering IV fluids and steroids for the shock, to stabilize the dog. They will then decompress the stomach by passing a tube into the abdomen to release the gas. Depending on the severity of the twist surgery may be required. Once bloat has occurred it is likely to happen again so many vets usually recommend a gastropexy, where the stomach is sutured into position to prevent it from twisting again.
- Feed frequent small meals 3 – 5 times a day
- Invest in a slow feeder bowl to prevent gulping
- Limit drinking – do not let Fido drink gallons at a time or straight after food
- Don’t allow to roll about immediately after food
Like us humans our canine friends can suffer from various forms of cancer and the same as their owners, treatments have varying degrees of success. Types of cancer common in Bullmastiffs include
- Osteosarcoma – Bone cancer is more common in giant and larger breeds and is particularly aggressive spreading quickly to other organs. Although it can be treated with surgery and/or Chemotherapy the outlook is rarely good.
- Lymphosarcoma – The third most common type of cancer suffered by dogs affects the lymphoid tissues which are present throughout the body including the liver, bone marrow, and spleen. Although this is also an aggressive form of the disease Chemotherapy is an extremely successful option with up 80% of dogs going into remission after treatment.
- Mast Cell Tumours – Accounting for up to 20% of skin tumours found in dogs mast cell tumours, as the name implies. form on mast cells: These are part of the immune system and are associated with the body’s reaction to inflammation or allergies, which unfortunately are quite common in Bullmastiffs. Most tumours occur in the skin (Grade 1) and can be surgically removed relatively easily. If they extend into the subcutaneous tissue below the skin (Grade 2) treatment is much less predictable and if they have spread to the internal organs (Grade 3) the prognosis is much less favourable.
This condition is common and affects a wide variety of breeds including short-nosed and giant breeds. Facial shape seems to be one of the main causes. In Mastiffs, the ligaments around the eye are relatively loose as with all wrinkled breeds, causing the outer edge of the eyelid to fold inward which subsequently causes irritation by the eyelash.
This results in pus or mucus discharged from the corner of the eye. If left untreated it can cause the cornea to rupture resulting in loss of sight. Treatment is fairly simple if diagnosed early and involves a couple of sutures to keep the eyelid in place
PRA (Progressive Retinal Atrophy)
This condition affects Mastiff type breeds and is an inherited eye disease. Symptoms usually present around 18 months with the loss of night vision progressing to total blindness. The time this takes depends on the severity it can be as little as a few months or take years. There is no treatment at present but it is not painful and most dogs adjust gradually to losing their sight.
Temperament – Are they good with children?
Good-natured, confident, loyal and loving a properly trained Bullmastiff is a joy. If you want a laid-back couch potato for your canine companion, they are a perfect choice and enjoy nothing better than cuddles on the sofa.
They are very protective of their family and can be wary of strangers so it is important to expose them to as many situations and different people while they are young. Bred to be independent they do not suffer from separation anxiety like some breeds and are happy to be left alone for a few hours as long as they receive attention when you return home.
Bullmastiffs generally adore children and are very patient with them they are fiercely protective though so if other children are in the home and play becomes rough they may intervene which could be a potential disaster.
Some breeders recommend never placing the dominant puppy in the litter in homes with children. It really is all about training, a dominant breed, rules need to be established from the second you bring your puppy home so he learns his position in the household and what behaviour is acceptable.
Bullmastiff puppies grow very large very quickly and are like “Bulls in a china shop” for the first couple of years so can inadvertently knock over or hurt a small child easily. Unless you are experienced with the breed and the training needed they are not recommended for homes with small children.
Bullmastiffs can be dog aggressive and often will not tolerate dogs of the same sex. Having 2 males in the household is asking for trouble, a Bullmastiff battle is something no sane person would want to break up. Even if they are socialised and normally Ok with other dogs it is essential they are always kept on a leash as even if they do not instigate a fight they can easily seriously injure or kill a smaller dog.
Although they may be tolerant of the family cat they usually will not accept other animals on their property and will chase intruders away, therefore, a strong high fence is essential to protect neighbours, their kids, and pets.
Male V Female
Many people presume, wrongly that purchasing a female puppy will ensure a sweet, less aggressive more compliant dog. Here’s the thing; they’re not called bitches for nothing! Surprisingly males are actually more affectionate, more eager to please and more attached to their owners than the opposite sex who like human females are subject to mood swings. More fights will break out between 2 females and they can be more territorial and stubborn than the boys.
There is also the question of sexual behaviour an un-neutered male will be more territorial and dominant than a neutered one and let’s be honest nobody wants 9 stone of muscle humping their leg. An un-neutered female will be hormonal twice a year and leave a bloody discharge around the home. These things need to be taken into consideration.
There is a lot of controversy regarding early neutering of large breeds as some believe it hinders growth and causes certain health problems so get as much information as possible from the breeder and your local vet. It costs about half as much to castrate a male than spay a female.
What is the cost of owning this dog?
Make no bones about it the Bullmastiff is an expensive dog to own. A quality puppy will cost upwards of £1000 and they are one of the top 5 most expensive breeds to insure with prices up to £100 per month for a fully comprehensive life insurance.
Of course, there are cheaper options but vet bills for this breed can be enormous so it is advisable to do some research and make sure you are fully covered. Food shouldn’t be too expensive but Bullmastiffs can be prone to allergies and sometimes need special diets which can drastically increase the price.
Worming and flea treatments will also cost more as the dosage depends on size and weight. Collars, beds, toys all have to be super-sized so will also cost extra. You also need to take into account micro-chipping, neutering, annual boosters so in total, you could be looking at anything from £50-£200+ a month.
Is a this the right breed for you?
- Dominant and strong-willed
- Need little walking
- Needs extensive training
- Great guard dog
- Drools, snores and is quite gassy
- Loving and incredibly loyal
- Expensive to own
- Don’t mind being home alone
- Dog Aggressive
- Extremely Powerful
How big do they get?
Although they are the smallest of the Mastiff-type breeds they still grow to be large dogs standing well over 2 feet at the shoulders and weighing around 120-30lbs lbs which is over 8 stone.
How much is a puppy?
Prices vary but you can expect to pay around £1,000+ for a pedigree puppy from a breeder. It is important you choose a reputable breeder that has performed the necessary screening of the parents to prevent future large vet bills.
Do they shed?
Yes, although not heavily, they shed all year a daily rub-down and weekly brush should be enough to keep shedding to a minimum.
How to train to be a guard dog
Bullmastiffs do not need any training to be a guard dogs, it is in their nature to be protective of their family, they make excellent guard dogs and have been used as such for thousands of years.
How much do they weigh?
Males weigh between 110lbs (50kg) and 130lbs (58kg) with females slightly lighter. It is important not to let your Bullmastiff become overweight as it can seriously cause health issues.
Are they aggressive?
Although they look formidable Bullmastiffs are not aggressive dogs, most are docile, gentle and kind making them fantastic family pets. However, they must be socialised early to prevent dog aggression and being territorial, can become aggressive if left alone or chained for long periods.
Is this breed a good family dog?
Yes, they are great with kids. loyal and loving with their families however they are a giant dog with an independent streak so not recommended for first-time owners as they need persistent training and early socialisation to ensure a well-mannered adult.
Bullmastiffs come in 3 colours, red, brindle or fawn with a darker muzzle and ears, occasionally they may have a small patch of white on the chest.
Good with kids?
Bullmastiffs are excellent with children and fiercely protective although they are so large and heavy that even a nudge or accidental head butt can inflict damage to a small child. As with any dog, they should never be left unsupervised with children or used as a babysitter.
Bullmastiffs are renowned for the square set to their heads which is achieved in part by their ears framing the face. As puppies, especially when teething, the ears are often rolled back or what is called “flying” and this needs to be addressed by taping to get the desired look. It doesn’t hurt or cause any discomfort to the puppy. Find out more about ear-taping here.
How much does this dog eat?
They are a large dog so eat a lot, between 4-8 cups of good quality kibble divided into small regular meals throughout the day. Always check the reverse of packaging for recommended feeding guides.
There is a misconception that Bullmastiffs are not the brightest of dogs and while they don’t possess the intelligence of a Border Collie and can be quite clumsy they are often cleverer than assumed. They were bred to think independently and are extremely strong-willed. This stubborn streak can come across as them not understanding what you want them to do, but is more likely they understand perfectly and just don’t see the point of repeatedly giving you their paw.
How to find a reputable breeder
There are a number of breed clubs and associations that can give you information on the breed and recommend reputable breeders of Bullmastiffs.
Social Media and Forums are a great resource for finding puppies these days with hundreds of breed-specific groups you can get involved in, lots of people can recommend reputable breeders and know of Bullmastiff puppies for sale.
Make sure you have long conversations with the breeder and see the puppies in a home environment with both parents if possible and definitely the mother. There are a number of health tests so make sure everything is in order before.
Good as a first dog?
This is not a good idea. Bullmastiffs are a large powerful dogs with a willful streak, that need a lot of training and socialisation to produce a well-adjusted adults. They are more suited to experienced owners.
Are they hard to train?
In a word, yes! They are very strong-willed and boundaries need to be set early on in life because give them an inch and they will take a mile. They can be eager to please but need consistent firm training and patience.
They do not respond well to harsh training methods or shouting. A local obedience class is probably the best place to start as this will give the puppy socialisation skills too.
Are ear problems common?
Like most “drop-eared” breeds Bullmastiffs can be prone to contracting ear infections so it is important to clean them regularly.
Do these dogs drool a lot?
Yes! so if you’re house-proud or dislike streaks of drool on your clothes a Bullmastiff is not the dog for you.
When to neuter?
There is a bit of controversy about this as some experts are saying that neutering too early can stunt growth as hormone levels are reduced. Talk to the breeder and your vet about it and do your own research before making a decision.
Between male or female which make better pets?
Both make good pets with the proper training. Boys tend to be more affectionate, exuberant and love attention from the whole family. Girls can be more reserved and moody and tend to bond more strongly with one member of the household. Both will be strong-willed but females tend to be more cunning at getting their own way.
How to pick the best puppy in litter
A lot of people recommend letting the pup choose you but all this does is ensure the dominant, pushy, puppies are chosen before gentler less enthusiastic pups sitting patiently waiting for attention.
These balls of energy that tug on your shoelaces growling, instigate all the rough and tumble and bully their siblings might seem incredibly cute but they can be difficult to train. Give each puppy a fair chance and choose one that isn’t the dominant one in the litter or the opposite end of the spectrum. A puppy should be inquisitive, friendly and look healthy.
Where to find this breed for adoption
There are breed-specific rescues dedicated to the breed but it is possible your local shelter might have information on Bullmastiffs that need rehoming so give them a call. If you are adopting a Bullmastiff try to find out as much as possible about the dog’s history.
There are 2 simple rules to housebreaking any dog the first is confinement I know it might seem harsh confining a puppy to a crate or kitchen but unless you are watching and interacting with him constantly, he will go to the toilet in the wrong place and the bad habit has started.
The second is providing access to a toilet area. You can do this by taking him outside every couple of hours, after feeding, after waking or you can provide indoor area puppy pads, papers etc gradually progressing to going outside. Housebreaking any puppy takes patience but most dogs learn pretty quickly.
A Bullmastiff is a sensitive dog that loves human companionship and affection he might look tough but he doesn’t do well living outdoors and being left alone or outside for long periods or used purely as a guard will increase aggressive tendencies.
As with most of the mastiff and bully breeds irresponsible ownership contributes to most behavioural issues. These dogs need to respect their owners and be trained from an early age producing well behaved, laid back, loving family pets.
Owning a Bullmastiff is a big commitment they are strong and powerful in body and mind. They cost a lot to keep and they are not the breed for first-time dog owners, however, with the proper training, this dog can be a very well-adjusted, loyal and loving family pet.