Back in 1795, the records show that the Bullmastiff was created by breeding the Mastiff dog with the Bulldog. The mix was 60% Mastiff to 40% Bulldog, and before they could register as purebreds, they had to have three generations of breeding. While originally used to track and hold poachers, they have also been used in army and police work and have been used as watchdogs by the Diamond Society of South Africa. Today, the Bullmastiff makes a devoted, good-natured pet. They look ferocious and can be when provoked, but normally they are docile and affectionate. They have a soft side and are tolerant of children, and they love, even crave, human leadership. The breed needs a strong master who is fair and consistent with the rules, an owner who is a leader that the dog can respect. They respond well to training, but are sensitive to the tone of your voice, and need to be spoken to assertively but not harshly. These dogs make ideal family pets who will protect their family but are not aggressive unless threatened. They do need a strong hand to guide them, but if socialised well when young and given guidance they make a loyal and devoted pet.
The name comes from the cross breeding that produces this breed, which was the Mastiff and the Bulldog, hence the name Bullmastiff. The breeding program is recorded as far back as 1795 as there was a need for a canine that could be used as a watchdog for games keepers. The Mastiff was large but not aggressive enough, while the Bulldog while brave and tenacious, though lacked the size to knock down and hold a man. These dogs are prized in modern day work with the police and the army because of their imposing stature and appearance, which is a deterrent itself for wrong doers. Underneath their ferocious appearance, these dogs are mellow and loving, reliable with family members, and a great companion and guardian. They are ‘people’ dogs and want to be with the family, and share the comforts of indoor living. But they do have a strong temperament and can have protective instincts when encountering strangers. They need extensive exposure to friendly people so that they learn the normal behavior of the ‘good guys’.
While the Bullmastiff is a massive, powerfully built dog, it is not a cumbersome animal. The shoulders are muscular and slightly sloping, while the hindquarters are broad and well proportioned. It has a large, broad head that is wrinkled and the muzzle is broad, deep and usually a darker color than the body, while the wide nose is black and has large nostrils. The jaws are powerful, and the teeth often meet in a level or undershot bite. The Bullmastiff has medium sized eyes that are a deep dark hazel color, and they have an alert expression. Their v-shaped ears are set high and wide and are carried close to the cheeks, giving the head a square boxy appearance. The neck on the Bullmastiff is slightly arched, muscular and strong. The tail is held high and is thicker at the base while tapering to the tip. The tail is either straight or curved and reaches the hocks. A straight back that is level between the withers and loin, and a short, dense coat that is slightly rough to the touch rounds off this impressive dog. Strong legs with large paws to support their weight completes the picture.
The Bullmastiff has a short, dense coat ideal for protection from inclement weather. They don’t shed their coat heavily and are easy to groom with a daily brushing using a rubber curry comb. They only need bathing if they have rolled in the mud or something smelly. During routine maintenance, it is advisable to check the ears weekly and clean the ears if needed. If the dog’s ears smell bad or are filled with a waxy material that looks like coffee grounds, your pet may have an infection or mite infestation, so a trip to the veterinarian will be required. It is a good idea to get the dog used to regular grooming and a physical check for cuts, sores, and the like, as it will make trips to the veterinarian that much easier if they are used to their ears, feet and mouth being handled. Brush your dog’s teeth, and trim his nails before he starts ‘clicking’ on the floor in the house. They need exercise but not too much that will cause damage to their soft growing bones, joints and ligaments. Adult Bullmastiffs need a lot more exercise to keep them in shape as they can put on weight easily, but be careful in hot or humid weather as they overheat rapidly.