Bullmastiff Dog Breed Information – An Imposing Protector

Bullmastiff Dog

The Gamekeepers Night Dog.

The Bullmastiff is also called the “Gamekeepers Night Dog’. The breed is gentle, quiet and devoted to those he loves,  but if threatened, he turns fearless. At upwards of 130 pounds or more, this powerful dog is confident, stubborn yet calm and gentle.

But don’t confuse this mellow adult demeanor for the antics of a puppy. Puppies can be rowdy but will calm down as they mature, but if you’re waiting for that great adult temperament, be advised that they may not become fully mature until after their second birthday.

A Bullmastiff standing sideways to the camera in a wood on an autumn day, looking back over its shoulder.

Expect a puppy to be messy and clumsy, with a personality that could dominate you if you allow them to do so.

Bullmastiff Temperament

Bullmastiffs are intensely loyal and do not like being left alone for extended periods of time. Their stubborn temperament may cause issues especially when their agenda does not always mesh with yours.

They are great at testing the authority of family members, so a strong assertive owner who will provide excellent training and socialization is a must. 

These dogs can sense if you are weak, timid, or likely to back down, but this does not mean that training methods should be harsh. 

They respond well to positive reward based training and do well with a structured, consistent approach.

They generally do well with children but their size and strength may be too much for small children.  It is best to supervise interactions with very young children. 

Although tolerant of children,  they are not excessively playful and children need to be taught how to respect the dog’s need for rest. 

Toddlers are easily knocked over or pushed accidentally so take that into consideration when choosing a giant sized breed for a growing family.

A Bullmastiff running on grass with a white fence in the background

They do well with other pets, but may become aggressive with other male dogs especially strange dogs.  If two dogs are eventually on your radar, a male, and a female dog would do well together assuming they will be altered. 

These dogs need daily exercise in the form of long walks but a romp in the yard is always a fun time for these dogs.  Their exercise needs are moderate considering their size, but daily exercise will help maintain their muscle tone and keep them healthy.

Since they are a relatively low energy dog, they do very well in apartments as long as they get a couple of daily walks. They are adaptable and do equally well in a rural or suburban setting.  They do not, however, deal well with extremes of temperature.

These are not the type of dogs that can be left outdoors in hot or cold conditions. Air-conditioned areas are recommended during the summer months because they are prone to heat exhaustion or heat stroke.  A warm bed is appreciated in the colder months.

If these dogs are left alone for too long a period of time, either outdoors or in, their boredom and loneliness will result in destructive behaviors. Please do not let that become a problem for you.

Though reserved with strangers, they do have some impressive territorial and guarding instincts. Having been developed since the 19th century to help gamekeepers protect the lands from poachers, they can be taught to attack on command. They are not a vicious breed though, and would likely subdue an intruder rather than hurting him. 

Not the easiest dog to train, they do respond to training by their special people.  They love their family and want to please.  They have a sensitive nature and any harsh punishment is likely to backfire on you.

The AKC standard describes the Bullmastiff as;

“fearless and confident, yet docile… showing great strength, endurance and alertness.”

They are intelligent and likely to want to rule the roost if you let them.  Assure your dog that every human in the family no matter how small is to be respected.

If you are looking for a giant breed dog that does well with children, is calm and requires little in the way of grooming, this might be your breed. They make an excellent companion for an experienced owner who has the time and inclination to train and socialize.

Ongoing training is required though, so don’t expect a quick puppy kindergarten class to complete his education.

Vital Statistics

Weight: 90-130 pounds (41-59 kg.)

Height: 24-27 Inches (61 to 60 cm)

Life Expectancy: Under 10 years

Country of Origin:  England

Recognition:  FCI:  Group 2,  AKC:  Working, ANKC:  Utility, CKC:  Working, KC:  Working, NZCK:  Utility, UKC:  Guardian


Colors:  Six colors Fawn

  • Fawn Brindle
  • Red
  • Red Brindle
  • Red Fawn
  • Red Fawn Brindle

Markings can include:

  • Black Mask
  • Fawn Mask
  • Black Mask with White Markings
  • Black Marking

Bullmastiff – Ease of Training

A Bullmastiff Puppy standing against a black background
Bullmastiff puppy

Bullmastiffs are independent thinkers, trained to guard and protect gamekeepers from hostile poachers. 

They do not bark much, but are stubborn and will question the authority of any owner who seems fragile or timid.

The early and continual socialization that begins the day the puppy comes home is essential in any breed but especially critical in massive breeds used and bred to be guardians.

They are quiet and calm but will need extra help when learning new skills.  They do respond well to positive training approaches that incorporate food rewards.

Formal training is recommended first as puppy classes and then as obedience training for this and similar breeds.  This is not the best choice for someone who has never had a dog before.

The ideal owner will have had experience owning, caring for, and training dogs and will provide a consistent yet gentle approach that gains the respect of the dog.

Bullmastiff Protection

These dogs can provide plenty of protection for you and your family.  They were developed to do so in nineteenth century England.  They are gentle and calm and totally devoted to their family. But strangers do not receive such a warm welcome.

While not vicious nor aggressive, they will provide a substantial deterrent to any would-be intruders. They are also willing to risk their lives to protect those they love. Early training and socialization is a must for these dogs to teach them the difference between what is a good and not so good human being. 

Grooming the Bullmastiff

The Bullmastiff has a coat that is short and weather resistant and very easy to manage.  They need a good brushing about once a week using a bristle brush, fine-toothed comb or a hound glove. 

A flea comb can be used to look for fleas and/or ticks.  Bathing periodically is also recommended.

Beyond that, their nails will need to be clipped to filed down using a grinder and their teeth brushed. Their ears should be checked periodically and cleaned of excess ear wax and debris. This will help infections from developing.

These dogs do shed, so the more you brush, the less hair you will find on you, your furniture and your carpets.

  They are also droolers, so to remain slobber free, it is always a good idea to have a small towel nearby to wipe off the drool.

History of the Bullmastiff

Even though the Mastiff is one of England’s oldest breeds, the Bullmastiff is a relatively recent addition to the dog world.

The word Mastiff is derived from the French word “mastin” meaning accustomed to the hand. Mastiffs are a group of dogs that were once called Molossians, and any giant breed regardless of their appearance or the type of work that they did was classified as a Molossian breed.

Many of the original Molossian dogs are from Asia and have been around since antiquity.

But the Bullmastiff is only about 60% Mastiff, the rest of his genes comes from the English Bulldog, but not the Bulldog we recognize today. Rather the 19th century bulldog, which was a vastly different looking dog than today’s version.

The modern day Olde English Bulldogge is believed to be the closest recreation of what was used in the development of the Bullmastiff.

Bullmastiff history begins around the end of the nineteenth century, or 1860 to be exact.  Wealthy large-estate owners were having problems with poaching on their lands.

This landed gentry had massive estates that included forests teaming with wildlife.  The wildlife was needed by the owners to put meat on the table and provide food for their hundreds of servants.

Poaching at the time was a capital offense, and the Gamekeeper was responsible for catching those that poached on the landlord’s livestock.  Poachers could easily take animals, but they also put gamekeepers’ lives in danger. Poachers would rather kill the gamekeeper, than get caught poaching and facing the hangman.

Without the security systems we now take for granted, nineteen century gamekeepers needed something that could protect them AND protect the animals in the forests they were guarding.

They needed a courageous dog that could be very quiet, and attack on command if a poacher was seen. The dog needed to be powerful enough to subdue a man, without mauling him.

But such a dog did not exist.  YET . . . . .

The nineteenth-century version of the English Bulldog was much more ferocious than today’s version of the breed, BUT it wasn’t big enough, and the purebred Mastiff at the time was not fast enough nor aggressive enough.

So breeders of the day crossed the two, to create a dog that could do the job.

There is also some suggestions that gamekeepers used other breeds such as the Great Dane to add size to their dogs.

But before a breed can be accepted into a kennel club such as the Kennel Club in Britain or the American Kennel Club, they must breed true.  By this, I mean that the new breed must be bred to itself without the help of any outside breeds. It takes generations until this happens.

Rather than continually cross the two breeds, breeders tried to create a pure strain.  These dogs had to work at night, so a dark brindle colored hair was preferred to help the dog blend into his environment.  They became known as the Gamekeeper’s Night Dog.

The Bullmastiff is approximately 60 percent mastiff and 40 percent bulldog.  As poaching decreased, the dogs were also used as guards.

The resulting Bullmastiff was a powerful, strong but almost silent dog. The Gamekeeper could quietly work his way through a forest towards a poacher, confident that the dog would not betray his position. When close enough, the Bullmastiff would silently rush the poacher, grabbing him by the arm and keeping him down until the Gamekeeper arrived.

By 1924, the breed was pure and was recognized by the British Kennel Club.  The American Kennel Club followed in 1933.  Today, they are listed as number 44 in popularity in the United States by the AKC.

Even though the Mastiff is one of England’s oldest breeds, the Bullmastiff is a relatively recent addition to the dog world. 

Bullmastiff History – Read more

Bullmastiff Health

Like all breeds, the Bullmastiff is prone to certain genetic conditions.  If you are interested in the breed, you will want to know more about these problems, just so you can be on the lookout should your dog show some symptoms.

Bullmastiff Health – Read more

Famous Bullmastiff Dogs

Brutus – Bob Dylan’s dog in the 1980s

Butkus – Sylvester Stallone’s dog

Swagger – The live mascot of the Cleveland Browns


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