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Displaying all of the physical traits of a typical Molosser dog, the Bullmastiff is a powerfully built, large animal that was originally bred by English gamekeepers in the 19th Century to guard estates against poachers. The breed's ancestry features the English Mastiff and the Old English Bulldog and mastiff was recognised as a purebred by the Kennel Club in 1924.
A Molosser is a type of solidly built, muscular dog descended from the Molossus, a large shepherd dog from Ancient Epirus, now modern Greece and Albania. Molosser dogs include mastiffs, bulldogs and bull terriers.
As already mentioned, the Bullmastiff was originally developed from the Old English Bulldog and English Mastiff by gamekeepers in England to guard land and tackle poachers. Their fierce appearance belies a gentle nature and the dogs were trained not to bite intruders - merely to bring them down. When the demand for such dogs dwindled, the well-camouflaged brindle-coloured dog made way for the fawn coloured dogs that made excellent pets and great showing animals.
Today's mastiff makes a great family pet and thrives living with people.
Average height to withers: 25"-27" (dogs) 24"-26" (bitches)
Average weight: 50kg - 60kg (dogs) 45kg-54kg (bitches)
A very big dog, the Bullmastiff is well-muscled but composed and agile. As with all Molossers the mastiff is characterised by a lot of bone, drooping ears, a thick neck and a short muzzle.
The Bullmastiff is instantly recognised thanks to its wrinkly face, and broad, short snout that is usually darker in colour than the rest of its coat. The dog has a flat forehead with a medium stop and the nose is wide with large nostrils. The ears are set high and the eyes should be dark hazel. The back is quite short and flat between the shoulders and hips and the dogs has a short, rough coat that displays red, brindle or fawn colours with darker markings on the head. White is only permitted as a small patch on the chest.
A loyal and dedicated guard animal, the Bullmastiff is a dog that is affectionate, even-tempered and calm. However any owner should be aware that the Bullmastiff is brave when provoked and requires an experienced owner who will show him who's boss.
Although the dog is not likely to attack, it is more likely to wrestle an intruder and hold until his master arrives. That said, he is very patient with children who may like to rough and tumble, and this intelligent breed seems to know the difference between threat and play.
The breed is entirely dependant on human leadership and needs firm handling. However, be careful not to speak harshly to your Bullmastiff - he is sensitive, although an assertive tone should be used and he should know that you are the pack leader. Early obedience training is essential, as it training to walk on the lead. You do not want to be on the end of a lead that's being pulled by a Bullmastiff. He should always let his owner go through any entrance first too. In his mind the leader always goes first.
The Bullmastiff should always walk to heel and should be well socialised with people and other animals when young. He will tolerate other pets, but only as long as he's been well mixed as a pup. Owners should also be aware that the Bullmastiff does have a tendency to drool and snore.
The breed is not a difficult one to own, but it does require a firm hand so may not be the ideal dog for the first-time owner as he will quickly learn to take advantage of an inexperienced handler. He may appear wilful and perhaps even aggressive if not handled and socialised correctly. It is interesting to note that the Bullmastiff does not bark very much.
As a large breed, the Bullmastiff's lifespan is perhaps shorter than other, smaller breeds at seven or eight years.
The dog does not stop growing until about three-and-a-half years and exercise in the first 12 months should be limited as the breed is prone to some musculo-skeletal disorders.
Elbow and hip dysplasia include conditions such as regular dislocations and joint abnormalities and these are common in all large breeds. Limiting activity in the first year of life will help the bones and joints develop correctly and remain strong.
The Bullmastiff can also suffer from bloat - a condition affecting the gut that allows excessive gas to build up causing an overstretching of the intestinal organs. This means your dog should be fed small amounts two or three times a day, rather than one big meal, to allow him to digest and process the food more easily.
The mastiff can also display the symptoms of entropion - a painful condition where the eyelid folds inwards and irritates the surface of the eye. If caught early enough entropion can be corrected with a simple operation, however it can cause corneal ulcers and scarring, which can lead to further complications including blindness. Mastiffs can also suffer with other eye problems such as progressive retinal atrophy, which can also lead to blindness.
Hyperthyroidism also presents in the breed, as does lymphoma and arthritis.
Bullmastiffs are largely inactive in the home so can be kept in smaller dwellings, as long as they have access to some outside space. He should be given at least one good walk per day. If they are denied this they may develop unwanted boredom behaviours such as chewing.
The importance of training the dog to walk on a lead and obey his master cannot be overstated - a pulling mastiff is like trying to hold back a juggernaut - impossible and potentially very dangerous. They should also let their master through doors and other entrances first.
The dogs' short coat it easy to maintain and should be combed with a natural bristle brush and shampooed only occasionally. They are minimal shedders. The feet should be checked regularly as they carry all of the dog's considerable weight, and the nails should be kept neat and tidy.