1. Key Breed Facts
2. Breed Characteristics
7. Intelligence / Trainability
8. Children and Other Pets
10. Caring for a Bullmastif
14. Average Cost to keep/care for a Bullmastif
Bullmastiffs are powerful looking dogs that are a result of crossing an Old English Mastiff with a Bulldog. Originally bred to help gamekeepers track down poachers, these large dogs have become popular companions not only here in the UK, but elsewhere in the world too. They are intelligent and alert characters making them easy to train, but they do like to know why they are doing anything which is something to bear in mind when training a Bullmastiff. They are known to be high-spirited and quickly become devoted members of a family always ready to protect the people they love and their property.
It is thought that dogs of this "type" have been around for hundreds of years both in England and elsewhere in Europe. They were highly prized for their hunting and guarding abilities. The Bullmastiff came about by crossing Mastiff type dogs with Bulldogs, but back in the 17th and 18th centuries, they did not look like the modern Bullmastiff we see today with dogs looking looked more like a Staffordshire Bull Terrier back then. They were a popular choice with gamekeepers who needed strong, powerful looking dogs to help them keep poachers at bay.
However, it's also thought that over time other dogs were used to develop the breed which includes Bloodhounds, St Bernards and Great Danes. Efforts were made to standardise the breed in the early twentieth century with enthusiasts promoting the breed as much as they could. However, the Bullmastiff was only recognised as a breed in its own right in 1925. That same year, the British Bullmastiff League was formed although at the time it was known as the Midland Bullmastiff Club and the first official breed standard was established.
Although the dogs we see today do not resemble the first Bullmastiffs to be bred, their intelligence, their high spirit and the devotion they show towards their owners remains the same which is just one of the reasons why the breed continues to be a popular choice with people the world over.
Height at the withers: Males 64 - 69 cm, Females 61 - 66 cm
Average weight: Males 50 - 59 kg, Females 41 - 54 kg
Bullmastiffs are muscular, powerful and impressive looking dogs that boast devoted natures. They have large, square heads and when alert or interested by something, wrinkles appear on their faces. They have a very pronounced stop and quite short muzzles with broad noses and wide nostrils. Eyes are either dark or hazel in colour and set wide apart on a dog's head with a very obvious furrow in between them.
Ears are a distinct V shape, folded well back and set wide and high on a dog's head. Their ears are small and boast being a slightly deeper colour than the rest of a dog’s body. Their jaw can be very slightly undershot although the more level it is the better. A Bullmastiff boasts strong teeth that are set well apart. Their necks are arched, muscular and moderate in length.
Bullmastiffs have wide and deep chests that are well let down in between their front legs which adds to their powerful appearance. They have a deep brisket with muscular, sloping and powerful shoulders. Their front legs are straight and very powerful looking, set wide apart. Their back is short and level which gives these dogs a very compact look about them.
Hindquarters are muscular with dogs boasting deep flanks and strong, muscular back legs. Their feet are very cat-like being well arched and boasting round toes and very hard paw pads with dark coloured nails. A Bullmastiff's tail is set high and is thicker at the base before tapering to the tip which dogs carry straight or slightly curved.
When it comes to their coat, the Bullmastiff boasts a short and hard very weather-resistant coat that lies close and flat to their body. Accepted breed colours includes the following:
Bullmastiffs can have slight white markings on their chests which are acceptable as a breed standard. Their muzzles must be black with the colour blending in with their coats towards their eyes and with dark markings found around their eyes, their colouring adds to a Bullmastiff’s expressive face.
The Bullmastiff is known to be an extremely loyal and courageous dog that forms a very strong bond with their owners. They need to be well socialised and correctly trained from a young age so they learn their place in the "pack" and who is the alpha dog in a household or they have a tendency to show a more dominant side to their nature. As such, these large and powerful dogs need to have an experienced handler who knows how to manage them.
With this said, the Bullmastiff is not a good choice for the first time owner because they might just get the better of them. These dogs are quite high energy and highly intelligent which means they need to be given the right sort of direction from an early age and then throughout their lives for them to be truly well-rounded dogs.
Bullmastiffs tend to be wary around people they don't know and will generally only tolerate being around strangers when they have been introduced to them by their owners. This is just one of the reasons they make such brilliant watch dogs.
Although the Bullmastiff is an intelligent dog, they are known to have quite a stubborn streak in them which is why careful, yet firm handling is needed right from the word go if you want to share your home with one of them. It's also worth bearing in mind that when they are puppies and adolescents, the Bullmastiff can be a little headstrong, very lively and boisterous which makes getting them to focus during their training a little more challenging.
Bullmastiffs are not that tolerant of children and as such any interaction between them has to be well supervised by an adult. They are not the best choice for families with young children because an adolescent Bullmastiff tends to be a little too boisterous which could end up with them knocking a young child over and injuring them. They also tend to become extremely protective of their owners and their children which can lead to problems when anyone visits their home.
As such, Pets4homes advises that Bullmastiffs are not the best choice for families with babies or very young children. Anyone who already shares a home with a Bullmastiff and who have younger children should always make sure they are never left together unattended. It is also crucial for parents to teach young children how to behave around dogs and when to stay away from them, particularly when there is food around or during playtime.
They are generally very good around other animals and pets, but with this said, Bullmastiffs need to be extremely well socialised from a young age to be truly well-rounded, relaxed characters around other dogs, animals and pets. Care needs to be taken whenever they encounter any dogs and other animals they don’t already know.
For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.
The average life expectancy of a Bullmastiff is between 8 and 10 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.
Like so many other pure breeds, they are known to suffer from a few hereditary health issues which are worth knowing about if you are planning share your home with one of these large and lively dogs. The health issues most commonly seen in the breed include the following:
As with any other breed, Bullmastiffs need to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, they need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.
Bullmastiffs are relatively easy maintenance in the grooming department all thanks to their short, tight coat. This means a weekly session using a grooming mitt will keep any dead hair off the furniture and their coats looking good and gleaming. It's also a good idea to keep an eye on a dog's ears and to clean them when necessary to prevent any build-up of wax which could result in an ear infection taking hold. This type of ear infection can be notoriously hard to clear up.
A Bullmastiff needs to be given at least an hour to two hour's exercise a day. However, any dogs under a year old should not be taken on very long walks because their joints and bones are still developing. Putting too much strain on them could result in dogs developing joint issues later on in their lives.
Being intelligent dogs, the Bullmastiff really likes to be given a lot of mental stimulation to be truly happy, well-rounded dogs and this includes playing lots of interactive games with their owners and families. They also benefit from being allowed to roam around a back garden as often as possible providing the fencing is very secure.
If you get a Bullmastiff puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive problems and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change it again.
Feeding a Bullmastiff can prove a bit challenging because they are known to be a little demanding. This means setting up a feeding program and to stick to it to prevent any upsets. It's best to feed a mature Bullmastiff twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the evening, making sure it's good quality food that meets all their nutritional requirements. It's also important not to feed a dog just before they go out for a walk or when they just get back from one. The reason being that Bullmastiffs are prone to suffering from bloat (gastric torsion) and if they eat when they are still hot or just before they go out for any exercise, it increases the chance of them suffering from this painful and serious disorder.
It's also important that dogs be given the right amount of exercise so they burn off any excess calories or they might gain too much weight which can lead to all sorts of health issues. Obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years so it's important to keep an eye on their waistline from the word go.
If you are looking to buy a Bullmastiff, you would need to pay anything from £800 to over £1000 for a well-bred pedigree puppy. The cost of insuring a male 3-year-old Bullmastiff in northern England would be £56.54 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £109.10 a month (quote as of March 2016). When insurance companies calculate a pet's premium, they factor in several things which includes where you live in the UK and a dog's age and whether or not they have been neutered or spayed.
When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry, to feed your dog throughout their lives making sure it suits the different stages of their lives. This would set you back between £50 - £80 a month. On top of all of this, you would need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with a Bullmastiff and this includes their initial vaccinations, their annual boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying your dog when the time is right and their yearly health checks, all of which quickly adds up to over a £1400 a year.
As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for a Bullmastiff would be between £120 to £200 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a pedigree Bullmastiff puppy.
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