Key Breed Facts
Intelligence / Trainability
Children and Other Pets
Caring for a Bullmastiff
Average Cost to keep/care for a Bullmastiff
Breed Specific Buying Advice
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.
It is thought the Bullmastiff has the Molosser and the Alaunt in their lineage and that these two dogs were introduced to Britain around two thousand years ago. The Bullmastiff however, was created by crossing them with Old English Bulldogs because gamekeepers in the day wanted a strong, robust dog that was capable of not only guarding large flocks of livestock, but also of keeping poachers away. Over the years, these courageous, loyal dogs found their way into other environments which saw them working as sentries, guards as well as working alongside the police and the military
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 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 that were bred back in the day, 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 extremely weather-resistant close-lying coat. The accepted breed colours for Kennel Club registration are as follows:
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.
When a Bullmastiff moves they do so with a great sense of purpose and power. Their legs never cross over with their front right and left back leg moving at the same time. Dogs have a firm back with a tremendous amount of thrust coming from their hindquarters showing a lot of balance in a Bullmastiff's gait.
The Kennel Club frowns on all exaggerations and departures from the breed standard and would judge a fault on how much it affects a dog's overall health and wellbeing as well as their ability to work.
Males should have both testicles fully descended into their scrotums and it is worth noting that a Bullmastiff can be slightly heavier or lighter as well as a little shorter or taller than stated in the Kennel Club breed standard which is given as a guideline only.
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 can start 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.
Bullmastiffs are not the best choice for first time dog owners because they need to be correctly socialised, trained and handled by people who are familiar with their specific needs. Mastiffs are strong dogs that need to be taught the ground rules and who is alpha dog in a household or they may take on the role of dominant dog themselves which is something to be avoided at all costs.
Bullmastiffs have a strong prey drive and as such care must be taken when walking a dog off the lead in a public place to avoid any incidents and this includes in parks and through the countryside.
Bullmastiff puppies like all puppies are very playful, bouncy and boisterous which is why they are not that well suited to families with toddlers and very young children. They enjoy playing interactive games with their owners which includes things like "fetch" and catch the ball, but thanks to their size and the fact they are a brachycephalic breed, care should always be taken not to overdo things which could make it hard for a dog to breath.
Bullmastiffs are better suited to people who have secure back gardens rather than apartments because they need to be able to express themselves freely as often as possible which they can safely do in a well-fenced garden.
Bullmastiffs form strong ties with their families and dogs are never very happy when they find themselves left on their own for longer periods of time. They are better suited to people who either work from home or in households where one person stays at home when everyone else is out so they are never alone for any length of time which could see a dog suffering from separation anxiety. This can lead to them being destructive around the home which is a dog's way of relieving any stress they are feeling and a way to keep themselves entertained.
Bullmastiffs are not known to be "barkers" and will only typically voice an opinion to let an owner know when something they don't like is going on and when strangers are about. It is worth noting that these dogs were always trained not to bark and to go about their jobs of guarding quietly and to catch poachers rather than attack them.
Some Bullmastiffs like swimming and will take to the water whenever they can more especially when the weather is hot. However, if anyone who owns a dog that does not like water should never force them to go in because it would just end up scaring them. With this said, care should always be taken when walking a Mastiff off the lead anywhere near more dangerous watercourses just in case a dog decides to leap in and then needs rescuing. The other thing to bear in mind is that some Mastiffs have trouble breathing because they are a brachycephalic breed which can make swimming more challenging for them.
Bullmastiffs are natural watchdogs and would be quick off the mark to let an owner know when there are strangers about or when something they don't like is going on in their environment. Mastiffs do not need to be trained to guard or protect, because these are traits that are deeply embedded in a dog's psyche and as such by doing so it could mean a dog starts to show a more aggressive and dominant side to their nature.
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.
Mastiff puppies may be cute, but they must be taught the ground rules right from the word go so they understand the limits and boundaries that owners set for them because these cute puppies grow into a powerful, strong dogs. The first commands a puppy must be taught include the following:
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 very young children or toddlers 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 good around other animals and pets providing they are extremely socialised from a young enough age so they mature into truly well-rounded, relaxed characters no matter where they are taken. Care needs to be taken whenever they encounter any dogs and other animals they don’t already know and to carry out the introductions carefully.
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:
Extreme examples of Bullmastiffs come with many health issues more especially as they are a brachycephalic breed with a wide head and flatter muzzle which means they can have real trouble breathing. A dog's muzzle may be slightly shorter or longer than another dog's muzzle and the shorter it is, the more they are at risk of suffering from breathing difficulties which could be very severe leading to a Bullmastiff developing Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome.
Bullmastiffs have traditionally had their tails docked, a practice that has been going on throughout time. The reason spaniel's tails were docked was to prevent them from being damaged when dogs were flushing out and retrieving game in undergrowth. It was only in 1993, that a law was passed preventing anyone other than a vet from carrying out the procedure, but this was further changed when The Animal Health and Welfare Act (Scotland) came into effect in 2006 which invoked a total ban on tail docking unless for medical reasons. In other parts of the UK, the Animal Welfare Act came into effect in April 2007 which meant that dog's tails could no longer be docked unless they fell into the category of a specific "working" dog or for medical reasons.
Bullmastiff puppies would have been given their initial vaccinations before being sold, but it is up to their new owners to make sure they have their follow-up shots in a timely manner with the vaccination schedule for puppies being as follows:
There has been a lot of discussion about the need for dogs to have boosters. As such, it's best to talk to a vet before making a final decision on whether a dog should continue to have annual vaccinations which are known as boosters.
A lot of vets these days recommend waiting until dogs are slightly older before spaying and neutering them which means they are more mature before undergoing the procedures. As such they advise neutering males and spaying females when they are between the ages of 6 to 9 months old. Other vets recommend spaying and neutering dogs when they are 6 months old, but never any earlier unless it is for medical reasons.
Some Bullmastiffs gain weight after they have been spayed or neutered and it's important to keep an eye on a dog's waistline just in case they do. If a dog starts to put on weight it's important to adjust their daily calorie intake and to up the amount of exercise they are given. Older Bullmastiffs too are more prone to gaining weight and again it's essential they be fed and exercised accordingly because obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years. The reason being that it puts a lot of extra strain on a dog's internal organs including the heart.
Bullmastiffs are prone to suffering from allergies and skin issues because of the extra skin that forms folds on their faces which is why it's important for a dog to see a vet sooner rather than later if one flares up, bearing in mind that they are prone to suffering from conditions like eczema, dermatitis, alopecia, muzzle pyoderma. Allergies can be notoriously hard to clear up and finding the triggers can be challenging. With this said, a vet would be able to make a dog with an allergy more comfortable while they try to find out what the triggers might be for a dog's allergy. The most common triggers include the following:
All responsible Bullmastiff breeders would ensure that their stud dogs are tested for known hereditary and congenital health issues known to affect the breed by using the following scheme:
Apart from the standard breeding restrictions for all Kennel Club registered breeds, there are no other breed specific breeding restrictions for the Bullmastiff.
The Kennel Club strongly advises that all breeders including all Assured Breeders use the following test on their stud dogs:
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, bearing in mind that the breed is known to be prone to skin issues and allergies thanks to the folds and creases around a dog’s face. 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.
Bullmastiff puppies are boisterous and full of life which means it's essential for homes and gardens to be puppy-proofed well in advance of their arrival. A responsible breeder would have well socialised their puppies which always leads to more outgoing, confident and friendly dogs right from the word go. With this said, any puppy is going to feel vulnerable when they leave their mother and littermates which must be taken into account. The longer a puppy can remain with their mother, the better although it should never be for too long either.
It's best to arrange to pick puppy up when people in the home are going to be around for the first week or so which is the time needed for a puppy to settle in. Puppy-proofing the home and garden means putting away any tools and other implements that a boisterous puppy might injure themselves on. Electric wires and cables must be put out of their reach because puppies love chewing on things. Toxic plants should be removed from flowerbeds and the home too.
Puppies need to sleep a lot to grow and develop as they should which means setting up a quiet area that's not too out of the way means they can retreat to it when they want to nap and it's important not to disturb them when they are sleeping. It's also a good idea to keep "playtime" nice and calm inside the house and to have a more active "playtime" outside in the garden which means puppies quickly learn to be less boisterous when they are inside.
The documentation a breeder provides for a puppy must have all the details of their worming date and the product used as well as the information relating to their microchip. It is essential for puppies to be wormed again keeping to a schedule which is as follows:
There are certain items that new owners need to already have in the home prior to bringing a new puppy home. It's often a good idea to restrict how much space a puppy plays in more especially when you can't keep an eye on what they get up to bearing in mind that puppies are often quite boisterous which means investing in puppy gates or a large enough playpen that allows a Bullmastiff puppy the room to express themselves while keeping them safe too. The items needed are therefore, as follows:
All puppies are sensitive to noise including Bullmastiff puppies. It's important to keep the noise levels down when a new puppy arrives in the home. TVs and music should not be played too loud which could end up stressing a small puppy out.
As previously mentioned, Bullmastiff puppies would have been given their first vaccinations by the breeders, but they must have their follow up shots which is up to their new owners to organise. The vaccination schedule for puppies is as follows:
When it comes to boosters, it's best to discuss these with a vet because there is a lot of debate about whether a dog really needs them after a certain time. However, if a dog ever needed to go into kennels, their vaccinations would need to be
Older Bullmastiffs need lots of special care because as they reach their golden years, they are more at risk of developing certain health concerns. Physically, a Bullmastiff will start to have a greying muzzle, but there will be other noticeable changes too which includes the following:
Living with a Bullmastiff in their golden years means taking on a few more responsibilities, but these are easily managed and should include taking a look at their diet, the amount of exercise they are given, how often their dog beds need changing and keeping an eye on the condition of their teeth.
Older Bullmastiffs need to be fed a good quality diet that meets their needs at this stage of their lives all the while keeping a close eye on a dog's weight. A rough feeding guide for older Bullmastiffs is as follows bearing in mind they should be fed highly digestible food that does not contain any additives:
Older Bullmastiffs don't need to be given the same amount of daily exercise as a younger dog, but they still need the right amount of physical activity to maintain muscle tone and to prevent a dog from putting on too much weight. All dogs need access to fresh clean water and this is especially true of older dogs when they reach their golden years because they are more at risk of developing kidney disorders.
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.
However, because Bullmastiffs are so prone to develop skin issues on their faces and muzzles thanks to the folds, it is essential for the creases to be regularly cleaned to prevent a flare up. The folds provide the perfect environment for bacteria because they are warm and moist which is everything that bacteria can thrive in.
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.
Puppies need to be fed a highly nutritious, good quality diet for them to develop and grow as they should. As a rough guide, a Bullmastiff puppy can be fed the following amounts every day making sure their meals are evenly spread out throughout the day and it's best to feed them 3 or 4 times a day:
Once a Bullmastiff is 18 months old they can be fed adult dog food.
Once fully mature, an adult Bullmastiff must be fed a good quality diet to ensure their continued good health. As a rough guide, an adult Bullmastiff can be fed the following amounts every day:
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 £61.22 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £115.19 a month (quote as of October 2017). 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 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 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 well-bred, healthy Kennel Club registered pedigree Bullmastiff puppy.
When visiting and buying any puppy or dog, there are many important things to consider and questions to ask of the breeder/seller. You can read our generic puppy/dog advice here which includes making sure you see the puppy with its mother and to verify that the dog has been wormed and microchipped.
Bullmastiffs are an extremely popular breed both in the UK and elsewhere in the world which means that well-bred puppies command a lot of money. As such, with Bullmastiffs there is specific advice, questions and protocols to follow when buying a puppy which are as follows:
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