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Bullmastiff - History and Health

Source: PetWave, Updated on July 16, 2015


The Bullmastiff was originally developed in England around the 1860’s from a cross between the Mastiff and the Bulldog. Bullmastiffs were specifically created to quietly monitor large estates and game preserves to keep poachers at bay. They had the ability to track independently, cover short distances quickly and silently and pin and hold poachers without mauling them. To this day, Bullmastiffs typically do not bark unless they feel the need to sound an alarm or defend their territory. While the penalties for poaching were severe towards the end of the nineteenth century, it still was difficult for landowners to control the poaching population without the help of powerful, courageous and protective dogs.

Gamekeepers first looked to the Mastiff to fill this role, but it proved too large and slow to accomplish the necessary tasks and was not inherently aggressive enough. The English Bulldog was tried next, but it was too ferocious at that time in its development and not large enough for the needs of the gamekeepers. The owners of these estates wanted dogs that were silent when poachers approached, fearless and would attack on command. They wanted the poachers held, but not killed. Ultimately, they crossed their Mastiffs and their Bulldogs, creating the Bullmastiff which combined the best of both breeds for the tasks required of him. Bullmastiffs performed admirably at managing poachers, especially the dark brindle dogs who disappeared into the night. As the twentieth century approached, the need for game-keeping dogs diminished, although staged contests continued and Bullmastiffs continued to excel in these competitions. As more Mastiff blood was bred into the breed, it became lighter in color and eventually fawns became preferred over brindles, although both are acceptable.

The Kennel Club of England recognized the Bullmastiff as a purebred dog in 1924. The American Kennel Club granted recognition to the Bullmastiff in 1933, and since then the breed has thrived in this country. Today, the Bullmastiff is a devoted, alert, protective but normally not aggressive family companion.

Health Characteristics

The average life expectancy of the Bullmastiff dog breed is between 8 and 10 years. This is slightly lower compared to the median lifespan of most purebred dogs (10 to 13 years), but consistant with most breeds similar in size. Potential hereditary defects and disorders more commonly found, but not necessarily found, in the Bullmastiff are as follows:

  • Allergies: Overreaction by the immune system to an allergen, which is any substance capable of inducing a reaction in that particular animal
  • Bloat (Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus): An extremely serious medical condition where a dog’s stomach becomes filled with gas that cannot escape.
  • Elbow Dysplasia: Leads to malformation and degeneration of the elbow joint, with accompanying front limb lameness
  • Hip Dysplasia: Involves abnormal development and/or degeneration of the coxofemoral (hip) joint
  • Entropion: The inversion, or the turning inward, of all or part of the edge of an eyelid
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Hemangiosarcoma
  • Hypothyroidism: Inadequate production and release of the thyroid hormones triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4)
  • Lymphooma: Cancer (neoplasia) that affects lymph nodes and other organs containing lymphoid tissue
  • Mast Cell Tumors: Abnormal, cancerous (neoplastic) cells that form nodular skin masses in dogs
  • Osteosarcoma
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy: Group of degenerative eye disorders that eventually lead to permanent blindness in both eyes
  • Subaortic Stenosis
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