Once dubbed the Gamekeeper's Night Dog, the Bullmastiff is as brave as he is brawny.


The Bullmastiff was created as a blend of Mastiff and Bulldog to aid gamekeepers in the late 1800s. The gamekeepers needed a dog that could sneak up on, catch and subdue (but not maul) poachers on English estates. Brindles were initially preferred so they could better blend into the night, but later, estate owners wanted the flashier fawns as property guardians and status symbols.

Gradually, people realized Bullmastiffs made great family dogs as well as guardians. Devoted and easy-going, they come to life if their family is threatened.

Although not exactly hyperactive, Bullmastiffs enjoy clowning around, and have a blast with toys–very tough toys, that is.

Health and Upkeep

The Bullmastiff's great size brings some special concerns, including joint problems such as hip and elbow dysplasia. Feeding a diet formulated for large breed puppies during the first year of life will help decrease the possibility of hip dysplasia, and probably elbow dysplasia. These diets allow the puppy to grow more slowly, while still achieving the same adult size–just a little later. Joint supplements, such as glucosamine chondroitin, are also vital for protecting joint health throughout life.

As an adult, you must be careful to keep your Bullmastiff at a lean weight. Too much weight stresses the joints, and can worsen arthritic changes. You may need to feed a low-calorie food. When dieting a dog, you must make sure he gets enough vitamins. We suggest supplementing with a good multi-vitamin, probiotics and, if the coat is dry, a fatty-acid supplement.

One of the Bullmastiff's biggest problems is bloat or gastric torsion, a condition in which the gases accumulate in the stomach and can't escape. The stomach may then twist, totally cutting off any ability for anything to leave the stomach. The dog's stomach enlarges as gases continue to accumulate, and the dog is restless and tries unsuccessfully to vomit. This is an extreme emergency that needs immediate veterinary attention to save the dog. Nobody knows exactly how to prevent it, but many veterinarians advocate feeding an anti-gas pill with every meal.

A few Bullmastiffs seem predisposed to itchy skin that may have small pustules or scabs. These are often caused by bacterial infections or a thyroid condition, and should be treated by a veterinarian. An antibacterial shampoo may help combat the infection, and an avocado oil or oatmeal based shampoo can help alleviate the itchiness.

Drool can make your Bullmastiff have a stronger doggy odor than you'd prefer. A deodorizing shampoo, applied especially in the face and throat area, can help fix this. Some Bullmastiffs are prone to ear problems. Apply an ear cleanser any time the ears start to accumulate dark secretions. Some ear wax is healthy; a lot is not. If you must apply ear medication, use the ear cleanser first to remove thick secretions that would block the medication from reaching the surface of the canal. If your dog's ears are painful, don't put any cleansers or medications in the ear until first seeing your veterinarian, as the ear drum could be ruptured.

Bullmastiffs have a tendency to form calluses and even bursas on their elbows. Encourage your dog to rest on soft surfaces (even carpeting can be abrasive, but is still better than hard tile). Using a cooling blanket or simply placing a fan so it blows over a soft cushion can help steer him to the better surface. Moisturizers applied to the calloused area can also help, as can wrapping the elbows with padding.

Brush the teeth daily.

Clip the nails every two weeks or so using a heavy-duty dog nail clipper.

Bullmastiffs tend to be affected by age-related physical changes, such as arthritis, at an early age. Besides any intervention recommended by your veterinarian, a soft cushion to lie on and glucosamine chondroitin supplements added to the diet can help soothe aching joints, and keep him strong and supple.