Bull Mastiffs

Gamekeeper’s Night Dog is Loyal to the Core

Often considered the family “clown” by those who’ve raised bull mastiffs, this breed loves to show off its goofy personality during playtime. Bull mastiffs will get along well with other household pets if raised with them from a young age.

This breed is a family dog at heart and thrives on the companionship of people young and old. It is the inherent nature of a bull mastiff to be very protective of its family—people and other pets included.

Bull mastiff

During the 19th century, estate owners in the United Kingdom needed a solid working dog to guard their estates and the wild game living in the countryside.

To meet this demand, game keepers cross bred the English mastiff and the old English bulldog to create a breed with the mastiff’s size and strength and the bulldog’s loyalty, speed and agility. The bull mastiff became locally known as the Gamekeeper’s Night Dog.

In 1924, the bull mastiff was recognized by the English Kennel Club and by the American Kennel Club in 1933.

When the bull mastiff isn’t working to protect his family, he’s usually a snorting, drooling and snuffling lovable pup with those he loves and trusts. Despite his large size, the bull mastiff yearns to be a lap dog, often settling for close contact against your leg or sitting on your feet. Bull mastiff owners usually describe their dogs as sweet natured and mild mannered.

If not properly trained and socialized from a young age (six to eight weeks of age is an ideal starting point for socialization, three to four months of age for obedience training), the breed can become stubborn and try to take charge in the household. Training your bull mastiff while he’s young will help you establish clear boundaries. The breed will not respond well to aggressive training, especially that which includes physical assertion; a gentle hand but firm direction will guide your bull mastiff in the right direction.

Bull mastiff

Bull mastiffs are large, muscular dogs, weighing, on average, between 100 and 130 pounds.

The breed is one of three colors: fawn, red or brindled—when the dog’s coat has darker streaks or spots running through the fawn or red fur.

The bull mastiff has a short muzzle with a black mask, framed by large expressive eyes and short, triangular ears.

While these medical conditions are known to occur in the breed your bull mastiff will not necessarily develop any of the conditions listed below. Choosing a reputable breeder from which to purchase your pet will help minimize the risks.

Bull mastiff
  • Canine hip dysplasia is a hereditary malformation of the hip joint that is more commonly associated with large breed dogs. It can cause discomfort and lameness and result in arthritis. X-rays of the hips when dogs are young (under 2 years) can help identify if this problem is present will allow owners to identify a proper exercise, diet and treatment regimen if their dog is affected.
  • Dilated cardiomyopathy occurs when the heart muscle becomes dysfunctional over time and can result in complete heart failure.
  • Elbow dysplasia is a malformation of the elbow joints that causes lameness and arthritis. Screening for elbow dysplasia and hip dysplasia are usually done at the same time. Because elbow and hip dysplasia are hereditary disorders, it is best to know if a puppy’s parents have been screened and are certified dysplasia free.
  • Entropion, the inward curling of the lower eyelid or ectropion, the rolling out of the eyelid, is a condition that should be corrected surgically to prevent damage to the cornea of the eye.
  • Hypothyroidism is a thyroid hormone deficiency that profoundly affects metabolism.
  • Progressive retinal atrophy is an adult-onset condition which typically occurs between ages 4 and 10. Symptoms include night blindness leading to total blindness between the ages of three and five.
  • Stomach bloat or torsion (also known as gastric dilatation and volvulus or GDV) is very serious and often deadly condition where the stomach becomes painfully distended, either due to food, water or gas. The distended stomach then has a tendency to rotate twisting off its own blood supply and the only exit routes for the gas inside. Symptoms include drooling, retching, abdominal distention, abdominal pain and sudden collapse following eating or exercise after eating. Immediate, urgent veterinary care is necessary.
As with any pet, be sure to regularly consult a veterinarian for routine care and medical advice for your four-legged friend.