- Breed group — Working group (American Kennel Club)
- Height — 24-27 inches
- Weight — 100-130 pounds
- Coat length & texture — Short, thick, and straight
- Coat color — Red, fawn, brindle or a combination with a black face mask. When mastiffs are puppies, their coat is a little darker than it appears in adults.
- Exercise needs — Moderate
- Intelligence — High
- Barking — Low amount
- Life span — 7-10 years
- Temperament — Affectionate, gentle, brave, and protective of family members. However, with outsiders, they can be very suspicious. They are also not always tolerant of other pets in the home.
- Hypoallergenic — No
- Origin — United Kingdom
Bull mastiff fun facts
- Named the “Gamekeeper’s Dog” by estate owners in 19th century England who bred the bull mastiff to provide protection from poachers.
- Oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller brought bull mastiffs to the United States in the 1920s to guard his country estate in Tarrytown, New York.
- Sylvester Stallone adopted a bull mastiff, Butkus, at six weeks old and decided to feature him in Rocky because he couldn’t afford a trained movie dog.
Bull mastiff temperament and characteristics
Bull mastiffs are affectionate and gentle — with their owners. They mistrust strangers and can be assertive toward other animals. In the family, they are low-energy, calm dogs that rarely bark. While they can be good with children, it’s recommended that they be raised with kids. Bull mastiffs aren’t keen on residing with other pets; males like to be the king of the house. They will usually fare best with an owner who can be firm and set boundaries.
Common bull mastiff health problems
In general, bull mastiffs are strong, healthy dogs. However, because of their size and breeding, bull mastiffs’ life expectancy is shorter than some other breeds, on average between 7 and 10 years, though some live longer, such as cross-bred dogs. Here are a few common health problems you may encounter with your bull mastiff.
- Hip dysplasia. This is a chronic condition commonly found in larger breeds and older dogs. Hip dysplasia can lead to pain and arthritis.
- Progressive rod-cone degeneration (PRCD). This is an inherited form of late-onset progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) . Over time, it leads to vision loss.
- Cancer. Bull mastiffs are more likely to develop certain cancers than other breeds. The Mastiff Club of America believes that cancer is present within 50% of mastiff breeds and cancer accounts for the deaths of approximately 37% of bull mastiffs.
- Aortic Stenosis. This is a type of heart disease commonly found in certain larger breeds. It occurs when the aorta narrows below the aortic valve making the heart work harder to push blood. It can lead to muscle failure and other complications.
- Gastric Dilatation Volvulus, (GDV). This life-threatening condition, also known as bloat, can affect large, deep-chested dogs such as bull mastiffs. It occurs when gas accumulates in the body and causes the stomach to shift or twist..
Cost of caring for a bull mastiff
A dog with a big appetite, need for obedience training, and certain health problems, a bull mastiff can cost you about $180 per month. Your first year will have additional costs, including getting your bull mastiff spayed or neutered; the cost can range from $150 to $400.
Most vets may also advise that your bull mastiff undergo a gastropexy procedure simultaneously, which will help prevent gastric volvulus as your puppy grows into an adult. This will add $200–$400 to the procedure cost.
Dr. Erica Irish, DVM
Elective surgeries like spay and neuter have pros that tend to outweigh the cons. To date, most scientific studies indicate that neutered and spayed dogs will live longer than intact dogs. Spaying a dog before their first heat cycle will decrease the chances of mammary cancer in future and will prevent pyometra, a uterine infection that is another same-day surgical emergency.
Ultimately, deciding when to spay or neuter your bull mastiff is something that needs to be discussed with your vet.
Dr. Erica Irish, DVM
Newer evidence suggests that spaying too early (before 1 year of age) may increase the chances of certain orthopedic issues that affect large and giant breeds, so this is definitely something to discuss with your veterinarian first.
History of the bull mastiff
The breed’s history goes back to the late 1800s when British estate owners needed a brave dog to catch and subdue poachers on their land but not maul them. Breeders eventually aimed for a pure breeding strain that appeared to be 60% mastiff and 40% bulldog. The breed was recognized by the Kennel Club in England in 1924 and by the American Kennel Club in 1933.
Bull mastiffs: part of a bigger family tree
This breed is powerful and active, a combination of strength, endurance, and alertness, and it’s currently ranked as the 33rd most popular dog breed in America. The mastiff arrived long before the bull mastiff. There are reports of mastiff-like dogs living in the mountains of Asia in 2500 B.C. Although the bull mastiff is smaller than the mastiff, it’s quicker and more agile.
While the bull mastiff was recognized as its own breed in England and the United States at the early part of the 20th century, the mastiff group consists of 19 obviously morphologically different breeds. The American Kennel Club recognizes three other specific dog mastiff breeds:
- English mastiff. With its enormous size, the English mastiff makes a great watchdog. Like the bull mastiff, this breed is loyal to its owners, tends to snore and drool, and can be challenging to train.
- Tibetan mastiff. A thick-coated mountain dog, the Tibetan mastiff is intelligent, independent, protective, and willful.
- Neapolitan Mastiff. These large dogs date back to Ancient Rome and were bred as guard dogs. Like the bull mastiff, they are loyal and friendly to their owners.
Caring for your bull mastiff
It’s exciting to welcome a new puppy or dog into your home., but like with any breed, caring for a bull mastiff can be overwhelming at first. Start with your first trip to the vet and schedule your dog’s vaccinations. Also, before bringing your new baby home, puppy-proof your space, prepare for teething, and visit FidoAlert, which provides a free ID and tag in case your dog escapes. Here are some other basics specific to the bull mastiff.
The bull mastiff isn’t a high-energy dog. They love nothing more than to lie around with you while you read or watch TV. However, they still need a long daily walk — at least 30 minutes — and it doesn’t matter if it’s cold outside. Because of their large size and dense coats, mastiffs actually prefer cold weather.
Be careful in hot weather, and make sure your pooch has access to clean water. Since they are large and a brachycephalic breed (breeds with flattened faces and shortened airways), they’re more likely to develop heatstroke.
Your bull mastiff wants to be with you no matter what. They tend to suffer from separation anxiety, so plan to include them in your family time, both in and out of the home.
The bull mastiff is relatively easy to groom, with its short, straight, and coarse coat. This breed is an average shedder, and you probably only need to brush your bull mastiff once a week. However, its deep facial wrinkles may need cleaning and drying underneath the folds.
Because of the way their head and lip are conformed, they can’t retain the amount of drool they produce. Be prepared to wipe up drool!
Like any other breed, you’ll also need to carve out time to attend to nail trimming, ear cleaning, and teeth brushing on a regular basis to keep your bull mastiff looking and feeling their best. If you are unable to brush your bull mastiff’s teeth, there are other ways to offer at-home dental care. Talk with your vet to find out what will work best for you and your pet.
Diet and nutrition
Bullmastiffs don’t need a special diet beyond high-quality dog food with plenty of protein, but watch portion control. Because of their large size, they require a good amount of food — typically 4-5 cups of food a day separated into two servings. They are also low-energy dogs who can gravitate toward couch-potato status, making them susceptible to obesity.
Puppies should be fed smaller portions but more frequently, at least twice a day. Look for large-breed growth food, which is designed for slow growing and can help decrease the incidence or severity of hip dysplasia in adults. Always ask a veterinarian for dietary recommendations on the best nutritional option for your bull mastiff’s weight, energy level, and overall health.
Training your bull mastiff
The bull mastiff is a highly intelligent dog and independent thinker. That means when it comes to training, you may experience some resistance. It’s best to invest in obedience classes when your bull mastiff is a puppy. At home, you need to establish that you are the boss and that your bull mastiff can count on you for boundaries and firm, but kind, rules.
Breeds similar to the bull mastiff
Not quite sure that a bull mastiff is right for you? Even if you are, it’s worth taking the time to research and consider other similar breeds. Here are a few to get you started:
- Boerboel. This breed is part of the mastiff family and looks similar to the bull mastiff. Affectionate and protective, they may be more tolerant of young children than the bull mastiff.
- Boxer. Another breed within the working dog group, the boxer is smaller than the bull mastiff with a higher energy level. They are very intelligent, affectionate, and watchful dogs.
- American bulldog. The fun-loving American bulldog is confident, affectionate, and an excellent guard dog, much like the bull mastiff.
Frequently asked questions
Are bull mastiffs good family dogs?
Bull mastiffs are affectionate, gentle dogs that live harmoniously within a family. However, because of their large size, they can inadvertently knock over a small child. Like with any large breed, you’ll want to train your bull mastiff early on and not leave it alone with young children.
Will my bull mastiff protect me from intruders?
Yes. They were bred to be watchdogs and are fiercely protective of their owners. It’s important to train and socialize your bull mastiff as a puppy, so that it can differentiate friends from foes.
What are bull mastiffs known for?
Bull mastiffs are known for their loyalty to their family as well as their affectionate and laid-back persona. They love to lie on the couch or bed and often snore and drool when relaxed or sleeping.
Will a bull mastiff get along with other pets in the home?
If you have other pets at home, a bull mastiff may not be the best choice. They aren’t as tolerant of furry family members as they are of human ones.