The Gentle Guardian is possibly the most
appropriate description one could give to the Bullmastiff. This relatively little known
breed of dog maybe the best choice for the family that wants good dependable protection
for the family members and their home. Currently there are many breeds of dogs that are
very popular as watchdogs, however the majority of these breeds are used for home
protection or watchdogs because they are vicious by nature. The problem with this type of
dog is that he doesnt only attack burglars, thieves etc. but is also likely to bite
friends of the family or relatives or even children that may come into the yard, because
he is just plain vicious or possibly a fear biter.
This is where the Bullmastiff differs from most of the other breeds. The Bullmastiff is a
very gentle dog by nature, his goal in life being to please his master and family, and he
becomes devoted to them and will protect the family and their property if he feels there
is a genuine need for his intervention.
The Bullmastiff will accept and lavish all the petting of neighborhood children and
friends of the family he can get however if his master or family shows genuine
apprehension or is actually attacked, the Bullmastiff will defend them not because he is
vicious but because he devoted to them and this protective instinct is born in him and
requires no special training.
Some Bullmastiffs have been trained to attack on command as can many breeds of dog if
trained correctly, however many people familiar with dogs trained to attack will tell you
that the only place for such dogs is in the hands of an expert handler and has no place in
the hands of an ordinary citizen as there have been to many tragedies caused by attack
trained dogs getting into the wrong hands or getting out of control.
The Bullmastiff has been recognized as a true breed for a relatively short time as
compared to some of the other breeds of dogs and was first accepted for registration in
England where the breed originated in 1924 and was accepted for registration by the
American Kennel Club in 1933. This basic type or breed of dog has been in existence for
possibly several hundred years in England according to some dog historians, they were
called by different names during different periods of time, and early reference to dogs
called "Mongrel Mastiffs,""Small Mastiff,""Strong Bulldogs"
etc, were believed to refer to this basic breed.
Finally in the mid-nineteenth century the crossing of the large Mastiff and the early day
Bulldogs which little resemble todays Bulldogs, became quite popular with
Gamekeepers that were charged with keeping down poaching on game preserves and large
estates in England. The dog created by crossing the two breeds seemed ideal for the
requirements of the Gamekeepers as they wished to have a dog what would protect them from
the poachers who often ambushed and killed the Gamekeepers if given a chance.
As the poachers usually worked at night it was only natural that a good dog would be of
great assistance. The dogs resulting from the Bulldog and Mastiff cross resulted in an
active but compact and powerful dog, large enough to down the poacher and hold him to
allow the Gamekeeper to take him into custody. These dogs inherited the best
characteristics of the two breeds it originated from and came up with some qualities not
possessed by either of its parent breeds.
This Bulldog and Mastiff crosses became so popular as helpers of the Gamekeepers that they
were commonly known for many years as the "GAMEKEEPERS NIGHT DOGS. There were
many incidents recorded during this era telling of these "Keepers Night Dogs"
being able to take armed men down and holding them, some of these incidents were in the
Gamekeepers actual work, while other such incidents took place at exhibitions to
demonstrate the qualities of the dogs produced by the various breeders of the day. During
some of the exhibitions and even on some occasions in the field, the dogs were called upon
to down armed men while muzzled and were able to do so, which gives some idea of the
strength and determination these dogs possessed when aroused. Many of the gamekeepers gave
their dogs credit for saving their lives.
After the passing of this era the breed has been used mostly as a watchdog and companion
dog in many countries and became quite popular in Africa during the early 1950s due
to the Mau Mau uprisings and were imported to that continent by the white settlers who
found them not only good for protection against the Mau Mau but also beneficial in
protecting livestock from predators such as lynx, leopard, baboons and other such animals.
Bullmastiffs are good all around dogs and enjoy hunting, and other outdoor activities
their master may pursue as they are a very versatile breed of dog.
The Bullmastiff is an upper medium size dog not a giant breed. Most Bullmastiffs will
stand from 24 to 27 to inches in height at the shoulder and weigh from 90 to 130 pounds
when mature. The dogs have a heavy bone structure and are very muscular in build and are
heavy for their size as they are compactly built. A Bullmastiff weighing 130 pounds will
appear to be a much smaller dog than most other breeds in this same weight class.
Bullmastiffs may be any shade of fawn or brindle, with fawns being more popular today,
however the brindles were much more in demand in the old gamekeeper days as they were
impossible to see after dark as the brindle coloring has a camouflage effect after dark
and currently the somewhat rare brindles seem to be making a comeback.
The Bullmastiffs ears are not cropped, his tail is not docked and he has a short
coat so he requires no special grooming or preparation as there is nothing artificial or
false in his makeup which is quite a contrast to many other more popular breeds that do
receive various forms of surgery or special trimming or grooming to look their best, and
looks are changed in order to allow them to do well at the dog shows. In the Bullmastiff
breed, performance and soundness are considered more important than a racy appearance.
Ideally a person that purchases a Bullmastiff should have a fenced in yard, and a person
should not get a Bullmastiff unless he wants a dog to take in just like another member of
the family, as the Bullmastiff responds best to this type of treatment.
Young Bullmastiffs should be allowed to socialize with friendly dogs and other pets at an
early age and should never be taken around other dogs that will starting fights as after a
few such encounters the Bullmastiff is likely to find out how tough he really is and start
to enjoy fighting,(people often laugh at a scrappy small dog such as a terrier or the
like, however when you have a dog with the power of a Bullmastiff that have been known to
kill baboons and other large predators single-handed, its no laughing matter to have
him turned into a habitual fighter) it is therefore very important to get the Bullmastiff
socialized with friendly dogs at an early age, if so conditioned the Bullmastiff is as
tractable on neutral territory as any other breed, but they usually resent strange dogs
coming into their home or yard as they figure this as their personal territory.
As with many fairly large dogs, its best to start obedience training at an early
age. The bullmastiff is quick to learn and his main desire is to please his master and
praise coupled with firmness will give you a will disciplined dog if you are consistent in
you application of both.
Bullmastiffs often do not gain their full confidence until they are about two years
old so the owner should not expect him to really come into his own until he reaches this
age. After he matures he is one of the best if not the best watchdog available if a
situation arises that requires his intervention.
Many people who see a bullmastiff playing with children or other friendly persons just
cannot believe this breed can be anything but friendly, however if the need arises the
Bullmastiff can quickly take on about a 180 degree change in his personality and can
change from a friendly clown into the most determined attack dog imaginable, and
punishment that would case some of the other breeds of dogs (that are famous for their
viciousness) to let out a yelp and run for cover would just anger a Bullmastiff to a
greater degree as he will fight any man or animal unto his death if necessary, To protect
his master to whom he is so devoted.
Because this breed is so friendly and stable but brave and powerful if the need arises, he
may be the dog that is best suited in todays society to help cut down on the soaring
crime rates especially assault cases, without having to read about so many children having
half their faces bitten off by vicious watchdogs in newspapers.
This breed like any breed is not a miracle dog and will certainly not fill the
requirements of every household, however a family that really likes and understands dogs
and wishes a steady dependable home companion and have room for an upper medium size dog
may wish to check into the Bullmastiff, The Gentle Guardian.
This article was written by Conie R. Robertson
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