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 doesn’t 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 today’s 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 1950’s 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 Bullmastiff’s 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, it’s 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, it’s 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.

Bullmastiff’s 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 today’s 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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Last Updated Sunday, April 01, 2001