Let’s dive right into the 1st amazing fact. The Bull Mastiff was developed in England in the 1860s to help gamekeepers on large estates apprehend poachers. You might know that already, but did you also know that the breed is the result of crossing Mastiff’s with Bulldogs? The Bulldogs of 19th century England were much larger than the English Bulldog we know today and wildly popular for their fearlessness in blood sports. It makes sense that gamekeepers wanted a tenacious and fearless canine that was also large enough to make anyone think twice before fighting back. The crossing of the Mastiff and Bulldog over multiple generations quickly led to a large canine that was both fierce and restrained.
This brings us nicely to fact number two. To aid in their role as “The Gamekeeper’s Night Dog,” they were trained not to bite or even bark when they came across poachers. Their job was to quietly track the poachers, pin or hold them in place, without mauling them to bits, until the gamekeeper arrived and could process them through the legal system. At the time, the estate owners didn’t want the dogs to scare away or hurt the poachers, so they could be brought to trial. The penalty was steep for the poachers and could easily result in a death sentence. The quiet and watchful nature of the Bull Mastiff is a hallmark of the breed still today.
The Bull Mastiff has had its fair share of celebrity love in the US as well, even though they are a native UK breed. In the 1920s, oil tycoon J.D. Rockefeller imported Bull Mastiffs to his countryside estate in New York to help guard the property. If you’ve seen the classic movie Rocky, you’ve probably seen the star’s, Sylvester Stallone, Bull Mastiff, Butkus, who appeared in the film. At the time, Stallone couldn’t afford to hire a trained movie dog and decided to use his new family dog instead. As you can imagine, their popularity increased for a time around the movies release. You may also be surprised to know that more recent celebrities like Christina Aguilera, Michael Bay, Marlon Brando, and Jon Bon Jovi all have had Bull Mastiff’s as part of their family at some point.
Sliding right into fact number four, the Bull Mastiff has a relatively low energy level despite their traditional working role roaming large estates. It may be hard to believe, but it’s true. Most Bull Mastiffs are content to go for a walk a few times a day then find the most comfy spot in the home where they can keep an eye on everyone and sleep with one ear open for anything amiss the rest of the day. This goes back to their early days of not eating the poachers that they found roaming their estates and translates well to modern life. They live a more charmed life these days and poachers are rare in their yards, but you still wouldn’t want to walk on to their property without one of their people as an escort.
Bringing it home to fact number five, Bull Mastiffs are exceptional with children. Our Bull Mastiff, Roxy, was a prime example of the breed’s low reactivity mixed with deeply rooted guarding instincts when we brought our oldest son home from the hospital. Many other Bull Mastiff families have similar experiences with the dog being more dedicated to keeping an eye on the baby than the rest of the house at times. This can make them ideal companions as the child grows and friends start to come around since they are more watchful than protective in everyday situations. It’s always extraordinary, and a true testament to the breed’s temperament, when a canine as large as the Bull Mastiff is able to be so gentle and aware of a new little life.