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The Bullmastiff – Bred to Protect

Unlike many other guardian breeds, Bullmastiffs do not need training to effectively defend their loved ones. These massive, muscle-packed dogs are born with an instinct to protect what they regard as their own.

In fact, they have been specifically bred to track and apprehend the poachers – and to defend the gamekeepers - of mid-19th century England: Back in the day, these gamekeepers were tasked with enforcing the quite unpopular laws for game preservation. In their line of work, they had to search the houses of workers for nets, snares, and any illicit game, such as pheasants, hares, partridges, or grouse. The gamekeepers’ job included bringing poachers to court for trial and punishment. Which no doubt greatly motivated them in their quest to create a reliable and capable guard dog: a dog who would not only prevent the poachers from killing game, but who would also protect themselves and their families from the wrath of the poachers. These transgressors usually belonged to the poor working class and were motivated to hunt game by the need to feed their own families.

And whilst the breed history of the Bullmastiff does mention their origin as guardian dogs, designed to track and apprehend poachers, little is said about their role of actually protecting their owners – the gamekeepers -, from attempts of retribution. The gamekeepers needed a large and powerful dog with excellent tracking abilities: a dog who not only could find and confront poachers – but also keep them pinned down, until the gamekeeper in charge could take over and arrest the perpetrator. For this aim, they needed a dog equipped with sufficient natural aggression to attack the intruders, but also with sufficient restraint to not gravely injure or kill them on the spot. The breeds these gamekeepers used in order to create their perfect guardian, were the (now extinct) Old English Bulldog and the Old English Mastiff.

Whilst the Bulldog brought prey drive and aggression to the table, the comparatively slow and docile Mastiff ensured both the body mass and the restraint required. The result of the gamekeepers’ breeding efforts is the Bullmastiff that we know and love today: A glorious, courageous guardian, ever ready to lay down its life for its owners. But, at the same time, a dog with enough composure to abstain from outright mauling an intruder.


The Bullmastiff Today – a Natural Guardian

Precisely because of the breeding efforts of the gamekeepers of 19th century England, the Bullmastiff that we have today is a natural guardian. That means that it does not need any kind of specific training to excel as protection dog for people and properties. Due to the purpose the Bullmastiff was originally bred for, these dogs come with a genetic predisposition to defend what is theirs. This includes their territory, their owners as well as their owners’ families and other animals living on the property.

Owners report their Bullmastiff being very friendly towards strangers up to around 12 months of age. After that, a noticeable change occurs: The dog appears to come into their own as a guardian. They begin to growl and bark at people approaching their territory and develop a certain wariness of strangers – albeit rarely to the point where they would outright attack an intruder, as they have not been bred as catch dogs. Rather, Bullmastiffs tend to apprehend people that they think should not be on the property - and alert their owners to the presence of such persons with loud barking.

A similar tendency for displaying a defensive style of guarding behaviour can be observed whenever a Bullmastiff feels the need to protect their owner: Instead of launching themselves outright at any perceived threat, they tend to put their massive bodies between the owner and the other person. This behaviour, again, is usually accompanied by growling and barking. I think it is safe to say that, in 99,9% of all cases, such a display of readiness to strike is quite enough to discourage anyone from trying to assault the owner of a 130-pound giant dog.

Bullmastiffs – Devoted Family Companions

In my personal opinion, Bullmastiffs are perhaps THE best family guardian breed on the planet. Of course, I might be biased, as I have had the pleasure of owning one of these extremely loving, gentle giants myself in the past.

However, many other owners can attest that their Bullmastiffs absolutely adore their children and have an astonishing amount of patience with them: They never seem to mind getting their ears or tails pulled or their faces poked by toddlers. Of course, as is the case with any large breed, you should never leave your dog and your young kids play together unattended: Bullmastiffs are very large and heavy dogs who can knock a young child over by accident.

But, that said, these loving dogs are fairly measured in their movements – which means they are not prone to running around the house, or even to chasing a child, like other dogs often do. Thanks to the influence of their ancestor, the Old English Mastiff, the Bullmastiff’s prey drive is rather low, compared to other breeds. Also, they often seem to be quite aware of their size and can be seen moving around the home with amazing gentleness, considering their size and bulk.

Even though their prey drive is moderate, these giant dogs do enjoy playtimes with their owners, and are fantastic playmates for older children: With a bit of training, they are quite happy to retrieve toys and to engage in games of tug-of-war. Because of their excellent tracking skills, they enjoy games that involve their sense of smell – such as seeking toys that have been hidden somewhere in the house or garden.

Bullmastiffs - Perfect Housedogs

And whilst they love to play and accompany their owners on walks, Bullmastiffs do not require lots and lots of exercise: These calm and composed companions are quite happy to relax in a comfortable spot in the house for most of the day. By and large, they are not prone to separation anxiety, which makes them an ideal fit for people having to work all day outside of the house.

Of course, if this is you and you are considering getting a Bullmastiff, you want to proactively arrange for a family member, neighbour, or friend to take your dog out for a walk sometime during the day.

These affectionate and loyal dogs are in fact so calm and quiet in the house that they make far better apartment dogs than smaller dog breeds: Small and medium sized dogs often have quite high energy levels and prey drive – which can easily translate into destructive behaviour, such as chewing or excessive barking.

Bullmastiffs, on the other hand, are very quiet: These silent protectors absolutely will sound an alarm, should there be anything suspicious going on around your home – but they will not raise their voice for their sheer sake of it. This alone is a huge blessing for anyone leading an apartment-lifestyle.

When it comes to visitors, your Bullmastiff will usually welcome whomever you yourself accept into your home. With some basic training in manners and obedience, these gentle giants will politely greet your guests without jumping up or barking at them.



Not only are Bullmastiffs powerful guard dogs with quite a massive natural intimidation factor - they also excel as absolutely loving, loyal and deeply affectionate companion dogs. Their big heart for children makes them the perfect choice for families who are looking for a calm and patient dog – who can and will protect them with its own life, should the need ever occur.


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