Canines are by nature, predators, no matter how different they are now from their wolf ancestors. Every modern breed has some prey drive, but some breeds have a lot more or less than others, and each individual in a breed is different. A lot of a breed's prey drive stems from their original working role, energy, playfulness, and guarding instincts. With that in mind, let's take a closer look at the powerful Bullmastiff and see what kind of prey drive you can expect this breed to have.
The Bullmastiff was developed in England during the latter half of the 19th century to assist gamekeepers of large estates in apprehending poachers. They were bred to be large, swift, quite, and, most importantly, not eat the poachers they cornered. Breeders found the magic ratio by combining the Bulldogs at the time (which were larger than modern bulldogs) and Mastiffs. In a sense, these poachers were their prey, but being bred to only hold them until the Gamekeeper caught up is a large part of why they have such a low prey drive still today. When they are raised with and taught the appropriate behavior around livestock of any size, Bullmastiff’s have almost no prey drive at all. Like I mentioned a moment ago, all canines have some prey drive and it varies between breeds and individuals and Bullmastiffs are no exception. One of the best things you can teach your Bullmastiff is a reliable recall and 'leave it' command for their own safety and when curiosity gets the better of them, and of course, keeping them out of situations where they are set-up to fail.
Part of what made the Bullmastiff’s ancestor such an effective estate guardian was their low reactivity and ability to work on command. You'll find that the modern Bullmastiff has a relatively low energy level and are much more watchful than reactive unless there is an immediate threat. They are also quite protective of their family, which makes any strange animal fair game for inspection. They might simply be curious about a new creature, but with over 100 pounds of muscle and teeth coming at them, most small animals are going to bolt. From there, instinct kicks in, and the Bullmastiff both fast and agile enough to catch just about anything they set their mind to.
As I mentioned before, when Bullmastiff’s are raised with potential prey animals like cats, chickens, and rabbits, they can appear to have no prey drive. That's not to say, given the right set of circumstances, that they wouldn't go after something they usually don't bother. Even though Bullmastiff’s are very trainable and excellent family guardians, it's best to keep an eye on them around small animals even after their puppyhood. You can direct their playful puppy energy to obedience training and games; just be mindful of the games you chose. You might want to avoid things like a Flur pull until they are older and established around small prey animals since this activity taps directly into their prey drive. Frequent obedience work is a great way to build this relationship, and you can check out my course shop which includes a Puppy Training course and a Bootcamp training course that's perfect for canines of all ages.
Bullmastiff’s can and will think for themselves, and their large size means they are more likely to play rougher well past the time they are full grown. They also form deep family bonds, making them effective guardians and helping them excel at protecting your yard so matter how small or estate like it is. Some Bullmastiff’s will be more reactive to a situation while others may be more proactive, and either way, it's vital that they see you, and every member of your family, as their canine leader. While they won’t see you or your family as prey, they can get over-excited when playing, and it's critical that anyone who is home with them be able to control them in any situation.
The Bullmastiff generally has a very low prey drive once they reach maturity, but this will vary between individuals. You'll want to introduce them to any small animals in your home at the youngest possible age, so they grow up seeing them as part of the family. Always supervise their interactions with potential prey animals or make sure there are plenty of secure places for the smaller animals to get to if you'll be a step away. Most Bullmastiff owners never have a problem, but I can't stress this enough, these are large, powerful canines that must have a calm, consistent leader.