A Brief History of The Bullmastiff
by N Beard
The Bullmastiff first originated at least as early as 1791 in England.
It was first given official recognition by the Kennel Club in the UK in 1924. With this official recognition, the first breed Club was then formed on 23rd June, 1925 and called "The Midland Bull-Mastiff Club". (Bull-Mastiff as it was written then). Before it's official recognition, the gamekeepers dogs were first shown at a DogShow at Crystal Palace in England in 1871.
The first Bullmastiff dog to obtain a Challenge Certificate was "Tiger Prince" owned by Vic Smith in 1928 at Crufts. "Tiger Prince" went on to become the first Bullmastiff Champion Dog. The first Bitch to obtain a Challenge Certificate was"Farcroft Silvo" owned by S.E. Moseley. This bitch also went on to become the first bitch champion.
The Bullmastiff is a man-made breed made up from 60% Mastiff and 40% Bulldog. Not the Bulldog as we know it today, but the Old English Bulldogge who was bigger and had longer legs. He was bred for a purpose. For protection and detection for the Gamekeepers against poachers. Poaching was punishable by death and poachers would kill a gamekeeper rather than risk being caught himself. Both the Mastiff was Bulldog were tried in this role. The Mastiff proved to be too slow and not aggressive enough, the Bulldog was too aggressive and too small for the job. Since some of the traits of both breeds were required, gamekeepers decided to breed the two together.
The Bullmastiff and Mastiff Handbook by Douglas B. Oliff quotes the following formula by Mr Moseley as his conception of the Bull-Mastiff.
"Taking a Mastiff bitch and a Bulldog I produce 50/50. A bitch of these I mate to a Mastiff Dog and gave me a 75 per cent Mastiff 25 percent Bulldog bitch, which I mate to a 50/50 dog. A bitch from this litter is 62 1/2 per cent Mastiff 37 1/2 percent Bulldog. I mate this to a 50/50 dog, and a bitch from this litter I put to a 62 1/2 percent Mastiff 37 1/2 percent Bulldog which gives me approximately my ideal 60 per cent Mastiff 40 per cent Bulldog. I repeat this from other bloodlines as an outcross and thus I established my Farcroft strain and the Bull-Mastiff a standard breed of set type which breeds true-like produces alike. This is a fixing type not merely breeding a cross breed."
I have noted in some of the books on the breed, that it may be possible that early Bullmastiffs may have had a trace of Bloodhound in them and that this is what gives it the excellent tracking and scenting ability. This is not a proven fact though and many people do not agree with this theory.
The purpose behind this very selective breeding was to breed a dog that could track, catch and hold down a man with its own weight until his master came and gave him the command to let go or attack.
The original colour choice was the brindle. The reason behind this being that it made him very easily camouflaged into the background and the darkness of the night, thus making him less detectable. The characteristic wrinkling on the dogs forehead was used as a silent warning to the gamekeeper to beware. That is why the standard calls for the dog the have wrinkling when interested but not when in repose.
As a working dog, it was quickly discovered that dark toenails wore better than the light coloured ones and that a short weather-proof coat protected the dog from weather and did not allow sticks or debris to catch in it to slow him down or stop him. These points as well as many others are still reflected in todays breed standards.
This is only a brief history into the breed, there are several excellent books on the breed available which go into much detail and history and prove very interesting reading. Today the Bullmastiff is rarely needed for the job he was first bred for, but you should bear in mind its breed purpose and they should still, if need be, be able to carry out that job today.
The Bullmastiff history