This more athletic type of Mastiff began to emerge in England by the mid 1500's because of the increasing need for a dog to keep watch and patrol his master's lands or farms especially at night. Developed from the Mastiff (English) and sharing a similarly proportioned head and the same colours, the Bullmastiff is a much more agile and less cumbersome type of dog than his Mastiff ancestor.

Bullmastiff with his FriendBullmastiff with his Friend

Despite retaining the Mastiff's powerful build, the Bullmastiff should never show signs of coarseness. Although capable of great activity, he is alert when required, but mild and gentle in repose. Devoted to his own family and defensive of his property, he instinctively discriminates between friends and strangers.

History of Bullmastiffs in Australia

Bullmastiffs Australia 1956Bullmastiffs Australia 1956

In Australia the first two Bullmastiffs were introduced in 1949 and exhibited at the Sydney Royal in 1950. The first Bullmastiff bred here was in New South Wales in 1951 with a litter which produced one single pup, Bulmar Pancho which became the breed's first Champion in Australia. But the credit of establishing Bullmastiffs in this country must go to Mr John (Jack) and Mrs Kit Russell who seriously began importing Bullmastiffs into Victoria in 1954 with two from the famous English Bulmas kennels. Their subsequent breeding under the Mastodon prefix provided a solid foundation for the breed here[2]. Mr and Mrs Russell remained involved in the breed for many decades and acted as mentors for many newcomers. Today the Bullmastiff is popular throughout Australia as a pet, show dog and companion with many beautiful dogs being produced right across the country.

The Bullmastiff Today

Bullmastiff (Fawn)Bullmastiff (Fawn)

Today's Bullmastiff is a powerfully built dog standing up to 27 inches tall and weighing up to 130 pounds (60 Kilos). He comes in similar colours to the Mastiff (English) which are brindle, fawn and red (which is described as apricot in his Mastiff counterpart).

Bullmastiff (Red)Bullmastiff (Red)

The Bullmastiff's head is overall more refined that his Mastiff (English) counterpart with flews far less pendulous. The wrinkles on his broad square skull are especially evident when the dog is alert. His comparatively small high-set ears complete his typical expression. The cheek muscles are strong and a definite stop separating the skull and muzzle. The black muzzle should measure about one third of the whole head making it a short faced breed. The broad square muzzle is also strong but the flews should be square and never hang below the level of the lower jaw. The medium sized eyes should not be set under raised brows like those of the Mastiff's. The nose is black with a black mask surrounding the muzzle. The mouth should be level with the canine teeth set wide apart. However, a slightly undershot mouth is also permissible.

Group of BullmastiffsGroup of Bullmastiffs

Bullmastiff (Fawn)Bullmastiff (Fawn)

The neck of the Bullmastiff is of moderate length, and so thick that it is only slightly less in circumference than his skull. He has powerful forequarters with muscular sloping shoulders, straight well boned legs with upright pasterns and large, round and tight feet. His chest is deep and wide, his topline wide and level, and his loins muscular with a fair depth of flank. His body length is shorter than the Mastiff (English). His hindquarters are very strong with well-developed second thighs and moderate hind angulation which produce a harmonious movement with balanced reach and drive. His tail is thick at the root and tapering so it reaches the hock but should not carried above the level of the topline except when excited or moving. The Bullmastiff's coat is short, hard close lying and weather resistant.

Although German in origin, the Boxer and the Bullmastiff often get confused. For this reason, an interesting comparison can be seen at the bottom of this page.

Origin of Bullmastiff Type Dogs

In 1570, Dr. Johannes Caius named dogs which patrolled his master's lands when bidden, 'Defending Dogs'  in his classification written in Latin and translated into English by A Fleming in 1576[1]. The original translation of this important work is in my opinion too difficult to read to be printed in its original form. So it appears here as my interpretation in modern English:

Caius 1Caius 1

Defending Dogs

If by chance a dog's master gets hurt by any one of a number of violent forces that might injure him so he is stricken down and lies grovelling on the ground, it is proved true by experience, that this dog does not abandon his master ; no, not even when he is stark dead. Instead, enduring the hunger and outrageous tempests of the weather, this dog most vigilantly watches and carefully guards the dead carcase for many days; endeavouring, furthermore, to kill the murderers of his master, if the dog gets the chance. Or else by barking, by howling, and by making as many gestures with both his voice and his body as possible, betrays the culprit as if the dog wants to have the death of his master vigorously revenged.

Caius 2Caius 2

There are other dogs which execute the office of a farmer in the night time. For when his master goes to bed to take a natural sleep, and when

  • A hundred bars of brass and iron bolts
    Make all things safe from starts and from revolts.
    When Janus[A] keeps the gate with Argus[B] eye,
    That dangers none approach, ne mischiefs nigh,

As Virgil[C] brags in his verses. Then if his master bids him keep watch, the dog immediately patrols all his lands, more diligently, I think, than any farmer himself. And if he finds anything there that is strange and pertains to other persons than his master; whether it be man, woman, or beast, he drives them out of the grounds: not meddling with anything which belongs to the use and possession of his master.

Caius 3Caius 3

But how much faithfulness, so much diversity there is in their nature.  For there are some

  1. Which bark only with free and open throat, but will not bite
  2. Some which do both bark and bite.
  3. And some which bite bitterly before they bark.

The first are not greatly to be feared, because they themselves are fearful; and fearful dogs (as the proverb says) bark most vehemently.

The second are dangerous. It is wise to take heed of them, because they sound like an alarm that wakes you from a deep sleep. These dogs must not be over much moved or provoked, for then they take on outrageously as if they were mad, watching to set the print of their teeth in the flesh. And these kind of dogs are fierce and eager by nature.

The third are deadly. For they fly upon a man, without uttering their voice, snatch at him, and catch him by the throat, and most cruelly bite into his flesh. Fear these kind of curs if thou are wise and circumspect about one's own safety; for they are determined and stubborn dogs, especially when they suddenly attack a man who is unaware of the dog's presence.


[A] Janus and[B] Argus - Roman mythical figures which guarded and watched over gates respectively

[C] Virgil - ancient Roman poet (70 BC - 19 BC)

Comparison between the Boxer and the Bullmastiff

Like the Bullmastiff, the Boxer is a brachycephalic breed with the black masked muzzle measuring one third of the skull. Although the Boxer is overall a much lighter and more elegantly built dog than the Bullmastiff, these two breeds are often confused. For this reason, their main differences are presented here as a comparison.

Boxer Bullmastiff
Country of origin Germany England
Size Stands 53 - 61 cms (21-24 inches) tall and weighs 28-30 kilos (62-66 pounds) Stands up to 61-69 cms tall (24-27 inches) tall and weighs 41-59 kilos to (90-130 pounds)
Colour Fawn, brindle and fawn in various shades with or without white markings but always with the essential black mask Fawn, brindle or red, with a black muzzle toning off towards the eyes
BoxerBoxer BullmastiffBullmastiff
Head The nose is slightly turned up showing a distinct chin which causes his undershot mouth The muzzle should form a right angle to the upper line of the face so the mouth is only slightly undershot.
Neck Of ample length, the marked arch flowing into the shoulders and clean throat responsible for the Boxer's elegance Moderate length and almost equal in circumference to the skull
Forequarters Chest half the height of the dog at the clearly defined withers, trunk like forelegs with slightly sloping pasterns Chest wide with deep brisket and powerful forelegs with straight strong pasterns
Boxer Boxer Bullmastiff (Fawn)Bullmastiff (Fawn)
Body Short, straight, strong and muscular with a square profile finishing with a slightly sloping flat, broad croup and gaily carried high-set tail. The underline should have an elegant curve Compact in carriage, his wide muscular loins giving him a fairly deep flank and a firm but level topline
Hindquarters The muscles in the back legs should look so powerful that they look like plastic through the skin. The long first and send thighs are so well angulated that the hock is not quite vertical Wide, strong and muscular with well developed second thighs but moderate angulation
BoxerBoxer Bullmastiff with PupsBullmastiff with Pups
Feet Small and cat-like Cat-like with dark nails
Tail Set on high and carried gaily, upwards when docking is allowed. However, the docking of Boxer's tails is now prohibited in Australia His tail is thick at the root and tapering so it reaches the hock but it should not be carried above the level of the topline except when excited or moving
Gait Elastic with energy and carrying himself with pride and nobility. Balanced and harmonious with good thrust from the rear

References and Further Reading

[1] Dr John Caius, "Of Englishe Dogges: The Diuersities, the Names, the Natures, and the Properties", London, 1576, translated into English by Abraham Fleming, Pages 34-35. The work was originally published in Latin in 1570 as "Johannes Caius, De Canibus Britannicis".

[2] Jessamy Morrissey 'The Bullmastiff in Australia - a History' Produced by the Bullmastiff Club of Victoria Published by H J Printing, Heathcote Junction Victoria 1999. The Introduction Page 13 - 22.