The Bullmastiff is a powerful dog that was originally bred by English gamekeepers in the 1800s to assist wardens or gamekeepers guard estates from poachers. As a result the Bullmastiff is known as the Gamekeeper’s Night Dog. They bark much less often than other breeds, however, when they do bark it’s generally worth checking. It is the only guarding breed to originate in England.
At the time of its creation, there were many large estates in England, the owners of which frowned upon the game in their estates being poached. Gamekeepers were employed to oversee and protect the game in the estates and they needed an able assistant; the poachers being a rather dangerous lot since punishment for poaching was hanging. Mastiffs were tried but found to be somewhat slow and to not have the drive necessary to down and hold a man. Bulldogs (a quite different type that we see today) were tried, but the bulldog of that era was very ferocious and tended to tear the poacher up too much.
So, crosses were made of the Bulldog and Mastiff until a ratio of 60% Mastiff/40% Bulldog was achieved. This type of dog, eventually called the Bullmastiff, served the needs of the gamekeeper very well. The dog could track a man in the forest at night; work quietly; and, when close enough spring to a hard charge, knocking the man down and holding him there until the gamekeeper arrived. This was no mean feat since the poachers used every trick and tool at their disposal to escape, knowing that they faced hanging. The Bullmastiff had to be very brave and tenacious and more than one suffered death at the hands of a desperate criminal. But, the breed was exactly what the gamekeeper needed and they did their job well.
There is a story about one highly trained dog name Thorneywood Terror who toured England with his owner putting on demonstrations for crowds. The owner would muzzle the dog; give a volunteer 10 minutes head start into the forest; and be any takers that his dog would catch the man. Thorneywood Terror never failed to catch, down and hold his man and made much money for his owner.
Franklin D. Roosevelt owned a Bullmastiff named Blaze.
In the movie “The Hound of the Baskervilles” (1939) the hound was a Bullmastiff chosen for his abnormally large size for that of a dog, and of the breed in particular.
Paul Sr., the owner of Orange County Choppers and American Chopper fame, has 2 Bullmastiffs named Gus and Marty.
Singer Christina Aguilera has a Bullmastiff named Cocoa.
Cujo – a playful ghost dog from Danny Phantom turns into a 30 ft overgrown bullmastiff when angered.
“Hooch” in the Tom Hanks movie “Turner and Hooch” is often mistaken for a bullmastiff. Hooch is actually a Dogue de Bordeaux (French Mastiff.
Thanks to http://www.bullmastiffinfo.org/thebmf.htm for the history info.