By Tamara Cady

Many fanciers are not aware that a longhair gene in the Bullmastiff breed exists. In fact, a breeder can produce many generations before uncovering this elusive gene.

At birth they often appear richly pigmented, with an almost slippery silky feel to their coat. In the days as they develop, other signs become apparent. The puppies may exhibit hair fringe on their ear edges, coat may begin to look fuzzy, there may be feathering on the chest and/or rear legs, the muzzle might appear to have a soft, bristly outline and the eyebrows might begin to look like a terrier! Longhair puppies can be clearly identified by three weeks of age.

A longhair Bullmastiff coat is extremely soft to the touch, feeling much like an Irish Setter. Adult longhair Bullmastiffs may often resemble a small Leonberger. Longhair Bullmastiffs may be any color as described in our breed standard: brindle, red or fawn.

Wherever did this gene come from? Remember that the Bullmastiff is a "man created" breed. It was developed by man's need to specialized working dog. Various breeds of dog were used to achieve this goal such as the Bulldog, Mastiff, Bloodhound and Saint Bernard. The longhair gene most likely derives from any one of the early contributing breeds.

Genes (desired/undesired) never go completely away, but they can be buried deep into the genetic chain of hereditary traits by careful selection and utilizing a well thought out breeding system.

That said, a Bullmastiff with a normal coat is either: a) clear of the longhair gene or b) a non-expressed carrier.

When a dog that is clear of the gene is bred to another dog that is clear of the gene, the resulting litter will be normal coated puppies that are clear of the gene.

When a non-expressed carrier is bred to a dog clear of the gene, the resulting litter will have normal coats. However, not to forget their genetic makeup - these offspring will be a mixture of clear normal coated puppies and non-expressed normal coated puppies that are carriers of this gene.

When a non-expressed carrier is bred to another non-expressed carrier, the resulting litter will be a mixture of normal coated puppies and longhair puppies. The offspring with the normal coats will be either clear of the gene, or non-expressed carriers. The puppies with the longhair coats will be carrying only the longhair gene.

In other words, it takes a longhair carrier bred to another longhair carrier to create a longhair Bullmastiff. To uncover a suspected longhair carrier, a breeder can breed to a known carrier. If no longhair puppies are produced, then the suspected carrier can be assumed clear of this gene.

It is sad to report stories of breeders who produced longhaired puppies and did not know of the existing recessive gene. They mistakenly assumed the longhair puppies were the product of a possible misalliance of their bitch with an unknown dog and destroyed their entire litter!

Unlike a deleterious health issue, a longhair Bullmastiff is an honest cosmetic fault that is noted at an early age. These little hippies make great pets and aside from their coat, are every bit a Bullmastiff as their normal coated siblings.

It is my hope that breeders will continue to share information to enable each other to breed smartly and avoid the meeting of this recessive gene in the generations ahead.

My thanks to the forever owners of Sasha (Salter Family, S. Carolina), Hannah (California), Tucker and Emma (Canada) for sharing pictures of their favorite companion! Without the support of these owners and their breeders, it would not have been possible for the reader to visualize a longhair Bullmastiff.

Recent advances in research have now made it possible to identify longhair carriers by simple DNA test:
For more information on cosmetic recessive genes: Bullmastiff Advisory - Medicine & Genetics - Cosmetics - Long-Haired Bullmasti

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