Mastiff Dog Breed

English Mastiff Resting
  • Other names:
  • English Mastiff
  • Grand Mastiff

Originally bred for war, the mastiff is one of the heaviest and oldest dog breeds in the world. While the mastiff's ancestors were fierce war dogs, the mastiff today has a docile kind-hearted temperament making the breed perfect for any family that can manage the dog's size and doesn't mind a bit of drool.

The breed is known for their companionship and enduring care and love for their family. They make excellent guard and watch dogs, as most intruders (and guests) are intimidated by a 220 dog watching them approach their property. The dog's size does take a toll on their body as the average mastiff lifespan is roughly 60% the lifespan of the average dog.

Mastiff Breed Details

Breed Specs
Purebred6-10 yrs.27-32 in.120-220 lbs
  • Friendliness
  • Overall
  • Family Friendly
  • Kid Friendly
  • Pet Friendly
  • Stranger Friendly
  • Maintenance
  • Easy to Groom
  • Energy Level
  • Exercise Needs
  • General Health
  • Shedding Amount
  • Behavior
  • Barks / Howls
  • Easy to Train
  • Guard Dog
  • Playfulness
  • Watch Dog
  • Ownership
  • Apartment Friendly
  • Can Be Alone
  • Good for Busy Owners
  • Good for Novice Owners
  • Intelligence
* The more green the stronger the trait.

Below are the characteristics and traits of the mastiff dog breed.

Mastiff Breed Description

There is no doubt that the mastiff is considered a giant dog breed. Males can often exceed 220 pounds and be as tall as 30 inches from ground to shoulder. In 1989 a mastiff named Zorba set the world record by weighing 323 pounds. The potential size of an adult mastiff should be taken into consideration before adopting a mastiff into your family.

Although mastiffs can be very intimidating dogs, they are actually good natured. The breed is known for their courageous spirit and should never be shy or aggressive, but if they feel their family is threatened they will stand between you and the threat. Mastiffs love being around children, however they should be supervised as their large size can easily overwhelm a child. They do well with other pets, but do best when raised with other household animals.

The mastiff requires slightly less maintenance than the average dog breed. They will need to be brushed weekly and their wrinkles will need to be wiped with a damp cloth to keep them clean. They shed more heavily in the spring and fall, so they will need to be brushed daily during this period. The breed needs daily exercise which can be met with a 30 minute walk.

Mastiff Breed History

English Mastiff history dates back as old as (or older than) man itself. True Mastiff origin begins with a type called the Molosser, a huge guardian dog that likely populated the mountains of Asia. Other descendants of Molossers are the Saint Bernard, the Dogue de Bordeaux, the Rottweiler, and even the Pug.

The history of the Mastiff (or "history of the English Mastiff") navigates through previous cultures including the Greeks, Egyptians, and Carthaginians--all of whom used these massive dogs to guard property, fight in war, and as entertainment fighting lions. As the centuries passed, Mastiff-type dogs accompanied troops throughout Europe and Asia.

Actual English Mastiff origin is recorded as early as the 1400s, when the dogs were known to guard British palaces and estates. Starting in the 15th century, a kennel in Cheshire County, England called Lyme Hall began breeding and refining these dogs; the Lyme Hall Mastiffs were bred for centuries, and are the basis for the Mastiff as we know it today.

In the 19th and 20th centuries the Mastiff faced extinction multiple times (mainly due to dog fighting and World Wars I and II), but a few were able to survive. In the U.S. the breed, which probably made its way over from England during colonization, gained popularity in the late 1800s; the American Kennel Club recognized the Mastiff in 1885, and the Mastiff Club of America (which is still the official U.S. breed club) was created in 1929.

Today the Mastiff ranks 29th out of 195 recognized AKC breeds.

Mastiff Appearance

As the largest dog breed that exists, the Mastiff exudes power and confidence. If any breed is reminiscent of a professional wrestler--and a large one at that!--the English Mastiff is it.

But exactly what does an English Mastiff look like? The large body is streamlined and powerful. The Mastiff skull is "squared off"; Mastiff ears are rounded and hanging. (Some people get English Mastiff ears cropped--but for the English Mastiff, cropped ears are by no means necessary.) Mastiff eyes can be different shades too: brown is most common, but a blue-eyed Mastiff is possible. The chest is broad, shoulders muscular, legs long and straight, and Mastiff paws are large and thick. The tail is long, curved, and low-hanging.

The English Mastiff coat is short and straight; English Mastiff coats are also double-layered, with a dense, thick undercoat.

Mastiff Coloring

Below are the standard colors for the mastiff dog breed.

Mastiff Size

A simple way to describe English Mastiff size: enormous. An English Mastiff, full grown, weighs more than the average human being.

And exactly how big do Mastiffs get? For English Mastiff size comparison, these dogs are six feet or more in length, and can be up to eight feet long; the average for all dog breeds is only about three feet.

How much do Mastiffs weigh? Female Mastiff weight starts about 120 pounds; Mastiff average weight is 175 pounds. But Mastiff dog weight can reach 250 pounds or more--and the heaviest English Mastiff known was over 350 pounds!

English Mastiff height starts at 27 inches for females, and 30 inches for males.

Average Adult Height

27-32 in
*Height is measured in inches from the front paws to the top of the shoulder while the dog is standing on all four legs.

Average Adult Weight

120-220 lbs

Mastiff Variations

Within the specific Mastiff (or English Mastiff) dog breed, there's not too much variety in physical features. Some Mastiffs may differ some in weight, head size, tail length, etc., but these variations are naturally occurring and do not represent a specific sub-type.

The English Mastiff coat is consistent too: short and double-layered. The long-haired mastiff does exist, but is a different mastiff type (see below).

More generally, the word "mastiff" can describe either a specific breed (often designated with a capital "M"), or a breed type. In regards to type, more than a dozen large mastiff breeds are known (with some breeds of mastiffs recognized by kennel clubs, some not). Here's a comprehensive list of breeds of mastiff dogs:

Mastiff Temperament

Powerful, dignified, docile, courageous, and even lazy, the English Mastiff dog temperament is a combination of calmness and strength. These dogs--once they mentally mature, which can take three years or more!--are normally laid-back and even-tempered. But they're also incredibly protective, and will defend loved ones (usually with success) if the situation arises.

While not a super-intelligent breed, the English Mastiff personality is a sensitive one. The temperament of a Mastiff is such that the dog dislikes conflict, and will normally express its displeasure at human arguments. Another of the English Mastiff characteristics is that they can be quite shy around unknown people or animals--which means English Mastiff behavior requires supervision around others. Overall, the English Mastiff personality is at its best if the dog is raised in a calm environment, with children and other pets growing up in the home too.

As to training, these dogs learn tasks or commands at only a moderate pace. Training methods should be positive (and never harsh), and may require a few repetitions.

One of the best Mastiff traits, meanwhile, is the breed's watchdog abilities. While they don't bark very much, Mastiffs will usually investigate strange sights and sounds--and can neutralize many potential threats with their size alone.

Mastiff and Children

Are Mastiffs good with kids? Is the English Mastiff a good family dog, in other words? In reality, a Mastiff with kids is great--but some precautions should be taken.

First, it's best if Mastiffs and kids grow up together, so they can socialize from a young age. Second, children (regardless of age) will need to be taught to treat the big dog with respect; rough handling, even if accidental, could have disastrous consequences.

And an English Mastiff with a baby, whether infant or toddler, will require extremely close supervision. Though the Mastiff won't purposefully hurt a small child, the dog's huge size can cause injuries if it sits in the wrong place--or even wags its tail too hard.

Mastiff and Other Pets

Overall, Mastiffs get along fine with most other pets--but they may try to dominate other dogs (especially those of the same sex). An English Mastiff and cats won't be a problem, nor will small animals like birds and rodents.

Another interesting combination is an English Mastiff and a horse. Numerous photos of an English Mastiff next to a horse populate the Web--which show the dog's truly massive size. In reality, though, an English Mastiff with a horse is a good combination, as the two animals normally have mutual respect and fondness for each other.

Mastiff Photos

Below are pictures of the Mastiff dog breed.

English Mastiff
English Mastiff Puppy
Fawn Mastiff
English Mastiff Resting

Living Requirements

Owning a Mastiff can take patience and work. As English Mastiff owners know, these dogs drool heavily, are gassy, and their sheer size makes them like bulls in China shops, as they'll knock over valuables and simply fill up entire rooms. Even so, having a Mastiff as a pet can be a wonderful thing--because as anyone owning an English Mastiff can attest, their size and protective instincts provide plenty of safety.

Living with an English Mastiff is best in a home with a yard, though these big dogs will be okay in apartments as long as they get some daily exercise. Regardless of accommodations, the Mastiff should also live inside with its people instead of out in the yard. And for obvious reasons, a Mastiff should never be chained up, as doing so is a dangerous recipe for aggression and destruction.

And are Mastiffs hypoallergenic? In short, they are not. The English Mastiff hypoallergenic tendencies are basically zero, thanks to a double-layered coat that sheds seasonally. Allergy sufferers will probably need to find another breed.

Random Details

Some interesting facts about the breed:

  • Largest Dog in the World: The average size of the Mastiff (about 175 pounds) is greater than any other breed. English Mastiffs hold world records too: Zorba the Mastiff was listed as the World's Largest Dog in the Guinness Book of World Records for many years. Zorba, an English Mastiff, weighed in at a whopping 343 pounds.
  • A long "puppy" phase: While most breeds mature by about a year and a half (if not before), Mastiffs remain in their "puppy stage" for about three years. And since the breed's lifespan is only 6-10 years, some Mastiffs are puppies for nearly half their lives!
  • Big Dogs, Big Litters: The average litter size for dogs is 5-6 puppies--but Mastiff females give birth to 10-12 puppies. Mastiff litters as large as 20 puppies (or more) is possible.
  • Mastiff on the Mayflower: Historical records show that a Mastiff accompanied the English Pilgrims when they made land at Plymouth Rock in 1620. A passenger named John Goodman brought his Mastiff (along with an English Springer Spaniel) on the ship; though the names of the dogs is unknown, they were instrumental in helping the Pilgrims settle in the new land.

Mastiff Health

Below are health issues and concerns most common in Mastiffs

  • Bloat
  • Cancer
  • Cystinuria
  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy
  • Seizures
  • View all 6...

Mastiff Breed Recognition

The following dog breed registries and organizations recognize the Mastiff as a dog breed:

  • American Canine Registry
  • American Kennel Club
  • America's Pet Registry
  • Australian National Kennel Council
  • Canadian Kennel Club
  • Continental Kennel Club
  • Dog Registry of America Inc.
  • Federation Cynologique Internationale
  • Kennel Club of Great Britain
  • National Kennel Club
  • New Zealand Kennel Club
  • North American Purebred Registry, Inc.
  • United Kennel Club
  • American Canine Association, Inc.
  • View all 14...