Below are the characteristics and traits of the mastiff dog breed.
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.
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.
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.
The images below represent the coat colors and patterns associated with Mastiffs.
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:
- Argentinian Mastiff: also known as the Dogo Argentino; white, heavily muscled
- Brazilian Mastiff: aka the Fila Brasileiro; large and dominant
- Bullmastiff: Mastiff x Bulldog; stubborn and territorial
- English Mastiff: aka simply a Mastiff; largest mastiff breed
- French Mastiff: aka the Dogue de Bordeaux; short-nosed, calm
- German Mastiff: aka the Great Dane; tall, well-mannered
- Italian Mastiff: aka the Cane Corso; powerful and intelligent
- Neapolitan Mastiff: Wrinkly, heavy-boned
- Pyrenean Mastiff: Heavy-coated, family-oriented
- Spanish Mastiff: Wrinkly, livestock guardian
- Tibetan Mastiff: Long-haired, fluffy type of mastiff; strong-willed and protective
- Canary Mastiff: aka the Presa Canario; muscular, square-jawed
- Japanese Mastiff: aka the Tosa Inu; gentle but bred for fighting
- Pakistani Mastiff: aka the Bully Kutta; known for aggression
- South African Mastiff: aka the Boerboel; muscular and obedient
- Kangal Dog: Turkish livestock guardian
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.
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.
Below are health issues and concerns most common in Mastiffs
Below are potential health concerns associated with Mastiffs.
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.