Written by Ella White
Dogs come in all sizes, from tiny teacup pups to giant hounds. But which is the biggest dog breed, and what are they like as pets? In this article we’ll look at the Mastiff – thought to be the largest dog breed in the world.
There are different breeds of Mastiff and each of them share certain traits – like their giant stature – but are also different in terms of temperament and personality.
The majestic Mastiff is one of the oldest dog breeds there is. In fact, it’s believed they date back to almost the start of civilization. Huge and strong yet docile, it’s not hard to see how these breeds have maintained their popularity throughout the centuries – from the first dogs to accompany humans as they traveled the world, to great protectors and guard dogs, to the housepets we know them as today.
A male Mastiff will usually be at least 30 inches tall and can weigh up to 230 lbs. Their formidable size along with their dignified and courageous nature make the breed a great choice for guard dogs. But at home Mastiffs are gentle, lovable, and fiercely loyal.
There are many Mastiff breeds, including cross-breeds and close members of the Mastiff family such as Bulldogs and Boxers. However, these are five of the most common Mastiff breeds in the US.
The Bullmastiff dates back to the 1860s when English gamekeepers bred the Old English Mastiff and the Bulldog to develop a breed to protect their estates and their game preserves. So the Bullmastiffs history as a guardian and that loyal and brave nature lives on in their current successors.
Bullmastiffs weigh up to 130 lbs and can grow to 26 inches tall. Their short coats are fawn or red with a black mask on the face and their bodies are powerful and muscular. To a casual observer, they might look a little intimidating, but at home, they’re quiet and affectionate pets.
Highly intelligent, Bullmastiffs respond well to training and need to be kept busy to prevent anxiety as a result of understimulation.
The English Mastiff is one of the largest dog breeds we have in the US, standing at 35 inches tall and weighing up to 230 lbs. Originally, the breed was a war dog working on battlefields alongside soldiers. But today, they’re happy to snooze on the sofa with their loving owners.
Modern working English Mastiffs are often used by the military, police, and security agencies for their formidable size and strength. They have a strong protective nature but are also gentle, affectionate, and calm with their families when properly trained.
English Mastiffs, like all giant breeds, need two daily walks to be mentally and physically stimulated. At home, English Mastiffs can be lazy so it might take a little extra effort to get them out the house, but in terms of their wellbeing it’s well worth it!
The noble Mastiff is thought to have been described by Julias Caesar in his writings about invading Britain in 55 BC. And before this, the breed is believed to have lived with ancient Roman and Egyptian civilisations. So as well as one of the biggest dog breeds, the Mastiff is also one of the oldest.
Traditionally used as fighting or guarding dogs, they are strong, brave, and loyal. Weighing up to 230 lbs, they’re a formidable looking dog, but they have a gentle and dignified nature that also made them popular with ancient noblemen – and modern dog lovers too.
Mastiffs are identifiable by their black mask, and come in fawn, brindle, or apricot coloring. They have a short coat and a strong, muscular body. Though giant, Mastiffs have a relatively low need for exercise beyond moderate daily walks. By nature they’re homebodies that make affectionate family pets.
The Italian Neapolitan Mastiff has a slightly different appearance to other Mastiff breeds. Their wrinkly, jowled faces, darker colorings, and smaller stature set them apart from other Mastiffs. Weighing in at at least 150 lbs, they’re still a strong and large dog – and like other Mastiffs, their origins date back to the ancient Romans who used them as war dogs.
Some still use the Neopolitan Mastiff as a guard dog, but as a house pet they make loving and affectionate companions. Their protective instincts are strong, so training and socialization at the earliest point possible is best to keep them under control.
Though some don’t consider the Tibetan Mastiff to be a true Mastiff breed, they are recognized as such by the American Kennel Club. Distinctive for their longer, fluffier coat, the giant Tibetan Mastiff shares its cousin’s history as a guard dog. Intelligent and protective, this giant breed originated in the mountains of Tibet, which could be why they developed their luscious coat.
As a pet, the Tibetan Mastiff doesn’t come easy. Independent and reserved, they are famous for their strong will and whilst a dog with a mind of their own might sound endearing, it won't feel that way if you’re struggling to keep them under control. For this reason, Tibetan Mastiffs are not recommended pets for first time dog owners. They need extensive training and much like cats, will show love and affection on their own terms.
Despite their stubborn independence, Tibetan Mastiffs are generally calm and docile dogs that can make rewarding pets for non-needy owners.
Considering their giant size and working history, Mastiffs are relatively easy to care for. As most breeds have short fur, a quick weekly brush is all it takes to keep their coat under control. They do experience heavy shedding periods twice a year which might require more grooming than usual.
Because they have wrinkled skin around their face and ears, Mastiffs need to be cleaned regularly to prevent oil build up which can lead to soreness and infection. They’re also prone to drooling so you’ll want to keep some clothes handy – and don’t allow them on the sofa if you’re houseproud!
Giant dogs are more prone to certain health conditions than smaller dogs, so owners should be aware of the signs of certain issues. Joint issues like dysplastic, bloat, some cancers, epilepsy, and von Willebrand's disease are all more common in Mastiffs than other breeds.
Mastiffs can develop hygromas on their joints, which protect them when lying on hard surfaces. They look like unnatural swelling but they’re actually a natural protective cushion. If your vet confirms that swelling in your dog’s joints are hygromas, don’t get them drained – they might not look great, but they’re helping your dog deal with hard floors.
Mastiffs are intelligent animals which makes them easy to train… But it also means they lose interest quickly. During training, use praise and rewards to keep them interested and try to maintain eye contact as a form of communication. They respond to engagement so don’t show that your own attention is waning or they’re likely to lie down and start napping.
Due to their protective instincts, Mastiffs should be trained and socialized as early as possible to keep their strong, independent nature under control. They are sensitive dogs that can become stressed and upset by anger and loud voices, so opt for gentle training methods that reward them with love and respect.
The more people, animals, environments, and situations you can expose your Mastiff puppy to when they’re young, the better adjusted they will be as adults.