When people speak of the large breed of dog known as a Mastiff, they are actually referring to multiple breeds of dog that are commonly known as Mastiffs. These dogs are all quite large, with wide heads and gentle dispositions. The four breeds most commonly called Mastiffs are the English Mastiff, the Neapolitan Mastiff, the Bull Mastiff and the Tibetan Mastiff.
Of course, this is not an all-inclusive list, as there are many other breeds that include the term Mastiff in the name, as well as quite a few others that are grouped with the other Mastiffs, regardless of the difference in their names. Each type of Mastiff was bred for a slightly different protection purposes, and today they all are used for working duties as well as companionship.
The English Mastiff is the breed most commonly referred to as simply a Mastiff by the various kennel club organizations. This breed can be traced back to the early 19th century.
Known for being the largest breed of dog, it is not the tallest breed, but it is remarkably widely set and deep-chested. Males can weigh up to 250 pounds, while females typically do not weigh more than 200 pounds. There are limited colors available for this breed; the fawn coloration is most common, and all have a distinguishable black mask over their muzzle.
Here we have 3 English Mastiffs – Tessa, Willow, and Duchess:
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Also known as the Italian Mastiff, the Neapolitan Mastiff has been a breed for centuries. At one point, they were threatened with extinction as a breed after World War II, but an Italian painter turned things around for this breed by beginning a dedicated breeding kennel with the goal of extending the life of this large breed.
Compared to the English Mastiff, however, the Neapolitan Mastiff is notably smaller. Males do not tend to exceed 155 pounds, while females tend to stay smaller than 130 pounds.
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Another ancient breed, the Tibetan Mastiff, originates from the areas of Tibet, China, and Nepal. Unlike the others, this one is not a true Mastiff; the name was given due to their large size. These dogs are used primarily for guarding flocks of sheep, protecting their herd from wolves and wild cats.
Much like the English Mastiff, these dogs are quite large. Males can reach 4 feet tall and 200 pounds, with females weighing a bit less. They are hardy, muscular, and have a thick coat of fur. Unlike other domestic breeds, female Tibetan Mastiffs only go into heat once a year instead of the twice a year that is considered normal.
This is an 11 month old Tibetan Mastiff named Big Splash (Hong Dong in Chinese). He is considered to be the most expensive dog in the world after selling for $1.5 million to a Chinese coal baron.
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The Bullmastiff was originally bred in England around 1860, as a mixture of 60% Mastiff and 40% Bulldog, bred to protect large English estates from poachers. Breeders were going for a dog that would be larger but less aggressive than a bulldog, while faster and more aggressive than a Mastiff.
Surprisingly, the Bull Mastiff doesn’t require much exercise or grooming, and can live happily in a small house or apartment. Although they seldom bark, they make excellent guard dogs. With shorter legs than the other Mastiff breeds, Bull Mastiffs are usually only between 24 to 27 inches tall at the shoulder when full-grown and weigh between 100 and 130 pounds.
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Mastiff’s are generally very good-natured and affectionate, and make loyal and protective companions. They are calm and courageous, and have a dignified manner. Their gentle, protective nature makes them an excellent choice for homes with children.
The Mastiff’s coat comes in fawn, apricot or brindle, and the shorter-haired breeds require little grooming. A moderate amount of daily exercise is needed, although not as much as some breeds. One warning – you must be to be prepared to be slobbered on.
Mastiffs are especially near and dear to my heart. The image you see at the top of our Facebook page is Yankee, my son’s Mastiff. Yankee was an English-Neapolitan mix. He left us in October of 2013 at not quite 9 years of age, and he is missed so much. This is the image from the Facebook page:
That image is part of a series from one day when he was rolling in the grass and playing with a stick. Click to see them full-sized:
This is Yankee’s mother, Molly (the brindle) and his aunt Tume (the fawn) (pronounced Too-May). They are both getting old now, and mostly just lay over in their favorite corner. When someone comes in the house, they still bark, but they don’t bother to get up, they just bark from where they are laying. 🙂
These pictures include 2 of his litter mates, Suede and Ms. Fang