The Mastiff is a large-breed dog with a huge heart. At first glance, they may appear to be intimidating, but under their giant body is an affectionate, gentle personality. They do well with everyone in the family, but take special care around young children, as Mastiffs may accidentally topple them over. They don't tend to fully understand their enormous size.
Origin and History
An ancient dog known as Molossus is the ancestor of the Mastiff we know and love today. They are known to have been in existence up to 5,000 years ago. Drawings of Mastiff-like dogs are found throughout records in Babylonian, Greek, and Egyptian history. They were used as guard dogs as well as for entertainment purposes and were once used to fight lions.
Kublai Khan owned a kennel with more than 5,000 Mastiffs used both for war and hunting purposes. Hannibal brought Mastiffs with him when he crossed the Alps to bring war to Rome. Along this journey, they mated with local dogs, likely the ancestors of modern Saint Bernards and Rottweilers.
The Mastiff arrived in the United States during the Colonial era. They were one of the earliest breeds to be registered by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1885. Shortly thereafter, in 1929, the Mastiff Club of America was formed to watch over the breed.
The Mastiff goes beyond the description of being large. They're a giant breed with a gentle disposition and an affinity for all members of the household.
The Mastiff has a short, straight outercoat with a dense undercoat. Acceptable colors include apricot, fawn, or brindle. Brindle Mastiffs are a mixture of both colors with dark stripes. Some members of the breed have a small, white patch on their chest.
This breed is commonly referred to as a mammoth due to their large size. Male Mastiffs should be 30 inches tall at the shoulder, while female Mastiffs should be 27.5 inches tall. Although other breeds may be similar in height, the Mastiff outweighs other large breeds by up to 100 pounds. They can weigh up to 220 pounds or more, so get ready for a Clifford-like lap dog.
Don't let their large size fool you; Mastiffs are more like giant teddy bears than anything else. They do protect their family if necessary, but prefer love over aggression. Mastiffs are gentle in nature and don't even like conflict between family members. If you and your spouse begin to argue, don't be surprised if your Mastiff walks in to stop it.
Mastiffs adore kids, but may not be best in homes with young children as they may accidentally knock them over. As such, they do best in homes with older children. It's also important to keep in mind they should never be ridden. They are large, but regardless of your child's size, allowing them to ride on the back of your dog could lead to injuries to both the child and the dog.
Obedience training should start the moment your puppy arrives home, whether they're an adult or a puppy. The younger your dog is when you begin training, the easier it will be, especially considering this breed is fast-growing. They are relatively easy to train with positive reinforcement, but aren't recommended for first-time owners, partially because it is important to use effective training prior to Mastiff reaching adult size.
Socialization is important in any breed, but especially in large breeds. Lack of socialization in any dog can lead to destructive behavior, aggression, and inability to interact with other people and animals. The Mastiff is particularly large, and if not exposed to social situations, strangers, other pets, and unfamiliar surroundings, they can present a more significant threat than much smaller breeds. A Mastiff that is properly socialized and trained is a loving, well-rounded family companion.
Between 20 and 30 minutes of exercise twice each day is sufficient for the Mastiff. Due to their large size, their joints and body will thank you for not taking them along for your daily jog, but a daily walk is acceptable as long as you maintain hydration and keep an eye on energy levels. The best walking time is in the early morning and late evening to prevent overheating.
Mastiffs are prone to a few of the usual health problems encountered with most large breeds, including:
- Canine hip dysplasia: This is a painful joint and skeletal disorder that tends to affect larger, active dogs such as the Bullmastiff.
- Gastric torsion: Often referred to as "bloat," this condition more frequently affects deep-chested dogs and can be fatal if not treated immediately.
- Cancer: Various types affect many dog breeds, but the Mastiff is prone to developing osteosarcoma.
Most Mastiffs live between 6 and 8 years on average, with some living up to 12 years old.
Maintaining your Mastiff's coat is as simple as brushing it once a day with a rubber curry. Shower or bathe them only when absolutely essential. Check your Mastiff's ears weekly for any odor or redness. If these are present, this might indicate an infection is present or is worsening. If the ears appear to be healthy, wipe the outer ear with pH-balanced ear cleaner to prevent infection, making sure you do not to enter the inner ear.
The folds of their skin need to be cleaned every day to prevent bacterial infections. Wiping with a damp washcloth and drying with a dry cloth is sufficient. Follow the same process with their upper lip.
Fun Facts about the Breed
The Mastiff truly is one of a kind. Check out these fun facts!
- Zorba, a Mastiff included in the Guinness Book of Records, is the largest dog on record, weighing 323 pounds in 1989.
- Mastiffs traveled on the Mayflower in 1620.
- The breed almost went extinct after World War II.
- They have large litters of up to 10 to 12 puppies.
Purchasing or Adopting a Mastiff
If you're looking for a Mastiff puppy, a good place to start is the Mastiff Club of America. The club has a breeder directory available as well as helpful tips on how to find responsible breeders with quality dogs. The AKC Marketplace also has a breeder search. Expect to pay around $1,000 to $1,500, although show dogs from champion lines can cost as much as $5,000.
If you're searching for a rescue dog, and you aren't set on a purebred, you can begin by checking the directories on PetFinder and Save-a-Rescue. You can also search the following breed-specific rescues:
- Southern States Mastiff Rescue: A nonprofit focused on purebred Mastiffs, adopting to the states of Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi.
- Great Plains Mastiff Rescue: A nonprofit rescue organization for Mastiffs and Mastiff mixes, partnered with Chewy.
- Happy Go-Lucky Mastiff Rescue: An organization rescuing Mastiffs and other large-breed dogs.
Is this the Breed for You?
The Mastiff is an excellent companion for an experienced dog owner who doesn't mind a giant dog and can handle their drool around the house. They aren't suitable for those who live in an apartment, don't have a lot of space for them to roam, or for first-time dog owners. If you have experience caring for big dogs and are looking for a large breed with a big heart, this could be the dog for you.