If you are looking for a large, powerful dog, but you also want an animal who is unique, one of these rare mastiff dog breeds may be exactly what you are looking for. These are impressive, big dogs who can bring the love along with their size. Each breed has unique characteristics and care requirments, so find out which might be a good fit for your home.
Rare Types of Mastiffs
Mastiffs are a group of large, working-type dogs that include a number of varieties. Some are recognized as individual breeds, while others are still working toward recognition. A number of these dogs are even quite rare in their own home countries.
Mastiffs come from all over the world, and although they are similar to each other in many ways, each has subtle differences due to where the breed originated and the purpose it was bred for. Examples of the most rare Mastiff breeds include:
The Andronicus Mastiff is a bit of a mystery, and there are very few facts known about it. According to MolosserDogs.com, this rare Mastiff was developed by Cary Mejia of California. Mejia has kept the secret of the breeds used to develop the Andronicus, but interested parties speculate that the following dogs were used as the foundation for the breed.
- English Mastiff
- Neapolitan Mastiff
- Great Dane
- American Staffordshire Terrier
- Presa Canario
- Cane Corso
- American Bulldog
Because so many breeds have possibly contributed to the Andronicus' genetic makeup, there's a lack of uniformity in their appearance. Some look like super-sized American Staffordshires, while others have a more traditional Mastiff look. The one aspect they all have in common is that they are powerfully built and have strong jaws. Mejia provides an gextensive gallery you can view on his website. He does state that males typically weigh between 100 and 140 pounds, while females are a little smaller at 80 to 110 pounds.
According to Mejia's own website, Andronicus.com, this dog's personality is described as:
- Sweet and devoted
- Not headstrong like some Mastiffs tend to be
- Respectful of your authority
- Good with children
An Adronicus Mastiff was featured in the movie, The Hulk. This raised awareness of this dog's existence and created some demand for puppies. Currently, Mejia sells puppies for a minimum of $2,500, and only male pups are made available to the public. Mejia keeps all the females for the breeding program, and states that if anyone else tries to sell you an Andronicus, it's not the real thing.
With all the hype that surrounds this Mastiff, it will be interesting to see what becomes of it in the future. Perhaps one day it will achieve full-breed status, but for now, it is simply one more designer breed.
Unlike the Andronicus, the Tibetan Mastiff is a full-fledged breed after gaining recognition from the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 2006. Even though that recognition is relatively recent, the breed dates back as far as 1100 B.C. China. These dogs were developed primarily to guard their families.
According to the AKC Breed Standard, these dogs:
- Stand 24 to 26 inches tall at the withers
- Are slightly longer than they are tall
- Are extremely muscular and solidly built
- Have very broad, strong heads
- Have well-feathered tails held curved up over their backs
- Have thick coats with heavy manes and a lot of feathering on their britches
- Come in black, brown, blue/grey and shades of gold; some with tan markings
The AKC describes the breed's temperament as:
- Reserved and aloof with strangers
- Highly intelligent
- Strong willed
- Highly protective of the people and property they feel belongs to them
Since this breed is so rare, locating a breeder can be a challenge. To find a list of reputable breeders, visit the American Tibetan Mastiff Association.
The Neapolitan is another rare Mastiff that is ancient in origin, but was only recently recognized by the AKC in 2004. The breed traces its lineage back to the Roman dogs of war. Its intimidating looks were specifically designed to enhance its guard dog status. Today, the Neapolitan is a quiet family dog that doesn't bark unless it seems necessary, but it still makes an outstanding guardian.
According to the AKC Beed Standard, these dogs:
- Are massive and heavy boned
- Have thick tails that taper toward the tip and are docked by 1/3 of their original length
- Are covered in loose skin
- Have large heads draped in voluminous wrinkles
- Are naturally heavy droolers due to their very loose jowls
- Weigh around 150 pounds for males and 110 pounds for females
- Stand 24 to 31 inches tall at the shoulders
- Have short, dense coats with no fringes
- Come in shades of gray/blue, black, mahogany and tawny; may have brindling or white markings
The AKC further describes the breed's temperament as:
- Stead and calm, yet weary of strangers
- Protective of family
- Loyal and devoted
- Not aggressive without good reason
Sometimes people take on one of these dogs without fully realizing what they're getting into. If you're interested in finding a Neapolitan companion, consider visiting Mastino Rescue.
Dogue de Bordeaux
Little is known about the origins of the Dogue de Bordeaux, aka French Mastiff, but this dog has long been used to perform a variety of tasks, including herding flocks, hunting boars and acting as a guard dog. The breed was officially recognized by the AKC in 2008.
According to the AKC Breed Standard, the Bordeaux:
- Has a massive, short-muzzled head
- Has thick, loose skin and a wrinkled forehead
- Is powerfully built, and slightly longer than tall
- Is a little shorter than most Mastiff breeds
- Weighs a minimum of 110 pounds for male dogs and a minimum 99 pounds for females
- Comes in shades from a dark red fawn to light fawn
The AKC describes this dog's personality as:
- Very calm, yet watchful
- Courageous, but not aggressive
- A natural guardian
- Affectionate towards his family
Finding a Bordeaux
The Cane Corso is an ancient Italian Mastiff that is highly intelligent and easily trained. It was once used mostly for the protection of the farm and livestock. It is a little smaller than some of the other Mastiffs, and is well known for its agility and speed. This Mastiff was officially recognized by the AKC in 2010.
According to the AKC Breed Standard, corsos:
- Are medium-large sized Mastiff type dogs
- Have large heads with strong jaws
- Have drop ears that are sometimes cropped to equilateral triangles and held erect
- Have muscular, large-boned bodies
- Have a rather athletic, agile appearance
- Stand up to 27.5 inches tall for males and 26 inches tall for females
- Carry weight in proportion to their size
- Have a thick tail that tapers only slightly at the tip
- Have short coats that are thick, shiny and stiff to the touch
- Come in black, as well as shades of gray, fawn and red
- May be brindled or have black or gray masks
The AKC describes the corso's temperament as:
- Intelligent and easy to train
- Docile and affectionate with his family, especially with the children
- Protective of his family and his territory
It's unlikely you'll find puppies of this breed listed in your local newspaper. Visit the Cane Corso Association of America for breeder referrals.
Alangu and Bully Kutta
These two Mastiffs may, in fact, be variations of the same breed and some of the rarest Mastiffs of all. Alangu is the name they mainly go by in India, where it is believed they originated, while Bully Kutta is the name given to them in neighboring Pakistan. These dogs have ancient roots, and they may even have been used as dogs of war by Alexander the Great, who is believed to have brought them into Pakistan. What is known for certain is that they have been used as hunters and guard dogs for centuries. They have even been used as fighting dogs due to their great strength and naturally aggressive nature.
The Alangu looks quite similar to a typical Mastiff. It's powerfully built with a massive, squared head and incredibly fearsome-looking jaws. The overall impression of this dog is that it looks majestic and intimidating.
Additional physical characteristics of this dog include:
- Height - Approximately 29 to 30 inches tall at the shoulder
- Weight - Approximately 150 pounds for either sex
- Coat - Short, flat double coat
- Colors - Brown, fawn or brindle, with various markings
The Alangu's temperament is described as being:
- A natural guard dog
- Quite territorial
- Viciously aggressive under the right circumstances
- A threat to other pets in the home due to its strong hunting instincts
- In need of strong leadership from its owners and a great deal of socialization and training from puppyhood
The Boerboel is a very agile Mastiff type dog that was developed to be a general-purpose farm dog in South Africa. Due to the harsh conditions, only the strongest dogs survived and became part of the breeding pool. As a result, these dogs are quite hardy. One of their primary jobs was to protect livestock from predators, and they still perform that job today.
According to the AKC breed standard, Boerboels should display the following physical characteristics.
- Males - 24 to 27 inches tall
- Females - 23 to 25 inches tall
- Weight - 154 to 200 pounds
- Head - Broad and blocky
- Body - Also blocky with good width and depth
- Tail - Thick and may be docked
- Skin - Thick and loose, but smooth
- Coat - Short, thick and shiny
- Colors - Brown, red and fawn - black mask preferred
- Markings - Small amount of white allowed
- Other markings - Brindle, piebald or Irish markings
The AKC describes the Boerboel's temperament as:
- Calm, stable and self-assured
- Naturally dominant
- Highly intelligent
- Loving and protective of family members, especially children
- Sometimes aloof
The availability of Boerboels is fairly limited. To locate breeders, visit the American Boerboel Club website and use the contact info at the bottom of any page.
The Tosa Inu was bred by the Japanese as a fighting dog. It is an extremely quiet breed because the rules in Japanese dog fighting called for silence. Due to this background, this dog should only be handled by an experienced Mastiff owner who can provide strong leadership. Tosa Inus need a lot of early socialization and training if they are going to become family pets.
There is no written breed standard for the Tosa Inu, but Dog Breed Info does offer a basic physical description of these dogs, which includes:
- Body - Very muscular
- Height - Approximately 24 inches tall at the shoulder
- Weight range - 83 to 200 pounds
- Head - Large with an abrupt stop and square muzzle
- Jaws - Powerful and meet in a scissors bite
- Tail - Thick and tapers toward the end
- Coat - Short, thick and hard to the touch
- Colors - Black, black and tan, black and brindle, shades of red through fawn, shades of apricot through yellow
- Markings - May have black mask; may have some white markings on chest and feet
The temperament of the Tosa Inu is described as:
- Naturally protective
- In need of firm but fair leadership from its humans at all times
Perro de Presa Canario
The Presa Canario, as it is commonly referred to, was developed in the Canary Islands sometime during the 1800s. These dogs worked hard guarding livestock against predators, and they also helped catch and hold livestock. Unfortunately, some were also used as fighters. The breed went into serious decline for a time, but breeders began working diligently in the 1970s to preserve it.
According to the United Perro de Presa Canario Club (UPPCC), physical characteristics of the Presa include:
- Males - 23 to 26 inches tall at the withers, 100 pounds minimum
- Females - 22 to 25 inches tall at the withers, 85 pounds minimum
- Body - Moderately large; 20 percent longer than it is tall; broad, deep chest
- Head - Cube-shaped and slightly domed
- Eyes - Slightly oval and wide-set
- Bite - Scissors or reverse scissors bite preferred
- Ears - May hang naturally or be cropped and held erect
- Tail - Correct length extends just to the hock; thick and muscular at the base and tapering to the tip
- Coat - Short and flat with a harsh texture; slightly long on the withers and hindquarters
- Colors - Any shade and combination of fawn, black or brindle; must have a black or brown mask that doesn't extend over the eyes
- Markings - Minimal amount of white acceptable on the chest, throat and toes
Since the Presa Canarios' revival, breeders have concentrated on preserving this dog's natural guarding instincts and balancing those instincts with an even temperament. The modern Presa's temperament is described as:
- Extremely affectionate with its owners
- Docile and obedient to its owners
- Wary of strangers
- Aggressive toward other dogs
There are several Mastiff crosses that are desirable, including:
- Irish Mastiff: The Irish Mastiff is a mix between the English Mastiff and Irish Wolfhound. The Irish Wolfhound adds some extra sweetness to the loving English Mastiff's already friendly demeanor.
- Bloodhound Mastiff: This pooch is a blend of the Bloodhound and English Mastiff. With the Bloodhound's keen sense of smell, and the English Mastiff's kind disposition, this breed could make an excellent addition to the family.
- Ambullneo Mastiff: A mix between the English mastiff and Neapolitan Mastiff creates this designer breed. These breeds have been crossed for generations, allowing the genetic problems that existed prior to be filtered out down the line.
- Shepherd Mastiff: This is a mix between the German Shepherd and the English Mastiff. This breed mix isn't as popular due to their stubborn streak, but once trained, could make a large protective guard dog for your family.
- Mastidoodle: The Mastidoodle is a cross between the Mastiff and Poodle. Developed in the 1990s, this breed hybrid is commonly chosen due to their hypoallergenic trait.
These dogs need very strong leadership from their owners to become good household companions. Visit the UPPCC website for a list of registered breeders and available puppies.
Are You the Right Person for a Rare Mastiff?
Rare Mastiffs, like all mastiff breeds, require a good deal of space and a handler who has working experience with large dogs. These huge dogs need to be socialized when they are young puppies to circumvent any problems later when the dog is large and more difficult to handle. Like other rare breeds, these unusual mastiffs will command top prices. If you are planning on getting a mastiff, be sure to learn all you can about the particular breed you're interested in. Before making a final decision, talk to the breeder to make sure that this type of dog is a good fit for your lifestyle.