As the largest dog-type, Mastiffs live up to their (sometimes) reputation of being benevolent behemoths. And by “behemoth,” i’m referring to their massive bone structure, muscular build and powerful stride. You won’t want to mess with these dogs.
On the other hand, benevolence indicates their calm and composed temperament. These dogs have the inherent maturity of using their strength only when required. Unless irked to the point of irritation, it’s not common for Mastiffs to jump into a fight, let alone start one.
It’s no surprise that Mastiff dog breeds have since made their way into the mainstream. They’re in our homes as companions, guard dogs and more. That said, here are the world’s top Mastiff dogs that you should know about.
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What’s a Mastiff?
There’s a lot of confusion in how the word “mastiff” is being used today. Just because a dog is called a mastiff doesn’t mean they’re related to another. And according to etymologists, the true meaning of the word is: a big dog mixed dog.
Most mastiff breeds are “broad-mouthed” dogs. In other words, they sport a similar facial and/or nasal structure as brachycephalic dogs: a short skull. However, they tend to show a “reduced” form of this, not like the Pekingese, Pug or French Bulldog.
Even so, not all breeds with the mastiff title will have this distinctive physical trait. For example, breeds like the Tibetan Mastiff do not have broad mouths. And although the true mastiffs were introduced later into their bloodlines, the skulls are still quite different.
The two types of mastiffs obviously have physical differences, though most modern kennel clubs have classified them both under the “molosser” type today. So for simplicity, we will be covering both types of mastiffs (molossers) in our list.
The Mastiff Temperament
As tough as mastiff dogs are on the outside, they’re just as gentle within. Their nickname of a “gentle giant” is both well-earned and apt. Thanks to their massive size, they do need early socialization to get along with strangers and other animals.
But most mastiffs maintain a strong sense of loyalty towards owners and all family members. It’s mainly with smaller children that they need supervision. Because they’re so big, they may inadvertently cause injury to the little ones.
While mastiff pups are energetic, older members of this breed tend to become lethargic. This is why the mastiffs require a daily dose of moderate exercise in their routine. Mastiffs also chew, drool and snore, all of which need getting used to.
They’re friendly with people, but they need a lot of socialization as tiny pups. Firm but gentle training, or you’re going to get dragged down the street, with your house wrecked.– Ian Loves Dogs (City Data)
Let the Mastiff have “right of way” at your own risk. Intelligent and independent, they will quickly assume the alpha role if you provide them with the slightest leeway. For a bond to be mutually pleasant, you will want to establish yourself in charge.
Next, assume an assertive and consistent attitude during training. Last but not the least you must use positive reinforcement techniques, like rewards, praise and treats. These massive dogs don’t respond well to anything else.
Get your Mastiff accustomed to regular grooming sessions. Utilize the opportunity to check for rashes, infections, inflammation or any other indications that might further aggravate. Overall, the Mastiff may not be suitable for a first-time dog owner.
Best Mastiff Dog Breeds
Though rare, there are more mastiff dogs than presented in this list. In addition, there are those that have gone extinct many years ago. Let us know in the comments section below, which of these mastiff breeds are your favorite?
1. Tibetan Mastiff
Highlights: Brave, Independent, Reserved
One of the biggest dog breeds in the world, the Tibetan Mastiff personifies nobility. And while they give off the impression of being aloof, never mistake this for docility. This is especially important if you’re a stranger wandering on their territory.
Tibetan Mastiffs love being independent, and make it evident to their owners. So, don’t waste your time throwing objects and expecting them to fetch. Instead, take them out for a long walk twice a day, and chart a fresh route every time.
While providing a dose of adventure, the practice also prevents them from becoming territorial. Since the Tibetan Mastiff is inherently strong-willed and independent, they can wander off if left unattended. And to earn their loyalty, treat them with respect.
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Highlights: Loving, Devoted, Brave
Quiet but alert, the Bullmastiff is easily the best home-protector. For a working family, this cross-breed of a Bulldog and a Mastiff is an ideal option. They can stay alone at home for hours at a stretch. Nor do they require much grooming.
With a Bullmastiff around, be prepared to wipe the drool frequently. Past the slobber, this dog is really a trustworthy and affectionate companion. Confident by nature, Bullmastiffs can assume charge unless handled with firmness and consistency.
And despite being mellow, they are far from lazy while often excelling in agility competitions. The hybrid is particularly heat sensitive, so hot and humid weather can lead to heatstroke and severe exhaustion. As such, they should remain indoors when its hot.
3. English Mastiff
Highlights: Noble, Confident, Good-natured
Big and burly, the iconic English Mastiff is just as soft within. However, we’d advise against ever creeping up on this dog, unless you wish to be knocked over. And while they’re always vigilant, an English Mastiff is also sensitive and resent loneliness.
These dogs value the family, and do not mind space constraints as long as the owners are able to give them their daily exercise. Constant drooling comes as a part of the package with the English Mastiff. So does flatulence, though this can be minimized through diet options.
This Mastiff also snores and grunts, which is something you must accept. Their apricot, fawn or brindle coats shed sufficiently to warrant regular cleaning. On the bright side, they’re a loyal dog breed that seldom barks.
4. Argentinian Mastiff
Highlights: Friendly, Happy, Respectful
More famously known as the Dogo Argentino, the Argentinian Mastiff is the descendant of the Cordoba Fighting Dog. Large and muscular, this canine makes an ideal big-game hunter that can overwhelm even aggressive boars.
But after having finished with the hunt, they instantly transform into happy family-loving dogs. This dog values his independence, but will still respond well to positive training. That being said, they treat smaller animals as prey, unless socialized from an early age.
This breed requires daily exercise – both physical and mental. Invest in a lint roller because Argentinian Mastiffs shed moderately. Otherwise their short white coat looks neat, requiring only regular brushing and the occasional bathing.
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5. Dogue de Bordeaux
Highlights: Loving, Kind, Courageous
Nicknamed the DDB, this Mastiff breed is a perfect option for a family with older kids. Being a sociable dog, they belong with people in a loving home. No matter what might be going on at home, they manage to remain calm and collected.
However, much of the calmness dissipates as soon as an intruder arrives. Physically, a DDB balances a massive head on a muscular physique. Particularly eye catching are the deep facial wrinkles that bear a serious but inquisitive and comical expression.
Although massive in size, this breed cannot withstand extreme temperatures (especially the cold). They also require consistent training and plenty of socializing to be able to accept smaller animals, children or strangers. Still, they’re formidable guard dogs.
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6. German Mastiff
Highlights: Loving, Gentle, Reserved
Popularly known as the Great Dane, German Mastiffs stand tallest among all canines. They are kind-hearted, loyal and affectionate, making them a great option for all families. Though, you’ll still want to supervise their interactions with small kids.
Gentle Giants that they are, German Mastiffs sport a muscular build. Their short thick coats range from lighter hues like brindle and fawn to dark shades, like black, blue or harlequin. In this breed, the eye color matches that of the coat.
With medium-length ears that may or may not be cropped, the German Mastiff will require a decent bit of grooming. From coat-brushing and nail-trimming, the obedient canine enjoys it all. But do keep a vacuum cleaner handy because they shed in moderation.
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7. Alangu Mastiff
Highlights: Fierce, Protective, Confident
Known as the mighty Bully Kutta, Alangu Mastiffs excel as guard dogs. Native to India, they are naturally muscular, agile and sharp. This mastiff dog revels in protecting livestock for their farmer owners who take command.
However, due to their aggressive streak, they are not recommended for first-time dog owners. Alangu Mastiffs sport a short coat which could be fawn, brindle or red. Bathing this breed can be rather fun – simply hose them down in the backyard for a quick wash.
Alternatively, sponge it with a damp cloth, paying special attention to their paws. Overall, this mastiff breed enjoys good health. Still, age-related blindness and arthritis are some concerns that the owners must look out for.
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8. Abruzzese Mastiff
Highlights: Kind, Brave, Even-tempered
An Abruzzese Mastiff loves having a purpose. This “purpose” could vary from running a simple errand to something more significant, such as herding and protecting livestock. Not having any chore will make an Abruzzese restless and anxious.
Perhaps this is why they prefer wide open spaces, compared to a cramped urban settings. But with the right environment, they tend to get along great with humans. Sporting a thick white coat developed for high altitudes, Abruzzese Mastiffs will require intensive grooming.
Courtesy an independent lineage, the breed dislikes being “ordered” around. Instead, make it seem as though you’re entrusting them with a task. The key is to give them a point of focus and keep them busy and occupied, particularly when they’re indoors.
9. American Mastiff
Highlights: Proud, Protective, Calm
Dignified is how the slightly shy American Mastiff may come off. Despite the huge build, this dog stops short of being aggressive. At the same time, they can be very protective towards the family. So, even the slightest hint of threat triggers their combative instinct.
The breed comes in apricot, brindle or fawn colors. There may or may not be white markings on their feet, chest, chin or nose. Particularly distinct are their amber eyes, rounded ears and wide rectangular head (as seen with many mastiffs).
However, features that set this mastiff apart from others are the relatively tight skin and a dry mouth. With an American Mastiff, establish yourself as the alpha. Having set the hierarchy, be consistent and the good-natured dog will oblige.
10. Dutch Mastiff
Highlights: Playful, Charming, Sociable
I had to throw in this curve ball in because it’s ironic yet funny. The Dutch Mastiff is neither Dutch nor a Mastiff. Rather, it’s the Chinese Pug. Though having originated from China, they do share their lineage with the Tibetan Mastiff.
When these dogs first appeared in the Netherlands, they were called Dutch Mastiffs or Dwarf Mastiffs. Of course, they’re not your typical “mastiff” dogs. However, they were called this due to the mastiff-like wrinkles and body contours.
Not exactly athletic, the Dutch Mastiff enjoys short walks to remain fit. In the home, they will be loving and intelligent with a mild temperament. After all, they were bred to be lap dogs by the Chinese royalty, so they’re happiest in your lap.
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11. Brazilian Mastiff
Highlights: Protective, Obedient, Determined
Known as Fila Brasileiro, the Brazilian Mastiff walks with a straight-backed camel gait. Fila, a Portuguese word, translates to “hold, arrest, grab.” True to their name, these dogs will hunt by grabbing, holding and arresting the prey.
Another Portuguese word associated with them is “ojeriza,” meaning highly distrustful, which they are. As such, the phrase that best describes this large-eared breed is “as Faithful as Fila,” which indicates the strong protective instinct of this mastiff.
Their desire to protect is so intense that even early socializing will have minimal impact. That said, they do not fit well with most families. A distinctive feature of a Brazilian Mastiff is a band of white on their otherwise fawn, brindle or black loose-fitting coat.
12. Caucasian Shepherd
Highlights: Dominant, Calm, Alert
Bold, sturdy yet sharp, the Caucasian Shepherd comes across as the ideal protector or guard dog. And for many generations, this mastiff dog breed has assisted shepherds in the Caucasus Mountains to herd and guard livestock.
Nowadays, this protective streak expresses itself through guard duty work with the military or the police personnel. Even so, training this independent and intelligent dog isn’t a walk in the park. It should be entrusted to someone highly experienced.
The mastiff breed sports a double coat which could be long, short or medium. Color options range from solid white and cream to fawn, tan or red. Their distinctive features include white markings against a dark coat and a dark facial mask.
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13. Canary Mastiff
Highlights: Determined, Calm, Brave
True to the Molosser lineage, Canary Mastiffs sport a muscular physique. Thanks to their short coat and graceful gait, this mastiff breed is often described as cat-like. Balanced and confident with owners, they can just as easily turn aggressive towards strangers.
Presa Canarios, as they are typically called, require daily exercise to stay fit. From casual walks to games and agility training, the canine enjoys physical activity both indoor and outdoor. Since they are prone to obesity, pay extra attention to their diet.
Canary Mastiffs need an occasional bath, as with most double-coated mastiffs. But their nails grow very fast and must be trimmed to avoid splitting or cracking. Other aspects that require regular cleaning are their ears and teeth.
14. Japanese Mastiff
Highlights: Vigilant, Fearless, Smart
The intrepid and sensitive Japanese Mastiff sports a large black nose perched on a broad head. Small high-set ears, dark brown eyes and powerful jaws set in a scissor grip completes their looks. Also, the dense yet short coat could assume a number of colors.
So long as the owner remains in control, this canine remains attentive and obedient. Also known as the Tosa Inu, they believe in maintaining silence courtesy of their ancestral legacy. That being said, you can count on them to react to intruders.
The Japanese Mastiff will be stable and low-energy, but still requires daily exercise. You may want to take them out for walks or hikes frequently. And while indoors, engage them with mild exercises like rolling and fetching games.
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15. Italian Mastiff
Highlights: Calm, Reserved, Courageous
Italian Mastiffs emanate an aura of cool competence. Add to it an imposing and intimidating appearance, and you have yourself a canine bodyguard. The large head, alert expression and muscular frame further strengthen this impression.
What comes as a surprise is that the Cane Corso, another name for the breed, is just as eager to please. Establish yourself as being in charge, and the assertive and independent canine will happily fall in line – even with the kids.
Because Italian Mastiffs shed throughout the year, regular brushing for removal of dirt and debris is a must. They love flexing their physical prowess and mental faculties. However, you must watch out for bloating and stomach issues.
16. Korean Mastiff
Highlights: Friendly, Patient, Loving
Who says lapdogs have to be small? The huge and wrinkled Korean Dosa Mastiff loves being a large lap-dog. While most mastiffs were bred to be guard dogs and protectors, the Dosa Mastiff was developed to be a sweet and calm show dog.
It may be hard to believe, given their serious and vigilant expression, but this affectionate giant likes to laze around. Thanks to this laid back mind-set they fit comfortably into any domestic setting with loving owners.
As an owner, you’re bound to fall in love with this majestic, dignified and friendly dog. But just because they’re kind-natured doesn’t mean they aren’t loyal and protective. If the situation calls for it, you can bet they’ll do their best to protect the pack.
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17. Neapolitan Mastiff
Highlights: Trainable, Protective, Stubborn
You can’t help but admire a Neapolitan Mastiff. Also known as the Mastino, this big dog is the effortless mix of power with grace. While lumbering towards you, they inspire awe along with safety and trust. Though, strangers may not agree.
As young puppies, the Neapolitan Mastiff is very active. However, as they grow older, lazing or lounging around takes precedence. It’s worth noting they tend to overheat and have delicate knees. Therefore, limit their activities to prevent injuries.
Avoid getting into a tug of war with this canine. Once your Mastino defeats you, training would become an impossible chore. They also drool, slobber and shed moderately, thus keeping you on your toes for most part of the day.
18. Pyrenean Mastiff
Highlights: Calm, Gentle, Independent
Balanced and gentle, a Pyrenean Mastiff represents knighthood in the dog world. The big yet muscular frame emanates authority which few would want to challenge. But the thick white double-coat bearing dark patches tones down the aggression.
The coat is both long and beautiful, though it requires frequent brushing because they do tend to shed. And in case you get tired of sorting out the endless mats and tangles, get in touch with a professional grooming service.
Pyrenean Mastiffs do not believe in too much exercise. That being said, they enjoy a daily dose of mental and physical stimulation. Assign them a task and they’ll proudly take on the job. In fact, that’s when they’re the happiest.
19. Spanish Mastiff
Highlights: Loving, Intelligent, Sweet
Bold and beautiful Spanish Mastiffs guard the Merino livestock and guide the herd through the meadows. They’ve been around since the Middle Ages, accompanying nomadic shepherds to greener pastures. Today, this mastiff still undertakes this responsibility.
On one hand, they come across as being nobility personified. At the same time, they unleash enormous reserves of strength while defending loved ones. Spanish Mastiffs love attention, so treat obedience sessions as the time to bond and build trust.
A judicious combination of indoor and outdoor exercise works well for this breed, despite being a calm mastiff breed. Though, never leave them outdoor on their own without having them in a safe enclosure, as they may wander off.
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20. Turkish Mastiff
Highlights: Steady, Bold, Diligent
Aksaray Malaklisi or the Turkish Mastiff gets its name from Aksaray, an Anatolian city. Malaklisi, the other half of the name, derives from the Turkish word “malak,” which translates to lips, due to their perpetually dropped black lips.
Descendants of the Molossus breed, Turkish Mastiffs sport a bigger build as compared to their Anatolian cousins, the Kangal Shepherd. They’re also related to the English Mastiff, from whom they seem to have inherited their athleticism.
However, their legs are longer and stronger than both parent breeds. Because of their stamina and sharp instincts, Turkish Mastiffs naturally qualify as guard dogs. Their usual routine entails protecting and herding livestock for farmers.
21. Gaddi Kutta
Highlights: Territorial, Brave, Calm
A close cousin of the Tibetan Mastiff, the Gaddi Kutta believes in being just as courageous. With their head nestled in a thick mane, confidence and razor-sharp instincts, they perfectly fit the role of fearless guard dogs and protectors.
Because this mastiff breed maneuvers the treacherous Himalayan terrain with ease, they assist the farmers in herding and protecting cattle. Weighing 13 stones, the Gaddi Kutta grows to an imposing height of 34 inches.
They sport a dark brown and black fluffy overcoat, with a tinge of tan on the face and belly. The Gaddi also shed heavily at least twice a year. Although meticulous by nature, the Gaddi Kutta requires lots of grooming.
22. South African Mastiff
Highlights: Obedient, Confident, Dominant
Pronounced “boo-r-bull,” the Boerboel – an Afrikaans word – translates to farmer’s dog in the English language. In South Africa, the mastiff earned his name by defending homesteads from wild animals. They’re intimidating, confident and territorial dogs.
First-time dog owners might find training this dog truly challenging. The South African Mastiff requires an assertive, consistent and experienced owner. Plus, they’ll likely need daily exercise and large spaces to live in comfort.
So, a spacious backyard with a patient and confident owner is most ideal for them. The smooth coats bear a natural shine. But the most distinct features include white spots on the face and neck and dark patches on their paws.
23. Sarabi Mastiff
Highlights: Friendly, Vigilant, Brave
The Sarabi Mastiff hails from the Iranian Province of Sarab. Being muscular and heavy-boned, they make perfect guardians for livestock. That being said, the aggressive mastiff can be just as loving and amiable with family members.
The proactive Sarabi Mastiff requires plenty of daily exercise. Though, be warned that without this crucial aspect in their life, they will let out their frustrations. A lack of exercise tends to lead to a display of unpleasant and destructive behaviors in the home.
Coat length of the Sarabi Mastiff is either short or medium and they shed in moderation. Their dark yellow almond-shaped eyes contrast well with the brown/black coat. Typical of this breed, the black mask and hanging upper lip complete the appearance.
24. Anatolian Mastiff
Highlights: Confident, Reliable, Reserved
Still a popular dog in Turkey, the Anatolian Mastiff or Kangal Shepherd dog, is a powerful yet proud type of mastiff. Having been working dogs for thousands of years, they’re some of the most respected breeds in their motherland.
In the past, they were guardians of sheep flocks. As such, expect the territorial and protective nature of the Anatolian Mastiff to shine through. Given their 100 to 150 pound frame, there will be few intruders that would dare mess with one.
In addition, these mastiff dogs are not afraid of anyone. They were, after all, bred to protect the sheep against large bears, wolves, lions and native jackals. So it’s safe to say that they’re only recommended for strong, firm and experienced owners.
So tell us in the comments section: which type of mastiff dog breed is your favorite? And which would you like to keep?
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