All About the Mastiff

Mastiff dog breed information
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The Mastiff (sometimes called the English Mastiff), is one of the largest dog breeds in the world. This immense dog is large-boned and muscular with a noble, gentle, and loyal disposition. Mastiffs are very gentle companions and family protectors that lack aggression, making them lovely family pets. These courageous yet well-mannered dogs can do well in most households. You don't need a huge home to have this giant dog, but you do need a little extra space (especially because of the long tail).

Sadly, like other  giant dog breeds, the lifespan of the Mastiff tends to be shorter than the average dog. However, with proper care, you can help your Mastiff live a full, healthy life.

Breed Overview

  • Group: Working
  • Sizes:
    • Females: Weight of 120 to 180 pounds; height of 27.5 inches and up
    • Males: Weight of 150 to 220 pounds; height of 30 inches and up
  • Coat and Color: The coat is short and sleek. The colors are fawn, apricot, or brindle, all with a dark mask on the muzzle, ears, and nose.
  • Life Expectancy: 10 to 12 years

Characteristics of the Mastiff

Affection LevelHigh
Exercise NeedsHigh
Energy LevelMedium
Tendency to BarkLow
Amount of SheddingMedium

History of the Mastiff

The mastiff hails from England, where it has been bred for over 2000 years. However, the Mastiff (or its ancestors) can be traced back to ancient times, with depictions on Egyptian monuments and mentions by Caesar when he invaded Britain.

Though historically seen as a worker and watchdog, sadly, at one time this magnificent breed was used for fighting. This included in gladiatorial fights between humans and other animals. Later, they were featured in in dogfights watched in Westminster in London. Fortunately, today's mastiff is a lover, not a fighter, and the U.K.

prohibited dogfights in 1835. The current lineages of mastiffs stem from the 19th century when they were no longer bred for aggressiveness.

Mastiffs have might have been brought to the United States over 200 years ago, but they were not officially recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) until the late 1800s. The breed is referred to as the old English mastiff, the English mastiff, or simply the mastiff.

The last-recorded heaviest dog in the world was an English mastiff named Aicama Zorba of La Susa, weighing 343 pounds and standing 37 inches at the shoulder, as recorded in the 1989 "Guinness Book of Records." This record will remain standing as the organization discontinued recognizing record sizes for pets in 2000.

Mastiff Care

The mastiff has a short coat that typically needs little more than routine grooming. This breed is a moderately high shedder. Additionally, the mastiff's ears and facial skin folds (if present) should be kept clean and dry. Mastiffs are known to salivate quite a bit; they might share their drool when they shake their heads, so be aware and keep drool rags handy.

Like all dogs, proper training and socialization are both important for the mastiff. This is especially crucial because of the giant size of this breed.

Careful attention should be given to the prevention of jumping and leash-pulling. You will want to socialize your Mastiff well so his natural protectiveness is appropriate and he does not become overprotective around visitors. 

In general, Mastiffs are quite docile (but not listless). Younger dogs are more playful, but an endearing quality of aloof laziness often develops as they mature. Routine exercise will help keep your Mastiff fit and motivated.

As a large breed, mastiffs do better in cool weather than in hot weather. Exercise your Mastiff in the cool part of the day in summer. They do very well indoors, even in an apartment, or a house with a fenced yard. However, you might want to think ahead if your living space requires climbing stairs, as this may be difficult for an aging dog.

You will want to dog-proof your home for a mastiff.

His tail can sweep items off of tables and he may be tall enough to sample your dinner from the dining room table. Mastiffs like to chew on things and you should provide chew toys.

Common Health Problems

Responsible breeders strive to maintain the highest breed standards as established by kennel clubs like the AKC. Dogs bred by these standards are less likely to inherit health conditions. However, some hereditary health problems can occur in the breed.

The following are some conditions to be aware of:

  • Hip dysplasia: This is an inherited condition that can get worse with age. Breeders screen for it.
  • Gastric dilatation-volvulus: This is bloating that is common to large dogs that have deep chests. Gulping down food and water can lead to the stomach filling with gas and then twisting to cut off the blood supply. This is an emergency situation.

Diet and Nutrition

You may want to feed a Mastiff puppy food that is specific to large breeds that helps them grow steadily and not too fast. This can help reduce the risk of adult-onset hip dysplasia. Puppies will still attain their full size even if they are trim during the puppy years.

Adult dogs need 6 to 8 cups of dry food each day, which you should split into two meals. Slower eating and eating smaller meals can help prevent bloating and stomach torsion. You might explore feeders that enforce slower eating. Mastiffs are sloppy drinkers and they have a lot of backwash into their water bowls. It is best to provide clean, fresh water at different points of the day. They are also prone to farting.

Be sure to monitor your mastiff for weight gain. Discuss this with your veterinarian to get recommendations on how to address it with diet and exercise.

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

As with any breed, if you think the Mastiff is the right dog breed for you, be sure to do plenty of research before adopting one. Talk to other Mastiff owners, reputable breeders, and rescue groups to learn more.

If you are interested in similar breeds, look into these to compare pros and cons:

There’s a whole world of dog breeds out there. With a little research, you can find the right one to bring home.