7 Types of Mastiffs

English Mastiff

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Most of today’s mastiff breeds are mellower than their ancestors, but they are still massive and powerful dogs. Mastiff breeds retain the instinct to protect home and family. Owners of mastiff breeds must take care to socialize and train their formidable dogs carefully to avoid problems with overprotectiveness or even aggression. Most guardian breeds, including many types of mastiff, are not well-suited to first-time dog owners or people who are not committed to consistent training.

Breed Characteristics

Mastiff breeds are a giant dog breed, with some topping the scales at 200 pounds or more. Even smaller mastiffs often weigh more than 100 pounds. Mastiffs are known for their courage, alertness, and protective tendencies. These breeds tend to be extremely loyal to their families. These large dogs are generally quiet and calm in demeanor as long as they receive enough training and exercise. They are watchful and observant, and can note the slightest signs of danger and alert their owners. 

Let’s meet the different types of mastiffs.

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    Boerboel (South African Mastiff)

    South African Boerboel

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    The Boerboel, also known as the South African mastiff, was developed in South Africa from mastiff-type dogs that had arrived in the country with 17th century European settlers as well as local African dogs. The Boerboel was used as a farm guardian, protecting livestock from predators and thieves, and keeping the family safe. Although this massive dog is protective, it’s not aggressive toward friendly people and is gentle with respectful children. Massive, stocky, and muscular, Boerboels need space, so they are not well-suited to apartments or city life. The breed responds well to positive training, but because of its large size and dominant nature, it’s not the breed for inexperienced dog owners. Consistent and early training and socialization are extremely important.

    Breed Overview

    GROUP: Working

    HEIGHT: 22 to 25 inches (female), 24 to 27 inches (male)

    WEIGHT: 150 to 200 pounds

    TEMPERAMENT: Courageous, alert, protective

    COAT AND COLOR: Short and smooth in brindle, brown, cream, red, reddish brown, or tawny with/without white markings, black mask, piebald, and/or Irish marked

    LIFE SPAN: 9 to 11 years

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    The Bullmastiff was originally known as “The Gamekeeper’s Night Dog” owing to its job assisting 19th century estate gamekeepers who patrolled the grounds at night on the lookout for poachers trying to illegally hunt and steal game. The bullmastiff was created by breeding mastiffs with old-style bulldogs, which were much larger than today’s bulldog. The bullmastiff is extremely protective and requires careful socialization and training in puppyhood so they can learn to be discerning and without being overprotective. Bullmastiffs love children, but the breed’s large size and rambunctiousness in young dogs can result in knock-downs if training isn’t started early. Bullmastiffs are extremely loyal their human family.   

    Breed Overview

    GROUP: Working

    HEIGHT: 24 to 27 inches

    WEIGHT: 100 to 130 pounds

    TEMPERAMENT: Loyal, protective, alert, loving, companionable, calm

    COAT AND COLOR: Short, dense coat in fawn, red, or brindle with accents of black 

    LIFE SPAN: 7 to 9 years

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    Cane Corso (Italian Mastiff)

    Cane Corso

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    Also known as the Italian mastiff, the cane corso was developed from an ancient and massive type of dog known as the Molossus or Molloser—the same canine ancestor that brought us most of the mastiff breeds, including the English mastiff and Neapolitan mastiff. Over time the cane corso was refined to be smaller, lighter in body, and more athletic and agile than some other mastiff breeds. Originally used as war dogs, the cane corso eventually transitioned to less ferocious work, including hunting wild boar, working on farms and with livestock droving, and guarding home and property. The cane corso can be willful, so they need intensive socialization to avoid aggression toward people or other dogs. It is considered an expert-level breed, but with the right owner, the cane corso can be a loyal and affectionate family companion.

    Breed Overview

    GROUP: Working 

    HEIGHT: About 23.5 to 27.5 inches at the shoulder

    WEIGHT: Proportionate to height, typically 80 to 120 pounds

    TEMPERAMENT: Reserved, quiet, gentle, calm, stable, even-tempered

    COAT AND COLOR: Short and coarse in black, gray, fawn, and red; brindle is possible in all colors, may have black or gray mask, and may have small patches of white

    LIFE SPAN: 9 to 12 years

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    Dogue de Bordeaux (French Mastiff)

    Dogue de Bordeaux

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    Sometimes called the French mastiff, the ancient Dogue de Bordeaux comes from France and was once called the “Bordeaux Mastiff” or the “Bordeaux Bulldog.” The massive Dogue de Bordeaux was once used as a war dog and sadly, fighting dog. They eventually moved on to mostly guard dog duties, patrolling large estates in France on the lookout for intruders, and were also used to drive livestock. Today, the Dogue de Bordeaux is a protective and loyal companion that is very affectionate with and attached to its family. The Dogue de Bordeaux can get along wonderfully with kids, but they need plenty of exercise, training and socialization to be the best they can be. 

    Breed Overview

    GROUP: Working 

    HEIGHT: 23 to 27 inches

    WEIGHT: Females: 99 pounds and up; males: 110 pounds and up

    TEMPERAMENT: Calm, balanced, self-assured and affectionate

    COAT AND COLOR: Fine, short and soft in all shades of fawn, from a dark red fawn to a light fawn.

    LIFE SPAN: 5 to 8 years

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    Mastiff (English Mastiff)

    English Mastiff

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    The mastiff, also as the English mastiff, is the original British mastiff breed, which has been around since medieval times. The breed was traditionally used for hunting and guarding and as war dogs. Today’s mastiff is less ferocious than the mastiffs of old, but the breed retains its great courage and protective instincts. It is one of the largest and most powerful of all dog breeds—an adult mastiff can weigh more than a full-grown human man. Though suspicious of strangers, mastiffs are affectionate, gentle, and calm with their beloved human family. Due to their sheer size and natural wariness, a responsible mastiff puppy owner must provide clear and consistent training as well plenty of socialization.

    Breed Overview

    GROUP: Working

    HEIGHT: 27.5 inches and up

    WEIGHT: 120 to 220 pounds

    TEMPERAMENT: Calm, affectionate, protective, loyal, peaceful, sweet-tempered

    COAT AND COLOR: Short and sleek in fawn, apricot, or brindle, all with a dark mask on the muzzle, ears, and nose

    LIFE SPAN: 10 to 12 years

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    Neapolitan Mastiff

    Neapolitan Mastiff

    Getty Images/Salima Senyavskaya

    With its enormous build, wrinkled skin, and formidable expression, the Neapolitan mastiff looks every bit the war dog that it once was in Ancient Rome. It is believed that the breed was purposely developed to look intimidating so the appearance alone would be enough to stop attackers, and the effect works extremely well. With family, the Neapolitan mastiff is calm, gentle, and affectionate, and they get along well with children they are familiar with. Due to the breed’s guarding background and great size, early training and socialization are needed to help the Neapolitan mastiff mature into a well-balanced and well-behaved family member. 

    Breed Overview

    GROUP: Working

    HEIGHT: 24 to 31 inches

    WEIGHT: 110 to 150 pounds

    TEMPERAMENT: Protective, stubborn, fearless, companionable, loyal

    COAT AND COLOR: Short and shiny in black, blue, mahogany, tawny, or brindle

    LIFE SPAN: 7 to 9 years

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    Tibetan Mastiff

    Tibetan Mastiff

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    The history of the ancient Tibetan mastiff is not as well-documented as other breeds due to the isolation of its country of origin—Tibet—and a lack of written information about the breed, but it has existed for thousands of years in Central Asia, where it was used to guard estates. The massive Tibetan mastiff retains their protective instincts, committed to watching over their home and human family with endless tenacity. The Tibetan mastiff requires extensive socialization, and the breed can be difficult to train, so this breed requires a confident owner who can be a firm yet fair leader. For knowledgeable owners with guardian dog experience, the Tibetan mastiff is unparalleled for its loyalty, devotion and drive to protect its family. 

    Breed Overview

    GROUP: Working

    HEIGHT: 24 to 26 inches 

    WEIGHT: 70 to 150 pounds

    TEMPERAMENT: Intelligent, protective, strong-willed, tenacious, aloof

    COAT AND COLOR: Outer coat is fine, hard, straight, and stand-off; undercoat is heavy, soft, and woolly. In hues of black, brown, blue/grey, or gold.

    LIFE SPAN: 10 to 12 years