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Mastiff: Breed Profile, Characteristics, & Care Guide

By:
Buzzpetz
| Updated: August 18, 2023
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Do you love big dogs with big hearts? Then you may want to meet the mastiffs. Mastiffs are one of the world’s oldest and largest dog breeds, with a history that goes back to ancient times. They are powerful and impressive dogs but also gentle and affectionate ones. In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about the mastiff breed.

History of the Mastiffs

Mastiffs come from Asia, where different civilizations used them as guard dogs and war dogs. Originally they were brought to Europe by the Phoenicians, the Greeks, and the Romans, who admired their strength and courage. Mastiffs were also used for hunting large animals, such as bears and boars, and for entertainment in arenas and bull-baiting.

They first arrived in England with the Normans in the 11th century, where they became popular among the nobles and the royals. Mastiffs were used to protect castles and estates and fight alongside knights. One of the most famous mastiffs in history was Zorba, who lived at Lyme Hall in Cheshire. Zorba was recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the heaviest and longest dog ever recorded, weighing 343 pounds and measuring 8 feet 3 inches from nose to tail.

The mastiff breed almost disappeared during the World Wars, when food was scarce and bombs were falling. But thanks to some dedicated breeders, they were saved and sent to other countries, like the United States. The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognized mastiffs in 1885, and the Mastiff Club of America was founded in 1929.

Today, mastiffs are beloved family pets and loyal guardians. They’re also called English mastiffs or Old English mastiffs to tell them apart from other breeds like the Pyrenean mastiff or Saint Bernard.

Breed Overview

Dog Breed Mastiff
Nicknames English Mastiff, Old English Mastiff, Gentle Giant, Nanny Dog
Coat Short, dense, and flat
Coat Colors Fawn, apricot, or brindle
Coat Patterns Black mask on the face, white markings on the chest or feet (optional)
Weight 120 to 230 pounds
Height 27.5 to 30 inches at the shoulder
Lifespan 6 to 10 years
Origin Asia and Europe
Breed Ranking 29th out of 200 breeds on the AKC breed popularity list

Characteristics

Appearance

Mastiffs are giant breeds weighing up to 230 pounds and standing up to 30 inches at the shoulder. Mastiffs have broad heads with short muzzles and black masks on their faces. Their ears are small and hang down, and their eyes are dark and expressive. Their tails are long and thin, and their coats are short and thick. Their coats can be different colors, like fawn, apricot, or brindle stripes, with or without white markings.

Temperament

Mastiffs are gentle and dignified dogs that love their family members. Mastiffs are loyal, devoted, and protective of their home and people. Mastiffs aren’t mean or territorial but will bark loudly and stand their ground if someone or something threatens them or their loved ones. Mastiffs are friendly and patient with children and other pets but should be watched around them because of their huge size and strength.

Activity

Mastiffs aren’t very active or playful but need regular exercise to stay healthy and happy. Mastiffs like moderate walks or free play in a fenced yard. Mastiffs shouldn’t be pushed too hard or exposed to very hot or cold weather, as they can get sick or hurt. Mastiffs should also be trained from a young age to listen to basic commands and walk on a leash. Mastiffs are smart and eager to please but can also be stubborn and independent. Mastiffs respond best to positive reinforcement and gentle guidance.

Grooming

Mastiffs require minimal grooming but should be brushed weekly to remove loose hair and dirt. Mastiffs also need their ears cleaned regularly to prevent infections, their nails trimmed monthly to avoid cracking or splitting, and their teeth brushed daily to prevent dental problems. Mastiffs tend to drool often because of their loose lips, so they may need their face wiped often.

Health

Mastiffs are generally healthy, but like any large breed, they can have some health issues. Some of these issues include:

  • Hip dysplasia: A genetic disorder that causes the hip joint to develop abnormally, leading to pain, lameness, arthritis, or even paralysis.
  • Elbow dysplasia: A similar disorder that affects the elbow joint.
  • Gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV): Also known as bloat or torsion, this is a life-threatening condition that happens when the stomach fills with gas and twists on itself, cutting off blood flow and causing shock. This can happen if mastiffs eat too fast, too much, or exercise right after a big meal. GDV needs immediate veterinary attention and surgery to fix.
  • Eye anomalies: Mastiffs can have various eye problems, such as entropion, ectropion, cherry eye, cataracts, progressive retinal atrophy, or corneal dystrophy. These can cause irritation, inflammation, infection, blindness, or pain. Mastiffs should have their eyes checked often by a veterinarian and treated as needed.
  • Cancer: Mastiffs can get various types of cancer, such as lymphoma, osteosarcoma, hemangiosarcoma, or mast cell tumors. These can affect different organs and tissues of the body and cause various symptoms. Mastiffs should be watched for any signs of abnormal growths, lumps, swellings, or changes in behavior or appetite. Spaying or neutering can lower the risk of reproductive cancers.
  • Hypothyroidism: A condition that happens when the thyroid gland does not make enough thyroid hormone, leading to low metabolism, weight gain, lethargy, hair loss, skin problems, or infertility. Mastiffs should have their blood tested often for thyroid levels and get medication if needed.

The average lifespan of mastiffs is 6 to 10 years. To make sure mastiffs are healthy and happy, it’s important to give them regular veterinary care, vaccinations, parasite prevention, and health screening. Mastiffs should also be fed a high-quality diet that meets their nutritional needs and prevents obesity. Mastiffs should always have access to fresh water and a cool and comfortable place to rest.

Is the Mastiff Right for You?

Mastiffs are wonderful and noble dogs that can be great companions for the right person or family. But mastiffs are not dogs for everyone. Before you decide to get a mastiff, you should think about these factors:

Size

Mastiffs are giant breeds that need a lot of space and can be clumsy or destructive. Mastiffs may not fit in small apartments or homes with fragile furniture or objects. Mastiffs may also knock over or hurt small children or pets by accident.

Exercise

Mastiffs are not very active or playful, but they do need regular exercise to stay healthy and happy. Mastiffs like moderate walks or free play in a fenced yard. Mastiffs shouldn’t be pushed too hard or exposed to very hot or cold weather, as they can get sick or hurt. Mastiffs should also be trained from a young age to listen to basic commands and walk on a leash. Mastiffs are smart and eager to please but can also be stubborn and independent. Mastiffs respond best to positive reinforcement and gentle guidance.

Grooming

Mastiffs require minimal grooming but should be brushed weekly to remove loose hair and dirt. Mastiffs also need their ears cleaned regularly to prevent infections, their nails trimmed monthly to avoid cracking or splitting, and their teeth brushed daily to prevent dental problems. Mastiffs tend to drool often because of their loose lips, so they may need their face wiped often.

Health

Mastiffs are generally healthy, but like any large breed, they can have some health issues. Some of these issues include hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, GDV, eye anomalies, cancer, and hypothyroidism. Mastiffs should have regular veterinary care, vaccinations, parasite prevention, and health screening. Mastiffs should also be fed a high-quality diet that meets their nutritional needs and prevents obesity. The average lifespan of mastiffs is 6 to 10 years.

Cost

Mastiffs are expensive dogs to buy and maintain. Mastiffs can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 or more, depending on the breeder, the pedigree, and the availability. Mastiffs also have high food and veterinary bills, grooming, and training expenses. Mastiffs may also require special equipment, such as a large crate, a sturdy collar and leash, and a ramp or stairs to help them get in and out of the car or the bed.

Availability

Mastiffs are not very common breeds, and it may be hard to find a reputable breeder or a rescue organization that has mastiffs available for adoption. Mastiffs are also not recognized by some international bodies, such as the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI), which means they may not be eligible for dog shows or events outside the United States. Mastiffs may also be subject to some breed-specific legislation or restrictions in some areas due to their size and appearance.

If you think mastiffs are the right dogs for you, you should research and find a reputable breeder or rescue organization that can provide you with a healthy and well-socialized puppy or adult dog. You should also be prepared to provide mastiffs with a loving and responsible home where they can receive adequate exercise, training, grooming, health care, and attention. Mastiffs are not dogs for everyone, but for those who can appreciate their gentle and noble nature, they can be loyal and faithful best friends.

Interesting Facts about the Mastiffs

Here are some fun and fascinating facts about the mastiff breed that you may not know:

  • Mastiffs are one of the oldest dog breeds in the world, dating back to ancient times. Some historians believe that mastiffs are related to the Tibetan Mastiff or the Molosser dogs of Greece.
  • Various civilizations used mastiffs as guard dogs and war dogs. Some of the famous people who owned or admired mastiffs include Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, King Henry VIII, Sir Isaac Newton, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Winston Churchill, Marlon Brando, Sylvester Stallone, and Shaquille O’Neal.
  • Mastiffs are one of the heaviest and largest dog breeds in the world. The heaviest dog ever recorded was a mastiff named Zorba, who weighed 343 pounds and measured 8 feet 3 inches from nose to tail. The tallest dog ever recorded was another mastiff named Hercules, who stood 38 inches at the shoulder.
  • Mastiffs have a very loud bark that can be heard from far away. Some people say that their bark sounds like a lion’s roar or a thunderclap.
  • Mastiffs have a very gentle and sweet temperament that contrasts with their imposing appearance. Some people call mastiffs “the gentle giants” or “the nanny dogs” because of their affectionate and protective nature towards children and other pets.
  • Mastiffs have a very short coat that sheds moderately throughout the year. However, mastiffs can still suffer from allergies or skin infections, especially in the folds of their face and body. Mastiffs should be checked regularly for any signs of irritation, redness, or odor and treated accordingly.
  • Mastiffs have a very large appetite and can eat up to 10 cups of food per day. Mastiffs should be fed a high-quality diet that meets their nutritional needs and prevents obesity. Mastiffs should also be fed in small portions throughout the day, rather than one large meal, to avoid GDV or bloat.
  • Mastiffs are not very vocal and rarely bark, except when necessary. Mastiffs can communicate with their owners through sounds like grunts, snorts, groans, or sighs. Mastiffs can also express their emotions through their facial expressions and body language.
  • Mastiffs are not very agile or fast, but they can still enjoy some canine sports, such as obedience, rally, or carting. Mastiffs can also participate in therapy work, as they have a calm and soothing presence that can comfort people in need.
  • Mastiffs are among the most popular dog breeds in the United States, ranking 37th out of 200 on the AKC breed popularity list. Mastiffs are also recognized by other major kennel clubs around the world, such as the United Kennel Club (UKC), the Canadian Kennel Club (CKC), and the Kennel Club (KC).

We hope you enjoyed this article about the mastiff breed. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact us. We would love to hear from you and help you find your perfect mastiff companion. Thank you for reading!

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