Different Mastiff Dog Breeds

by on March 2nd, 2011
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All breeds of mastiffs are large, muscular dogs originally used for war and for protection. Many types of mastiffs are challenging to train and care for because they are so large and strong. These are not dogs for the first time dog owner but for experienced dog owners, particularly those used to living with giant sized dog breeds.

Old English Mastiff or Mastiff

Known as the Mastiff in America, these are huge dogs that average 30 inches in height from their feet to the tops of their shoulders. They can average 110 to 170 pounds. They are often brindle or fawn with a black face. Now known for their people-loving docility, they originally were used for fiercely guarding property and hunting wolves. They are thought to have contributed to numerous bulldog breeds and types of mastiffs.


Similar to the Old English Mastiff in temperament and appearance, they are bulkier and shorter, at a mere 24 to 27 inches tall and only tip the scales at 100 to 130 pounds. They were bred in England during the 1800s as a game warden’s dog to hunt poachers. Instead of killing or chasing, a poacher, the bullmastiff would sit on or otherwise immobilize the poacher until the game warden arrived.

Dogue de Bourdeax or French Mastiff

This friendly and highly intelligent ancient French breed was just recently recognized by the American Kennel Club in 2008. They are always a chestnut red in color, but white markings are allowed. They have more wrinkled faces than the bullmastiff. The most famous French Mastiff was Beasley, who co-starred with Tom Hanks in the hit film Turner & Hooch (1986.)

Tibetan Mastiff

Out of all breeds of mastiffs, many believe that this is the oldest known mastiff breed still in existence. This is a long-haired, slow-moving tank of a dog, originally bred to protect monasteries, property and livestock. They have been known to attack wolves and snow leopards. They come in a variety of colors and patterns. They are incredibly intelligent and known to be stubborn.

Pyrenean Mastiff

This is a little-seen breed outside of its native Spain. Originally bred to protect livestock, it still excels in this task. It resembles a Saint Bernard with a three inch long coat, domed head and a white coat spotted with a darker color. They can weigh up to 160 pounds, but often weigh slightly less. This is very strong dog that can easily bully a timid owner.

Neapolitan Mastiff

This is very rare Italian breed with a face so wrinkled some people cannot recognize an individual as a dog. They are thought to have been developed by the Roman Empire. The breed got a boost when one was picked to appear as Fang in the Harry Potter film franchise. They usually appear in dark colors like slate blue and black. Some white markings are allowed.

Fila Brasiliaro or the Brazilian Mastiff

It is illegal to own one of these types of mastiffs in some countries such as the UK because of their ill-deserved reputation for ferocity. However, they are legal in the United States. They weigh anywhere from 90 to 175 pounds. They were created by crossing bloodhounds, bulldogs and the Old English Mastiff. Some Fila Brasiliaros have become successful guide dogs, according to The Howell Book of Dogs (Howell Book House; 2007.)

South African Boerboel

This is another rare mastiff breed developed in South Africa as a guardian. It can grow to 30 inches tall. It has a short haired coat and sheds a good deal. Colors include brindle, and three shades of brown: tawny, red and plain brown. Small white markings on the legs, belly and chest are acceptable. These are highly intelligent dogs that get easily bored.

Thinking About a Mastiff?

Mastiff breeds rightly have a loyal and devoted following. Mastiffs are endearing for their strength, their loyalty and their qualities as excellent guard dogs. But mastiffs are not for people who never had a dog, who cannot deal with dog drool and the financial commitment to keeping such large dogs. Mastiff breeds also live shorter lives than smaller breeds of dogs. Any mastiff type dog that reaches 10 years of age is ancient, indeed.


Palika, Liz. The Howell Book of Dogs. Howell Book House; 2007.

Campbell Thornton, Kim. Mastiffs: A Complete Pet Owner’s Manual. Barron’s; 2009.

Marien-de-Luca, Catherine. “Molosser Breeds.” http://www.bulldoginformation.com/molossers-mastiff-type-dogs.html

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