If there’s one thing every dog lover knows about the Mastiff breeds, it’s that they’re massive. But did you also know that the Mastiff comes from one of the oldest lines of domesticated dog companions, the Molossus?
The Molossus dog was a hulking hunting dog utilized by the Ancient Greeks, whose muscular build and wide snout bore a striking resemblance to modern Mastiffs. Which makes sense, since it’s believed today’s Mastiff dog breeds all share the Molossus as a common ancestor!
While English Mastiffs, Tibetan Mastiffs, and Bullmastiffs are fairly common in the United States and are recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC), the vast majority of existing Mastiff breeds live in far-off corners of the world.
1. English Mastiff
|Height:||27½ inches and up|
|Weight:||120-170 pounds (female) or 160-230 pounds (male)|
|Other names:||Mastiff (the official name used by AKC and other organizations)|
The English Mastiff is nothing short of intimidating, but the breed is incredibly loyal and protective of those they hold dear. Frequently used as guard dogs, both for property and for livestock, few things can scare the proud and courageous English Mastiff.
While English Mastiffs have gained recent favor as family dogs, they are not for the inexperienced or hands-off dog owner. English Mastiffs require lots of socialization and training from an early age, and special attention should be paid to positive reinforcement. Despite their size and reputation, English Mastiffs are known for being emotional and sensitive, so harsh training can easily break the trust between dog and owner.
The Bullmastiff might be notably smaller than the English Mastiff, but it’s certainly no less intimidating. This breed came about by crossing an Old English Bulldog with an English Mastiff, leading to a shorter stature and snout than most other Mastiff varieties.
Like all AKC-recognized Mastiff breeds, the Bullmastiff is a part of the Working Group. However, they were bred for a very specific job: hunting down poachers trespassing on British estates. Because of this, the breed is naturally inclined to guard its home. If you plan to introduce a Bullmastiff as a household pet, then consistent training and socialization are necessary to combat these instincts.
3. Tibetan Mastiff
|Height:||24 inches and up|
|Weight:||70-120 pounds (female) and 90-150 pounds (male)|
Most Mastiff breeds have a very short and sleek coat. But that is definitely not the case for the Tibetan Mastiff, which boasts a long and extremely fluffy coat of golden, brown, or black fur.
The Tibetan Mastiff is known for being one of the most protective of all Mastiff breeds, which is definitely saying something! If strangers pay a visit, the Tibetan Mastiff’s reaction can range from fiercely territorial to aloof. However, the breed’s sheer size and confidence make them calm and friendly around those they know.
4. Neapolitan Mastiff
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If you think Mastiffs and wrinkles go hand-in-hand, then the Neapolitan Mastiff certainly doesn’t disappoint. This modern Italian breed is one of the most closely related to the ancient Molossus dog.
Again, like many Mastiff breeds, the Neapolitan Mastiff behaves very differently when among loved ones versus strangers. With friends and family, the breed is affectionate and calm. Around those it does not know, though, the Mastino’s guarding instincts will come out to play. Still, they’re one of the most energetic and playful Mastiff breeds when properly trained.
5. Cane Corso
|Weight:||88 to 120 pounds|
The Cane Corso is also closely related to the Molossus dog, even more so than its cousin, the Neapolitan Mastiff. While the Cane Corso and Neapolitan Mastiff are very similar in appearance and lineage, this breed trends smaller and more stubborn.
Because a poorly trained Cane Corso will do whatever it wants, a consistent training and socialization schedule are a must from puppyhood. However, the breed is incredibly smart and receptive to training when it’s offered.
6. Dogo Argentino
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|Other names:||Argentinian Mastiff, Argentine Dogo|
Hailing from Argentina, this Mastiff breed was developed for taking down large hunting game. To meet AKC standards, the Dogo Argentino must be entirely white, with the exception of a small dark patch near the eye.
Unfortunately, the Dogo Argentino is banned in several different countries because of its aggressive reputation and popularity within the dogfighting world. While this doesn’t automatically mean the breed can’t make a great pet, it absolutely needs a household with the structure and training experience to handle its size and demeanor.
7. Anatolian Mastiff
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|Weight:||90-120 (female) or 110-145 (male)|
|Other names:||Kangal Dog, Turkish Mastiff, Kangal Shepherd Dog, Kangal Çöban Köpeği|
The Anatolian Mastiff goes by many names, but the breed’s history as a working guard dog easily stands on its own. These dogs have been raised in Turkey since the 12th Century to protect and herd livestock. However, in more recent years, the breed has gained popularity in the United States and abroad for its fierce and loyal personality.
As with most Mastiff breeds, the Anatolian’s temperament is kind to friends and family while being aloof or territorial toward strangers. While the Anatolian Mastiff traditionally protected sheep, with proper training these dogs can guard and herd anything from large cattle to birds.
8. American Mastiff
|Weight:||140-180 pounds (female) or 160-200 pounds (male)|
|Other names:||North American Mastiff|
This breed was developed as a cross between the English and Anatolian Mastiffs. The American Mastiff has a very similar appearance and disposition to its English counterpart, though it is a little smaller on average.
Some breeders disagree whether the American Mastiff stands on its own as a distinct breed or not. However, fans of the breed say these dogs have drier mouths and may be slightly friendlier than other Mastiff varieties.
Although the English Mastiff, Tibetan Mastiff, and Bullmastiff are the most well-known Mastiff breeds in the United States, they are far from the only dogs descended from Ancient Greeks legendary Molossus dog. Have you ever come face-to-face with one of these hulking canine breeds? Or have you had the honor of owning one for yourself? Let us know in the comments below!
Featured Image Credit: Valeria Ayvar, Flickr
Emily started this blog out of pure passion. She LOVES her 3 dogs; Chew Barka, Cooper & Nelson, and spends countless hours every day playing with them.
When she’s not nerding out on dogs, you’ll find her on a snowboard or in the kitchen baking chocolate brownies.
She’s been featured in PetAware, Dogtime, and ModernDog.