Choosing a Mastiff

The Old English mastiff, also known simply as the mastiff, is a large, powerful dog that makes an excellent guard dog and companion.

History and Origin

The term mastiff is often applied to a variety of strong, giant dogs but there is one breed officially called the Old English mastiff, more commonly called the mastiff. The mastiff is thought to be a descendent of the Tibetan mastiff and has been bred in England for about 2000 years. His primary purpose was as a guard dog and watch dog. Both nobility and peasants loved the breed. The upper class would use the dog to hunt and the peasants would use them to protect their livestock as well as the family.

The mastiff has been treasured for centuries for his strength and loyalty. The breed was reputed to have been standing with Caesar and his men as they invaded Great Britain. The mastiff was then taken to Rome and participated in fighting gladiators, bulls, bears and other dogs. He was also used to guard sheep and protect their families.

The mastiff came to America on the Mayflower and others were imported later. In both world wars, the mastiff was used to pull munition carts on the front line. They were also popular as farm dogs. The Mastiff Club of America was established in 1929 and the American Kennel Club accepted the breed as a member of the working group.

Appearance and Size

The mastiff has a broad, massive head with a short muzzle. The body is large and the tail tapers. The eyes are dark, medium size and set far apart on the head with small "V"-shaped rounded ears. The outer hair coat is coarse, straight, and moderately short with an undercoat that is dense and short. The color of the coat comes in golden or light fawn, apricot, silver, and brindle with the muzzle, ears, and nose being a black mask. The mastiff stands 27 to 30 inches from the shoulder and weighs 175 to over 190 pounds.


The mastiff is a brave and excellent guard dog. The breed is intelligent and loyal, but can have some serious faults in temperament if not properly socialized and trained.

Home and Family Relations

Careful and diligent breeders have taken the previously aggressive Old English mastiff fighting dog and turned him into an affectionate and sensitive companion. The mastiff is eager for affection and is generally good with children. They are loyal and faithful but can be aggressive towards other household pets. They should always be leashed in public due to their tendency to be aggressive towards strangers. Today, the mastiff is used as watch dogs, police work, military work, search and rescue and weight pulling dogs.


The mastiff is a strong dog that needs firm handling but trained with kindness if he is to be kept under control. Obedience training needs to be started at a young age, while the dog is still small so that they behave as adults.


To keep their coat shiny, daily brushing and wiping with a moist towel is recommended.

Special Care

The mastiff needs plenty of obedience training and continued training throughout life.

Common Diseases and Disorders

In general, the Mastiff is a healthy dog with few medical concerns. However, the following diseases or disorders have been reported:

The mastiff is also prone to arthritis, obesity, elbow dysplasia and vaginal hyperplasia.

Life Span

The life span of the mastiff is approximately 8 to 10 years.

We realize that each dog is unique and may display other characteristics. This profile provides generally accepted breed information only.