Choosing a Mastiff

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:

  • Gastric torsion, also known as bloat, is a life-threatening sudden illness associated with the stomach filling with air and twisting.
  • Hip dysplasia is a malformation of the hip joint that results in pain.
  • Ruptured cranial cruciate ligament is a problem that results from tearing of the cruciate ligament in the knee, causing lameness that may be severe .
  • Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a heart condition that results in a large, thin-walled heart muscle.
  • Cataracts cause a loss of the normal transparency of the lens of the eye. The problem can occur in one or both eyes and can lead to blindness.
  • Entropion is a problem with the eyelid that causes inward rolling. Lashes on the edge of the eyelid irritate the surface of the eyeball and may lead to more serious problems.
  • Cherry eye is a prolapse of the third eyelid. Though not a serious injury and does not cause blindness, the prolapse can be irritating to the surface of the eye and cause persistent tearing or eye pain.
  • Ectropion is a problem with the eyelid that causes eversion of the eyelid margin. It most commonly affects the lower central eyelid.
  • Corneal dystrophy is a primary, inherited, bilateral (both sides), symmetrical condition of the cornea that is not accompanied by corneal inflammation or systemic disease.
  • Urolithiasis is a condition affecting the urinary tract resulting in the formation of bladder stones.

    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.

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