I’ll never forget the first time I saw a Mastiff in person. I’ve never been more terrified in my life. I was convinced that I had somehow made my way into the Chamber of Secrets (R.I.P. Snape) and was about to get eaten by that three-headed dog.
Much to my delight (and my disappointment that I wasn’t, in fact, at Hogwarts), that dog turned out to be one of the sweetest lugs I have ever met.
Such is the way of the Mastiff. They have an intimidating presence that demands respect, but at heart they have the potential to be giant stuffed animals.
What a lot of people actually don’t know about Mastiffs is that there isn’t just one kind as with many other breeds, the Beagle for example. There are actually more than 14 different types of Mastiffs. Some are recognized as their own individually standing breed while others are more rare and a little lesser known.
While each individual type has its own unique characteristics; for the most part, the base Mastiff traits of a broad build, large square head, and a black muzzle are more or less consistent across the board.
According to Dogster, this memorable look all started with the original English Mastiff.
English Mastiffs are loyal, gentle, and make great family additions.
Mastiffs, in general, are known to be a little on the lazy side (my kind of dog). This easy-going temperament combined with the English Mastiff’s short coat makes it a pretty low maintenance choice.
Just make sure to keep it out of extreme heat, as its larger size leaves him at a higher risk for overheating.
Another well-known example of a classic Mastiff appearance is seen in the Bullmastiff. The Bullmastiff is a mix between the Bulldog and the English Mastiff. While this guy inherited a lot of his physical features from his English Mastiff lineage, he also inherited some of that stubborn Bulldog temperament. While Bullmastiffs are generally laid-back, they require early socialization as they are known to become aggressive towards other dogs and humans they aren’t familiar with. This territorial nature makes them great guard dogs, however according to Pawsitively Safe, they aren’t recommended for first-time dog or first time Mastiff paw-rents.
Yet another surprising fact that I learned while writing this was in regards to the beautiful German Mastiff.
This Mastiff has a much more chiseled appearance than most of its relatives. It is a true gentle giant who isn’t always aware of his larger than life size.
The German Mastiff is relatively quiet and will typically only bark if startled or threatened.
These pups are so devoted and caring that they are even commonly used as service and therapy dogs.
So, what was I all surprised about?
Well as it turns out, All About Great Danes explains that the German Mastiff is commonly known in the United States as the Great Dane.
I had no idea that the Great Dane belonged to the Mastiff breed!
Neapolitan—Not Just A Dessert
I can’t mention European Mastiffs without calling attention to the Italian Mastiff, aka the Neapolitan Mastiff. Even if you don’t immediately recognize the name (as something other than ice cream), you’ll no doubt recognize its signature wrinkled appearance. This Mastiff is just as big as its other Mastiff counterparts, but has a shorter and broader muzzle than most, plus all the wrinkles, obviously. Dog Breed Info explains that the Neapolitan Mastiff is again, like most Mastiffs, loving and gentle with minimal required maintenance. However, be prepared for some major drool action. Most Mastiffs drool, but the saggy skin on the Neapolitan Mastiff makes this trait even more noticeable. This is also another type of Mastiff that isn’t recommended for a timid or first-time dog owner. The Neapolitan needs an owner who is calm, dominant and can control and train them properly.
The second Italian on the list is actually one of the lesser known breeds. The Cane Corso is a little smaller than other Mastiffs and was bred mainly for the protection of livestock.
Love to Know describes the Cane Corso as agile and athletic, quite different from its less active (this is a nice alternative for slightly lazy) relatives.
These pupsters are highly intelligent, easy to train and are good with families.
Since they are on the more active side, they will need more exercise than other Mastiffs, but are still fairly low maintenance and will do just fine in an apartment.
Another lesser known Mastiff is the Dogue de Bordeaux. Calm down, I know you read Bordeaux and immediately thought of wine (me too, it’s ok). The Dogue de Bordeaux, aka French Mastiff, is actually pretty adorable. It is shorter in size than its other Mastiff counterparts and sports a dark red to light fawn color. And, of course, my favorite feature of the French Mastiff is its somewhat smooshed appearing little face. This monsieur has loose wrinkly skin and a short muzzle making it almost look like a taller version of a Pug (adorbs!). Love to Know describes its temperament as non-aggressive, affectionate and a natural guardian. I’ll take three!
The Dog From Impanema
Speaking of wrinkles, the third wrinkled beauty on the list is the Fila Brasileiro, aka Brazilian Mastiff.
According to Vet Street, the Brazilian Mastiff is pretty intense. While he can still possess that gentle giant mentality, these dogs do not come that way.
Brazilian Mastiffs require immediate and rigorous training and socialization.
They are definitely not recommended for new or timid owners. These babes are highly territorial and are known to be very aggressive if they feel their human is being threatened.
Don’t get me wrong though, with the right owner, these dogs can be gentle and devoted companions.
If you are looking for something a little more docile, but still want that exotic quality, there is always the Pyrenean Mastiff. Not to be confused with the Pyrenean Mountain dog, this Spanish sensation (no, not Enrique Iglesias) hails from Aragonese Pyrenees in Spain where primarily guarded livestock from wolves. Unlike most Mastiffs, including the other Spanish Mastiff (this one is just called the Spanish Mastiff) this pup’s coat is long, luxurious and typically white with darker markings. The The Pyrenean Mastiff Website describes them as meek, but highly intelligent and great with families and children. Like most Mastiffs, and dogs in general, the Pyrenean Mastiff should be socialized. However, any human or animal that grows up alongside him will be considered a part of his “pack”.
Seven Dog Years In Tibet
For the final Mastiff on our list, we’ve basically done a complete 180 in physical appearance from the original English Mastiff.
The Tibetan Mastiff is slightly smaller with a long, thick, double coat.
The American Tibetan Mastiff Association (that was a mouth full) explains that this breed is active, athletic, and curious. It is highly intelligent and easily trainable, but requires early socialization.
In contrast to its quiet relatives, the Tibetan Mastiff is sometimes a night-barker (you know the type) which can be a deal-breaker for some potential owners.
While the Tibetan Mastiff can do well indoors, he does need a lot of exercise and should have a fenced yard or be on a leash if outside as he will most definitely wander off to explore.
Hopefully, if any of you were considering adding one of these regal beauties to your pack, this quick guide gave you some point of reference.
For more ideas on a good dog for your household, check out our article on the best indoor dogs.