History of the Mastiff Breed
The mastiff is a truly ancient breed, although its history is often confused with the mastiff family of dog breeds. More correctly referred to as the Olde English mastiff, mastiffs today can trace their heritage to one of two original bloodlines. Ancient pictures of mastiffs have been found in Egyptian monuments, and the breed has been mentioned in Persian, Roman, and early English writings. Phoenician traders introduced the mastiff in England in the 6th century B.C. The dog was a favorite of the Romans, even being used as a gladiator in the arena. It was also used in the cruel sport of dog, bear, and bull combat – even after the activities were prohibited. In the 18 th century, the mastiff’s size was explained by the following statement: “As a lion is to a cat, so is a mastiff compared to a dog.” Its large size helped it to perform many of its jobs, including guard dog, watchdog, police dog, military, and search and rescue to name just a few. One of the most famous mastiffs was that of Sir Peers Legh, who was wounded in the battle of Agincourt. His mastiff stood guard over him for the remainder of the battle. Legh later died from his wounds, but his mastiff became a forefather of the Lyme Hall mastiffs, which are prominent in the bloodlines of the modern mastiff. Some historians believe that a mastiff came over to America on the Mayflower, but the first documented import occurred in the 1800’s. The breed was almost lost in Europe during World War II, but was replenished with American stock. Today’s mastiff is a loyal companion as well as a formidable, if docile, guardian. The popularity of the breed continues to grow today.
Size and Appearance of the Mastiff Breed
This massive dog is big-boned and powerful, sometimes weighing in excess of 200 pounds. It holds its square head in a dignified manner. Its gait reveals its strength and power with its good reach and drive. The mastiff wears a black mask of fur around its eyes and nose with small, dark ears. Its double coat consists of a dense, close-lying undercoat and a short, straight outer coat that is coarse. The breed is usually colored in fawn, apricot, or brindle, which should include fawn or apricot. A patch of white on its chest is acceptable.
The mastiff is an agreeable, laid-back dog – a “gentle giant.” It is loyal, courageous, and confident. It is not a playful breed, but rather calm and dignified. It rarely barks, drools excessively, and tends to snore loudly. It is patient with children, but not recommended for toddlers due to its large size. It is possessive of its home and family and makes an excellent guard dog. It will not attack intruders, but holds them at bay with its large size. It will refuse to let strangers enter the house unless its owner accepts them. If properly socialized as a puppy, it will accept other dogs. It can be difficult to train.
Mastiff Recommended Maintenance
The Mastiff requires minimal grooming such as occasional brushing and wiping clean with a towel. Bathe or dry shampoo only when necessary. Regular exercise consists of a good walk or game. It remains inactive indoors and tends to be lazy, however the breed is healthier and happier if given proper exercise. As long as it is taken for leashed walks, the mastiff can live comfortably in a large apartment, but regular access to a fenced yard is a better choice. This breed does not do well in warm r hot weather. It can live outdoors in temperate to cool weather, but prefers to live close to the family it guards. Training should be loving but firm to prevent the mastiff from becoming pushy and spoiled.
• Life span: 5-10 years
• Major concerns: CHD, gastric torsion
• Minor concerns: ectropion, PPM, vaginal hyperplasia, elbow dysplasia, PRA
• Occasionally seen: cardiomyopathy
• Suggested tests: hip, elbow, eye
• Note: Obesity can be a problem