When it comes to Mastiff breed facts, this friendly giant has held the record for the largest dog on the planet to name just one, and has more fabulous qualities than its massive size. With massive being the truest word that comes to mind when we think of a Mastiff, these canines boast a rich history that stretches back to 2,500 BC! The ancestors of this dog breed have been through a lot more than you may imagine, and we nearly lost the dog breed altogether.
What are the most amazing Mastiff breed facts? Here are 5 of our Top 9 Mastiff Facts:
9. Mastiffs originated from the Molasser dog breed, dating back to well over 5,000 years ago.
8. The Mastiff's ancestors were Roman War dogs that would commonly guard the royal and nobility and were depicted in many civilization’s artifacts as a revered war-lion.
7. After dogfighting was banned in England, Mastiffs were utilized as guard dogs.
6. Mastiffs came to the New World on the Mayflower!
5. Mastiffs take longer to mature than most dogs.
As you can see, there is much more than meets the eye about these loving protectors. Use this guide to learn more about this fascinating breed, how to care for them, some highlights that you need to understand as a Mastiff-owner, and much more! Read more below for our final 4 facts!...
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There is a bit of mystery surrounding the early history of the Mastiff breed. The most common theory of their origin is around 5,000 years ago in Southern Asia, around the Chinese Tibetan Mountains and what is now Northern India. The best guess is that they were bred from an even older breed--the Molasser.
The dog breed Molosser is the most
difficult to categorize because there are so many variations to these
large-sized pups. Even though there is mystery surrounding this breed’s origination,
what we do know is that there is evidence that the Mastiff breed was depicted
in art from the Egyptian, Greek, and Babylonian civilizations.
The Mastiff's predecessor and ancestor, the Molosser, is depicted in Roman statues that are thousands of years old and still held at the British Museum. The museum also houses a statue that was preserved from the Babylonian palace of Ashurbanipal. If you want to see a Molosser statue, click here.
There are a lot of legends and folk tales that surround the Mastiff breed, and they were once considered to be ‘war lions,’ ‘sand lions,’ or, ‘desert lions.’ The Mastiff was clearly a revered creature of status that commanded respect.
At this time, civilizations were much rougher and had to be to survive. They used animals to defend their land and produce intimidation. The dog’s appearance was quite different because they were used for fighting and defense. They would be more intimidating than the mush-faces we know in today’s modern world.
#7 Mastiffs Moving to Europe
Mastiffs were taken by the Romans and brought back to Modern-day Britain. During this period, the Mastiffs would still be utilized as fight dogs. Not just for defense, but often for entertainment just as the Romans would enjoy men fighting to the death in the colosseums.
There was little value placed on life at this time, and most people and animals didn’t have a very long life expectancy in the first place. It was much more cut-throat, and it would be seen as a privilege for these dogs to even have an owner that feeds them, so little to no sympathy was placed on these fighting dogs that would lose their life to the sport.
They would have looked more ferocious during this time. The hundreds of years they’ve spent in domestication after this rough period has softened the breed’s physical appearance. During this time, they were used for bloody sports like bull-baiting, bear-baiting, lion-baiting, or fighting other dogs.
Thankfully, the practice of fighting
animals was outlawed in 1835. After this, Mastiffs were later utilized as guard
dogs that would patrol the castles to protect royalty.
To find these pups a new purpose, the Romans would use them to guard the royals at night and stand guard around the palace. Would you want to charge the gate against a 2-300-pound dog? Neither did intruders.
They would be tied up for most of the day and Mastiffs were even known as ‘the tied-dog’ in some languages and cultures. Sadly, this was because they were usually tied up for most of their life, especially in Tibet.
After nightfall, while defending the Roman palaces, these dogs were sometimes let off of their leashes and allowed to roam the royal grounds all night, defending the property, hunting for food, and guarding the elites. This was the most freedom they would have experienced at this time in history.
Pro-tip: Does your Mastiff have issues with anxiety, destructive chewing, aggressiveness, jumping up, barking or fearfulness?
Brain Training For Dogs is an excellent online training course that
addresses these behavioral issues as well as dog training basics.
#6 Mastiffs to The New World
They probably weren’t the first dog that came to the new world, but the Mastiff was one of two dog breeds that arrived on the Mayflower with Christopher Columbus in 1620.
The Mastiff arrived on the long journey, which would have taken 66 days from England (departing September 6th, 1620 and arriving in Cape Cod on November 9th, 1620). The dog owner on this voyage was not the Captain, Christopher Jones, but a seaman named John Goodman.
Goodman brought over his beloved
Mastiff and English Spaniel (a much smaller dog), but this would have been
quite a significant deal. This is because, on a 2-month long journey across the
ocean where anything bad could happen and you need to preserve food – it’s
surprising to bring along a 200-pound-bear-dog that requires copious amounts of
It’s surprising the rest of the crew allowed Goodman to bring along such food-hoarders, but the crew welcomed the dogs with open arms, even caring for the dogs after Goodman passed away on the voyage.
After the crew took in the dogs as their own, they would use them for hunting in the new world and searching for food. Perhaps that’s why the crew brought them along.
“Just as the Great Dane should be bred as a huge hound, symmetrical, athletic, balanced, tight-lipped and not too heavy headed, so the mastiff breeds should be bred as heavy hounds, hunting dogs powerful enough to succeed at the killing stage in big game hunting and fast enough in the charge to survive.”
Although a Mastiff made its way to
America on the Mayflower. it went back to England and we wouldn’t see a large
importation of the Mastiff breed into the United States until the late 1800s.
#5 Mastiffs Mature Slower Than Other Dogs
A side effect of the Mastiff being so large in size is that it takes them longer to fully grow to maturity. This will be both mentally and physically.
While other dog breeds are considered, ‘Adult,’ after 1 year, it may take between 2-3 years for your Mastiff to not act and seem like a puppy. Be patient with them because they are only responding to their mental programming and development that is out of their hands (or paws).
The puppy phase may be longer with this breed than almost any other dog breed in the world! This is somewhat of a joyous and adorable quality, but sadly, Mastiffs do have a much shorter life-span than smaller dogs.
The Mastiff will usually live between 6-12 years, which is a rather large range, but it is dependent on their health, nutrition, specific Mastiff breed, and how well they are cared for.
If you own a Mastiff puppy – keep in mind that they may experience more rapid moments of growth spurts and development where they double in size, and then it will slow down. Be careful with them during this period and don’t play too rough for the first few years while they are a puppy.
You don’t want to risk hurting their joints because they are already under a lot of pressure from the enormous weight of these dogs, sometimes weighing as much as 2-3 human adults!
Don’t overexert them—but let them enjoy walks and non-stressful exercise.
#4 Mastiff comes from The Word, ‘Domesticated.’
Everyone believes the word Mastiff comes from, ‘massive,’ because that is the easiest correlation to make.
But in fact, the word comes from the Latin name, ‘Mansuetus,’ which means – domesticated or tamed.
If you know a Mastiff personally, this translation makes a lot of sense. The temperament of this breed is notoriously calm and easy-going, usually very receptive to training and, ultimately, tame.
Their official name during Roman times would probably have been – Mansuetus. This sounds much cooler, but the name was simplified hundreds of years ago to the less impressive name we use today. Maybe the British wanted an easier-to-say name, but more likely, they wanted to get rid of reminders that the Romans had once conquered them.
Mastiff was derived after years of Old-English, and Old-French beat down the Latin influence and overtook Latin influence completely. The first time we ever see the simplified term of ‘Mastiff’ was in a document found in Britain in 1387.
It is quite possible that the Romans were calling them Mansuetus at the same time that other languages were calling them Mastiffs. And only the term ‘Mastiff’ would preserve itself into the modern age.
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#3 We Nearly Lost Them in WWII
Can you imagine a world without Mastiffs? We nearly had just that when rations were cut during World War II, and everyone was in a state of survival-mentality.
It’s hard to blame anyone when you imagine the state of fear they existed in and a mindset of scarcity, not abundance. When you’re coming from a place of less-than, it’s hard to consider feeding a 300-pound bear-dog when there’s hardly enough food for the humans in your family.
Tragically, this led to millions of pets being euthanized of all breeds and species. This wasn’t just in America, and even in Britain, a government pamphlet was sent out encouraging people to euthanize their pets for food preservation. 750,000 pets were killed in a mere week in Britain after this and hundreds of thousands more across the world.
This misfortune nearly wiped out the
Mastiff population altogether and shrank it to the brink of nothing.
Thankfully, the breed was restored, taken care of, and now there are almost 15
Mastiff breeds alive and well today!
#2 Mastiffs Create the Largest Litters of Puppies
Not only are these dogs ginormous, but they also breed the largest litters of almost any other dog breed. The usual number of puppies you can expect from a Mastiff litter will be 10-12, which is already quite large.
The record was of a Mastiff mother who birthed 24 Mastiff puppies, 20 of which lived (which any breeder will tell you is an amazing result from that large of a litter).
This is the record for any dog breed
still and has yet to be beaten!
#1 Mastiffs are The Largest Dog Breed (in Weight)
This can be slightly confusing because some people will post about the largest dog and mean height, while others are referring to weight.
The Mastiff breed was formerly the heaviest breed, as well as the largest in size. But recently, other dogs have overtaken the Mastiff as being taller, such as the Great Dane or Irish Wolfhound.
Despite the Mastiff no longer being the biggest and tallest, they are still the heaviest dog breed in the world and categorized under the largest (not to be confused with height). Currently, the largest dog breed on earth (when they are referring to height) is the English Mastiff.
The breed standard regarding measurement for a Mastiff will be:
These measurements are the minimum height of a Mastiff, but they can absolutely be taller than this, going upwards of 36-40 inches tall.
There isn’t a breed standard regarding weight for this breed, but one of the largest Mastiffs to date was Zorba.
Zorba was recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records in 1989 as the World’s Largest Dog. He was 37 inches to his shoulder height, 8 feet long from the tip of his nose to the tip of his tail and weigh 343 pounds!
Most males weigh 150-250, and most females weigh 120-170.
Final Tips and Resources on Mastiffs
Since you’re here reading more about Mastiffs, I’ll assume you have one, love one, or plan to adopt one soon!
To offer you some parting words of wisdom, the major things to keep in mind with this breed are:
I hope this guide has opened your eyes up to this amazing breed and given you a new-found respect for the War-Lions!