You may recognize the familiar English mastiff dog, but there are several other types of mastiff breeds. All mastiffs, as well as a number of other breeds that might surprise you, share a common ancestor. Over the course of thousands of years, the dogs have been developed to create the many mastiff breeds that are found throughout the world today.
The mastiff dates back to 2500 B.C. Evidence of the existence of similar, massive-sized dogs were depicted on the walls of a Babylonian palace. At the time, the dogs were known as mollosers. Phoenician traders are believed to the be responsible for introducing these early mastiffs to ancient Britain, where Romans discovered the dogs and used them in their fighting arenas. It is the nation of Britain that is credited with developing the English mastiff breed that is widely known today.
The American Kennel Club recognizes several mastiff breeds as members of the working group. One of the largest is the mastiff, sometimes called the English mastiff. This gentle giant was developed in England, he stands 30 inches tall at the shoulder, and he is clad in a short coat that may be fawn, brindle or apricot. In 1885, the mastiff was the first of the mastiff breeds to be recognized by the American Kennel Club. His smaller English cousin, the bullmastiff, was later recognized in 1934. The bullmastiff was developed by crossing the mastiff and the bulldog. He stands 24 to 27 inches tall at the shoulder, and his short coat may be red, brindle or fawn.
The Great Dane is sometimes known as a German mastiff. He stands 30 inches tall at the shoulder, and his short coat’s coloring may be blue, black, fawn, brindle, harlequin or mantle. According to the AKC, the cane corso and the dogue de Boreaux are mastiff type dogs. The cane corso hails from Italy, averaging 25.5 inches in height and sporting a short coat of black, red, gray, brindle or fawn. Another Italian mastiff breed is the Neapolitan mastiff, who stands 24 to 31 inches tall and is clad in loose skin covered with a short coat of black, blue, tawny or mahogany. The French mastiff is known as the dogue de Bordeaux, made famous in the film “Turner and Hooch.” The dogue de Bordeaux stands 23 to 27 inches tall , and his short coat ranges from light fawn to deep red in color. The Tibetan mastiff originated in China, developed in the Himalayan Mountains. He stands 24 to 26 inches tall, and his thick, double coat may be black, blue or brown in color. Tan markings may or may not be present.
Some mastiff breeds are not recognized by the American Kennel Club. One such dog is the Brazilian mastiff, also known as the fila Brasileiro. Other mastiff types are recognized only as members of the American Kennel Club’s foundation stock service program. The goal of this program is to keep records for these purebred dogs, enabling the breeders to improve the rare breeds and eventually pave the way to full recognition. Some of the mastiff types who are currently in this program include the Spanish mastiff, the Pyrenean mastiff, the perro de presa Canario and the dogo Argentino, also known as the Argentinian mastiff.
Many of the breeds who prance the streets and show rings are not called mastiffs, and they are not considered a mastiff breed, but you might be surprised to know that they were all derived from the ancient mastiffs. Some of these breeds include the Saint Bernard, the chow chow, the bulldog, the pug, the Great Pyrenees, the Newfoundland, the Rottweiler, the bloodhound, the greater Swiss mountain dog and the Bernese mountain dog.
- Mastiff Club of America: The History of the Mastiff
- American Kennel Club: Get to Know the Mastiff
- American Kennel Club: Get to Know the Bullmastiff
- American Kennel Club: Get to Know the Great Dane
- American Kennel Club: Get to Know the Cane Corso
- American Kennel Club: Get to Know the Neapolitan Mastiff
- American Kennel Club: Get to Know the Dogue de Bordeaux
- American Kennel Club: Get to Know the Tibetan Mastiff
- American Kennel Club: Foundation Stock Service Program
- American Kennel Club: FSS Breeds
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