Other names: English Mastiff, Old English Mastiff
The Mastiff is the ideal companion for lovers of XXL-sized dogs. To wit, weighing close to 220 pounds, this dog’s abnormal size is as overwhelming as the joy one discovers getting to know him. This dog is well-rounded, gentle, has a heart of gold- in direct proportion to his size! He can sometimes prove to be somewhat phlegmatic, but is nevertheless a big softie who cannot stand to be away from his human family.
Key facts about the Mastiff
Life expectancy :
Origins and history
In 55 BC, when Caesar’s legions invaded the British isles, they came face to face with two types of dogs: the first was stocky, with a disproportionately big head, and a short yet powerful jaw- of which the poor legionnaires’ calves soon became thoroughly convinced. This dog was highly likely the Bulldog’s ancestor, and had some of the modern-day Bullmastiff in him. The second dog was of exceptional dimensions, more of a lion than a dog in fact! He was the direct descendant of the assyro-babylonian mastiffs, imported to England by the Phoenicians some 500 years prior to the Roman invasion. He made the Epirus Molossians- whom the Romans considered to be excellent warriors- look like helpless little companion pups. As a result, upon conquering Britain, the Romans brought back these impressive English dogs with them, dubbed them ‘Pugnaces Britanniae’ (or ‘British Pugnaces’), and used them in arena fights with the most ferocious of animals. The Mastiff is a direct descendant of the latter dogs.
Physical characteristics of the Mastiff
Female : Between 26 and 30 in
Male : Between 30 and 33 in
Female : Between 143 and 176 lb
Male : Between 187 and 220 lb
The coat can be fawn, apricot-fawn or brindle-fawn. The muzzle, ears, and nose are black. The dominating presence of white on the body, chest or paws is not admissible by official standards.
Type of coat
The coat is short.
The coat is spread out flatly throughout the body. Please note that it is thicker around the shoulders, the neck, and the back of the dog.
The eyes are hazel, as dark as possible.
Of massive size, the Mastiff has a particularly respect-inducing physical appearance. The head, looked at from any angle, appears rather square. The skull is wide in between the ears, flat, but wrinkled when the dog is alert. The muzzle is short, and wide underneath the eyes: it must appear clearly delineated, and be significantly deep between the tip of the nose, and the lower extremity of the mandible. The stop is pronounced, but not sharp. The eyes are small. The ears are small, fine, hung quite high, and close to the cheeks. The body is massive, robust, and symmetrical. The tail, hanging low when the dog is at rest, curves slightly upwards when he is animated.
Good to know
This breed has been at the brink of extinction more than once already, due to some excesses in the breeding of certain lineages- most notably, inbreeding. This has unfortunately led to certain genetic weaknesses that contemporary dog-breeding is trying to amend.
By the way, contrary to popular belief, the Mastiff is not subject to the law introduced in January 1999 regarding so-called dangerous dogs. In fact, it is not a part of dogs in these categories, neither first nor second.
Though not overly clingy, this imposing dog is very attached to its social group. Behind its somewhat phlegmatic and occasionally frightening appearance, this dog is in fact particularly gentle. With a heart as big as his body, he greatly appreciates demonstrations of affection directed towards him.
Gentle in spite of his constitution, this dog loves to play with children, even if his first priority is to keep a watchful eye on them.
He also enjoys playing with his congenerates if he has been sufficiently socialised in his earliest years.
Don’t expect to play with him for hours on end however, as he is not a hyperactive dog and gets tired quickly.
Fortunately for us, this dog is of docile nature. If he weren’t, his size and strength could lead to considerable carnage!
You could say that the Mastiff is much funnier than he is smart. This dopey impression he may give off, is due to him not being highly responsive to certain situations or demands.
He tends to absorb knowledge quickly, but is slow in its execution. If his peaceful slumber is suddenly interrupted with a loud noise, for instance, expect quite a slightly latent response to the event.
If that trait were indicative of a certain intelligence, the Mastiff would definitely be a prodigy!
Jokes aside, the English Mastiff may not be the most intelligent dog in his category, but he is extremely dependable, and can stun you with his observational and analytical skills in the various situations he might come across.
This Mastiff has no interest whatsoever for hunting. His predatory instinct remains quite underdeveloped.
Fearful / wary of strangers
This ‘lion-dog’ is generally indifferent when it comes to strangers. He certainly shouldn’t be shy, which would go against the signature temperament required by the standards of the breed.
If, however, he senses the slightest threat, he will not hesitate to protect his own and will be particularly detterring on account of his sheer presence.
This dog is very attached to his social group but never pledges total devotion or exclusivity to one person only.
In addition to this, and in spite of the huge affection he endows his close ones with, he knows how to keep a distance when needed. Still, you should never leave the English Mastiff out of the family circle as it might make him suffer enormously.
Behaviour of the Mastiff
In spite of its imposing presence, this massive dog is very sensitive and doesn’t enjoy being alone. He needs to be amongst humans to stay content.
Even if he resides outside, he still remains very attached to his social group and will not tolerate being alone for prolonged bouts of time.
Easy to train / obedience
This Mastiff is not the most docile of his category but will nevertheless be receptive to training if it is firm, coherent and respectful of the principles of positive training.
This mighty molossian will not tolerate any form of brutality at the hands of his master and will be much more inclined to cooperate if it is those good behaviours that will be compensated and reinforced.
At times unaware of the extent of his strength, the training will have to prioritise leash-led walking, pull-free, so that when the dog becomes an adult, walking him will be a breezy, pleasant affair!
At any rate, with a dog of such proportions, it is advised to call on a professional dog trainer who will accompany the owners in the training process.
This dog has no need to bark to either attract attention or deter a potential intruder. This is a discrete dog, who is sufficiently imposing by virtue of his appearance alone.