The Mastiff is considered the largest of the dog breeds. Though Wolfhounds and Great Danes can be taller, the Mastiff is massively muscled, thick, and heavy boned. The Mastiff originates from the ancient Molosser line that made its way to the British Isles. Over several centuries, the Mastiff continued to thrive in England as a protector and later, was used for bull and bear baiting. The 19th century saw to outlawing of such cruel practices, and a selective breeding program turned this once fearsome breed into a gentle giant. Today, the largest of the breeds still thrives and continues as a loyal guardian of his people.
The English Mastiff, or just Mastiff, is a giant among dogs. As the largest of the dog breed, this colossus is a descendant of the Molosser family and was most likely brought to the British Isles aboard Phoenician trading vessels sometime between 2000 and 1500 BC. Over the centuries and isolated on an island, the progenitor of the modern-day Mastiff was raised and bred as a fearsome guardian for the tribes living in the Isles. By the Roman invasion in 55 BC, Mastiffs were used as war dogs in the resistance against Rome. So impressed with the Mastiff’s size and courage, Julius Caesar brought a pack back to Rome to fight lions and gladiators. As the centuries continued, the Mastiff’s role remained as a protector and guardian, but human interest also turned this breed to bull and bear baiting as well as pit fighting. This cruel blood sport was banned in England in 1835, though it continued underground for some time. Modern-day Mastiffs are descendants of these pit dogs as well as of a great and noble stock known as the Lyme Hall Mastiffs. Sir Peers Legh was badly wounded in the battle of Agincourt, which took place on October 23, 1415, in northern France. While fallen, Legh’s Mastiff defended him for several hours through the battle. Though Legh later died, his Mastiff returned home, with a little of puppies in tow, and became the foundation for the Lyme Hall Mastiffs and future English Mastiffs. Lyme Hall Mastiffs were bred and documented for hundreds of years; thus, gaining a prominent position in the modern-day breed. As a former dog of war and later a pit fighter and bull baiter, the colossal Mastiff underwent a selective breeding program to subdue some its more fearsome qualities. By 1885, the now docile giant was still a powerful and loyal guardian and earned recognition by the American Kennel Club.
The Mastiff has a very powerful and heavy body. It is considered the largest of all dog breeds, not in height but weight. The largest Mastiff was recorded at 8’3 feet long and weighing 343 pounds. This breed has a powerful structure with a large head. The eyes are dark and set far apart. Ears are small in proportion to the head and V-shaped and set moderately apart. The top of the head is broad and flat between the ears and rounded at the forehead with distinctive wrinkles. The muzzle of a Mastiff is short and dark in color in comparison the rest of the head. The nose is broad and dark with well-defined flat nostrils. The lips are very loose and hang down the jaw giving the Mastiff a distinctly square-shaped head in profile. The bite is scissor, but undershot jaws are also common. The Mastiff’s chest is wide and rounded with well-rounded ribs. This breed’s shoulders are sloped and heavily muscled. The forelegs are straight, strong, set wide apart and end in large, round feet. The hind legs are broad and muscular and set wide apart. Any angulation is moderate and matches the forelegs. The mastiff’s tail is set moderately high and wide at the root while tapering at the end.
Though the Mastiff is a short haired breed, it still needs weekly brushing with a rubber hound glove to remove dead and loose hair. The Mastiff does have two shedding seasons, and daily brushing will help remove the excess hair. Despite a short coat, the Mastiff can develop a “doggy” odor. This is due to an increase in oil produced. Frequent brushing is recommended to help distribute the oils, and you may need to bathe your Mastiff slightly more regularly than other dogs. However, be careful with over bathing as this can strip the necessary oils from your Mastiff and lead to dermatosis or other skin conditions. You should consult with your veterinarian or grooming specialist on the frequency and best products for your Mastiff. For the sheer size of this breed, the Mastiff needs little exercise and is relatively sedentary indoors. It is possible to keep a Mastiff in an apartment or in an urban area provided you can give him a short walk daily or have a small yard for him to move around. The Mastiff developed in temperate climates, and despite his Mediterranean ancestry, this breed tolerates the cold far better than it does the heat. When it comes to picking up after a Mastiff with a pooper-scooper, everything is bigger. This breed is also known to drool a lot and requires a lot of food. On average, this breed requires 8 to 8 ½ cups of food, divided into two meals daily. The amount you feed your Mastiff will depend on his size, age, and metabolism. However, be careful with excessive feeding to prevent weight gain. Additionally, this breed is prone to developing bloat, which can develop from excessive eating and drinking. Avoid feeding your Mastiff large meals and divide food into smaller portions when possible.