The Mastiff belongs to the general group known as Molossus, and while little is known of their absolute origins these powerful dogs have been around since written history began and were once used as guards, war dogs and fighting dogs.


This dog is thought to be the descendant of the Tibetan Mastiff, used by the Persians. Greeks and Egyptians as war dogs. The Roman armies spread the breed through Europe, assisted by Phoenician coastal traders. When Julius Caesar invaded Britain, he brought his own Mastiff-style war dogs (Epirus Pugnaces), which were beaten by the huge, aggressive British dogs (Cornish Canis Pugnaces). In 1066. the Norman William the Conqueror defeated the English in one day but it took two days to rid himself of the British war dogs. Used originally as a boar hunter and then for security, bull baiting and dog fighting, the breed slowly deteriorated and fell into disfavour until after World War II when there were only eight Mastiffs left in Britain. It was saved by imports from Canada and has since recovered in numbers.

Do not consider owning one of these huge dogs unless you have ample space and can afford to feed a high-quality diet.


Despite its bloody history, the Mastiff is the most amiable dog - a gentle giant, calm, intelligent and extremely loyal. It has a great liking for children and will put up with their play with endless patience. This dog improves in character the closer it gets to its owners but care must be taken to train it and control its strength. As a guard, it has no peer.

must know

This breed suffers hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia. Other genetic faults at low level exist; check with the breeder and The Kennel Club.


The Mastiff is heavy-boned with a large square head viewed from all angles and a short muzzle cut off square. It has a big chest and powerful body. The short, close coat may be apricot-fawn, silver-fawn or dark brown brindle. The muzzle, ears and nose are black with black around the eye orbits extending upwards. No height or weight for this great dog is quoted in the British standard.

Strangers 4/5

Suspicious, will warn vociferously

Temperament 5/5

Easy going, affable, tolerates children happily

Exercise 4/5

When adult, as much exercise as possible

Grooming 1/5

Important to groom every week

Other dogs 2/5

Does not seek altercation


A big softie needing love and involvement, very protective of family

General care

Puppies need quality food with a high-protein content and plenty of easy exercise, although no stress should be placed on joints until the bones have ossified at around two years old. Treat these dogs as athletes, and keep them slim and muscular. Give them something soft to sleep on – their weight can distort their elbows. Groom weekly with a stiff brush, cleaning the ears and the wrinkles.

Gallery of Mastiff