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Characteristics, History, and Health


The Mastiff is sometimes referred to as the Old English Mastiff to avoid confusion with other types of Mastiffs like the Tibetan Mastiff or Neapolitan Mastiff. The Mastiff is a large, powerful breed with an ancient lineage. The earliest record of Mastiffs can be traced back to 3000 BC, in Egyptian art. Mastiffs were also referenced in ancient Roman and Greek literature. They were originally used as war dogs and protectors. In Medieval England, Mastiffs were used for hunting large game and protecting estates. The modern breed we know today was developed in England and later introduced to other parts of the world through colonization and trade. Julius Caesar noted large dogs that helped to defend Britain during his invasion in 55 B.C. Some of these large Mastiffs were brought back to Rome to fight human gladiators and wild beasts in the arena. In medieval England, Mastiffs were used as big-game hunters, guardians of estates at night, and war dogs. At the end of World War II, it is estimated only 14 Mastiffs were still in existence in all of Britain. Breeders in the United States helped to revive the breed.

Main Info
Alternate Names
English Mastiff, Old English Mastiff
Life Expectancy
6-10 years
Average Male Height
30+ inches
Average Female Height
27.5+ inches
Average Male Weight
160-230 pounds
Average Female Weight
120-170 pounds
Coat Length
Coat Type
Coat Colors
Apricot, Brindle, Fawn
Coat Pattern
Black Mask

Genetic Predispositions and Health

The Mastiff can suffer from eye disorders, cardiomyopathy and other heart conditions, hip dysplasia, osteosarcoma, von Willebrand disease, epilepsy, and degenerative myelopathy. This breed may develop hygromas, which are harmless cushions that can naturally develop to protect their elbow joints (can be drained by a vet if needed). As a large breed, they are susceptible to bloat, also known as gastric dilation volvulus (GDV). This is a life-threatening condition that can come on suddenly, so it’s important to know the warning signs and get an affected dog immediate veterinary care. Some Mastiffs may be affected by cruciate ligament rupture, and vaginal hyperplasia. They can also be prone to obesity. Other specific conditions for which they can be genetically tested include cystinuria (type 3), multifocal retinopathy 1, progressive retinal atrophy, and hyperuricosuria. Genetic testing can assist veterinarians with diagnosis and proactive care, as well as help breeders identify affected and carrier dogs.

Personality and Behavior

Mastiffs are known for their gentle, dignified, and loyal nature. They are extremely protective of their families and can be wary of strangers. Despite their size, Mastiffs are generally good with children and other pets, showing patience and restraint. They are intelligent, but can be stubborn, so consistent and positive training methods work best. Mastiffs need moderate exercise to prevent obesity and maintain their health.

Fun Facts

Mastiffs are among the heaviest breeds, with adult males weighing up to 230 pounds or more.

The largest Mastiff ever recorded, named Zorba, weighed 343 pounds and measured over 8 feet from nose to tail.

Mastiffs have appeared in literature and film, including in "Sherlock Holmes" and "Harry Potter".