The English Mastiff is thought to have originated in Asia, with pictures of Mastiffs being found on 5000 year old Egyptian monuments. However, most of the breed’s recorded history is based in England. They fought with British soldiers against the Roman invasion in 55BC. They were taken to Rome by Caesar, where they fought in the Arena with gladiators, lions, bears and other dogs. These strong and confident dogs were also used by English peasants as protectors and companions.
By the end of World War II, the English Mastiff was almost extinct in England, so breeding stock were brought from the United States and Canada to re-establish the breed in their home country. English Mastiffs were recognized by the AKC in 1885.
These dogs are very versatile, and have been used for protection, police work, search and rescue, and weight pulling.
The English Mastiff is a big, big dog. The heaviest dog ever recorded was an English Mastiff, which weighed in at 343lbs (156kg) in 1989. This dog, Zorba, was 35 inches tall, and was said to be the size of a small donkey! Most English Mastiffs reach an approximate height of 30inches (76cm) which means their head is near the level of your hip! They weigh around 160 pounds (72kg). They are not considered physically mature until they are over 3 years old.
This breed has a short, easy to maintain coat with a dense undercoat, and they come in a variety of colors including fawn, apricot, and brindle. Their head is square shaped, and no matter what color their coat, they always have a black mask on their face.
Even though the Mastiff is often referred to as a gentle giant, dominance levels can vary, even within the same litter. Some puppies are certainly more assertive than others, and need a confident and experienced owner to bring out the best in them. All Mastiff’s need obedience training from a young age; they will be difficult to deal with when they are 160lbs and won’t do as they are told.
They can be somewhat difficult to train, however it is important that their owner persists. These dogs need a firm pack leader, or they will take that position for themselves. This can be dangerous, because dogs tend to keep their pack in line by growling and occasionally biting. If your Mastiff feels he is superior to you and he needs to put you in your place, he may use his teeth to do so.
As with many large breeds, the Mastiff can suffer from elbow and hip dysplasia. Before you bring home a Mastiff, ask the breeder for the results of any testing that was performed on your pup’s parents. English Mastiffs should also be tested for progressive retinal atrophy before being bred to reduce the chances of this eye disease showing up in their pups.
The Mastiff’s deep chest means they are at risk of bloating, and gastric torsion. These conditions occur after a meal, when the stomach swells and twists, and they can be fatal. You can help to prevent them by feeding your Mastiff several small meals a day, and restricting exercise after they have eaten.
Because of their size, Mastiffs can develop pressure sores and calluses on the skin over their elbows and hocks. Give them a soft bed to sleep on, and they will be more comfortable, and less likely to develop these problems.
The English Mastiff’s coat is very low maintenance, and although it needs a brushing on a regular basis, this doesn’t take long. Bathing can be done only as necessary, when your dog is dirty. Between baths, you can keep their coat clean by wiping them over with a damp cloth. This breed is known to drool, so it’s a good idea to keep a washcloth handy, to wipe their mouth regularly. By doing this, you can avoid getting covered in drool yourself.
Exercise is important, but these dogs don’t need a big yard. They like a good walk on a daily basis, but they tend to be quite a lazy breed and are happy enough to relax at home after their stroll. Because of their size, they are not suitable for dog sports such as agility, but they do quite well in obedience classes. In fact, obedience training is essential, and should be continued throughout your Mastiff’s life. They are a strong and confident dog, and you need to keep reminding them who is in charge, and what is acceptable behavior.
The English Mastiff has certain needs, and if you aren’t able to meet them, then this isn’t the right choice of breed for you. You must be prepared to train your dog, and teach him good manners. You must also be prepared to exercise them, and provide regular mental stimulation. If you can’t do this, then you run the risk of owning 160lbs of out of control dog, that can create havoc in your life. Be aware that even the gentlest Mastiff can accidentally hurt people, purely because of their size. This is particularly relevant if you have children in your home.
Make sure you can afford to properly care for a dog this size. Apart from food, it takes a lot of tablets to control worms in a 160lb dog, and these health care costs can add up.
In spite of their size, these dogs are quite sedentary and can live happily in apartments, as long as they get to enjoy a daily outing. However, they may make a mess of your décor, as they knock things over and bump into furniture.
Make sure your Mastiff is securely fenced; although they are friendly, their sheer size makes them intimidating to anyone they approach.
The English Mastiff will happily share your life for 7-10 years.