The Mastiff’s ancestor, the Molossus, was primitive man’s best friend over 5,000 years ago. Nowadays, there are more than 14 wonderfully different breeds found within the Mastiff family.
These drooly giants are regarded as one of the biggest dog breeds out there, but they have lots of love to give their owners and families, so don’t be put off by their great size and stern looks, which has commonly led to the breed being given a somewhat unfair reputation.
Their name actually means “tame” or “domesticated” in Latin, making them an ideal pet. However, their powerful build and jowly appearance mean that you will have to get used to some of the downsides of Mastiffs, such as the snoring and the flatulence.
Here, we’ve picked ten different varieties of these often misunderstood, but incredibly loveable, giants.
PetsRadar's guide to Mastiff breeds
1. English Mastiff
The biggest breed of Mastiff, weighing in at as much as 230 pounds, the English Mastiff is extremely gentle and easygoing. Despite outwardly expressing little emotion, they are incredibly devoted and will become a loyal family member.
Known for their incredible endurance, these gentle giants, unfortunately, don’t fare well in hot weather. The English Mastiff, also known as the Old English Mastiff, has a coat that requires minimal maintenance, however, their prominent jowls mean they can be quite drooly.
2. Argentinian Mastiff
Also commonly known as the Argentine Dogo, this intelligent breed can be playful and easy to train, as well as becoming a loyal guardian of its home and those they share it with. They were originally bred to help humans with big-game hunting, such as wild boar.
With some males weighing in at almost 100 pounds, they can be incredibly powerful dogs and, if not raised with the correct training or without socialization, can show aggression to dogs and other animals they are unfamiliar with.
Bred in England during the 1860s from the Old English Mastiff and bulldogs, the Bullmastiff is a breed that is famous for being brave, loyal, intelligent, and affectionate.
Originally bred to assist gamekeepers in protecting their land against poachers, they can weigh as much as 130 pounds and stand as tall as 26 inches, so you wouldn’t want to mess with them. Unsurprisingly, these canines don’t need to be all that vocal – their sheer size and strong looks are often enough to deter any trespassers.
4. Neapolitan Mastiff
These unmistakeable Italian pooches have the most distinctive jowls and wrinkly skin, you can hardly miss them! During Roman times, they were used to guard people’s land and property, helping to keep out any intruders who (foolishly) believed that they could take on this 150 pound pup.
Naturally loyal and watchful animals – the perfect combination for a guard dog – the Neapolitan Mastiff comes in a variety of coat colors, including tawny, mahogany, brindle, black, and blue. This breed, like all Mastiffs, requires socialization and training from a young age to ensure that their protective instincts are kept under control.
5. German Mastiff
Did you know that the German Mastiff often goes by the more common name of Great Dane? Standing up to 30 inches tall, this breed is known for being friendly and dependable, as well as often being good with children.
Due to their powerful size as fully grown adults, obedience training in the early years is vital to ensure that they don’t overpower you or have the innate desire to chase something that you haven’t spotted.
6. Tibetan Mastiff
Tibetan Mastiffs are massive mountain dogs with incredibly thick coats, designed to keep them warm during the cold weather in the Tibetan Plateau and the Himalayas, from where the breed originates.
Notoriously independent, highly protective and incredibly intelligent, this breed won’t be everyone’s perfect pet. They require extensive training, time, and patience, so they require a special type of owner who is used to caring for a strong-willed animal with a mind of its own. Famously, they often decide not to come over when called.
7. Italian Mastiff
Despite its name, the Italian Mastiff was originally bred in Greece as part of a sub-category of dog breeds, known as Mollosers, before being taken back to Italy and bred with native Italian breeds.
More commonly known as the Cane Corso, these loyal and majestic dogs are a close cousin to the Neapolitan Mastiff. They're known to be headstrong, dominant, and highly intelligent.
Not surprising since they were used both as guard dogs, due to their imposing size and stature, and as a war dog, fearlessly charging enemy lines with buckets of flaming oil attached to their backs in the Roman wars.
8. Spanish Mastiff
As the name suggests, this type of Mastiff originated from Spain, where it served the purpose of defending sheep from wolves and other predators during medieval times.
Despite its towering stature – coming in at 28-33 inches in height – it’s a gentle giant, having bred for purposes of defence rather than attack, and this is reflected in its aloof and calm demeanour. Despite this, it certainly isn’t to be messed with.
Possessing a low-pitched and deep bark, you’ll certainly hear them coming a mile off. Visually, they come in a range of colors, including black, red, gray, and yellow.
Hailing from South Africa, the Boerboel is another guardian breed. Originally referred to as the Boer Mastiff, it was capable of going toe-to-toe with a leopard, and was regularly employed as protection on farmsteads.
Standing as high as 27 inches tall, it’s stocky and powerful, and while they make for excellent guard dogs, they can become aggressive if they feel threatened by humans or other animals.
Arguably the most agile of the mastiff breeds, they need to be trained early should they be used as a guard dog, but they are generally eager and willing to learn, so should you put in the effort you’ll find a devoted pupil.
10. Pyrenean Mastiff
Another of the Mastiff breeds that can trace its history back a long time, the Pyrenean Mastiff has been around since the Middle Ages, where it protected sheep from threats like wolves and bears in the mountains of Spain.
Despite its inherently protective nature, the Pyrenean Mastiff is also incredibly friendly, especially to those its protecting, whether they’re human or not. The breed will also be low-key in its duty – it’s not known to bark excessively.
While they’re big-time droolers – not to mention just plain big, with a height of at least 28 inches – they make up for this by being welcome to training, and just generally big, lovable lumps.