Critter Culture
English Mastiff: The Gentle Giant

English Mastiff: The Gentle Giant

Critter Culture Staff



The English mastiff is one of the oldest dog breeds in the world, dating back to a dog called Molossus that was bred as a war dog 5,000 years ago. Today, English mastiffs have a completely different temperament to their ancestors, but they kept their massive size. This is the largest dog breed in the world. They grow to between 27 and 32 inches tall at the shoulder and can weigh as much as 323 pounds.


The English mastiff's history

English mastiff dog

In addition to being war dogs, the English mastiff's ancestors were also used as guards dogs and trained to fight against lions and other large animals for entertainment. Thousands of years ago, this tough, fierce breed traveled around the world with armies. Today, though, they have a much softer temperament. These gentle giants dislike conflict so much that they will step between family members arguing.


English Mastiffs are highly effective watchdogs

watchdog strangers docile DevidDO / Getty Images

English mastiffs are docile and good-natured, rarely aggressive but not shy. They typically greet strangers with aloofness, but will not hesitate to get involved if they sense a threat, making them excellent watchdogs. If someone breaks into your house, this breed is more likely to corner them while you call the police than attack the intruder, but their sheer size should be enough to make any would-be robber think twice.


They love kids

boy with an English Mastiff dog

English mastiffs are sweet and kind, but they are extremely large and active, which is not always a good mix with young kids. Although it is unlikely that an English mastiff will be intentionally aggressive with a child, they can easily knock them over or whip them with their tails in the middle of a play session.


They're healthy but can have a short lifespan

healthy short life span TomFoldes / Getty Images

English mastiffs are a healthy breed and typically live between 6 and 10 years, but they are prone to a few conditions. These include hip dysplasia, arthritis, blindness from progressive retinal atrophy, kidney defects, and bloat. Osteosarcoma or bone cancer is also common in English mastiffs. This doesn't mean that all English mastiffs will get one or more of these conditions, but they are something to be aware of if you're considering adding one to your family.


Their exercise requirements are moderate

house dogs outside streky89 / Getty Images

English mastiffs are house dogs. They do best in a home with a fenced-in yard, though they're not likely to chase after prey. This breed needs moderate daily exercise, or they get bored and destructive. Two 30-minute walks a day or some time to run around in the yard is sufficient. English mastiffs can overheat easily, so keep an eye on them in the summer and ensure they have access to fresh water.


The English mastiff is an adaptable breed

versatile apartment yard TomFoldes / Getty Images

As long as they get out for a few walks a day, English mastiffs can live just about anywhere, including large farms and city condos. That said, it is important to keep their size in mind, if only for practical reasons. Before bringing one of these dogs into your home, remember that English mastiffs don't live as long as other breeds, which can be a difficult thing for some people to cope with.


Their dietary needs are relatively simple

English Mastiff dog in green summer grass

English mastiffs are big dogs, but it's still important for them to maintain a healthy weight. To help keep them in good shape, measure out your mastiff's food twice a day instead of leaving food out for them around the clock. Also, keep in mind that English mastiffs are messy. They backwash and drool a lot in their water and food dishes, so rinse their bowls daily.


They require more grooming than you might expect

shed coat grooming ericv / Getty Images

English mastiffs have a straight outer coat and a dense undercoat. Some mastiffs shed a lot in the spring and fall while others shed steadily all year round. Brushing them once a week or so is typically enough to keep it under control. Clean the face wrinkles daily and the hanging part of their upper lip after every meal to prevent infection.


Obedience training is a must

chew obedience training -oqIpo- / Getty Images

Obedience training is important with an English mastiff because it is impossible to physically control them as adults. Crate training is recommended for puppies. As they grow, they're the perfect height to steal off of counters or knock things off shelves, so keep food and anything fragile out of reach. This breed also likes to chew on everything, so give them plenty of toys and exercise to stave off boredom.


Be prepared for drool and other quirks

English Mastiff Puppy

To say that English mastiffs can be a little gross might be putting it mildly. This breed has a habit of drooling and shaking their head, spreading drool everywhere, so keep baby wipes nearby. English mastiffs are also loud. They may not bark a lot, but they snore and are prone to flatulence.


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