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The Mastiff by Philip Reinagle, 1805

A mastiff is a large and powerful type of dog.[1][2] Mastiffs are among the largest dogs, and typically have a short coat, a long low-set tail and large feet; the skull is large and bulky, the muzzle broad and short (brachycephalic), and the ears drooping and pendant-shaped.[1][2] European and Asian records dating back 3,000 years show dogs of mastiff type.[3] Mastiffs have historically been guard dogs, protecting homes and property, although throughout history they have been used as hunting dogs, war dogs and for blood sports, fighting each other and such animals as bears, lions and bulls.[2][3]

Historical and archaeological evidence suggests that mastiffs have long been distinct in both form and function from the similarly large livestock guardian dogs;[2] they also appear to be genetically distinct.[4] The Fédération Cynologique Internationale and some kennel clubs group the two types together as molossoid dogs; some modern livestock guardian breeds such as the Pyrenean Mastiff, the Spanish Mastiff and the Tibetan Mastiff have the word "mastiff" in their name.[5]

Many older English sources refer to mastiffs as bandogs or bandogges, although technically the term "bandog" meant a dog that was tethered by a chain (or "bande") that would be released at night, the terms mastiff and bandog were used interchangeably.[6][7] In the 20th century, the term bandog has been revived to describe some lines of large mastiff type guard dogs.[6]

List of mastiff breeds[edit]

Extant breeds[edit]

Breed Alternate name(s) Country of origin Use Image
Aksaray Malaklisi Turkish Mastiff Turkey Guard dog and
livestock guardian
Aksaray malaklisi beto.jpg
Alano Español Spanish Alano and
Spanish Bulldog
Spain Bull-baiting and
big game hunting
Alapaha Blue Blood Bulldog - United States Guard dog Alapaha Blue-Blood Bulldog.jpg
American Bulldog Old Southern White Bulldog,
Old Southern White,
English White Bulldog,
White English,
Hill Bulldog and
Country Bulldog
United States Guard dog,
catch dog and
farm dog
American Bully Am. Bully and
United States Companion dog Champion Charlie Muscles (2).jpg
American Mastiff - United States Guard dog AM.Suma.jpg
Boerboel South African Mastiff South Africa Guard dog HuntHillBoerboelsGunston1.jpeg
Boxer German Boxer and
Deutscher Boxer
Germany Guard dog and
big game hunting
Male fawn Boxer undocked.jpg
Broholmer Danish Broholmer and
Danish Mastiff
Denmark Guard dog Ivarr03.JPG
Bulldog English Bulldog and
British Bulldog
England Companion dog Whitebulldog.jpg
Bullmastiff - England Guard dog Bullmastiff edited.JPG
Campeiro Bulldog Brazilian Bulldog,
Countryside Bulldog and
Pampas Bulldog
Brazil Catch dog used in slaughterhouses Buldogue Campeiro.jpg
Cane Corso Italian Mastiff,
Italian Corso Dog,
Italian Corso and
Cane Corso Italiano
Italy Guard dog and
catch dog
Cão Fila de São Miguel São Miguel Cattle Dog,
Chien Fila de San Miguel,
Saint Miguel Cattle Dog,
Azores Cattle Dog and
Azores Cow Dog
Portugal Cattle-herding dog and
catch dog
Rzeszów Cão Fila de São Miguel 3pl.jpg
Cimarrón Uruguayo Cimarron,
Uruguayan Cimarron,
Cimarron Creole,
Maroon Dog,
Cerro Largo Dog,
Perro Cimarron and
Cimarron Dog
Uruguay Guard dog PERRO CIMARRON.jpg
Dogo Argentino Argentine Dogo and
Argentine Mastiff
Argentina Guard dog and
big game hunting
Dogo Guatemalteco Guatemalan Dogo,
Guatemalan Bull Terrier and
Bullterrier Guatemalteco
Guatemala Guard dog Eggon Lasal.jpg
Dogue Brasileiro Brazilian Dogo and
Brazilian Dogge
Brazil Guard dog Doguebrasileiro.jpg
Dogue de Bordeaux French Mastiff,
Bordeaux Mastiff and
France Guard dog DJT 0086.jpg
English Mastiff Old English Mastiff and
England Guard dog Westgort Anticipation 17 months.JPG
Fila Brasileiro Brazilian Mastiff and
Cão de Fila Brasileiro
Brazil Guard dog Yacare De El Siledin.JPG
French Bulldog Bouledogue Francais France Lap dog Mi Gran Amigo El General.jpg
Gran Mastín de Borínquen Puerto Rican Mastiff,
Mastín Borincano,
Becerillo de Borinquen and
Perro Barsino de Hacienda
Puerto Rico Guard dog and
hunting dog
Great Dane Deutsche Dogge,
German Mastiff and
German Boarhound
Germany Big game hunting Great Dane K02.jpg
Neapolitan Mastiff Mastino,
Mastino Napoletano,
Italian Molosso and
Can'e presa
Italy Guard dog Mastino Napoletano Rüde clp.JPG
Olde English Bulldogge - The United States A re-creation of the extinct
Old English Bulldog
UKC Olde English Bulldogge Male.jpg
Perro de Presa Canario Canary Mastiff,
Canary Catch Dog,
Canarian Molosser,
Presa Canario and
Dogo Canario
The Canary Islands Guard dog,
catch dog and
dog fighting
Canario 0720.jpg
Perro de Presa Mallorquin Ca de Bou,
Majorcan Mastiff,
Mallorquin Mastiff,
Perro Dogo,
Presa Canario Mallorquin,
Dogo Mallorquin,
Majorcan Bulldog,
Mallorquin Bulldog and
Silverback Mastiff
Spain Bull-baiting Ca de bou dog.jpg
Pug Dutch Mastiff China Sociable and gentle Mops oct09 cropped2.jpg
Serrano Bulldog Brazilian Mountain Bulldog and
Mountaineer Bulldog
Brazil Herding dog used in slaughterhouses Anuke.jpg
Spanish Mastiff Mastín Español,
Mastín español de campo y trabajo,
Mastín ganadero,
Mastín Leonés and
Mastín Extremeño
Spain livestock guardian Mastif hiszpański 7512.jpg
Tibetan Mastiff Dogs-Khyi and
China Guard dog and
livestock guardian
Tosa Tosa Inu,
Tosa Ken,
Tosa Tōken,
Japanese Fighting Dog,
Tosa Fighting Dog,
Japanese Mastiff and
Japanese Tosa
Japan Dog fighting BUKADAI 2.jpg

Extinct breeds[edit]

Breed Alternate name(s) Country or region of origin Era Use Image
Alaunt Alaunt de Boucherie Europe and Central Asia Classical antiquity and
the Middle Ages
guarding and
dog fighting
Jacopo del Sallaio.jpg
Alpine Mastiff Barry Dog and
Saint Dog
The Swiss Alps Classical antiquity to 19th century Guarding 1815 Alpine Mastiff.jpg
Bandog Bandogge England 14th to 19th centuries Guarding Bandog - engraving by Thomas Bewick - 1790.jpg
Bullenbeisser Bärenbeisser and
German Bulldog
Germany Extinct by World War II Bull-baiting and
Cordoba Fighting Dog Cordoba Dog,
Cordobese dog and
Perro de Pelea Cordobes
Argentina Extinct after the 1920s Dog fighting Patan.jpg
Dogo Cubano Cuban Mastiff,
Cuban Dogo and
Cuban Dogge
Cuba 16th to late 19th century Recapturing runaway slaves DogoCubano2.jpg
Fila da Terceira Terceira Mastiff and
Cão de Fila da Terceira
Portugal Declared extinct in 1970;
being re-created
Catch dog Fila de Terceira.jpg
Molossus Southern Europe Classical antiquity War dogs,
guarding and
dog fighting
Molossian Hound, British Museum.jpg
Old English Bulldog Great Britain and Ireland 17th to 19th century Bull-baiting and
dog fighting
Toy Bulldog Miniature Bulldog and
English Toy Bulldog
England 18th to early 20th century Lap dogs Toy Bulldog Little Knot 1903.jpg



  • Hancock, David (2001). The mastiffs: the big game hunters, their history, development & future. Ducklington, Oxon: Charwynne Dog Features. ISBN 9780951780114.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Fogle, Bruce (2009). The Encyclopedia of the Dog. New York: DK Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7566-6004-8.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Encyclopædia Brittanica (2019). "Mastiff: Breed of dog". Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. Retrieved 9 September 2019.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Parker, Heidi G. (2012). "Chapter 3: The history and relationship of dog breeds". In Ostrander, Elaine A.; Ruvinsky, Anatoly (eds.). The genetics of the dog. Wallingford, Oxfordshire: CAPI books. pp. 38–53. ISBN 9781845939403.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Oxford Dictionaries (2019). "Mastiff". Oxford University Press. Retrieved 9 September 2019.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Wynn, M. B. (2011). History of the mastiff: gathered from sculpture, pottery, carvings, paintings and engravings. Read Books Ltd. ISBN 978-1-4465-4892-9.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Young, Amy; Bannasch, Danika (2007). "Chapter 4: Morphological variation in the dog". In Ostrander, Elaine A.; Giger, Urs; Lindblad-Toh, Kerstin (eds.). The dog and its genome. Cold Spring Harbor, New York: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press. pp. 47–66. ISBN 9780879697815.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)

External links[edit]

  • Media related to Mastiff at Wikimedia Commons