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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 the 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, in the last one fighting each other and other animals such as bulls, bears and even lions.[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 from which they were most likely developed;[4] they also form separate genetic populations.[5] 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, but are not considered true mastiffs.[6]

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 often used interchangeably.[7][8] In the 20th century, the term "bandog" has been revived to describe some lines of large mastiff-type guard dogs.[7]

List of mastiff breeds[edit]

Extant breeds[edit]

Breed Alternate name(s) Country of origin Purpose Image
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
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
United Kingdom
Companion dog;
formerly bull-baiting
Bullmastiff Gamekeeper's Night Dog United Kingdom
Guard dog Bullmastiff edited.JPG
Bully Kutta Indian Mastiff,
Pakistani Mastiff,
Sindhi Mastiff,
Indian Bully and
Pakistani Bully
India and Pakistan Guard dog,
big-game hunting and
dog fighting
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 Cimarrón,
Uruguayan Cimarrón,
Cimarrón Creole,
Maroon Dog,
Cerro Largo Dog,
Perro Cimarrón,
Cimarrón Dog and
Uruguayan Gaucho Dog
Uruguay Guard dog PERRO CIMARRON.jpg
Continental Bulldog Conti and
Swiss Bulldog
Switzerland Companion dog Pitsch-Dog.jpg
Dogo Argentino Argentine Dogo and
Argentine Mastiff
Argentina Guard dog,
big-game hunting and
dog fighting
Dogo Guatemalteco Guatemalan Dogo,
Guatemalan Bull Terrier and
Bullterrier Guatemalteco
Guatemala Guard dog,
formerly bull-baiting
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
United Kingdom
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
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 - 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
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
Rottweiler Rottie and
Germany Guard dog Rottweiler standing facing left.jpg
Serrano Bulldog Brazilian Mountain Bulldog and
Mountaineer Bulldog
Brazil Herding dog used in slaughterhouses Anuke.jpg
Tosa Tosa Inu,
Tosa Ken,
Tosa Tōken,
Japanese Mastiff,
Japanese Tosa,
Japanese Fighting Dog and
Tosa Fighting Dog
Japan Dog fighting BUKADAI 2.jpg

Extinct breeds[edit]

Breed Alternate name(s) Country or region of origin Era Purpose Image
Alaunt Alaunt de Boucherie Europe and Central Asia Classical antiquity and
the Middle Ages
Big-game hunting,
guard dog and
dog fighting
Jacopo del Sallaio.jpg
Bullenbeisser Bärenbeisser and
German Bulldog
Germany Extinct by World War II Bull-baiting (as Bullenbeisser) and
bear-baiting (as Bärenbeisser)
Cordoba Fighting Dog Cordoba Dog,
Cordobese dog and
Perro de Pelea Cordobés
Argentina Extinct after the 1920s Dog fighting Patan.jpg
Dogo Cubano Cuban Mastiff,
Cuban Bloodhound,
Cuban Dogo and
Cuban Dogge
Cuba the 16th to the late 19th century Recapturing runaway slaves and
dog fighting
Fila da Terceira Terceira Mastiff,
Cão de Fila da Terceira and
Rabo Torto
Portugal Declared extinct in the 1970s Catch dog Fila de Terceira.jpg
Molossus Molossian Hound,
Epirus Mastiff and
Southern Europe Classical antiquity War dog,
guard dog,
big-game hunting and
dog fighting
Molossian Hound, British Museum.jpg
Old English Bulldog Great Britain and Ireland the 17th to the 19th century Bull-baiting and
dog fighting
Toy Bulldog Miniature Bulldog and
English Toy Bulldog
United Kingdom
the 18th to the early 20th century Lap dog Toy Bulldog Little Knot 1903.jpg



  • Hancock, David (2001). The Mastiffs: The Big Game Hunters - Their History, Development and Future. Ducklington, Oxon: Charwynne Dog Features. ISBN 9780951780114.
  • Fogle, Bruce (2009). The Encyclopedia of the Dog. New York: DK Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7566-6004-8.
  • Encyclopædia Brittanica (2019). "Mastiff: breed of dog". Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. Retrieved 9 September 2019.
  • 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.
  • Oxford Dictionaries (2019). "Mastiff". Oxford University Press. Retrieved 9 September 2019.
  • 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.
  • 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.

External links[edit]

  • Media related to Mastiffs at Wikimedia Commons