The English Mastiff: Everything You Need to Know About the Dog Breed

The English Mastiff is a courageous, dignified, and good-natured dog with a formidable size and an imposing body conformation. Despite its size, the breed is affectionate and gentle.

In this article, we will explain everything you need to know about the English Mastiff – from its rich history and physical characteristics to personality traits and common health issues.

A Brief History of the English Mastiff

Origins of the Breed

The English Mastiff is one of the oldest breeds in the world, dating back to ancient times. Its exact origins are unclear, but it is believed that the breed was developed in Britain from a combination of now-extinct breeds such as the Alaunt and Pugnaces Brittaniae.

These dogs were used for various purposes, including guarding estates, hunting big game, and fighting. The Alaunt was a large, muscular breed used for hunting and fighting. The Pugnaces Brittaniae was a fierce breed used by the ancient Britons for fighting.

The Mastiff in Ancient Times

In ancient times, the Mastiff was a popular choice for guarding estates and castles. It was said that the Mastiff was so fierce and loyal that it could take on a pack of wolves or even a lion. During the Roman Empire, Mastiffs were used as gladiators and were also used in wars.

The Mastiff’s size and strength made it an ideal guard dog. Its loyalty and protective nature made it a favorite among nobles and royalty. In fact, King Henry VIII was known to have kept Mastiffs at his court.

The Mastiff’s Role in Modern History

In modern times, the Mastiff has become less popular as a working dog and more popular as a family pet. Their size and gentle temperament make them a favorite among families with children.

Despite their gentle nature, Mastiffs still retain their protective instincts. They are known to be excellent watchdogs and will protect their family and home from any perceived threat.

Near Extinction and Revival of the Breed

World War II had a devastating effect on the English Mastiff population – records suggest there were only 14 English Mastiffs left in the country when the war ended.

Luckily, a group of dedicated breed fanciers worked tirelessly with the help of US breeders to revive the breed. Thanks to their efforts, the English Mastiff’s population in modern times is safe.

Physical Characteristics of the English Mastiff

Size and Weight

As mentioned earlier, the English Mastiff is a giant dog breed. They are one of the heaviest and tallest breeds in the world, with males being generally larger compared to females.

Male English Mastiffs weigh between 160 to 230 pounds, and females between 120 to 170 pounds. Males stand at least 30 inches tall at the withers, and females are at least 27.5 inches tall.

It’s important to note that their size also means they require a lot of space. They are not recommended for apartment living, as they need plenty of room to move around and stretch their legs.

Coat and Colors

The Mastiff has a short, dense, and smooth coat that comes in a variety of colors. The most common colors are fawn, apricot, and brindle. Some Mastiffs also have a black mask on their face.

The English Mastiff’s coat requires minimal grooming, but it sheds quite a bit during shedding seasons. Regular brushing helps keep shedding under control. The Mastiff’s coat is not hypoallergenic, so if you have allergies, this may not be the best breed for you.

Distinctive Features

The English Mastiff has several distinctive features, including a large, square head, droopy jowls, and a wrinkled forehead. The ears are small and folded over, and the tail is long and tapers to a point.

Because of their unique appearance English Mastiffs are easily recognizable. They are often used in movies and TV shows to genuinely represent the “gentle giant” archetype.

Personality and Temperament

General Temperament

The English Mastiff is a calm and docile dog. It is loyal and protective of its family, but it is not aggressive. In fact, breed members prefer to avoid conflict whenever possible.

Mastiffs are known for their patience and tolerance, which makes them a great choice for families with children. Also, despite their large size, Mastiffs are not overly active dogs.

They are content to lay around the house and chill with their family. English Mastiffs do require regular exercise – a short walk or play session in the backyard is usually enough to keep them happy and healthy.

With Family and Children

Mastiffs are excellent family dogs and are very affectionate towards their owners. They thrive on attention and love to be around their family members. They are patient, gentle, and protective of children.

However, because of their size, Mastiffs can accidentally knock over small kids. It is important to supervise interactions between children and dogs to prevent any accidents from happening.

Interaction with Other Animals

Mastiffs are generally good with other animals. They have a calm and non-threatening demeanor that makes them less intimidating to other dogs and animals.

However, they can sometimes be protective of their territory. They may become aggressive towards other dogs or animals that they perceive as a threat to their family or home.

Proper socialization and training can help prevent this behavior. It is important to expose your Mastiff to other dogs and animals from a young age to help them develop good social skills.

Health and Lifespan

Common Health Issues

Like all breeds, the English Mastiff is prone to certain health issues, such as:

  • Orthopedic Problems: Because of the size, the breed is sensitive to joint issues like hip and elbow dysplasia which reduce mobility
  • Hygromas: The breed often develops water-filled pockets on the joints becuase of the pressure when laying on hard surfaces
  • Bloat: A life-threatening condition in deep-chested breeds occurring when the stomach fills with gasses, bloats, and twists on itself

Preventative Care and Regular Checkups

Mastiffs require regular exercise and a healthy diet to stay in top shape. They should also have frequent vet checkups to monitor their health and catch any potential issues early on. Vaccination and parasite control are essential as in all dogs.

Life Expectancy

The English Mastiff has an average lifespan of around 6 to 10 years. While this may seem short, it’s important to remember that this is a giant breed, and larger dogs tend to have shorter lifespans.


The English Mastiff is a true symbol of a gentle giant. The breed is docile, affectionate, and laid-back. However, it is also strongly attached to and protective of its family members.

If interested in an English Mastiff, research the breed thoroughly. Also, make sure you have enough living space for such a sizeable dog and find a reputable breeder.

Scroll to Top