English Mastiff

   

With a massive body, broad skull and head of generally square appearance, it is one of the largest dog breeds in terms of mass. Though the Irish Wolfhound and Great Dane are taller, they are not nearly as robust.[1]

The body is massive with great depth and breadth, especially between the forelegs, causing these to be set wide apart. The AKC standard height (per their website) for this breed is 30 inches (76 cm) at the shoulder for males and 27.5 inches (70 cm) (minimum) at the shoulder for females. A typical male can weigh 150–250 pounds (68–110 kg), a typical female can weigh 120–200 pounds (54–91 kg).

The former standard specified the coat should be short and close-lying (though long haired Mastiffs, called "Fluffies", are occasionally seen) and the color is apricot-fawn, silver-fawn, fawn, or dark fawn-brindle, always with black on the muzzle, ears, and nose and around the eyes. (See Coat Colour Inheritance below.)

Guinness Book of World Records recognizes the heaviest dog of all time as a Mastiff from England named Zorba, at over 343 pounds (156 kg). Zorba stood 37 inches (94 cm) at the shoulder and was 8.25 feet (251 cm) from the tip of his nose to the tip of his tail. Zorba set this record in November 1989, when he was 8 years old[2], and about the size of a small donkey[3]. Although there is a widely circulated claim that a St. Bernard named Benedictine weighed 357 lbs, this figure is based on "successive studies" rather than a direct measurement of a living dog. The largest direct measurement of Benedictine's weight was 336 lbs[4].

 
Coat Colour Inheritance

The colours of the Mastiff coat are differently described by various kennel clubs, but are essentially fawn or apricot, or those colours as a base for black brindle. A black mask should occur in all cases. The fawn is generally a light "silver" shade, but may range up to a golden yellow. The apricot maybe a slightly reddish hue up to a deep, rich red. The brindle markings should ideally be heavy, even and clear stripes, but may actually be light, uneven, patchy, faint or muddled. Pied Mastiffs occur rarely. Other non-standard colours include black, blue brindle, and chocolate mask. Some Mastiff have a heavy shading caused by dark hairs throughout the coat or primarily on the back and shoulders. Brindle is dominant over solid colour. Apricot is dominant over fawn, though that dominance may be incomplete. Most of the colour faults are recessive, though black is so rare in the Mastiff that it cannot be certain if it is recessive, or a mutation that is dominant.[5]

 
Temperament
 

The Mastiff breed has a desired temperament, which is reflected in all formal standards and historical descriptions. Its behaviour must reflect a combination of dignity and courage[6]. Though calm and affectionate to its master, it is capable of protection. If an unfamiliar person approaches near the Mastiff's perceived territory or its master, ideally, it will immediately position itself between its master and the stranger. If the approaching person is perceived as a threat, the Mastiff may take immediate defensive action. The breed is characteristically innately good natured, calm, easygoing, and surprisingly gentle for its size. It is a well-mannered house pet, providing it gets daily exercise and activity. The Mastiff is typically an extremely loyal breed, exceptionally devoted to its family and good with children and small dogs.

 

Health

The mastiff is a particularly large dog demanding correct diet and exercise. Excessive running is not recommended for the first two years of the dog's life. However, regular exercise must be maintained throughout the dog's life in order to discourage slothful behavior and to prevent a number of health problems. A soft surface is recommended for the dog to sleep on in order to prevent the development of calluses, arthritis, and hygroma (an acute inflammatory swelling). Due to the breed's large size, puppies may potentially be smothered or crushed by the mother during nursing. A whelping box, along with careful monitoring can prevent such accidents. The expected lifespan is about 7 to 14 years.

Major issues can include hip dysplasia and gastric torsion. Minor problems include obesity, osteosarcoma, and cystinuria. Problems only occasionally found include cardiomyopathy, allergies, vaginal hyperplasia, cruciate ligament rupture, hypothyroidism, OCD, entropion, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), and persistent pupillary membranes (PPM).

 
History

In 1918, a dog called Beowulf, bred in Canada from British imports Priam of Wingfied and Parkgate Duchess, was registered by the AKC, starting a slow re-establishment of the breed in North America. Priam and Duchess, along with fellow imports Ch Weland, Thor of the Isles, Caractacus of Hellingly and Brutus of Saxondale, ultimately contributed a total of only two descendants who would produce further offspring, Buster of Saxondale and Buddy. There were, however, a number of other imports in the period between the wars and in the early days of the Second World War, and those whose descendants survive were 12 in number, meaning the North American contribution to the gene pool after 1945 consists of 14 Mastiffs. In the British Isles, virtually all breeding stopped due to the rationing of meat. Only a single bitch was produced by the elderly stock that survived the war, Nydia of Frithend, and her sire had to be declared a Mastiff by the Kennel Club, as his parentage was unknown, and he was thought by some to be a Bullmastiff. After the war, animals from North America, prominently from Canada, were imported. Therefore all Mastiffs in the late 1950s were descended from Nydia and the 14 Mastiffs previously mentioned. It has been alleged that the Mastiff was bred with other more numerous giant breeds: Great Dane, Bullmastiff and St. Bernard, as these were considered close relatives to the Mastiff. In 1959, a Dogue de Bordeaux, Fidelle de Fenelon, was imported from France to the USA, registered as a Mastiff, and entered the gene pool[12]. Since that time, the breed has gradually been restored in Britain, has reached 28th most popular breed in the USA [13], and is now found worldwide.

 
 
 
 

Other names

Mastiff
Old English Mastiff