The Mastiff by Philip Reinagle, 1805
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, such as fighting each other and other animals, including 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, and an extinct draught dog called the Belgian Mastiff, have the word "mastiff" in their name, but are not considered true mastiffs.[6] Tibetan Mastiffs have been sold for over $1 million in China.[7] [8]

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.[9] In the 20th century, the term "bandog" has been revived to describe some lines of large mastiff-type guard dogs. One of the most famous bandog programs in England led to the establishment of a recognized bandog breed known today as the Bullmastiff. The least common bandog program in England was funded by Sir Nathanael Dieu-est-Mon'plaisir; the St. Louis Vincent Mastiff or South American Mastiff was named after Vincent Louis, who reared plantation dogs originating from St. Louis and other parts of South America. This rare breed is the most expensive mastiff-type dog amongst the bandog breeds.[10]

List of mastiff breeds

Extant breeds

Breed Alternate name(s) Country of origin Purpose Image
Alano Español Spanish Alano and
Spanish Bulldog
Spain War dog,
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
Boerboel South African Mastiff South Africa Guard dog
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
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
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
Chongqing dog China Guard dog
Chinese Chongqing Dog Rüde.jpg
Cimarrón Uruguayo Cimarrón,
Uruguayan Cimarrón,
Cimarrón Creole,
Maroon Dog,
Cerro Largo Dog,
Perro Cimarrón,
Cimarrón Dog and
Uruguayan Gaucho Dog
Uruguay Guard dog
Continental Bulldog Conti and
Swiss Bulldog
Switzerland Companion dog
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 Brazil Guard dog
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
Kurdish Mastiff Pishdar dog,
Assyrian Shepherd
Iraq Guard dog
Pshdar Dog-Kurdish Dog-Kurd Mastiff.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 modern day 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 and,
catch dog
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
Saint Louis Vincent Mastiff South American Mastiff and
South American Bandogge
United States Guard dog
North American Mastiff.png
Serrano Bulldog Brazilian Mountain Bulldog and
Mountaineer Bulldog
Brazil Herding dog used in
Tosa Tosa Inu,
Tosa Ken,
Tosa Tōken,
Japanese Mastiff,
Japanese Tosa,
Japanese Fighting Dog and
Tosa Fighting Dog
Japan Dog fighting

Extinct breeds

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)
Córdoba fighting dog Córdoba dog,
Córdobese dog and
Perro de Pelea Cordobés
Argentina Extinct after the 1920s Dog fighting
Dogo Cubano Cuban Mastiff,
Cuban Bloodhound,
Cuban Dogo and
Cuban Dogge
Cuba the 16th to the late 19th century Recapturing runaway slaves, bull-baiting 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


  1. ^ a b Oxford Dictionaries 2019.
  2. ^ a b c Young & Bannasch 2007, p. 49.
  3. ^ a b Encyclopædia Britannica 2019.
  4. ^ Young & Bannasch 2007, p. 48-49.
  5. ^ Parker 2012, p. 45.
  6. ^ Hancock (2001).
  7. ^ Smithsonian Magazine
  8. ^ JOHNSON, BAILEY (16 March 2021). "Tibetan Mastiff, "Big Splash," sells for $1.5 million, world's most expensive dog". Retrieved 23 December 2022.
  9. ^ Wynn (2011).
  10. ^ Fogle (2009), p. 36.