Massive and powerful, the French Mastiff is a perfect guard dog. This DogAppy article presents information about the characteristic features, personality traits, and common health issues of this popular breed.
Did You Know?
The French Mastiff has the largest head in the canine world, in proportion to the rest of the body. The circumference of the head, measured at the widest point of the skull, is almost equal to the male dog’s height at the withers. For females, it may be slightly less.
French Mastiff, one of the oldest French dog breeds, wasn’t specifically known by name until an early dog show in 1863. The Frenchmen in the countryside used to describe the larger hunting and working dogs by the generic term ‘dogue’ (in French, ‘dogue’ means Mastiff). As there were no official breed standards at that time, the winning dog (from the Bordeaux region) was called the ‘working dog from Bordeaux’ or ‘Dogue de Bordeaux‘. Thus, the breed got its popular French name. It is also known as Bordeaux Bulldog. Contrary to its scary looks, the Dogue de Bordeaux is very loving, loyal, and affectionate.
The breed is particularly known for its aggressive scary looks, large-sized head, and wrinkled face. Although French Mastiffs are not aggressive by nature, they can be, if circumstances call for it. Without proper training and strong leadership, the dog may exhibit stubbornness and would be difficult to control. Those with experience in handling and training dogs should only think of bringing home a French Mastiff dog.
Some unique characteristics of Dogue de Bordeaux have helped it gain popularity all over the world. It is recognized by the AKC and is listed under the group of working dogs.
History and Origin
➺ Nobody knows the exact origin of the French Mastiff dog. There exist different theories about its origin. Evidence indicate that the Dogue de Bordeaux was used as a guardian, hunter, and fighter by the French since the fourteenth century, particularly in southern France, in the regions around Bordeaux and Aquitaine. Some theories link this breed to the Bullmastiff, Bulldog, and Tibetan Mastiff. According to some, it is a direct descendant of the Molossus of Rome.
➺ A distinctive, wrinkled, large face, a massive head, a broad nose, oval and wide-set eyes, monstrous jaws, pendulous lips, and drooping ears are characteristic features of a French Mastiff. Loose jowls hang down from the muzzle and cause these dogs to drool. Everything in your house, including your laptop and office files will be covered in drool!
➺ The English Mastiffs are taller than the French Mastiffs. However, French Mastiffs do have a muscular build. They look so intimidating that no stranger would dare to enter your garden or home if he sees one there. Their loose, thick skin is folded into wrinkles, especially around the face, head, and neck areas. Their deep chests extend half way down their height. Their tapering tails are quite thick. The lower teeth are set in front of the upper teeth when the jaw is closed. The eyes can be hazel to dark brown. With a powerful build and terrifying looks, they are always be ready to protect and guard your home and family.
➺ Height: 23 – 30 inches (58 – 75 cm) tall at the withers
➺ Weight: 120 – 145 pounds (54.4 – 65.2 kg)
➺ The data collected by the Dogue De Bordeaux Society of America shows that the average lifespan of the breed is 5 to 6 years.
➺ A French Mastiff has short, fine fawn-colored coat which is surprisingly soft. These dogs come in all shades of fawn. The color of the coat can be dark red or light fawn. They may carry either a black or brown mask which would be limited to the muzzle and areas around the eyes only. Sometimes, they don’t have the mask at all. If they have it, the color of the nose should match the mask.
➺ Extensive grooming is not required as this breed sheds very little. Regular brushing is sufficient to maintain the health of the coat.
➺ As French Mastiffs were originally used for guarding, driving cattle, and for hunting pigs, boar, wolves, and bears, today, they are commonly used as watch dogs. With proper training, they can prove to be the best family pet as well. The Dogue de Bordeaux puppies require lots of training and socialization. Like all other breeds, they should be trained early. You require plenty of patience, as they do not follow instructions or commands easily! They will decide what to do and will do it whenever they feel like doing it! Walking the dog is also not easy. You will be continuously pulled through the streets behind your dog. Even if you start training the puppy at an early age, the training may continue for years, it would never end, not even when it matures fully! Like other guard dogs, a French mastiff should also be socialized with other dogs and people so that it understands what or who should not be considered as a real threat. Consistency and patience play an important role in training.
➺ Loyal and self-assured, a French Mastiffs would live happily in an apartment if he is sufficiently exercised. They are not very active when inside the house. They do not run around and jump on sofas. They like to snooze their day away, but need daily exercise. Long walks would help maintain their physical and mental health. Without sufficient mental and physical exercise, they can develop behavior issues. So, you will have to plan activities accordingly. An adult dog would require 60-80 minutes of exercise everyday. You may walk it 3-4 times during a day. If you have a yard, let it play and run freely. However, excessive exercise can affect his health, especially bone health, in later life.
Behavior and Personality Traits
➺ A French Mastiff has a low tendency to bark, but due to its fierce guardian instincts, it needs to be handled carefully. They can tolerate and get along with cats and other dogs, if raised along with them. But it should not be left unsupervised with children, as it likes to chase moving objects.
These dog comes with a threatening mass of wrinkles and drooling jowls, but have a heart of gold. They are extremely loyal to their family, and will do their best to protect the family from danger. Surprisingly, these dogs are known for their calm and dependable nature. With vigilance and courage, they would guard your estate. If the situation doesn’t demand, they won’t show aggression. However, they don’t like to be chained up in the front or backyard. They want to be among the family members. Leaving them alone can make them aggressive. French Mastiffs, staunch companions, are affectionate and very much attached to their owners. Despite being strong, imposing guards, they are gentle around the children.
Common Health Problems
➺ Because of the heavy mass and loose skin, these dogs are prone to joint and skin problems. Like other heavy dogs, hip dysplasia is a significant problem for this breed. Because of the excessively broad head, some dogs cannot tolerate heat and exercise. They may suffer from breathing problems and ectropion (an outwardly turned lower eyelid).
The eyes are more susceptible to eye inflammation and bacterial infections, including conjunctivitis. They can develop heart diseases like ‘aortic stenosis’ (narrowing of the aortic valve opening) and ‘dilated cardiomyopathy’ (the heart may enlarge and become weak, it won’t pump blood efficiently). There are also known cases of epilepsy and hyperkeratosis (thickening of the footpad and/or nose).
Litters are generally small (size may range from 2-17), but cesarean sections are often needed at birth as the puppies have extremely large heads.
➺ The French Mastiff would require more food than any other smaller pet. It is prone to various medical conditions, and treatment and visits to the vet can prove to be expensive.
If they are not properly trained, they tend to chase and fight other dogs or even hunt wildlife. Owners are expected to train them consistently and patiently, until they learn to obey orders. Despite their fearful looks, French Mastiffs bond closely with their owners. No one would want to leave them alone, even for a short time.