Mastiffs are among the oldest dog breeds; and it is believed that, they were raised as fighter dogs, right from the period of ancient Roman civilization. It is said that mastiffs descended from the dogs that were brought to England, by the Phoenicians. Later, they became popular among the British royals, who used them to guard palaces and estates. This dog was introduced in America, where they became popular by the nineteenth century. Now, mastiff dog breeds can be found across the globe; and are raised as rescue dogs, police dogs, show dogs, guard dogs, or just as pets.
Mastiffs are among the largest dog breeds that can grow to a height of 30 inches, and a body weight of around 220 pounds. The Guinness Book Record for the heaviest dog was awarded to an English mastiff named Zorba from England, in 1987. The dog was 314.5 pounds at that time. The body weight of Zorba was 343 pounds in 1989. Though, mastiffs are massive, and were raised as fighters during earlier times; today's mastiffs are affectionate, gentle, and sensitive. There are various types of mastiff dog breeds, and a basic know-how about them may prove beneficial for choosing the one, that is best suited for you.
The English mastiff is really massive with a large body, broad skull, and a square-shaped head. Most of them have a coat of short and dense hair, but long-haired mastiffs are also not uncommon. The coat color varies between apricot-fawn, silver-fawn, and fawn. Usually, the muzzle, ears, nose, and areas around the eyes are black.
An English mastiff can grow to a height (at the shoulder) of around 30 inches, and a body weight of 155 to 243 kilograms. As far as the temperament is concerned, English mastiffs are calm, gentle, loyal, good-natured, and affectionate. However, they are highly valued as protective dogs, and are one among the top five guard dog breeds in the world. They are also suitable as family dogs. However, regular exercise and right food are necessary for these dogs.
Otherwise known as Italian Mastiff or Mastino, the Neapolitan mastiff breed has been raised in Italy for a very long time. It is said that the Roman Army had used these dogs during war times. Neapolitan Mastiffs are characterized by a heavily wrinkled body. In fact, they have the most wrinkled body among the mastiffs. Their coat color varies between silver and beige. They can grow to a height of around 30 inches, and their body weight ranges between 150 to 200 pounds. They are extremely intelligent, protective, calm, and loyal. As compared to English mastiffs, Neapolitans are more territorial, and bark rarely. They are not aggressive, but are not recommended for beginners and for homes with small kids. Even though they are healthy, Neapolitan mastiffs require extra care; as they are prone to skin infections, due to their wrinkled skin.
The American mastiff is a cross between the English mastiff and the Anatolian Mastiff. This newer mastiff breed has a coat color of fawn, apricot, or brindle. Even though, these dogs are born with a dark-colored coat, it will get lighter as they grow. Some individuals have white markings on the chin, nose, chest, and feet. However, true American mastiffs have a black mask. These mastiffs grow to a height of around 35 inches, and a body weight that ranges between 140 to 180 pounds. These dogs are found to be gentle, loving, protective, and loyal. It has been observed that, they are very much attached to their families and love kids. They need loving people around them. Compared to other types of mastiffs, American mastiffs have fewer health problems, and live up to 12 years. This breed is not recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC).
As the name suggests, the Spanish mastiff originated in Spain, and was mainly raised as guard dogs for livestock. They are very powerful and strong, but are more stocky and rustic looking. They have loose folds of skin around the face, and a double dewlap (hanging fold of loose skin) on the neck. Compared to other types of mastiffs, they have a long muzzle. The coat color may range between fawn, brindle, and black. They have small eyes and drop ears. Spanish mastiffs have a height of around 34 inches, and a weight of 110 to 140 pounds. Though gentle and affectionate, they can attack visitors. They are always alert, but tend to be lazy at times.
One of the popular types of mastiff, the bull mastiff is a cross between the English mastiff and old English bulldog. They are shorter and stockier, as compared to other mastiff types. They can grow to a height of around 27 inches, and a weight of up to 130 pounds. Their coat color ranges between shades of fawn, red, and brindle. Some of them have white markings on the chest. Even though they are loyal, calm, loving, and territorial; bull mastiffs can be stubborn too. So, proper dog training and socialization are unavoidable. Bull mastiffs can be good pets and family dogs. They have a life span of around 10 to 11 years.
Apart from the types of mastiff mentioned above, there are many others, like the French mastiff, Tibetan mastiff, Japanese mastiff, Cuban mastiff, and German mastiff. Though all of them are mastiffs, they are slightly different in features, temperament, and behavior. So, it is always advisable to gain a basic understanding about the specific type you want to adopt as a pet.