Breaking Down the Mastiff Breeds

Updated on August 6, 2016

Some people view the mastiffs as one breed, but in reality there are over 14 different individual breeds within the mastiff family. When most people think of a mastiff they think of a very large, overpowering dog or a guard dog. While this is true as a rule, there are many individual differences between each breed. You're missing out on some amazing qualities if you limit yourself to that generalization.

We will break down the group into the individual breeds within it and share the details on which are more suitable for families, which may be the most affectionate, and even if any are recommended to have around children.

Let's take a look at the individual breeds and help you familiarize yourself with which one(s) may be best for you.

The Different Mastiff Breeds

Other Names
Physical Characteristics
Personality Characteristics
Argentinian Mastiff
Dogo Argentino
White and muscular
Loyal, playful, easy to train
Brazilian Mastiff
Fila Brasileiro
Mastiff and doberman; Large and wrinkly
Aggressive, extremely loyal, impetuous
Mastiff and bulldog; Solid build and short muzzle
Very stubborn, males can be aggressive with other dogs
English Mastiff
Extremely large
Gentle, protective, good-natured, calm
French Mastiff
Dogue de Bordeaux, Bordeaux Mastiff, Bordeauxdog
Calm, patient, and loyal
German Mastiff
Great Dane
Very tall breed
Friendly, dependable, usually good with children
Italian Mastiff
Cane Corso
Very powerful and agile
Intelligent, easy to train, gentle but protective
Neapolitan Mastiff
Mastino / Mastini
Wrinkly and heavy-boned!
Loyal and devoted to family
Pyrenean Mastiff
Large dog with a heavy coat
Calm and gentle but can be stubborn and independent
Spanish Mastiff
Mastín Español
Large dog with wrinkly coat
Less friendly mastiff, but a great guard dog
Tibetan Mastiff
Very full, heavy, dark-colored coat
Strong-willed, protective, and aloof
Canary Mastiff
Perro de Presa Canario, Presa Canario
Thick and muscular body
Strong-willed but gentle and calm, can be suspicious and dominant
Japanese Mastiff
Tosa Inu, Japanese Fighting Dog
Massive and stately
Gentle but can be aggressive
Alangu Mastiff
Bulli Kutta, Bully Kutta
Usually white, very muscular
Protective, aggressive
South African Mastiff
Large, muscular dog
Obedient and confident, very intelligent, but can be dominant and territorial
Light golden with a darker face
Protective but sensitive, independent

1. The Argentinian Mastiff

Size (Males)
Size (Females
Good With Kids?
Best for . . .
Other Notes
Powerful, white, muscular dog bred for big-game hunting (boar)
Up to 99 lbs and 27 in.
Up to 88 lbs and 26 in.
Loyal guardian, very intelligent, easy to train
Confident, consistent, experienced owners
Can get aggressive with strange dogs

Commonly known as the Argentine Dogo, this mastiff breed is a loyal guardian of both its family and its property. The Argentine Dogo is playful and gets along well with children. The breed is very intelligent and easy to train with consistency.

Dogos are powerful dogs and not for the weak or inexperienced and definitely need leadership from a confident and consistent owner.

If raised with other pets, the they can be fine with other animals, however, they can get aggressive with strange dogs, especially if an inexperienced or timid owner can't provide the necessary leadership.


2. Brazilian Mastiff

Size (Males)
Size (Females)
Good With Kids?
Best for . . .
Other Notes
Wrinkly, short-coated breed of dog known for its tracking ability and aggressiveness
Up to 110 lbs and 29.5 in.
Up to 90 lbs and 27.5 in.
Once bonded, completely devoted to family
Yes, if socialized from birth
Experienced owners
Can be wary of strangers

Known as the Fila Brasileiro, the Brazilian mastiff combines mastiff and bloodhound and the resulting dog is big with lots of wrinkles. The Brazilian mastiff will be completely devoted to its owner and, once bonded, will not hesitate to protect its family. Once bonded, this breed will take a lot of poking and prodding from small children and are incredibly gentle when with them. This breed also tends to get along well with other pets within the family.

Filas should be socialized thoroughly and throughout its life so that it won't become wary of strangers. They also need to be shown that most things are not a threat and need the confidence building that comes with socialization. This breed is definitely not for the inexperienced dog owner.


3. Bullmastiff

Size (Males)
Size (Females)
Good With Kids?
Best for . . .
Other Notes
Mastiff and bulldog mix
Up to 130 lbs and 27 in.
Up to 120 lbs and 26 in.
Laid back, slow to anger; very stubborn
Yes, if raised together
Experienced owners
Coat maintenance is minimal

The Bullmastiff is a mix of mastiff and bulldog. This breed is a quiet, gentle companion devoted to and guardian of its family. Though laid back and slow to anger, once this dog feels threatened, it becomes a fearless protector. The Bullmastiff, as it name would imply, is a very stubborn dog and you may have great difficulty in getting this dog to perform against its will.

Male Bullmastiffs can be very intolerant of other male dogs and, in general, can be aggressive towards dogs with which they are unfamiliar. With stubbornness aside, this breed can be good with children if they are raised together. This breed is another in the mastiff family that is not for the inexperienced or first time dog owner.

Though they should get daily exercise, their needs are moderate compared to others. A mild walk or short bursts of play are all that are necessary. Coat maintenance for the Bullmastiff is minimal as its coat is short and dense. Its power, alertness and endurance make it a great guard dog.


4. The English Mastiff

Size (Males)
Size (Females)
Good With Kids?
Best for . .
Other Notes
Extremely large dog with a loving nature
Up to 230 lbs and 36 in.
Up to 170 lbs and 36 in.
Gentle and easygoing
Owners of all experience levels
Tends to drool

An amazingly gentle breed, the English Mastiff is both gentle and easygoing making a great house dog and loyal family member. The breed is very devoted in spite of its minimal expression of emotion. Like all dogs, this one definitely needs daily exercise. While it handles warm to cool weather fine, it does not do well in hot weather.

The English Mastiff has the tendency to drool, but coat maintenance is minimal. This breed of mastiff tends to be longer than they are tall and is a powerful dog with great endurance.


5. French Mastiff

Size (Males)
Size (Females)
Good With Kids?
Best for . . .
Other Notes
Ancient French breed with powerful body
Up to 150 lbs and 27 in.
Up to 125 lbs and 26 in.
Calm, patient, and loyal
If socialized, yes.
Experienced dog owners
Can be confrontational with strangers

The French Mastiff is known to many as the Dogue de Bordeaux and is smaller in size than its English counterpart. This breed is calm, patient and loyal to its family. The Bordeaux can be confrontational with strangers and seems to have no fear, making it a good guard dog with proper training and socialization.

Socialize them young and they seem to do well with other animals, as long as they're supervised. This breed drools, like many in the mastiff family, and is also known for its snoring. Appearance aside, the Bordeaux is usually gentle with the family's children. Once again, this breed should be in the hands of an experienced dog owner.


6. German Mastiff

Size (Males)
Size (Females)
Good With Kids?
Best for . . .
Other Notes
Giant, gentle breed
Minimum 120 lbs and 30 in. tall
Minimum 100 lbs and 28 in. tall
Friendly, dependable
Indoor living
Can be unaware of large size

The German Mastiff is most commonly known as a Great Dane.This breed of mastiff is friendly and dependable and usually good with children. The Great Dane also usually takes well to other household pets, but may not always be aware of its towering size over others so should be monitored.

Moderate daily exercise will help keep the Dane fit and can be met with a brisk walk or chance to play in a fenced area. This breed of mastiff is not suited for outdoor living and should be considered an indoor pet. There are some Danes that drool but coat care is minimal.


7. Italian Mastiff

Size (Males)
Size (Females)
Good With Kids?
Best for . . .
Other Notes
Powerful, muscled dog
Up to 110 lbs and 28 in.
Up to 99 lbs and 26 in.
Gentle but protective
Yes, with early socialization
Experienced owners
With plenty of exercise, will do fine in an apartment

The Cane Corso is a very powerful, agile breed with a great deal of endurance. This breed is usually quiet and relaxed in the house and eager to please its family. They are very intelligent and their eagerness to please makes them very trainable. Cane Corso make excellent guard and watch dogs. They are great with kids and very affectionate with their owners: gentle yet protective. They like to stick nearby their family members and therefore are not very big wanderers.

Not considered a fighting dog, the Cane Corso will protect both family and property if the need arises. This breed needs early socialization and an experienced owner. Obedience training is highly recommended for this breed as well as all mastiffs. Believe it or not, these dogs will do just fine in an apartment as long as they have opportunity for plenty of exercise


8. Neapolitan Mastiff

Size (Males)
Size (Females)
Good With Kids?
Best for . . .
Other Notes
Massive, awe-inspiring breed
Up to 150 lbs and 30 in.
Up to 130 lbs and 28 in.
Loyal and totally devoted to family
Yes, with thorough socialization
Experienced dog owners
Do not need a lot of exercise

The Neapolitan Mastiff is probably one of the most recognizable in the mastiff family with all of its wrinkles. Bred to be a family guardian, the Neapolitan is amazingly loyal and totally devoted to its family – ever so watchful. They are very suspicious of strangers and moderately tolerant of acquaintances. This breed can be loving towards children, but needs to be socialized thoroughly at a very young age and should not be a dog for the inexperienced or first time dog owner.

Though Neapolitans need lots of space to stretch out, they do not particularly need a lot of exercise. Neapolitans like to be outdoors but do not do well in the heat. This breed is a big drooler and can leave a mess in their wake. Their appearance alone is enough, in many cases, to scare off would-be intruders. Despite its size, the Neapolitan can be surprisingly quick to react when provoked.


9. Pyrenean Mastiff

Size (Males)
Size (Females)
Good With Kids?
Best for . . .
Other Notes
Huge dog with heavy coat
Up to 220 lbs and 30 in.
Up to 200 lbs and 28 in.
Devoted to family, uneasy around strangers
Yes, with proper socialization
Experienced owners
Need daily exercise and regular grooming

The Pyrenees is devoted to family, but uneasy around strangers, both canine and human. With the family, the Pyrenees can be a calm, gentle, and well-mannered dog – even with children. The breed can be stubborn and very independent, so not the first choice for a timid owner. The Pyrenees is a wanderer and should not be left off leash in insecure locations. This breed is also a barker.

The Pyrenees needs exercise on a daily basis to stay fit and enjoys being out for hikes in the cold weather, but doesn't do well in hot weather. This breed needs weekly brushing of their coats and sometimes daily brushing when shedding. This breed can drool and is almost always a sloppy drinker.


10. Spanish Mastiff

Size (Males)
Size (Females)
Good With Kids?
Best for . . .
Other Notes
Giant dog bred to protect livestock from predators
Up to 220 lbs and 35 in.
Up to 170 lbs and 35 in.
Extremely protective and territorial
Very experienced owners
Can be prone to annoyance barking

An extremely protective and territorial breed, the Spanish Mastiff is one of the less friendly mastiffs – a quality that makes it an excellent guard dog. This breed is definitely not one that inexperienced or first time dog owner should even consider. The Spanish Mastiff is very independent and not very affectionate, though the males are a bit more affectionate than the females.

Spanish Mastiffs are prone to annoyance barking. This breed can adapt to most climates, but prefer dry climates. Their short, dense coat should be brushed regularly and their need for exercise is moderate.


11. Tibetan Mastiff

Size (Males)
Size (Females)
Good With Kids?
Best for . . .
Other Notes
Large dog bred to protect livestock from predators
Up to 160 lbs and 30 in.
Up to 120 lbs and 28 in.
Devoted to family, aloof to outsiders
With socialization, yes
Experienced owners
Can be destructive if bored

The Tibetan Mastiff is very independent and territorial. They can be devoted to family while aloof toward outsiders. This breed, like most mastiffs, should be socialized at a young age. The Tibetan is patient with its family's children, but can be protective when strange children visit. This breed is usually good with other dogs and animals.

While active outside, the Tibetan tends to be more relaxed and calm indoors. A long daily walk for its exercise should suffice. This breed can become destructive out of boredom when confined. Tibetans should be brushed several times a week as their long coat needs the extra attention. Their thick, water resistant coats makes them happy in cold weather and even comfortable in warmer, dry climates.

In Summary

Mastiffs, generally speaking, make great companions and protectors and with the proper training and socialization can be great additions to your family. While some are more gentle and laid back than others, most mastiff breeds need assertive owners.

Mastiffs make excellent guard dogs. They investigate, bark, look incredibly formidable, and have the power and strength to back it up. Even so, most have a more gentle, rather than aggressive nature. A well socialized mastiff will protect you and your family, but only when there's a need to.

Consider costs, space, time for training and socializing and possible messes (with many droolers in the group) when thinking about adding one of these magnificent creatures to your family.

What is your favorite Mastiff?

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    • profile image

      Owner 3 days ago

      Boerboel!!! Best breed ever!

    • profile image

      dave 4 months ago

      I voted for the cane corso because the boerbel wasn't there.

    • profile image

      Chris 5 months ago

      I agree with some previous posts. The boerboel is the best mastiff. And to not give recognition in the description is a disgrace. I haven’t had a better family guardian with all the other breeds I have had. He looks to me for guidance when I am there and in my absence he is a fierce guardian. Hands down the better mastiff. IMO of course!

    • profile image

      Brett 6 months ago

      There is no better dog for an experienced owner, in my opinion, than the Boerboel. You list him at the top yet you disregard him in the rest of your page. Shame!

    • profile image

      Chris S 8 months ago

      I work for a doggie day care and we have a bullmastiff and a borduex that are regulars there. They are both great, smart, gentle, big dogs. We sometimes put the bullmastiff in with our young puppies that don't interact with all the other dogs, and he is great with them, He's very gentle, plays very well with them, and he also disciplines them when the get to rough or do something they aren't supposed to. The borduex is a little smaller than the bullmastiff but just as strong if not stronger, and just as smart They both listen extremely well. I just dog sat the bullmastiff last week and he was great, not super energetic, he was happy with a nice walk in the a.m. then would just lay around being lazy the rest of the day, but after dog sitting him I want to get a mastiff of my own.

    • profile image

      san 11 months ago

      you forget best mastiff dog BOERBOEL in second part information !

    • profile image

      san 12 months ago

      they forget to write details about "south african mastiff BOERBEOL which is the BEST mastiff ever.

    • profile image

      Shel Dean 13 months ago

      I have an English Mastiff and a Bullmastiff, both rescues.

      Both are great dogs, but with distinctly different personalities.

      Be prepared for slobber, large vet bills, expensive preventatives (like flea/tick or heartworm) since they are dependent on dog's weight, and big dog food bills. I would recommend pet insurance, since giant breeds are prone to bloat, joint issues, and some cancers like osteosarcoma. Yard cleanups are a chore (big dogs, big poo)!

      That being said, I can't imagine having anything else.

    • profile image

      William & Hattie Irving 13 months ago

      I had no idea the dane was in this family i have owned 4 danes and they were great.

    • profile image

      Noyo 16 months ago

      The information on the pyreneanmastiff is incorrect and the breed has been confused with the Great Pyrenees. The Pyrenean mastiff is not a barker. They bark only if there is something that you must investigate, they are guard dogs but mostly affable. I own one and I find it tiresome that most people post articles without actually researching the breed

    • profile image

      Stacey Marie 19 months ago

      My first experience with any "Mastiff Breed" was a Bull Mastiff (Owners spelled it with the space ) . Her name was "Stormy". Not sure why they called her that, for her coat was very Light Tan-brown, except where her face was Black. To me, that name is for things in shades of Black or Grey. Anyway, she was very people friendly and especially kid friendly. "Stormy" is why this is my favorite Mastiff! I also love the Great Dane and the "Neo"!! Awesome dogs!!

    • profile image

      talia 23 months ago

      There is also the ' Giant Maso Mastiff ' and the ' Korean Dosa Mastiff '.

    • profile image

      jude 2 years ago

      I can't find my breed here.. South African mastiff (boerboel) I own one he's very protective and friendly to us though he's still 4months of age

    • profile image

      Monica 2 years ago

      I own two corsos, a bullmastiff and a neo. They are all great dogs and very smart. My neo and bullmastiff doesn't like strangers or unfamiliar dogs. My corsos are even tempered with huge hearts. All were easy to train but the corsos house trained the quickest. The neo seems to be the smartest of group but at times stubborn. He knows how to do lots of things but unwilling to perform if not in the mood. All have different personality and want to spend every second with me unless we're hiking. The males like to hunt and track smells. I have to keep them focused on trail.

    • profile image

      Jadotha 2 years ago

      Agree with previous posters that some dogs who should be on the list (e.g., Presa Canarios) are not included.

      The proper name of the Mastiff IS certainly "the Mastiff"; however, it is widely known as the English Mastiff (aligned with other mastiff breed names which include their country of origin). Referring to the breed as an English Mastiff also avoids confusion and prolonged exchanges which tend to go like this: Person: What kind of dog is that? Me: He is a Mastiff! Person: Yeah, but what kind?! Me: The proper name for the breed is the Mastiff. (Iterations of this may be repeated several times). Person(in extreme exasperation): Well, which KIND?!!!! Me: They are often referred to as English Mastiffs; but that is not the correct name. Person: WHY COULDN'T YOU HAVE JUST SAID SO IN THE FIRST PLACE?!!!!! So I tend to cave straight away now.

      Finally, I want to EMPHATICALLY support what fila4me said about Fila temperament. It really worries me when I see them advertised in the newspaper or Craigslist. They can be quite dangerous in 'uneducated' hands. I also agree with her that their temperament should not be changed!

    • profile image

      Tina 2 years ago

      Not entirely accurate.

      There is no breed called an English Mastiff. The breed is simply Mastiff.

      Basic knowledge.

    • profile image

      fila4me 2 years ago

      Have to add a correction on the amount of training or socialization will make them not be wary of strangers! It is genetic and one of the things they are bred for, to not display true ojeriza is not a true Fila and should not be bred.

    • profile image

      Daniel 2 years ago

      My favorite Mastiff breed is a cane corso.

    • profile image

      Kre8tor 2 years ago

      I have had many dogs. Usually a small & and a frg breed. Shelties to Dobes to Rotis and lots of mutts as well. All oassed last yezr. Now have a rescued sml poodle mix. I now want a Bull or English girl. I am in LA ca area looking for a good pet quality girl???

    • profile image

      steven 2 years ago

      we have recently become owners of our first presa canario pup. the intelligence he already displays at ten months is amazing! very gentle and self aware of his size around small children! having seen both his parents display this loving nature has made us true lovers of the were hoping to see them listed here to learn more about their history and any other breed specific information we have recently become owners of our first presa canario pup. the intelligence he already displays at ten months is amazing! very gentle and self aware of his size around small children! having seen both his parents display this loving nature has made us true lovers of the were hoping to see them listed here to learn more about their history and any other breed specific information

    • toptengamer profile image

      Brandon Hart 3 years ago from The Game

      A buddy of mine has a English Mastiff. He is well trained and very friendly.

    • JamesWhitaker profile image

      James N. Whitaker 3 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      Cool Hub. I want to have The Argentinian Mastiff, I love to see dogs with white coats, they are something and are attractive to the eyes.

    • profile image

      Thomas 3 years ago

      I have a Bordeaux. I must've got lucky as he was very easy to train. I have a two year old and a five month old and he is absolutely awesome around the kids. Greatest breed ever. is a great site for growing

    • profile image

      Elsa 3 years ago

      I have a cane corso and love her to bits, she is very lazy snores loudly and suffers from gas. At the age of 4 months she already showed protective instincts and I'd never seem that in any of my other dogs like that before. I think I'm hooked!

    • profile image

      Daniel 3 years ago

      I have a Bordeaux. I must've got lucky as he was very easy to train. I have a two year old and a five month old and he is absolutely awesome around the kids. Greatest breed ever.

    • profile image

      Sandy 3 years ago

      I have a tosa Inu, What a beautiful

      Girl she is. The best dog I ever had. Great Family Dog!

    • profile image

      Akin 4 years ago

      I'm not agree with de description of the Spanish Mastiff:

    • profile image 4 years ago

      can a Neapolitan mastiff sleep outside provided a kennel and a bed and a companion

    • profile image

      peter 4 years ago

      My favourite of all the mastiff is the presa canario and the boreboel.Why aren't they included in the list?

    • profile image

      gwenjolie 4 years ago

      I'm all about my mastiff breeds! I was looking for a chart but came across your article. I am only highly firmilar with the Bullmastiff & french mastiff (as an owner) but I would really like to add Bullmastiffs are great dogs for 1st time owner! And they are the best around kids! They are much more calm & gentle than anyother breed I know & the EASIEST by far to train! They are great at protecting only when they need to be. French mastiffs are NOT as easy! Although they are much smaller is size than a bullmastiff they are more bulky & strong! Although I wouldn't trade my frenchie for any other dog in the world she is very difficult with strangers, & animals. She was raised with a bullmastiff & 4 cats (since 8 weeks old, she is now over 2) and that didn't help. I think there is a reason they aren't a top breed here in the usa. If you can get past the 1st year with them without pulling your hair out it is worth it :) french mastiffs & bullmastiff both drool no more than other dogs really. My cousins lab drools when eating or drinking same as they do (except mastiff breeds are cutter). Last but not least....both breeds have "speration anixtey". They don't like to be left alone at all. Unlike other large/guard dogs who do best with stern rules, both these breeds do better as family (ex. The more your mastiff lays on your bed with you the more its loyality grows). It isn't something you teach them, all you need to do is show them affection.

    • profile image

      Morty 5 years ago

      What about the pug? I have heard them referred to as a mini-mastiff or dutch mastiff.

    • profile image

      Durendal 5 years ago

      Hi, nice list. I'd like to add a couple:

      1. Kangals from Turkey

      2. Ovcharkas from Russia

      3. Sarplaninac from Serbia & Macedonia

      4. Bully Kuttas from Pakistan & India

      5. Boerboels from South Africa

      6. Tosas from Japan

    • Suhail and my dog profile image

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 6 years ago from Mississauga, ON

      Very informative hub. Some other Mastiffs that are regionally popular and rapidly gaining popularity elsewhere include Presa Canario, Tosa Inu, Bully Kutta and Boerbol. I have a Kuvasz boy (centre of story of my first and only hub published recently) and I believe all shepherd dogs belong to Mastiff family that may be somewhat removed from the main Mastiff lines.

    • profile image

      Kathy 7 years ago

      While I knew that several of these dogs are in the Mastiff family-there are some in which I had no such as I didn't know that the Dane was in this family.

      We are fairly experienced in the bully breeds(incl Rotties)and we recently took on to foster the most incredible, loveable and amusing Neopolitan Mastiff pup.

      Drool is just part of the dog, which so far is the ONLY downside I can find to this boy! He is quite intelligent and is catching onto his basic obedience training quickly-you can almost "see" him thinking about what it is I am asking of him...we've had him 2 weeks now and he is already bonding.

      They are amazing dogs!

    • profile image

      DON MESSERSCHMIDT 7 years ago

      For the full story of the Tibetan mastiff, read 'Big Dogs of Tibet and the Himalayas' (Oct 2010, Orchid Press; The book includes the breed's history, early encounters in Tibet by explorers, missionaries, spies and diplomats, and the author's own experience over a period of 4 decades in the Himalayas and Tibet.


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