Top 10 Largest Dog Breeds
Large Dog Breeds—Size Does Matter
Despite the fact that small dogs seem to be all the rage with celebrities, many dog lovers prefer a dog that is larger than a cat. I'm not talking about just big dogs—no way! I'm talking giant: the bigger, the better.
You might be thinking, "Big dogs? Well obviously that's either a Great Dane, Irish Wolfhound, or Newfoundland." There's no question that individuals in those breeds tend to be very large. In fact, the tallest dog on record is a Great Dane and the heaviest is an English Mastiff. But does that mean that these breeds are, on average, the largest?
You might be surprised....
About This Largest Dog Breeds List
If you do a quick search of the Internet, you will find quite a few lists of the largest dog breeds. You'll see the same ones listed over and over again, and I'm sure you already have an idea of which those are. However, sometimes you'll come across an unusual breed that should be on a list of the largest but isn't. Usually, this is because many of these lists use AKC (American Kennel Club) standards in determining which breeds make their list. What these lists fail to take into account is that the AKC does not recognize all dog breeds. In fact, there are a couple very large dogs that aren't even on their foundation stock lists.
However, this list of the top 10 largest dog breeds doesn't stick with just the AKC or even the FCI (or Fédération Cynologique Internationale, an international federation of kennel clubs) standards. If it's a large dog breed recognized by at least one legit kennel club, it's fair game for my list! Since I'm talking "largest" dog breeds, I probably don't need to specify "only breeds over 75 pounds" or "only over 26 inches." These breeds are, on average, the tallest, heaviest, brawniest dog breeds in the world. Most of these breeds average well over 175 lbs of pure canine muscle (with a little fluff thrown in).
#10 Neapolitan Mastiff—Mastino Napoletano
How could you not love a face like that? The Neapolitan Mastiff (also known as the Italian Mastiff) comes in at #10. Males average 30 inches tall (at withers) and about 165 lbs. Breed standards generally place the upper limit of height for males at 31 inches, though it doesn't seem they are penalized for being taller as long as correct body proportions are maintained. "Massiveness" is important to the breed standard; a dog can be disqualified if it doesn't have the appearance of massiveness.
Despite their large, imposing exterior, Neapolitan Mastiffs are generally gentle and protective of their family, aloof, and wary of strangers. As such, a Mastini needs to be properly socialized from a young age; these powerful dogs often don't mean to throw their weight around, but they do!
#9 Leonberger—"Gentle Lion"
#9 is the Leonberger, a gentle lion from Germany. These large, sweet dogs average around 30 inches tall and weigh in around 170 lbs. The breed was developed near the town of Leonberg, Germany (hence the name) in the 19th century using a female Newfoundland and a male St. Bernard. Throw in a little Great Pyrenees a bit later and voila! A gentle giant that exhibits the best traits of all its ancestors.
Leonbergers are well-known for being family dogs. They are generally calm, docile dogs that play well with other animals and with children. They were originally seen as a status symbol but owners were quick to realize the Leonberger's great potential as a home and flock guardian and for draft work. Like St. Bernards and Newfoundlands, Leonbergers are often used in search-and-rescues, even in water. Amazingly, only eight Leonbergers were known to have survived WWII. Careful breeding and stewardship brought them back from the brink of extinction.
#8 Boerboel—South African Mastiff
The Boerboel, or South African Mastiff, was bred specifically for guarding the homestead and flocks in South Africa. As you can imagine, you'd need a fairly sturdy, fierce dog to protect your farm from typical South African predators (hyenas, lions, and other big cats). The Boerboel's character—calm, confident, loyal and territorial, without being overly aggressive—was well-suited to this job. The breeds size helped as well: males typically stand about 27 inches at the shoulder and weigh around 175 lbs.
Unfortunately, the breed has developed a reputation as a fighter and has actually been banned in Denmark. The qualities that made the Boerboel perfect for guarding South African homesteads—confidence, a territorial nature, and a tendency to protect to the death—make the breed well-suited to pit fighting. Without proper training and socialization, the Boerboel's protective nature can turn into aggression, towards both people or other animals.
#7 Central Asian Ovcharka—Aziat
As its name suggests, the Central Asian Ovcharka (shepherd dog), also known as the Aziat, hails from Central Asia (Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and surrounding countries). The CAO (for short) is commonly used throughout Central Asia as a flock guardian. The breed is also popular in Russia, where it is often called "volkodav" ("wolfhound") or "volk drobilka" ("wolf crusher").
There are many breed standards for the Central Asian Ovcharka, but most agree that the dog should be "greater than average-sized with great power and strength." Males are often upwards of 32 inches at the withers and usually weigh around 175 lbs. These dogs are still often used as guardians of both home and flocks, but also for hunting and fighting. Like any other dog that is bred for fighting, the CAO can be aggressive, but most are loving family members and work well with other members of their pack. In fact, in many registries in the region, CAOs must pass an "original purpose" test before being registered. Overly aggressive dogs would naturally not pass this test.
#7 Giant Alaskan Malamute
I was recently introduced to these beautiful giants and had to add them to my list! Tied for the #7 spot with the Central Asian Ovcharka is the Giant Alaskan Malamute. These beauties stand around 35" at the withers and weigh upwards of 190 lbs. In contrast, the commonly seen Alaskan Malamute male stands around 25" inches and weighs about 85 lbs. That makes this pup one giant sled dog!
The Giant Alaskan Malamute is a descendant of the M'loot type of Malamute (the other two types being Kotzebue and Hinman-Irwin—check out this article on the history of the Alaskan Malamute for more info). The M'Loot type is typically larger than the others. Most (if not all) dog registries do not recognize the Giant Alaskan Malamute as a breed separate from the Alaskan Malamute. But because I love giant, fluffy dogs, I'm putting this one on the list!
#6 Tibetan Mastiff—Do-khyi & Tsang-khyi
No, this dog isn't part lion. Tibetan Mastiffs, which tie for #6 with English Mastiffs, are large, have an imposing and fearsome appearance, and often possess an attitude to match! Despite its common name, this dog isn't actually a mastiff-type breed. The common Mandarin Chinese name is Zang'Ao, which basically means "Tibetan Mastiff," or better yet, "Tibetan Big Ferocious Dog," is apt since the breed has a reputation for being fierce with strangers and extremely protective of their owners.
There are two types of Tibetan Mastiffs: the Do-khyi ("door guard" is a rough interpretation), which were traditionally used as flock and home guardians, and the Tsang-khyi (which roughly means "dog from Tsang"), which were used as temple guards. The Tsang-khyi is generally larger than the Do-khyi, with males often averaging around 30 inches and weighing in around 180 lbs. It seems that Western breeders are breeding for size, as it's not unusual to find dogs that are over 31 inches tall and weigh over 200 pounds (the largest weighed in at 282!).
Oh, by the way, this breed also has the distinction of currently being the most expensive dog on the planet. In 2011, a Chinese man paid $1.5 million for a dog named Big Splash, a beautiful red 11-month-old Tibetan Mastiff, who, at the time of sale, was nearly 36 inches tall at the shoulder and weighed about 180 lbs (remember, he wasn't full-grown yet!). And let's not forget that Big Splash took the most expensive dog title away from another Tibetan Mastiff, Yangtze River Number Two, who sold for over $600,000 in 2009. As if the price tag wasn't daunting enough, apparently these prized pooches are fed a special diet of beef, chicken, abalone, and sea cucumber!
#6 English Mastiff—Old English Mastiff
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the heaviest dog ever was an Old English Mastiff named Hercules. The poor thing was grossly overweight and was beaten for the title a few years later by another Mastiff named Kell.
It's common knowledge that English Mastiffs are some of the biggest dogs around, so why is this breed at #6? Despite the fact that many individual English Mastiffs get to be much larger than the breed average, the fact is the breed average puts males around 30 inches tall and about 180 lbs. This puts them in the same range as the Tibetan Mastiff and the Cao dos Mourey (which I didn't include on this list because it's a relatively unknown and recently-developed breed). So, while your mastiff may very well be larger than the breeds at #1 through #5 on this list, on average, there are at least five breeds that are larger than mastiffs. (Can you guess what they are?)
#5 Mee Kyun Dosa—Korean Mastiff
Yes, somewhere under all that skin is a dog. The Mee Kyun Dosa (or Korean Mastiff) looks like a cross between a Neapolitan Mastiff and a Sharpei (or like a dog wearing a skin suit five times too large). It's hard to tell with all those wrinkles, but a Dosa generally stands about 30 inches tall and weighs around 180 lbs, making it just smaller than the typical Tosa Inu and just larger than the typical English Mastiff.
The Korean Mastiff is rarely seen outside of Korea, where they were developed from crossing Tosa Inu, Dogue de Bordeaux, and possibly Bloodhounds and Neapolitan Mastiffs. Despite their fighting dog ancestry, Dosas are known for their gentle, loving nature and their rather sluggish movement (you try moving all those wrinkles!). Rather than moving gracefully, they lumber like bears. Dosas make great companions, although they were bred to be guard dogs (and are sometimes used for fighting in Korea). These pretty pooches have smooth, shiny coats in red, mahogany, and chocolate.
#4 Tosa Inu—Japanese Mastiff
The Tosa Inu, also known as the Japanese Mastiff, is known as the sumo wrestler of the dog world. In fact, the most prized Tosa fighters are often honored with the title Yokozuna, the same title as the highest-ranking sumo wrestlers. The Tosa is also known as the Tosa Touken, which means "Tosa fighting dog."
Like many of the breeds on this list, there is no upper limit to the height or weight listed in the Tosa's breed standard. Males Tosas average 28 inches in height and weigh around 200 lbs, though many Western breeders are breeding for taller, heavier dogs, so it's not unusual to see a Tosa who is upwards of 30 inches and 220 lbs. Because Tosas have been bred for fighting, they have a tendency to be aggressive, though with proper training and socialization Tosas can make great companions.
#4 St. Bernard—"Saint Dogs"
Tied with the Tosa Inu for position #4 is the St. Bernard, perhaps one of the most recognizable dogs on the list. Unlike the majority of breeds on this list that were bred to fight, hunt, or guard flocks, the St. Bernard was bred to rescue people and flock animals in the Italian and Swiss Alps. Their name comes from a traveler's way station in the Alps founded by the 11th century monk Bernard of Montjoux, who became Saint Bernard.
These loving dogs average a height of 31 inches and a weight around 200 lbs, though much larger individuals are often seen (the largest on record was 315 lbs). The original St. Bernards did not have the long coats seen today. This coat developed in the 19th century after the St. Bernard population was decimated by avalanches. The breed was crossed with the Newfoundland to regain its numbers. Unfortunately, the long hair would freeze in the snow, and many St. Bernards lost their traditional jobs. Due to their docile nature, they quickly became family companions and flock guardians.
#3 Spanish Mastiff—Mastín Español
The Spanish Mastiff is the largest of the flock guardian breeds. Like many others on this list, there is no upper limit to size in the breed standard, but male Spanish Mastiffs are usually about 33 inches at the shoulder and weigh around 200 lbs. This breed is well-known for its livestock-guarding abilities and will face down a wolf or a bear without a second thought.
A properly-trained and socialized Spanish Mastiff also makes a great family companion. They tend to be calm and protective, but can be aggressive towards other dogs, especially those it feels are threatening its herd (and by "herd" I mean you!). Like several other breeds on this list (notably the Mee Kyun Dosa), the Spanish Mastiff tends to have a lumbering walk, giving the dog an appearance of clumsy laziness. Don't be fooled, though: when needed, these dogs can move quickly to defend your sheep (or kids)!
#2 Great Dane—German Mastiff
Despite the Great Dane often holding the "tallest dog" title, it's second on my list. These dogs are definitely the tallest, often standing at 34 inches at the withers (on their hind legs, they can reach close to 7 feet tall!) In fact, it's unusual for any dog other than the Great Dane to hold the title for world's tallest dog (the current pooch stands around 43 inches at the shoulder). However, Great Danes are not typically the beefiest dogs. Not that they aren't 200 lbs of pure muscle. These are sleek, powerful critters, well-suited to hunting large animals and war.
Danes make great companions. They tend to be gentle giants who get along well with both people and animals. Unlike some of the other breeds here, Great Danes don't usually exhibit a strong prey drive. Their friendliness doesn't mean they aren't protective of their families—and who's really going to mess with such a large barker coming at them?
#1 Pyrenean Mastiff—Mastín del Pirineo
Finally, the #1 largest dog breed, the Pyrenean Mastiff (not to be confused with the Spanish Mastiff, though they may have developed from the Spanish Mastiff). These beefy dogs are usually around 32 inches tall and weigh upwards of 220 lbs. That makes them tall and brawny!
The breed originated in the Pyrenean mountain region of Spain. It was developed as a flock guardian and as such does not have a strong prey drive but may exhibit herding behavior. They are docile and somewhat lazy until it's time to work. They were a flock's only protection against wolves and bears in the Pyrenees; their size and protective nature ensured a flock's safety. Aggression towards unfamiliar people and other potential predators is encouraged in a flock guardian. Even so, the Pyrenean Mastiff is generally a very calm, loving dog who rarely barks and only shows true aggression when given no other options.
Did you notice...
...that the majority of large dog breeds on this list are mastiff-types? This type of dog is called molosser, which is derived from the ancient Molossus breed associated with the Molossian tribe of ancient Greece (are you seeing a theme with the name yet?). It is believed that the Molossus breed had a wide, short muzzle (similar to mastiffs) and was primarily used as a fighting and hunting dog.
Of course, there is another camp that claims that the Molossus was actually a lightweight dog, more like the modern Greyhound, and that the modern mastiff-type came from an entirely different ancient dog, the Alaunt, which is thought to have looked much like a Caucasian Ovcharka. The interesting part of this theory is that the Alaunt is believed to have descended from a mastiff-type dog known as the Sarmatian Mastiff (which is thought to have been a close relative to the Caucasian Ovcharka).
In other words, at some point there was a darn big brawny dog from somewhere in the ancient world that was the ancestor to the modern day mastiff-type dog.
Excuse Me?! What About...?: Expanded Largest Dog Breeds List
I realize that I have left off several popular large dog breeds. This may not sit well with some of you, but they couldn't all fit on my list (then it wouldn't be a top 10!). So, what's my justification for leaving off some breeds like Newfoundland, Dogue de Bordeaux, Irish Wolfhound, Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, and others?
I created a spreadsheet of large (ok, giant) dog breeds. On it, I listed average heights and weights for the males of the breeds (females are generally smaller), then sorted by weight, then height. The top ten made my list. Simple as that. Here are the next twenty or so breeds that did not make the list but deserve to be mentioned. Some of my faves are here!
Other Large Breeds
- Caucasian Ovcharka—average height 28 inches; average weight 155 lbs
- Irish Wolfhound—average height 35 inches; average weight 150 lbs
- Landseer Newfoundland—average height 32 inches; average weight 150 lbs
- Anatolian Shepherd—average height 30 inches; average weight 150 lbs
- Broholmer—average height 30 inches; average weight 150 lbs
- Newfoundland—average height 29 inches; average weight 150 lbs
- Moscow Watchdog—average height 27 inches; average weight 150 lbs
- Kangal Dog—average height 32 inches; average weight 145 lbs
- Dogue de Bordeaux—average height 30 inches; average weight 145 lbs
- Black Russian Terrier—average height 29 inches; average weight 145 lbs
- Canis Panther—average height 30 inches; average weight 140 lbs
- Greater Swiss Mountain Dog—average height 29 inches; average weight 135 lbs
- Rafeiro do Alentejo—average height 28 inches; average weight 135 lbs
- Bullmastiff—average height 27 inches; average weight 135 lbs
- Akbash Dog—average height 32 inches; average weight 130 lbs
- Komondor—average height 28; average weight 130 lbs
- Rottweiler—average height 27 inches; average weight 130 lbs
- Perro de Presa Canario—average height 25 inches; average weight 130 lbs
- Bulgarian Sheepdog—average height 30 inches; average weight 125 lbs
- Great Pyrenees—average height 29 inches; average weight 120 lbs
- American Akita—average height 28 inches; average weight 120 lbs
- Cane Corso Italiano—average height 26 inches; average weight 105 lbs (breed standard—some dispute, saying breed is consistently larger)