Anna studied psychology, law, English, and animal welfare in college. She is a mother of two and a 2019 bride!
What Makes Dogs Vicious?
What makes a dog aggressive is highly disputed amongst dog owners and breeders. While many people insist that even the most 'dangerous' breeds can make excellent family pets with the right amount of socialization and proper, firm training, others believe that certain breeds of dog are more high risk than others due to their breeding history.
Many dogs like the German Shepherd, for example, have been bred largely to guard and protect their families. This means that while they can make fantastic family pets and are usually safe around the family's children, they can be overprotective, which can result in injuries to strangers.
This article will break down some of the most aggressive dog breeds in the world so that you can make a more informed call about which canine to introduce into your family.
The Top 15 Most Aggressive Dog Breeds
- Presa Canario or Canarian Catch Dog
- Tosa Inu
- Neapolitan Mastiff
- Gull Dong or Pakistani Bulldog
- Pit Bull Terrier
- Caucasian Shepherd or Caucasian Ovcharka
- Rhodesian Ridgeback
- Saint Bernard
- Dogo Argentino
- German Shepherd
- Chow Chow
1. Presa Canario or Canarian Catch Dog
The Presa Canario is a massive breed of fighting dog, which has been known to attack and kill humans. They were bred originally for an Aryan Brotherhood dogfighting ring, but they have also been used for guarding livestock.
Also known as a 'Canarian Catch Dog', this breed requires very early socialisation and obedience training. If they have not been with a very experienced owner, they can be a danger to people and other animals.
2. Tosa Inu
The Tosa Inu is one of the world's most dangerous dogs. This massive breed can typically weigh anywhere between 130–200 lbs and stands around 32 inches tall.
It is legally banned in many countries due to the aggressive nature of the breed. It originated in Japan, where it was bred to be a powerful, muscular dog for fighting other dogs. Even the best-trained dogs of this breed could become overprotective and attack humans.
3. Neapolitan Mastiff
The Neopolitan Mastiff is famous for the role of Hagrid's pet dog, Fang, in the Harry Potter films. Although in those particular films, Fang is a docile, lazy creature, in reality, these dogs are banned in many different countries.
They have been used as war dogs by the Roman legions and also as gladiator dogs in the bloody 'sport' within the colosseum in Italy, where the breed originated. Males can top 200 lbs and can be strong, willful and vicious.
4. Gull Dong or Pakistani Bulldog
The Gull Dong is another breed that, sadly, was specifically developed as a fighting dog. It is also known as the Pakistani Bulldog and is the result of a Bully Kutta crossed with a Gull Terrier.
This dog is extremely aggressive and made even more dangerous by the fact it can be defiant, difficult to control and incredibly powerful, muscular and athletic. This breed should never be kept by any person who is not an expert in dog training. If they are not trained properly and socialised from a very early age, they can turn aggressive towards people and other dogs.
5. Pit Bull Terriers
Pit Bull Terriers have been selectively bred from a range of other terrier breeds and bulldogs in order to create a dog breed that was second to none in dog fights. The people who set out to do this succeeded—this dog is recognised to hold the No. 1 rank for pound-to-pound lean muscle tissue.
Although this breed is capable of being a loyal, friendly pet and excellent guard dog, it has also attracted the wrong kind of attention from around 1980, where these dogs were bought by many criminals and people involved in dogfighting rings as a statement of masculinity. Aggressive dogs were bred and encouraged to be aggressive towards other canines in order to be excellent fighters. As a result, many once friendly, sweet-natured breeds are now illegal in many countries and American states.
They also have an extremely high prey drive that is triggered by smaller mammals, meaning families with smaller children would likely be unwise to own this dog. Many bites have resulted in fatalities to both adults and children throughout history.
6. Caucasian Shepherd or Caucasian Ovcharka
The Caucasian Shepherd, also known as the Caucasian Ovcharka, was bred for the purpose of guarding homes and livestock. It is a courageous and strong-willed breed, which can make training problematic.
It is also prone to attacking strangers due to the fact that it is highly territorial. It is fearless, dominant and powerful, which makes dogs of this breed very dangerous if they are not well trained.
Males weigh at least 110 lbs and stand around 30 inches tall. Even though many families insist that this dog can be good with children, it is strongly recommended the two are not left alone, as accidental injury can easily occur.
7. Rhodesian Ridgeback
The Rhodesian Ridgeback is renowned for being used to keep lions away from its master and to keep prey subdued while its owner hunted game. This dog makes an incredibly loyal companion if it is well trained.
If it is not kept by an experienced dog owner who does not spend almost all their time with the dog, this breed is known for becoming dominant and can be prone to developing a highly aggressive side with other dogs and also people.
8. Saint Bernard
The Saint Bernard is another huge breed of working dog, which originally was bred in the Italian Alps. Although they are portrayed in many films and photographs as giant teddy bears, in reality, they are very stubborn, difficult to train and require very early socialisation.
Saint Bernards are renowned, however, for rescuing people who have become lost in mountainous areas.
The Basenji is a beautiful breed of dog and has been classified as a sight hound for its incredible intelligence, constant alert state and loyalty.
They are also known as the second most difficult breed to train, however, and can become aggressive towards other dogs and strangers if they are not properly trained.
10. Dogo Argentino
The Dogo Argentino was originally bred for hunting large game such as wild boar and pumas. It is illegal to own this breed in the United Kingdom under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, due to a number of attacks.
Whilst it is friendly, loyal and affectionate towards its owner, this breed is fiercely protective and will not hesitate to turn on strangers if it believes they are a threat.
It is extremely territorial, making it an excellent guard dog. But it can also be vicious, as stated previously, and will instantly defend its territory and family against intruders.
The Boerboel is a large mastiff breed originating from South Africa, which was selectively bred for the purpose of being a guard dog. Like the Dogo Argentino, its loyalty to its family can make it vicious towards strangers and other dogs.
12. German Shepherd
German Shepherds, as the name suggests, originally came from Germany and are very popular as pets and also police dogs. They were bred to be superb guard dogs and fill this role very well due to their territorial nature.
They are known to become overprotective, however. This breed has been known to bite humans who have been thought of as threatening to their 'pack' or individuals who have 'intruded'.
Rottweilers have also been bred to be heavy-duty guard dogs and can be very good as such. Unfortunately, Rottweilers have earned a bad reputation due to a fair number of attacks on both people and other animals, including livestock such as sheep, which have died as a result.
Many individuals say these instances occurred due to poor training and a lack of socialisation. But it is generally agreed that this breed is prone to developing a vicious streak if managed incorrectly, can be overprotective of its family and home and also has a high prey drive—more than a handful of Rottweiler attacks have happened recently involving toddlers.
From 1982–2012, there have been at least 48 instances reported of Boxer dogs causing significant injury to humans. They can be wonderful family pets if their owner has had previous dog handling experience and is able to dedicate time and effort to training. But without this, they can be boisterous, dominant and aggressive, meaning they can be a danger to people.
This breed is known to be extremely affectionate towards the family it lives with, and seeing this well-loved breed on a list with other dangerous breeds may come as a shock. But it is not recommended to pick this dog breed if you have never owned a dog before.
15. Chow Chow
The Chow Chow, affectionately known as the 'fluffy lion dog', originated in China and is considered high risk as a breed. There have been 238 fatalities from dog bites from 1979–1998 due to this breed being so fiercely protective of its owner.
It is also a large, heavy breed, meaning that it can be a danger to small children, even when it is only playing.
Let me know what you think!
Ivan on July 30, 2020:
Humans are to blame for bad behaviour of dogs. I have Loved and Owned numerous Bullterriers and Pitbull Terriers. They were gentle, caring, loveable and most importantly fantastic around Kids.There is a saying that a dog is an identocal blueprint of its owners personality. Painfully dogs go to the wrong homes for the wrong reasons.
Anonymous on July 16, 2020:
I agree dogs are never born aggressive they only ever become that because of people who breed them for the wrong reasons and never treat them right
I love dogs on June 11, 2020:
I don't think the Basjeni is that mean.
Dog lover 123 on April 13, 2020:
Yep dogs are never aggressive born it is the people who train them to do bad and then wonder when people get attacked. This is stereotyping to dogs
Melina on December 21, 2019:
Dogs are not aggressive, they are aggressive because of their owners on how the treat them or train them too. So don't be hating on dogs please.
Sophie on June 18, 2019:
IVE ALWAYS WANTED A DOBERMAN
Nanette Hazelton on May 01, 2019:
Ive owned 4 rescue dobermans. All were velcro dogs with family. Very loving and cuddlers. But, if anyone not known to my family dares step on my property they become very loyal guard dogs. Fear noone. Love the breed which is why i always rescue a dobie.
Sarah on March 21, 2019:
If ur not willing to trust ur dog alone with ur kids dont own a dog period. Having a pet is about trust and love. If u trust each other and love each other then u have nothing to worry about. Also u shouldnt be an aspiring vet. A dog u dont know i agree but if its ur dog it should be part of the family and is more prone to protect its family then to attack it. Its really sad to see miss informed articles like this floating around. I hope actually believes this bs.
Hannah on December 19, 2018:
I must admit I laughed at this ill informed article. Your headline photo is a Dobermann, but you don’t even list them, and rightly so. Any dog is a danger if not properly trained, and no dog should ever be left alone with children, no matter how well trained they are. All breeds were bred initially for one purpose, but over time the requirement for them has lessened and are now usually owned as pets or for showing. The author of this piece is clearly not very knowledgable in dogs or in dog husbandry so shouldn’t be writing such inflammatory articles!
Molossus of Epirus on August 26, 2018:
As soon as I saw, "They were bred originally for an Aryan Brotherhood dog fighting ring, but have also been used for guarding livestock.", said of the presa canario I knew that you didn't know what you were talking about.
The Perro de Presa Canario has been used as a working dog since the 16th century in their native Canary Islands, and ceremonial use possibly predates that. Fights did happen, but this wasnt the purpose of the dog, and it is inferior to other dogs for this purpose as you can't handle it in the pit (unlike American Pitbull Terriers).
Next time you want to write this sensationalist crap, do the proper research. I didnt read the rest of the article, you lost me at the presa, but I wouldn't be surprised if it contained more of the same catchpenny nonsense.
Davi on June 17, 2017:
Dogs in some of the pictures were not the dogs they were describing,also pits are good with children.don't think the author know much about dog breeds
Crystal Galvan-Casas on February 15, 2017:
I bred Chow Chows. Mine were bred and trained with love. The only ones that were in danger were people that had no business or permission to be in or at our home. Raised 2 girls with them and the chows were very protective of them. Chows were initially bred for the Chinese royalty, hence the name. Bred to protect one person which is what they do. With love they are great pets.
Robert on December 30, 2016:
At guarding doga you forgot dobermann
Val on October 22, 2016:
I'm more afraid of an ankle biting chihuahua, than I am of a pit bull. Evil dog fighters & animal abusers in general, should take the "most vicious" spot in place of pits.
Faye on September 05, 2016:
The Caucasian ovcharka on this article is in fact a Photo of a TIBETAN Mastiff.
Ida on June 17, 2016:
I agree St. Bernards can be a hassle to train, but I personally have dog sat a lost of them. They get right up in your face, and lick you all over. This breed, in my opinion, isn't a first choice for first time owners, though I must say they are very affectionate large beasties.
Pepper on January 07, 2015:
You've hit the ball out the park! Inerldibec!
Tolovaj Publishing House from Ljubljana on August 03, 2014:
Every breed was raised for certain purpose. If they stay under control, I don't have a problem with aggressive breeds.
ohcaroline on June 07, 2014:
I've never been fond of large dogs mean or otherwise. I don't like to be around them when they are aggressive. My next door neighbor has a large mixed breed dog and when she takes it out to walk it...I stay indoors because it will get aggressive and we share the same carport. I don't try to get in my car when she has it out.
Lorna from USA on May 12, 2014:
I learned a lot about dogs today, I never thought that Saint Bernard could become aggressive if not trained properly. Thanks!
VioletteRose LM on May 05, 2014:
Great lens! I love dogs, so this information is really important. Thanks for sharing.
Anna (author) from chichester on May 01, 2014:
Wow KonaGirl that's fascinating! They sound like incredibly vicious dogs... I definitely wouldn't want to be the boar! Thank you for letting me know about the Aryan Brotherhood too - I must have mis-read something while researching for this article, I will double-check and correct that mistake!
KonaGirl from New York on May 01, 2014:
Some of these breeds I had never heard of so found this article very interesting. I have to disagree with you about the Aryan Brotherhood originally breeding the Presa Canario. This Spanish dog breed is much older than the existence of the prison gang. In Hawaii, my relatives cross bred Pit Bulls and Bull Terriers for a special bred to hunt wild boar. Very dangerous dogs and now a common breed in the islands. They have the stature and strength of the pit bull with the ability to lock their massive bull terrier jaws on the pig and anyone else that gets in their way.
Anna (author) from chichester on April 30, 2014:
That's so true Janis - pit bulls really can be lovely, but they just seem to be one breed that's become a 'status' dog with people who have mo idea about training or handling.very sad, as many animals then have to be destroyed because they weren't provided with proper care and attention.
WriterJanis2 on April 30, 2014:
We used to have a pitbull. We adopted her as an older dog. She was the most gentile dog I have ever known and was wonderful with our children. It's sad when some pet owners try to make their dogs so mean, when they can be so kind.
Miha Gasper from Ljubljana, Slovenia, EU on April 27, 2014:
It's very interesting to see how different can be breeds. I believe owners of most aggressive breeds should possess some kind of certificate proving they can handle them. I also think some breeds are simply not suitable for city areas with a lot of people and not enough space for running. It's just not fair to dogs and can be dangerous for dogs and people.
Anna (author) from chichester on April 18, 2014:
@BLouw: How awful for the family! I agree though - no dog is truly safe, I would never leave my child alone with one no matter how big, small, laid back etc. You never know and it just isn't worth the risk
Barbara Walton from France on April 18, 2014:
I remember as a child neighbours had two Chow Chows and they attacked their little girl and bit all the way up her arms. I'd always be safe and choose a real family breed of dog and never trust a dog with a young child.