Noble yet eager to please, the massive English mastiff has a heart as big as its towering stature. While their size can be intimidating at first, English mastiffs are good-natured, sensitive, and loving pets. Underneath their strong exterior, they are big softies and loyal companions, as well as fiercely protective of family.
English mastiffs are known to excel at a variety of tasks. Not only do mastiffs have enough courage and strength to make them effective as guardians, but their kind nature also means they’re naturally suited to work as therapy dogs. And if you’re looking for a large pet that’s good with kids, look no further: their gentle temperament also makes them the perfect family dog. These friendly giants will thrive as a part-time home watchdog, part-time couch potato.
Also Known As…
The gentle giant, the Butcher’s Dog, Mr. Droopy Face, the biggest dog in the world, “Is that a dog or a hippo?”
What Is The History Of The English Mastiff?
The roots of the large dog we know and love today go back almost 4500 years to a similar breed that existed around 2500 BC in present-day Asia.1 While there are various theories about their exact origin, history suggests that Phoenician traders brought mastiffs to ancient Great Britain, where the development of today’s English mastiff began.
Because the large breed has been around for so long, English mastiffs have a rich history. Originally used as hunting and fighting dogs, mastiffs faced off against other dogs, large animals, and even men in arena fights. The Tibetan Mastiff was the preferred choice of dog for emperor Kublai Khan. He is said to have trained a pack of 5,000 mastiffs for war and legend says that several battalions of mastiffs accompanied Hannibal across the Alps. Mastiffs even fought alongside the ancient Celts in battle. Since they traveled extensively for hunting and wartime, they inevitably socialized with the local female pooches, leading to the creation of other large breeds, such as the friendly Saint Bernard (formerly called the Alpine mastiff). In fact, Spanish, French, Turkish, and Balkan mountain dogs all boast mastiff blood in their ancestry.
Over time, the well-traveled English mastiff grew in popularity amongst the European elite, namely British royalty, as guard dogs on their estates. Rumor has it that both King James I and Henry VIII sent mastiffs to Spanish kings as gifts—likely the ancestors of the mastiffs depicted in famous portraits of Spanish royalty. Along with an English spaniel (a variety of the ever-adorable cocker spaniel), English mastiffs made their North America debut on the Mayflower, but this powerful pup wasn’t imported in full force until the 1800s.
Due to their legendary history, you may be surprised to learn that this breed’s popularity declined during the world wars, namely due to how much it cost to keep them fed. Thankfully, breeding picked back up again in the second half of the century, and the legacy breed lives on. Today, the modern English mastiff retains its protective spirit and watchful eye but boasts a gentle and sensitive demeanor that makes the pup a perfect fit for families. There’s no question—this popular breed has secured a pawsitive place in hearts and homes around the world.
How Big Do English Mastiffs Get?
Height: 27–36 inches (at least)
Weight: 120–230 pounds (one of the heaviest dog breeds!)
How Long Do English Mastiffs (Generally) Live?
Unlike small dogs like poodles or shiz tzus, English mastiffs have a shorter life expectancy—usually between 6 and 10 years. Of course, lifespan depends on a variety of factors. While mastiffs can be prone to various health conditions, many will be able to celebrate their double digits.
What Is An English Mastiff’s Temperament & Personality Like?
English mastiffs are strong protectors with big hearts. Affectionate and playful, they are fiercely loyal to their owners but can be initially wary of strangers. Mastiffs are also an adaptable breed, good at learning new skills and mastering a variety of jobs, from guarding to canine therapy.
Mastiff dog breed owners find it irresistible to bond with these notoriously expressive animals – even when their lids start drooping into their signature snooze.
Are English Mastiffs Good With Kids? Cats? Dogs?
With early training and socialization, English mastiffs make perfect family pets. Their easy-going nature makes them a great addition to a household that already has a cat or a dog, and you can rest assured that your built-in guard dog security system will keep you safe. They are known to be great with kids, but you should always keep watch on playtime due to the sheer size difference between your mastiff dog and your mini-me. Fully grown, English mastiffs can weigh more than an adult.
Do English Mastiffs Need A Lot Of Exercise?
Surprisingly, no. Compared to other large breeds, English mastiffs require a lower amount of daily exercise. Walking a mile or two a day is just right for these furry friends. In fact, it’s important not to over-walk an English mastiff puppy or allow them to jump off the stairs, as it can harm their joints before they’re fully grown.
Are English Mastiffs Hard To Train?
As with any giant breed, it’s important to start training your mastiff as a puppy. English mastiffs are intelligent, which also makes them easily bored. They thrive with short, fun training sessions that keep them engaged and on task. They are also sensitive and respond well to positive reinforcement rather than punishment. But be aware—these clever people-pleasers also have a stubborn streak. Train early and often unless you want to learn the hard way how to move 200 pounds of fluff down the sidewalk when your mastiff has decided he simply will not take another step.
Do English Mastiffs Have Health Issues?
English mastiffs aren’t more prone to disease than any other breed, but they do face certain health issues due to their size. Specific health concerns for this breed include:2
- Hip dysplasia
- Elbow dysplasia
- Gastric torsion (bloat)
- Ligament rupture
With regular check-ups, your veterinarian can identify any issues and treat your mastiff dog sooner rather than later.
Do English Mastiffs Need To Be Groomed?
Although English mastiffs have a double-layer coat that sheds ever so often (pro-tip: invest in a lint roller), these pups are relatively low maintenance—staying in tip-top shape with a brushing every couple of days. Like most dogs, mastiffs require regular nail trimming their nails and eye and ear cleaning.
In general, keeping a washcloth around isn’t the worst idea. English mastiffs are big droolers—flopping and slobbering everywhere they go. Be ready to wipe down your floors, favorite jeans, couch pillows…you get the gist.
How Much Does It Cost To Care For An English Mastiff?
Dogs are an investment, and for big dogs, be prepared for a bigger price tag. Costs will vary depending on location and lifestyle, but in general, expect to budget between $1000 and $4000 a year to care for your English mastiff.
It’s no surprise that English mastiffs need a lot of chow. To keep these giant canines well fed, you’ll need to choose a quality food brand. On average, food for an English mastiff puppy will cost $500–800 per year and $300–900 for an adult. Don’t forget to factor in the cost of treats, which can range anywhere from $100–700 annually based on the product.
Satisfy your English mastiff’s massive appetite with BARK Eats pre-portioned dog food. Developed by veterinary nutritionists with specific breeds in mind, every morsel is made to nourish your pup. Looking to fuel your mastiff’s journey from the couch to…the other couch? Order Bark Eats today to save 50% on your first month!
Routine Vet Care (Healthy Dog)
In addition to emergency vet visits, your pet should routinely have a checkup once a year to ensure they’re in the best of health. These visits cost around $100–200 each. You should also budget for typical expenses like microchipping (~$50) and spaying/neutering your dog ($100–500).
Preventative Medications For English Mastiffs
Most preventative medical care will happen in the first year of your puppy’s life. Expect to bring your mastiff pup to the vet three times in this first year for a physical exam and routine vaccinations. Puppies and adult dogs alike will also need flea and heartworm prevention (anywhere from $100–400 per year).
Many vets also recommend that mastiffs undergo a gastropexy procedure ($200–400) to help prevent gastric torsion, a life-threatening issue that can face the breed.
English Mastiff Grooming
Since English mastiffs have short coats, owners can groom them at home with little hassle. You’ll have to spring for dog shampoo, nail clippers, and a toothbrush, which totals $150 on average. If you prefer to leave your pooch in the hands of a professional, grooming appointments every month or two will add up to around $300 per year.
Toys, Treats, Beds, & Accessories
In addition to the everyday basics, you’ll also want to spoil your dog with the most puptasic products. Due to the colossal size of English mastiffs, keep in mind that you’ll be shopping for XXL supplies. While mastiff-size toys may be more expensive and can be harder to find, it’ll be worth it when you receive all the XXL cuddles and XXL kisses.
For just $23 per box, BarkBox brings your big BFF a monthly delivery of all the best treats and toys. Fetch, train, and bond with 2 toys, 2 full-size bags of treats, and a tasty chew. For Mastiffs with a mighty powerful muzzle, try the Super Chewer upgrade. At just $29 per month, a Super Chewer subscription includes 2 fluff-free, durable toys, 2 full-size bags of treats, and 2 meaty chews. Order today and double your first box for free!
Be sure to budget for the basics, too, including:
- Leash and harness ($40–60)
- Dog bed ($30–110)
- Crate ($50–165)
- Brush ($10–40)
Depending on your lifestyle, you might hire a dog walker (~$20 per walk) or sign your pup up for group obedience classes ($150–200). Like all dogs, Mastiffs might use up some of your pocket change, but these big guys will give you so much in return.
- The Mastiff Club of America. Mastiff History. https://www.mastiff.org/mastiff-history/
- American Kennel Club. Mastiff. https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/mastiff/
- PetMD. Mastiff. https://www.petmd.com/dog/breeds/c_dg_mastiff
- Pet Budget. How Much is a Mastiff? Puppy & Adult Dog (with Calculator). https://www.petbudget.com/mastiff-cost/