Breed Standard and History...

A brief description of the Mastiff, followed by a little bit of history...

simple web templates

Group: Utility
Size: Giant - Extra large
Lifespan: 8-11 years
Exercise Required:Low
Grooming: Very Low
Trainability: Medium
Watchdog ability: Very High
Protection ability: High
Area of Origin: England
Date of Origin: Ancient Times
Other Names: English (or old english) Mastiff
Original Function: Guardian / Hunting
History : The Mastiff is descended from the large, mastiff-type dogs brought to Britain as early as the 6th century BC, by Phoenician traders. The dogs were crossed with local fighting dogs and were used for hunting, and as fighters against bears, lions, bulls, and eventually dogs. However they were most prized as a family guardian, courageous, yet devoted to their family; they maintained this popularity for over 2000 years in Britain, only to be reduced in numbers close to extinction after World War II; a breed census confirmed that there were only 8 dogs of breeding age left. With the help of a Canadian breeder who sent over puppies, the breed was restored, and has again attained a high level of popularity.


GENERAL APPEARANCE: Large, massive, powerful, symmetrical and well-knit frame. A combination of grandeur and good nature, courage and docility. The head, in general outline giving a square appearance when viewed from any point. Breadth greatly to be desired, and should be in ratio to length of the whole head and face as 2:3. Body, massive, broad, deep, long, powerfully built, on legs wide apart and squarely set. Muscles sharply defined. Size a great desideratum if combined with quality. Height and substance important if both points are proportionately combined.

HEAD & SKULL: Skull broad between the ears, forehead flat, but wrinkled when attention is excited. Brows (superciliary ridges) slightly raised. Muscles of the temples and cheeks (temporal and masseter) well developed. Arch across the skull of a rounded, flattened curve, with a depression up the centre of the forehead from the median line between the eyes, to halfway up the sagital suture. Face or muzzle, short, broad under the eyes, and keeping nearly parallel in width to the end of the nose; truncated, i.e., blunt and cut off squarely, thus forming a right-angle with the upper line of the face, of great depth from the point of the nose to under jaw. Under jaw broad to the end. Nose broad, with widely spreading nostrils when viewed from the front, flat (not pointed or turned up) in profile. Lips diverging at obtuse angles with the septum, and slightly pendulous so as to show a square profile. Length of muzzle to whole head and face as 1 to 3. Circumference of muzzle (measured mid-way between the eyes and nose) to that of the head (measured before the ears) as 3:5.

EYES: Small, wide apart, divided by at least the space of two eyes. The stop between the eyes well marked but not too abrupt. Colour hazel brown, the darker the better, showing no haw

EARS: Small, thin to the touch, wide apart, set on at the highest points of the sides of the skull, so as to continue the outline across the summit, and lying flat and close to the cheeks when in repose.

MOUTH: Canine teeth healthy; powerful and wide apart; incisors level, or the lower projecting beyond the upper but never so much as to become visible when the mouth is closed.  

NECK: Slightly arched, moderately long, very muscular, and measuring in circumference about 2.5 or 5 cm (1 or 2 in) less than the skull before the ears.

FOREQUARTERS: Shoulder and arm slightly sloping, heavy and muscular. Legs straight, strong and set wide apart; bones being large. Elbows square. Pasterns upright.

BODY: Chest wide, deep and well let down between the forelegs. Ribs arched and well rounded. False ribs deep and well set back to the hips. Girth should be one-third more than the height at the shoulder. Back and loins wide and muscular; flat and very wide in a bitch, slightly arched in a dog. Great depth of flanks.

HINDQUARTERS: Broad, wide and muscular, with well-developed second thighs, hocks bent, wide apart and quite squarely set when standing or walking.

FEET: Large and round. Toes well arched up. Nails black.

TAIL: Put on high up, and reaching to the hocks or a little below them, wide at its root and tapering to the end, hanging straight in repose, but forming a curve with the end pointing upwards, but not over the back, when the dog is excited.

COAT: Short and close-lying, but not too fine over the shoulders, neck and back.

COLOUR: Apricot or silver, fawn, or dark fawn-brindle. In any case, muzzle, ears and nose, should be black with black round orbits, and extending upwards between them.

NOTE: Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.

Reference NZKC Website...

 Some more Mastiff History....

The Mastiff is acknowledged as one of the oldest breeds.  These heavy bodied, powerful dogs were a well-established breed in England by the time of the Roman invasion.  The Romans were so impressed by the Mastiff’s size, strength and courage that many were exported to Rome for spectacles in the amphitheatres. During Norman times Mastiffs in the forest had to be de-clawed to prevent them from hunting.  This suggests the breed was more athletic than it is today.  Down through the ages Mastiffs have served many purposes. Research indicates they originally served as war dogs, guardians of property or stock and as housedogs and pets.  Henry VII gave four Mastiffs to the King of France to be used as fighting dogs in battle and Henry VIII sent Charles V 400 Mastiffs as war dogs. Mastiff were also used for bull and bear baiting during the bloodthirsty Elizabethan times.  The decline in these terrible sports at the end of the 18th century resulted in the dramatic fall in the number of Mastiffs and their purity and type became much debated.  However, pure-bred animals could still be found and some were kept as guards of stately homes. The breed regained popularity by the late 1850’s when dog shows began.  By this stage more accurate records were kept as there was greater interest in pedigrees and a large number of owners, breeders and exhibitors.  Mastiffs were very much in vogue for the next 50 years and frequently attracted the interest of royalty.  In 1872 there were 82 Mastiff exhibits at the Crystal Palace Show.  However, this era was followed by a huge decline in popularity and numbers.  With the outbreak of WW1, hardly any breeding took place with only three registrations being recorded in 1918. With so few Mastiffs – there is no doubt that some cross breeding followed, mainly with unregistered Mastiffs or Mastiff types that carried Bullmastiff blood.  Numbers slowly began to increase although the differing head types were a cause of much debate. Tragedy struck again with the outbreak of World War II when some Mastiffs were exported to the USA but many were destroyed.  Breeding came to a halt at this time and the breed bordered on extinction between 1940 and 1950. About this time a thorough search revealed that there were only seven known Mastiff in Britain.  Fresh blood had to be obtained if the breed was to survive, so mastiff lovers rallied round to save the breed.  A small number of Mastiffs were imported from North America – some being descendants of the original English stock exported to the USA in the 1930’s. Obviously, a great deal of inbreeding followed, which did help to produce type but also compounded a lot of the unsoundness still evident today. (hence the importance of hip and elbow scoring) Due to the dedication of breed enthusiasts from the 1950’s this magnificent breed slowly increased in numbers.  We are sure the Mastiff breed is here to stay.


Mastiff Club members pictured here exhibiting at Wellington Pet Expo, showcasing our breeds history....