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One of the biggest dogs recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC), the massive Mastiff loves being around people and is known to bond closely with his ‘family.’ A combination of grandeur and good nature as well as courage and docility, he was bred in England and used as a watchdog for more than two thousand years. The breed’s short coat can be fawn, apricot or brindle.
In tracing the history of this noble breed, we can avoid confusion by noting the distinction between mastiffs, with a lowercase “m,” and Mastiffs, the traditional giant breed of England, sometimes called the Old English Mastiff. Dogs known as mastiffs have been known around the world for thousands of years. Surviving evidence from ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, China, and Tibet all bear traces of ferocious giant canines classified as mastiffs. The Tibetan Mastiff and Neapolitan Mastiff are examples of these ancient breeds that have endured to this day.
The British mastiff type, the AKC breed we know as the Mastiff, is similarly ancient breed. When Julius Caesar led an invasion of Britain in 55 b.c., he was impressed by the mastiffs who helped defend the island against his legions and made note of it in his campaign journal. British mastiffs were brought back to Rome to battle wild beasts and human gladiators in the arena.
The Mastiff as we know it came into focus in medieval England, used as big-game hunters, nighttime guardians of estates, and war dogs. In the “Canterbury Tales,” Chaucer calls them “Alaunts” (a French breed name) and says they were “as great as any steer/To hunt at the lion or the deer.” Mastiffs fought alongside the British against the French in 1415 at the Battle of Agincourt, later immortalized by Shakespeare.
At the end of World War II, England stood victorious but depleted. It was estimated that only 14 Mastiffs survived in the entire country. The Mastiff population was rebuilt with the help of U.S. breeders who exported specimens from good British stock back to the mother country. Today’s Mastiff is more docile and friendly than his ancient forebears, but no less courageous.
The Mastiff is a large, massive, symmetrical dog with a well-knit frame. The impression is one of grandeur and dignity. Dogs are more massive throughout. Bitches should not be faulted for being somewhat smaller in all dimensions while maintaining a proportionally powerful structure. A good evaluation considers positive qualities of type and soundness with equal weight.
Size, Proportion, Substance
Dogs, minimum, 30 inches at the shoulder. Bitches, minimum, 27-1/2 inches at the shoulder. Fault-Dogs or bitches below the minimum standard. The farther below standard, the greater the fault.
Rectangular, the length of the dog from forechest to rump is somewhat longer than the height at the withers. The height of the dog should come from depth of body rather than from length of leg.
Massive, heavy boned, with a powerful muscle structure. Great depth and breadth desirable. Fault-Lack of substance or slab sided.
In general outline giving a massive appearance when viewed from any angle. Breadth greatly desired. Eyes - set wide apart, medium in size, never too prominent. Expression alert but kindly. Color of eyes brown, the darker the better, and showing no haw. Light eyes or a predatory expression is undesirable.
Small in proportion to the skull, V-shaped, rounded at the tips. Leather moderately thin, set widely apart at the highest points on the sides of the skull continuing the outline across the summit. They should lie close to the cheeks when in repose. Ears dark in color, the blacker the better, conforming to the color of the muzzle.
Broad and somewhat flattened between the ears, forehead slightly curved, showing marked wrinkles which are particularly distinctive when at attention. Brows (superciliary ridges) moderately raised. Muscles of the temples well developed, those of the cheeks extremely powerful. Arch across the skull a flattened curve with a furrow up the center of the forehead. This extends from between the eyes to halfway up the skull. The stop between the eyes well marked but not too abrupt. Muzzle should be half the length of the skull, thus dividing the head into three parts-one for the foreface and two for the skull. In other words, the distance from the tip of the nose to stop is equal to one-half the distance between the stop and the occiput. Circumference of the muzzle (measured midway between the eyes and nose) to that of the head (measured before the ears) is as 3 is to 5.
Short, broad under the eyes and running nearly equal in width to the end of the nose. Truncated, i.e. blunt and cut off square, thus forming a right angle with the upper line of the face. Of great depth from the point of the nose to the underjaw. Underjaw broad to the end and slightly rounded. Muzzle dark in color, the blacker the better. Fault-snipiness of the muzzle.
Broad and always dark in color, the blacker the better, with spread flat nostrils (not pointed or turned up) in profile.
Diverging at obtuse angles with the septum and sufficiently pendulous so as to show a modified square profile.
Healthy and wide apart. Jaws powerful. Scissors bite preferred, but a moderately undershot jaw should not be faulted providing the teeth are not visible when the mouth is closed.
Neck, Topline, Body
Powerful, very muscular, slightly arched, and of medium length. The neck gradually increases in circumference as it approaches the shoulder. Neck moderately "dry" (not showing an excess of loose skin).
In profile the topline should be straight, level, and firm, not swaybacked, roached, or dropping off sharply behind the high point of the rump.
Wide, deep, rounded, and well let down between the forelegs, extending at least to the elbow. Forechest should be deep and well defined with the breastbone extending in front of the foremost point of the shoulders. Ribs well rounded. False ribs deep and well set back.
There should be a reasonable, but not exaggerated, tuck-up.
Muscular, powerful, and straight. When viewed from the rear, there should be a slight rounding over the rump.
Wide and muscular.
Set on moderately high and reaching to the hocks or a little below. Wide at the root, tapering to the end, hanging straight in repose, forming a slight curve, but never over the back when the dog is in motion.
Moderately sloping, powerful and muscular, with no tendency to looseness. Degree of front angulation to match correct rear angulation.
Straight, strong and set wide apart, heavy boned.
Parallel to body.
Strong and bent only slightly.
Large, round, and compact with well arched toes. Black nails.
Broad, wide and muscular.
Well developed, leading to a strong hock joint.
Moderately angulated matching the front.
Are wide apart and parallel when viewed from the rear. When the portion of the leg below the hock is correctly "set back" and stands perpendicular to the ground, a plumb line dropped from the rearmost point of the hindquarters will pass in front of the foot. This rules out straight hocks, and since stifle angulation varies with hock angulation, it also rules out insufficiently angulated stifles. Fault-Straight stifles.
Outer coat straight, coarse, and of moderately short length. Undercoat dense, short, and close lying. Coat should not be so long as to produce "fringe" on the belly, tail, or hind legs. Fault-Long or wavy coat.
Fawn, apricot, or brindle. Brindle should have fawn or apricot as a background color which should be completely covered with very dark stripes. Muzzle, ears, and nose must be dark in color, the blacker the better, with similar color tone around the eye orbits and extending upward between them. A small patch of white on the chest is permitted. Faults-Excessive white on the chest or white on any other part of the body. Mask, ears, or nose lacking dark pigment.
The gait denotes power and strength. The rear legs should have drive, while the forelegs should track smoothly with good reach. In motion, the legs move straight forward; as the dog's speed increases from a walk to a trot, the feet move in toward the center line of the body to maintain balance.
A combination of grandeur and good nature, courage and docility. Dignity, rather than gaiety, is the Mastiff's correct demeanor. Judges should not condone shyness or viciousness. Conversely, judges should also beware of putting a premium on showiness.
Approved November 12, 1991
Effective December 31, 1991