Let's talk Spanish Mastiffs

With a 2,000-year history closely intertwined with that of Spain’s livestock migrations, the Spanish Mastiff is a noble, giant breed renowned for courage and loyalty that have earned them a solid reputation as formidable guard dogs. Still used to protect livestock and their families’ homes, Spanish Mastiffs are also warm-hearted and affectionate companions. However, with adult Spanish Mastiffs weighing in at a minimum of 110 pounds (50kg), they’re clearly not lap dogs. Given this and their booming bark, the Spanish Mastiff is a gentle giant better suited to rural life.

Official name: SPANISH MASTIFF

Other names: Mastín Español, Mastín de España

Origins: SPAIN

Close-up of Spanish Mastiff looking at camera

 

 Drooling tendencies  Very high  Warm weather?  Medium
 Shedding level  Medium  Suited to apartment living ?  
 Energy level*  Medium  Family pet?*  High
 Compatibility with other pets    Can stay alone?*  Medium

* We advise against leaving pets alone for long stretches. Companionship can prevent emotional distress and destructive behavior. Speak to your veterinarian for recommendations.

Every pet is different, even within a breed; this snapshot of this breed specifics should be taken as an indication.

For a happy healthy and well-behaved pet, we recommend educating and socializing your pet as well as covering their basic welfare needs (and their social and behavioral needs).

Pets should never be left unsupervised with a child.

Contact your breeder or veterinarian for further advice.

All domestic pets are sociable and prefer company. However, they can be taught to cope with solitude from an early age. Seek the advice of your veterinarian or trainer to help you do this.

 

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Illustration of Spanish Mastiff
Male
76 - 89 cm Height
72 - 99 kg Weight
Female
71 - 89 cm Height
50 - 77 kg Weight

 

 Baby age  Birth to 2 months
 Puppy age  2 to 8 months
 Junior age  8 months to 2 years
 Adult age  2 to 5 years
 Mature age  5 to 7 years
 Senior age  7 years+

 

Spanish Mastiff lying down on dirt and grass looking at camera

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Get to know the Spanish Mastiff

All you need to know about the breed

The Spanish Mastiff is a noble, giant breed that for centuries has proved their strength and courage as guard dogs. It’s no surprise, then, that they are wary of anything they perceive as a threat, be it animal or human. But to stop there would be selling these handsome dogs short. The placid, intelligent Spanish Mastiff is also capable of great affection, forming deep, lasting bonds with the human families they will go above and beyond to protect.

The calm confidence of the Spanish Mastiff suggests an awareness of their physical power. And though generally not loud, this strapping breed is capable of producing a deep, resonant bark that quickly discourages any ill-intentioned presence not already intimidated by their size. But when not in guard dog mode, the Spanish Mastiff tends to be quiet and reserved, behaviour that has earned them a reputation for being aloof.

In fact, the independent Spanish Mastiff generally prefers to sit on the side-lines and observe rather than be at the centre of the action. And while most content when in the company of their humans, the Spanish Mastiff also enjoys roaming solo around a property. A big property. Yes, this is not a breed well-suited for apartment living - they need a whole lot of space to move around.

Though the Spanish Mastiff has a great capacity for warmth and loyalty, they also have a natural inclination to assume the alpha role. It’s important that your Spanish Mastiff understands you, and only you, are driving the bus. Once this is made gently but firmly clear, the groundwork is well-laid for a rewarding and lasting bond.

Close-up of Spanish Mastiff looking at camera

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2 facts about Spanish Mastiffs

1. The accidental star

Though not overly keen on the limelight, Spanish Mastiffs have enjoyed significant attention over the centuries thanks to their hard work and loyalty. So important was their role in Spanish history that they were featured in renowned works of art including Diego Velàzquez’s famous painting “Las Meninas”. Completed in 1656, the work depicts a Spanish Mastiff lying peacefully alongside a group of children. When in Madrid, visit it at the Museo del Prado.

2. What’s in a name?

The word “mastiff” refers to ancient, large and powerful breeds favoured as guard dogs in the Middle Ages. The word mastiff actually comes from the Old French “mastin” or Provencal “mastis”. But if we go back even farther, these two last terms are thought to come from the Vulgar Latin term masuetus, meaning domesticated and gentle! Etymologically speaking, the term mastiff would then mean a large breed of dog that stays in the home as a watchdog. So, when you’re talking about the Spanish Mastiff, you now know exactly what you’re getting!

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History of the breed

An ancient breed, the Spanish Mastiff was present on the Iberian Peninsula prior to the Roman invasion and is thought to have been brought over by Greeks and Phoenicians from India or Syria.

By the Middle Ages, Spain had emerged as a prime wool production center, and had begun breeding merinos, a new kind of sheep that produced superior wool. The Spanish Shepherds Association, the Mesta, created the oldest written records about this breed, with documents from the 15th century citing the Spanish Mastiff’s invaluable role in protecting valuable flocks from large predators.

One document dating from 1526 tells of 3.5 million sheep being herded across Spain in the company of Spanish Mastiffs and shepherds. Not at one time, of course. Such regular mass migrations left an indelible mark on Spanish culture, cementing the Spanish Mastiff’s important role in the nation’s history, earning them mention in literary works and appearances in famous paintings.

By the 20th century, Spanish Mastiffs could be seen in dog shows; however, they didn’t get their official breed standard until 1946. Today, Spanish Mastiffs continue to enjoy popularity as working dogs and pets in their home country and have earned the status of national dog.

Side view of Spanish Mastiff in black and white

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From head to tail

Physical characteristics of Spanish Mastiffs

1. Head

Broad, well-proportioned head with strong jaws.

2. Ears

Relatively small, almond-shaped eyes with attentive expression.

3. Neck

Neck is broad and muscled with a double dewlap.

4. Body

Rectangular, well-muscled body with massive chest.

5. Tail

Fringed tail is thick at root and carried low.

Close-up of Spanish Mastiff panting looking at camera

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Things to look out for

From specific breed traits to a general health overview, here are some interesting facts about your Spanish Mastiff
Spanish Mastiff running across dirt and long dried grass

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Caring for your Spanish Mastiff

Grooming, training and exercise tips

Aside from shedding heavily twice a year - big dog, lot of hair - and fully blowing their coat in Spring, the Spanish Mastiff has a double coat that can be maintained with frequent brushing and the occasional bath to keep odours at bay. But be sure to have some wipes handy since these dogs drool. Also, keep nails trimmed, check and clean their ears regularly, and establish a solid dental routine. Despite being huge and content to laze about and cuddle, Spanish Mastiffs are surprisingly agile and athletic. Make sure they get a couple of hours of daily exercise, which can come in the form of walks combined with a good jog around the backyard or a game of fetch. One of the hallmarks of the Spanish Mastiff’s personality is their independent, sometimes headstrong nature, which can make training them a challenge. It’s essential that you establish yourself as the herder - and not the herded. Plenty of structure early in life and training from an experienced hand will help your Spanish Mastiff become an excellent, well-natured companion.

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All about Spanish Mastiffs

Spanish Mastiffs are generally calm and patient and so do fairly well around children once trained. However, it is best not to leave them unattended around smaller children as their sheer size can increase the likelihood of an accident, albeit unintentional.

Spanish Mastiffs are naturally territorial, so when they haven’t been frequently introduced to other dogs, their protective instincts tend to kick in rather quickly. Of course, early socialisation and training can up their chances of better adapting to the presence of other animals; however, Spanish Mastiffs are best as single pets.

Other breeds that might interest you.

Sources

1 - Veterinary Centers of America https://vcahospitals.com/ 

2 - Royal Canin Dog Encyclopaedia. Ed 2010 and 2020

3 - Banfield Pet Hospital https://www.banfield.com/

4 - Royal Canin BHN Product Book

5 - American Kennel Club https://www.akc.org/