Tibetan Mastiff Guide

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A powerful, heavy, but athletic dog, the Tibetan Mastiff is built to combine strength and agility. Its body is slightly longer than tall. Its walk is slow and deliberate, while its trot is powerful and light-footed. The whole appearance is impressive, with a solemn but kindly expression. The coat, which is noticeably heavier in males than in females, is thick and fairly long, especially around the neck and shoulders. The tail is densely coated and the hind legs well feathered on the upper parts. The hair is coarse, straight and hard, standing off from the body. It carries a heavy undercoat in cold weather, but little undercoat in warm weather. This combination of coat types allows the Tibetan Mastiff to endure the extremes of Tibetan weather.

As befitting their long past as a solitary sentry and protector, Tibetan Mastiffs are independent, strong willed, and territorial. They are aloof toward strangers but devoted to their family. Proper socialization is essential so that they will accept strangers and not become overly suspicious. They are gentle and patient with their children, but may guard their home against visiting children who may appear to be threatening the family children. They are generally good with other dogs and are rarely dog aggressive. (In Tibet, they were often kept with Lhasa Apsos.) Most Tibetan Mastiffs are good with other animals.


FAMILY Mastiff


DATE OF ORIGIN Ancient times


TODAY'S FUNCTION Guardian, companion

AVERAGE SIZE OF MALE Height: 26 Weight: 90 - 150

AVERAGE SIZE OF FEMALE Height: 24 Weight: 80 - 110


Energy level Low energy

Exercise needs Low

Playfullness Moderately playful

Affection level Very affectionate

Friendliness toward other dogs Friendly

Friendliness toward other pets Friendly

Friendliness toward strangers Shy

Ease of training Easy to train

Watchdog ability High

Protection ability Very protective

Grooming needs Moderate maintenance

Cold tolerance High tolerance

Heat tolerance Low tolerance

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The Tibetan Mastiff tends to be calm indoors and moderately active outside.

A long daily leash walk along with access to an outdoor yard should meet its needs. When confined to even a large space, the breed can become bored, frustrated and destructive. In fact, young Tibetan Mastiffs are among dogdom's most skilled demolition experts. Grooming consists of brushing a few times a week (daily during shedding), paying special attention to the longer hair of the britches, tail and ruff. Their weather-resistant coat allows them to be comfortable in cold temperatures and surprisingly comfortable in warm, dry climates, but they are not suited for hot, humid climates. Nor are they suited to living outside, as their temperament suffers unless they are integrated into the family. They like to bark loudly at night. Females have only one estrus each year.

• Major concerns: none
• Minor concerns: CHD, hypothyroidism
• Occasionally seen: entropion, seizures, canine inherited demyelinative neuropathy
• Suggested tests: hip, thyroid
• Life span:11-14 years
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Among the most ancient and influential of breeds, the Tibetan Mastiff's origins have long been lost. Archaeological evidence of massive dogs dating to 1100 B.C. can be found in China; such dogs may have traveled with Attila the Hun and Genghis Khan, providing root stock for mastiffs in Central Asia. Those on the Himalayan plateaus developed into camp guardians of nomadic herdsmen. Their nomadic lifestyle furthered their distribution, but the high mountains separating plateaus and valleys created isolated populations. Thus, a wide range of dogs emerged, with hardiness and guarding ability guiding selection. Besides guarding the campsites, dogs were used to guard villages and monasteries. Village sentries were usually chained to gates and rooftops by day and allowed to roam at night. The breed remained largely unknown outside its native Tibet until 1847, when the Viceroy of India sent a large dog from Tibet named Siring to Queen Victoria; it gained greater exposure when two dogs imported by the Prince of Wales were exhibited at a dog show in 1874. Imports remained at a trickle, and only in 1931 did the Tibetan Breeds Association in England develop a breed standard. With few dogs outside their native country, the breed's future was threatened when China invaded Tibet in the 1950s, displacing the native dogs. Survival depended on fleeing to neighboring countries or retreating to isolated mountain villages. The Dalai Lama sent two dogs to President Eisenhower, but they soon disappeared into obscurity. Only in the 1970s did stock from Nepal and India arrive to found breeding programs in America. The imports came from a wide genetic base, accounting for the natural variation in size and style in the breed today. The Tibetan Mastiff is now mostly a companion and family guardian, although some are used as livestock protectors. In 2005, this ancient breed began a new chapter as it entered the AKC Miscellaneous class.
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