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Tibetan Mastiff

Tibetan Mastiff


Among the most ancient of breeds, the Tibetan Mastiff’s origins have long been lost. Archeological 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, and developed into camp guardians of herdsmen. Their nomadic lifestyle furthered their distribution, but high mountains created isolated populations. The Tibetan Mastiff was also used to guard villages and monasteries, usually being chained up by day and allowed free roam at night. Except for some accounts documented by Marco Polo during his journey in 1271, the breed was largely unknown outside its native Tibet until 1847, when the Viceroy of India sent one to Queen Victoria. Then two dogs imported by the Prince of Wales gained yet more exposure at a dog show in 1874. 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, mistakenly, as he had requested two Tibetan Terriers. They were given to Senator Harry Darby, who bred them. But sadly, the fate of the breeding pair and their progeny was not documented. New stock from Nepal and India arrived in America in the 1970s. These imports came from a wide genetic base, accounting for the natural variations in size and style that we see today. In 2005 this ancient breed was finally entered into the AKC.


The breed standard clearly states that the Tibetan Mastiff is aloof and protective. They are very independent by nature, strong willed and extremely territorial. The Tibetan Mastiff makes an extremely loyal family dog, showing both tolerance and patience, especially with children. But because of their fierce protectiveness, it is advisable to introduce them to strangers carefully, keeping them on a lead for a while at first when new people come into the home. The Tibetan Mastiff is a powerful, heavy and well-built dog that needs companionship and must never be allowed to get bored. They are highly intelligent and reserved with people outside their immediate family. They are generally good with other animals and are rarely dog aggressive.

Breed Standards:

  • Working Group (Miscellaneous)
  • Males are a minimum 26 inches at withers, 90-150 pounds
  • Females are a minimum 24 inches at withers, 80-110 pounds
  • Full height is reached during puppyhood
  • Full body maturity is reached at 2 - 3 years for females, and 4 – 4 ½ years for males
  • Average litter = 6 – 8 puppies
  • Average life span is 11 - 14 years
  • Double coated with outer coat consisting of long, straight, coarse hairs and undercoat ranging from cottony to woolly in consistency.
  • Colors = Black, brown and gray or blue, and various shades of gold, all with or without tan markings

Everyday Care:

  • Exercise: Tibetan Mastiffs need daily walks and an outdoor yard. Constant training and socialization are needed to insure good temperament.
  • Feeding: It is best to feed two or three meals a day instead of only feeding once. A Tibetan Mastiff should never be exercised one hour before feeding or for two hours afterwards. And they should never be allowed to gulp water.
  • Grooming: Tibetan Mastiffs should be brushed three or four times weekly except in the spring when they “blow coat” at which time they should be brushed daily more than once. They rarely need to be bathed, as this can actually damage their coats. Ears should be checked weekly and cleaned if needed. And nails should be trimmed when you can hear them clicking as the dog walks across the floor.
  • Attention: The Tibetan Mastiff is not suited to living outdoors, as they strongly need to be integrated into family life. They are prone to boredom, and destructive behavior, so the more attention and training you can give them, the better.

Health Considerations:

  • Hip & Elbow Dysplasia
  • Entropion
  • Canine Inherited Demyelinative Neuropathy
  • Gastric Torsion (Bloat)
  • Autoimmune Hypothyroidism
  • Osteochondritis Dissecans
  • Panosteitis

Am I Right for You?

  • My guarding instincts are strong, so you must be willing to keep a close eye on me when strangers are around, and you must be able to keep me under control.
  • For centuries my duties have been nighttime sentinel for my villagers, so I am prone to bellowing at night.
  • It is essential that I have a sturdy high fence that cannot be jumped, scaled or dug under.
  • You must be willing to give me lots of attention and time, as I am easily bored and become very destructive when finding ways to occupy myself.
  • You must supervise me closely with the children, as I will guard against visiting children who may appear to be threatening my family’s children.
  • Because of my size, substance and strength, you will need to be the kind of person who can command my respect and always be in control.
  • You must be willing to be consistent with obedience training and socialization.
  • I am a serious shedder, so you must be willing to groom me on a daily basis. Males carry a heavier coat than the females.