Spanish Mastiff (Mastín Español)

Country of origin:
Height (cm):
Weight (kg):
Life span (years):
very large
Hair length:
Recognized by:
FCI code:
Good with kids:
Pros Cons
  • wonderful companion
  • excellent watch and guard dog            
  • calm
  • stubborn
  • not for a family with small children
  • doesn't suit for living in a small apartment
  • daily mental and physical stimulation needed

The Spanish Mastiff is a giant dog with its origin in Spain. It was initially destined for the role of a livestock guardian whose goal was to defend cattle from marauders and wolves. This dog is treasured for its calm disposition and incredible protectiveness of its master and his family.

The Spanish Mastiff was originally developed in the Spanish region of Estermadura. Its forebear, the ancient Molosser dog, reached the Iberian Peninsula more than 2000 ago. It was brought to this area by the Greeks and Phoenician merchants, who did business with indigenous tribes. Gradually these dogs were mixed with local canine population and evolved in the Spanish Mastiff we know today. It’s believed that the dog had already fully shaped by the beginning of the XV century. The essential purpose of the breed was to protect the Merino livestock. The colour of its coat allows it to be distinguished from wolves it guarded the sheep from. The dog was really skilful in performing its duties of a guardian as a single specimen was quite sufficient to defend 100 sheep. It was also used as a war dog by the Spaniards in their wars of conquest and served as an ordinary guard dog of various properties.

The first Spanish Mastiff was exhibited in the early XX century but its standard was set up only in 1946. Currently the popularity of this breed in its native Spain equals the popularity of the Labrador Retriever in North America. In fact it represents the national dog breed of Spain with nearly 24 000 specimens living in this country. The density of population of the Mastín español is highest in the province of Leon in north-western Spain, which is called the Spanish Mastiff capital. It is an inborn guardian and in its homeland it’s still kept to guard both livestock and the home. This truly multi-purpose dog also can be trained to carry out police work, military work, tracking and hunting.

The Spanish Mastiff is acknowledged by such reputable dogs’ organisations as the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) and United Kennel Club (UKC). European fanciers appreciate this dog for its tolerance to all kind of weather conditions as well as for its intense defensive instinct. Nonetheless its number outside its native country remains relatively small.

The Spanish Mastiff possesses the temperament, which is fairly typical for such a natural guardian. This bulky dog has quite and balanced demeanour and at times it may even seem sluggish and lazy but it’s a false impression. It demonstrates the utmost fearlessness and surprising agility when things concern defending everything that it perceives as its own. This dog needs extensive and early socialisation in order to become a well-behaved member of both human and canine society. In this case it gets along with children and is remarkably patient with them. However a young Spanish Mastiff is has too turbulent personality and likes to play rough so it’s an unsuitable playmate for a toddler.

The proper socialised dog is quite reliable around strangers but it still retains much of its aloofness around them. Its even disposition purports that the Spanish Mastiff will never become unreasonably aggressive towards an unfamiliar person. Its intimidating appearance and natural alertness make it an excellent watchdog. This alert dog is able to judge the situation very accurately and resorts to violence only in extreme circumstances. That’s why it usually becomes an almost ideal guard dog.

The Spanish Mastiff is usually polite with other canines if it has interacted with them since its puppyhood. This dogs’ owner should know that this breed is rather slow to mature and may preserve its puppy light-heartedness until 2 ½ to 3 years of age. This can potentially create some problems since young dog doesn’t know the rules of proper behaviour in the company of other dogs. As a rule the well-mannered specimen will be quite tolerable towards other species of animals and will live with a home cat in harmony. Nevertheless it’s better if the dog and other pet co-habituate together since an early age.

Health Problems
The most common problems for the breed include:

• canine hip dysplasia;
• hearts problems;
• eyes problems;
• gastric torsion.

The Spanish Mastiff requires insignificant care, which consists of weekly brushing. Regular brushing will help to get rid from any dead hair in the dense coarse coat of this dog. Its ears should be exposed to periodic check-ups since they easily attract dirt and debris. The breed does shed but in average amounts and during shedding periods it needs more frequent brushing.

The Spanish Mastiff is quite problematic as far as it concerns its training. This dog possesses high level of natural intelligence and besides it tends to be very head-strong. In order to train this dog successfully its trainer should earn its respect and become for it a true leader. He should always radiate unshakable confidence in its dominative position to make this stubborn dog obey in any circumstances.

The Spanish Mastiff reacts best to the training techniques, which are grounded on positive reinforcement and its favourite food incentives. On the contrary if you treat your dog harsh than you will completely lose its trust and get self-willed and resentful animal determined to ignore all your commands.

The Spanish Mastiff is oftentimes described as pretty laid-back and even lazy but this observation relates only to the specimens older than 4 years. Young breed members usually boil with energy and therefore need substantial amount of physical exercise.

The fully matured dog will be quite satisfied with two long walks on a daily basis. It will feel itself most happy if it has been trusted with the work it was designed to do, namely guarding. The Spanish Mastiff isn’t advisable for sport-minded person who prefers his dog to jog, run beside a bike, or to play various outdoors games.