Tibetan Mastiff Dog

PetMD Editorial
Written by:
PetMD Editorial
Published: September 15, 2009

The Tibetan Mastiff dog is a watchful, guardian breed. Impressively large, with noble bearing, it has a solemn but kind expression and a beautiful black, brown, blue/grey coat. Although the origins of the Tibetan Mastiff remain a mystery, it is thought to be one of the most influential and ancient breeds.

Physical Characteristics

The powerful, heavy, and athletic Tibetan Mastiff easily combines agility and strength. The dog’s body is short and slightly long. Its walk is deliberate and slow, and its trot is light-footed and powerful. This impressive dog also has a kindly but serious expression.

Male dogs have heavier coats, which is generally thick and long, particularly around the shoulders and neck. Its hind legs and tail are also densely coated. The hair is straight, hard, and rough, standing away from the dog's body.

In winter, the breed carries a dense undercoat, but not in warm weather. The Tibetan Mastiff can endure extremes of weather because of this combination of coat varieties.

Personality and Temperament

The territorial, independent, and strong-willed Tibetan Mastiff has been traditionally used as a protector and a solitary sentry. Although patient and gentle with familiar people, it may become aggressive and attempt to guard the home from strangers. To make it less suspicious and anxious, socialize the dog early on. There is also little fear of a Tibetan Mastiff attacking another dog, as most of these dogs behave well with other animals.


Coat care consists of weekly brushing; however, daily brushing is required when the dog undergoes its seasonal shedding. The longer hair on the tail, ruff, and britches require special attention. The dog's exercise requirements can be met with a long on-leash walk, as well as access to an outdoor yard.

The Tibetan Mastiff can live comfortably in warm, dry climates, and in cold temperatures because of its weather-resistant coat. However, a hot and humid climate is not suitable for the dog.

It prefers to live indoors with its family, and is considered a calm house pet. Despite this, some Tibetan Mastiffs have been known to bark loudly at night or become bored, destructive, and frustrated when forced to live in a closed space. In fact, young Tibetan Mastiffs are regarded as among the most destructive dogs in the world.


The Tibetan Mastiff dog, which has an average lifespan of 11 to 14 years, suffers from minor health ailments like canine hip dysplasia (CHD) and hypothyroidism. It is sometimes troubled with canine inherited demyelinative neuropathy, entropion, and seizures. Hip and thyroid tests are useful for the breed. Female Tibetan Mastiffs have a single estrus every year.

History and Background

The origins of the Tibetan Mastiff have been lost, even though it is thought to be one of the most influential and ancient breeds. According to archaeological records, remains of massive dogs dating back to 1100 B.C. were found in China. These dogs may have moved with Genghis Khan and Attila the Hun, thereby providing original stock for the Tibetan Mastiff in Central Asia.

Nomadic peoples distributed the dogs, but were mostly kept in isolated pockets due to the high mountains that separated the valley and plateaus. Most were used as hardy guard dogs for the local monasteries and villages. At night, the dogs were allowed to roam the village, but during the day they were kept inside or chained to gates.

The breed was first introduced outside its native home in 1847, when the Viceroy of India gifted Siring, a large Tibetan Mastiff dog, to Queen Victoria. In 1874, the breed gained a good deal of exposure when the Prince of Wales imported two specimens and displayed them in a dog show. However, it wasn't until 1931 that the Tibetan Breeds Association in England formulated a standard for the breed.

After China's invasion of Tibet in the 1950s, only a few of the dogs remained. The dogs survived by escaping to bordering nations or remaining in isolated mountain villages.

In the 1970s, stock from India and Nepal was brought to develop breeding programs in the United States. As the imports arrived from a variety of genetic bases, the breed has different styles and sizes today. Some function as livestock protectors, while most are kept as family guardians and companions.

In 2005, the American Kennel Club placed the Tibetan Mastiff into its Miscellaneous class.

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