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Tibetan Mastiff Ancient Dog Breed

Updated on December 20, 2014

Tibetan Mastiff


The Tibetan Mastiff is a very ancient breed of dog. According to the American Kennel Club website its origins are uncertain but known records tell of a large dog in China about the year 1100 B.C. The dog was in the Himalayan Mountains where it was away from other influences and developed into the current day dog. The website for Animal Planet breed selector also states, the Tibetan Mastiff is “among the most ancient and influential breeds. Animal Planet further states that the dog’s origins are no longer known. However, there is archaeological evidence of massive dogs as far back as 1100 B.C. in Chinat. Dogs like the Tibetan Mastiff could have traveled with Attila the Hun and Genghis khan and been the beginnings of the mastiffs in Central Asia Outside of Tibet the breed was rather unknown until 1847, according to Animal Planet. It is considered a primitive breed as it retains behavior it would have needed in its beginnings in Tibet, such as canine pack behavior, according to Wikipedia.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) describes the Tibetan Mastiff as: an “impressive large dog” with “noble bearing” and “aloof and watchful guardian.” They have a double coat which can be black, brown or blue grey. They shed coats once a year, but should still be brushed regularly. They might have tan markings with various shades of gold.

Dog Breed Info Center describes the breed as “a massive, giant dog with sturdy bone structure.” It has a wrinkled head that is broad, heavy and strong.


  • Working group
  • Very intelligent
  • Very independent
  • Recognized by AKC in 2006
  • Family and property guardian
  • 24in to 26in at shoulder
  • Weight 140-170 lbs.

According to – website the average Tibetan:

  • Likes to bark
  • Likes to chew
  • Headstrong and independent
  • Slanted eyes, ears almond shaped, shades of brown
  • Ears V-shaped
  • Tail, feathered, curled over back


  • Space, mental stimulation, and exercise
  • Socialization and obedience training
  • Safely fenced in yard
  • Crate training
  • Structure and firm leadership


Protective dog

When these dogs originally traveled with nomadic herdsmen they were often left behind to guard the families and belongings of the group while the flocks were being moved, usually to higher ground. The dogs are highly intelligent and independent, a necessary trait when the dogs had to work away from the herders. According to Wikipedia they are and ancient breed that were guardians of herds, flocks, tents, villages, monasteries and palaces.

For the modern owner of such dogs they are primarily a guardian for the family and property. In early times they were kept confined during the day but let out at night. When outdoors they are usually quite active

When a Tibetan Mastiff was given to Queen Victoria of England in the 1800s the breed came out of isolation, according to the Dog Breed Info center. This led to a standard being written and the start of breeding in England. The United States started importing the breed from India, Nepal, Ladakh and Afghanistan in the 1970’s. It is rare in Tibet, but the Tibetan Mastiff is getting more popular in the United States and England, according to Dog Breed Info. It was recognized by the AKC in 2006.

Various sources emphasis that the dog is intelligent and independent, thus needing the owner to be a strong dominant leader. The authority can be expressed in a quiet but firm manner, but the human must be the leader.

Not a Mastiff?

Considering that this breed is so old it is, oddly, not really a Mastiff, according to Wikipedia. The name was used because the name has a meaning of “large dog.” “Early visitors to Tibet misnamed several of its breeds,” according to Wikipedia’s article on Mastiffs. They state that “Tibetan Mountain dog” would have been a better name.

Breed standing today

According to the AKC the breed may participate in shows in the United States but “may not enjoy participating in organized activities such as obedience or agility due to their highly independent natures.”

They first competed in the Westminster Kennel C lub Dog show in 2008, according to Wikipedia.

Copyright 2012 Don Hoglund

© 2012 Don A. Hoglund


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    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 3 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Hi Phyllis! Thanks for reading about the Tibetan Mastiff. I am not familiar with the legend you mention, but it sounds like the kind of thing these dogss might be used for.

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 3 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      Hi Don. I have always had high regard for the Tibetan Mastiff. They are a beautiful breed, very large and very protective of the home and territory. I often wonder about the huge dog in the ancient Irish legend of Cuchulain. The dog was kept inside the castle during the day and let out at night to guard the castle and surrounding area. The legendary aspects and description of the dog is much like that of the Tibetan Mastiff.

      I enjoyed reading this hub. Thank you for writing it.

    • colorfulone profile image

      Susie Lehto 3 years ago from Minnesota

      I like large dogs that are good guardians and protectors. I do not like when dogs bark a lot. These are beautiful creatures, but I am not sure that I could handle one because of their size. And, I sure would not want all the fur shedding indoors. They would do well in this cold climate with a good insulted dog house. Although, the bears and wolves would be kept at bay, I'm sure.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Thanks, Rosemay, for the update.

    • Rosemay50 profile image

      Rosemary Sadler 5 years ago from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand

      The pups were fine and good homes were found for them all. The runt was only a quarter size of the others and his back legs were twisted so the vet wanted to put him to sleep too. But my friend wouldn't hear of it, she splintered his legs with ice-block sticks and he clip-clopped around but his legs did atraighten and he didn't seem to have any problem with them. He had a lovely character.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Rosemay, thanks for your commenting. That is a sad story. I've never lived on a farm so it is hard to judge the situation you describe. I hope the pups were raised OK.

    • Rosemay50 profile image

      Rosemary Sadler 5 years ago from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand

      I had a friend with 2 Tibetan Mastiff and they were definitely independent and headstrong, more so the female. They were lovely dogs, all black except for brown marking on the face. Unfortunately she got out one evening, surprisingly leaving her 5 almost weaned pups behind and was seen running with 2 other dogs who had worried a sheep and therefore had to be put to sleep. It is not known if she took part but the risk was there. My friends hadn't even realised she'd been out because she'd gone home again and was back with her pups.

      But they were beautiful dogs.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Hi Rob. glad to see you here. I like big dogs but as I get older I tend to think smaller dogs are a bit more practical. Thanks for commenting.

    • Robwrite profile image

      Rob 5 years ago from Oviedo, FL

      Hi Dahoglund; I enjoyed the hub. I love big dogs.


    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Bethperry, Thank you for commenting.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      drbj, yes, they are large.It can be a good trait in working dogs to be independent and able to do things without the master directing them. In pets it can sometimes be a problem. I appreciate your readin the hub and commenting on it.

    • bethperry profile image

      Beth Perry 5 years ago from Tennesee

      Gorgeous dogs - I want one!

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 5 years ago from south Florida

      What a beautiful animal, Don. And LARGE! I can see how its master would have to be a strong person, too. Thanks for this new-to-me canine information.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      KoffeeKlatchGals, they do like to chew. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Haze 5 years ago from Sunny Florida

      I think Mastiff's are beautiful dogs. The only thing I ever took exception to is the chewing. They are great family dogs. Up and interesting.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Hi Susan. Thanks for commenting. They are interesting dogs.

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      The Tibetan Mastiff is a gorgeous breed. Very interesting hub.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Hi Wayne, I'm not a cat person so I don't know how that analogy would work. I would say the Tibetan Mastiff would be more comparable to the Australian Kelpie or The Siberian Huskies, who are intelligent dogs but also bred to be independent and make independent decisions. They do also take strong leadership qualities from the handler. Thanks for being the first to comment.

    • Wayne Brown profile image

      Wayne Brown 5 years ago from Texas

      So are we to conclude that they are much "cat-like" in nature and do not respond well to instruction? That might be difficult to deal with in such a large animal. Good info and a good write. WB


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