Tibetan Mastiff

AKC Working Group


Photo copyright © Cook PhoDOGraphy. All rights reserved

Photo copyright © Cook PhoDOGraphy. All rights reserved

The ancient Tibetan Mastiff, a descendant of the Mollossus Mastiff, may have been in existence as early as the Stone Age or Bronze Age. Mollossian dogs accompanied Alexander the Great from Tibet to Europe, and during this period helped found many of today’s other Mastiff breeds. Tibet later closed its doors to Westerners, so the breed developed for centuries in relative isolation. In the mid-1800s, a Tibetan Mastiff was given to Queen Victoria of England. Soon more dogs were imported to England and the British began to refine and standardize the breed. In the 1970s foundation stock was imported from India, Ladakh, Afghanistan, and Nepal to the United States. The Tibetan Mastiff is very rare in his native land, though some dogs are now being exported from Tibet. The breed is gaining popularity in England and the United States. The Tibetan Mastiff is an excellent livestock guardian, willing to fight fiercely against predators and intruders. Tibetan Mastiffs are also outstanding guard dogs. In Tibet, dogs were often tied up from 2 months of age to enhance their aggressive tendencies. One dog was sometimes used to guard an entire village. As a result of these practices and Tibetan selection for function, English-bred dogs are much more trainable and controllable than those from Tibet. The Tibetan Mastiff is recognized by the FCI (Federation Cynological International), and is now a member of the AKC Working Group. The breed can also be shown at Rare Breed and American Tibetan Mastiff Association dog shows. The American Tibetan Mastiff Association (ATMA) is the oldest existing club for the breed in the United States.


The Tibetan Mastiff is a large dog with a broad, massive head and a heavy, dense, medium- length coat. The bear-like head is wedge-shaped with a wide, blunt muzzle and strongly defined stop. The upper lip usually covers the lower lip. Some wrinkling from eyes to mouth corners is present. The nose is large and generally black. The teeth form a scissors or level bite. The V-shaped, thick-leathered ears hang down. Mature dogs, particularly males, tend to have moderate dewlap. The body is slightly longer than tall, and the legs are heavy-boned and powerful. The topline is straight and level, and there is a pronounced tuck-up. Single or double rear dewclaws may be present (removal is optional). Front dewclaw removal is also optional. The coat forms a heavy ruff around the neck. The hair on the head is short. The plumed tail curls over the back in spitz fashion. Color is black, brown, or gray (all with or without tan markings); or shades of sable or gold. White markings may be present on the breast and feet.

Key Facts

  • Height:  26 to 29 in. (male); 24 to 27 in. (female)
  • Size:  Very large
  • Weight:  140 to 189 lbs.
  • Availability:  Very difficult to find
  • Talents:  Livestock guardian, watchdog, and guarding


Bitches generally only have one heat per year, usually between October and December (in most other breeds, two heats are the rule). Tibetan Mastiffs like to climb and dig. Expect these dogs to try to escape from their pens. A six foot fence (with an undiggable surface below) is the minimum requirement for safe confinement of a Tibetan Mastiff. Be sure to bring the Tibetan Mastiff indoors at night, since he was bred to be a nocturnal barker. Fairly quiet in the house. Good for allergy sufferers. The thick double coat sheds only once a year during a four week period in spring or summer. Easy to housebreak. The Tibetan Mastiff requires daily walks, but should not be over-exercised. Jogging is too hard on the joints due to the breed’s size. Beware of hip dysplasia. Buy only from OFA certified stock. Also subject to skin conditions, thyroid problems, ear infections and an unusual genetic problem called Canine Inherited Demyelinative Neuropathy (CIDN). CIDN symptoms usually appear at 7-10 weeks. If a dog has the condition, he will die before 4 months of age. There is no test currently known for the disease and carriers can only be identified through mating. Ask breeders about CIDN history in their lines and avoid lines with evidence of the disease if you would like to breed your dog. Tibetan Mastiff breeders have been very conscientious about this problem and its incidence is now very low, though it is still present in the breed.


Very protective and territorial. Brave and fearless when properly socialized. Aloof and dignified. Noble. Gentle with family. Somewhat strong-willed, but with a desire to please. Very determined. Patient and loyal. Highly intelligent and bred to take initiative. Tibetan Mastiffs should be supervised when introduced to other animals, but can do well if raised with them. If the owner wishes to add a second dog to the household, a mellow individual of the opposite sex, spayed or neutered, preferably of a non-dominant breed, is recommended. This breed, though highly valued as a guard in his homeland, does not have a history of close association with people. The Tibetan Mastiff must be thoroughly socialized and trained to become the fine family guard and companion he can be.


  • Children:  Good only when raised with children from puppyhood
  • Friendliness:  Very wary of strangers; highly protective
  • Trainability:  Somewhat difficult to train
  • Independence:  Fairly independent
  • Dominance:  Very high
  • Other Pets:  Good with other pets if raised with them from puppyhood
  • Combativeness:  Tends to be fairly dog-aggressive
  • Noise:  Likes to bark
  • Indoors:  Relatively inactive indoors
  • Owner:  Not recommended for novice owners


  • Grooming:  Regular grooming needed
  • Trimming and Stripping:  No trimming or stripping needed
  • Coat:  Medium coat
  • Shedding:  Seasonally heavy shedder
  • Exercise:  Moderate exercise needed
  • Jogging:  A poor jogging companion
  • Apartments:  Not recommended for apartments
  • Outdoor Space:  Best with a large yard
  • Climate:  Prefers cool climates
  • Longevity:  Long (15 years or more)

Useful Links

AKC® Tibetan Mastiff Breed Standard


Tibetan Mastiff Breed Club


Search for a Breeder


Rescue Organizations


Books about the Tibetan Mastiff


Tibetan Mastiff Gifts