Tibetan Mastiff Dog Breed: What You Need to Know

Tibetan Mastiff

The Tibetan Mastiff is a large dog that originates from ancient Tibet, China and Nepal. The breed was originally used as a form of protection by those wishing to keep their sheep safe from leopards that hunted them and prevented their owners from being able to trade them, sell them and make a living off the animals. Because of their large stature and their impressive ability to intimidate by sight alone, the Tibetan Mastiff was a natural protector and keeper of the sheep. What’s interesting about this breed is that its history is a bit different from that of other dog breeds. Find out what makes the Tibetan Mastiff stand apart from other breeds, and what to expect with a dog this size.

Breed History

The Tibetan Mastiff is not like other dogs. Not only is it quite large in comparison to other breeds, it’s actually been proven that this breed is older than any other dog breed in the world. A study at the Nanjing Agricultural University Laboratory of Animal Reproductive Genetics and Molecular Evolution (Nanjing, China) finds that the Tibetan Mastiff is actually a dog that derives from the wolf more than 58,000 years ago, rather than the 42,000 years ago that it’s believed other dog breeds originated from the wolf. This particular study has been called questionable and unreliable, but it’s still being cited as an interesting piece of history surrounding the Tibetan Mastiff and its rich history.

The breed was growing in popularity in England in the 19th century when King George IV brought two into his palace, but the later war caused the breed to begin to die out and become a lot less popular in the area, not to regain its popularity until the 1980s. Today, the breed is more popular than ever even if it is not one of the most common breeds.

Temperament and Personality

The Tibetan Mastiff is a dog that has a big personality and a surprisingly calm temperament. Those who see this dog might assume that it is dangerous and aggressive thanks to its large body and its intimidating look, but it’s actually a very calm and very sweet dog. Used to protect, this is a dog with a very impressive work ethic, and the breed does love a job. The Tibetan Mastiff is very friendly and loving to those it calls family, but it’s not a dog that always takes well to strangers. It will not present an aggressive nature when strangers approach, but it will remain aloof and wary of their presence – as any good guard dog will.

The Tibetan Mastiff is very much a nocturnal animal, often sleeping most of the day away so that it can stay awake at night to protect the household from unwanted predators. It is not a dog that wants to see anything that it considers threatening, and it will warn you when it perceives danger or anyone approaching.

Tibetan Mastiffs are very intelligent, but they are also stubborn. They do require obedience training and they are very powerful dogs. They are wonderful family dogs when they are properly trained and living with a human that is the alpha in the relationship.

Health Expectations

It’s common to realize that many large breeds tend to live shorter lives than smaller breeds. However, this is not true of the Tibetan Mastiff. If you want a dog that lives a long time and is also a large dog, this might be the one for you. The average life expectancy of the Tibetan Mastiff is anywhere from 10 to 14 years, which is long for a dog this size. However, there is an overpopulation of the breed right now since the popularity has increased so much, and that means that many less than professional ‘breeders’ are creating inbred lines that have serious health problems and live much shorter lives.

As far as health is concerned, there are not many health issues to worry about in regards to the Tibetan Mastiff. However, being a large dog means that it is prone to issues such as allergies and autoimmune issues. Being large, it also has a tendency to suffer from hip and/or elbow dysplasia. However, it is not a guarantee that your dog will suffer from any health issues or that it won’t suffer from one or more of the most common health issues associated with this breed. Other health issues you might expect from the Tibetan Mastiff include:





Cushing’s Disease

Addison’s Disese



Cardiac issues


Retinal atrophy

Small earn canals

Eye issues

The 1980s brought about a number of bred lines of Tibetan Mastiff that suffer from something called demyelinative neuropathy, which is an inherited condition that does tend to show up in poorly bred Tibetan Mastiffs still today. This is why it is important to find only the most reputable breeds and work only with them when choosing a dog of this breed.

Lifestyle and Expectation

The Tibetan Mastiff does make a wonderful pet. It is friendly and loving at home, and it does get along well with other animals. When it is raised with children, it does quite well with them. However, this is not the kind of dog that can live happily in an apartment. It does require a sizable home with a big yard that’s fenced in and provides the breed a space in which to run around and enjoy. Additionally, the Tibetan Mastiff is not a dog that can live outdoors full time. This is a dog that should be brought indoors at least at night since it does spend the entire night awake and barking at anything that comes near. If you have squirrels or cats or raccoons that roam the neighborhood, this is going to pose a problem for those who want to sleep at night rather than hearing the dog bark warnings every few moments.

Size is important when it comes to the Tibetan Mastiff, and that’s why we’ve saved the best for last. This particular breed is very large. It can reach anywhere up to 33 inches tall and can weigh anywhere up to 160 pounds.

Photo by Getty Images

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