Many people first fell in love with mastiffs after seeing Turner and Hooch and the massive, drooling French mastiff who was actually named Beasley according to Dogster. There's a lot to love about these massive, good-natured dogs, but if you're considering getting a mastiff, you should first do a little research on the different types of mastiffs.
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Types of mastiffs
While the bull mastiff is the best known of the mastiff breeds and many people believe all mastiffs are bull mastiffs, in actuality, a bull mastiff is a type of mastiff dog, just like a Labrador retriever is a type of retriever. Other types of mastiffs include the Neapolitan mastiff, the Spanish mastiff, French mastiff and the English mastiff. When someone just uses the phrase "mastiff," they usually mean the English mastiff. While these breeds are all similar, they each have slight differences as well.
Characteristics of a bull mastiff
Sometimes called an English bull mastiff, bull mastiffs originated in England and are distinct both from English mastiffs and all other mastiff breeds. Pediaa says they were first used in the 1800s to protect English estates from poachers. They didn't attack poachers so much as tackle them and pin them in place until the estate owners returned.
As you might imagine, dogs that can pin people to the ground tend to be rather large and, yes, the bull mastiff size is very notable indeed. The American Kennel Club standards for a bull mastiff list it as standing about 24-to-27 inches tall at the shoulders and weighing 100-to-130 pounds. The dog's life expectancy is only about 8-to-10 years, and while large, they do not need a lot of exercise. Bull mastiffs have broad heads with dark eyes, V-shaped ears, long tails and short, smooth coats that come in red, brown or brindle with a black mask over the eyes.
Bull mastiff vs. English mastiff
Many people confuse bull mastiffs with English mastiffs, which makes sense, given that the bull mastiff breed was created by mixing an English mastiff with an English bulldog. When comparing a bull mastiff vs. an English mastiff, one of the most notable differences is that while bull mastiffs only come in red, brindle or brown, English mastiff colors include silver, light brown, brindle, golden brown, dark brown or apricot. English mastiffs are also larger, with the AKC listing males as standing as high as 30 inches at the shoulder and weighing 150-to-250 pounds. Females are a little smaller, at 27.5-inches tall and between 120-and-170 pounds. English mastiffs also live a little longer, with an average life expectancy of 10-to-12 years.
Neapolitan mastiff characteristics
Like English mastiffs, Neapolitan mastiffs come in many colors, including black, red, tan, brindle and a gray coat often called "blue." They are particularly notable for their saggy face, with extremely long jowls. Neapolitan mastiffs are even larger than English mastiffs, with the AKC listing males standing as high as 31-inches tall and weighing anywhere upwards of 150 pounds. Females may be anywhere from 24-to-29 inches tall and weigh 110 pounds or more. The life expectancy for a Neapolitan mastiff is shorter than bull mastiffs or English mastiffs, coming in at only 7 to-9 years. Fans of Harry Potter may recognize Neapolitan mastiffs as the breed of Fang, Hagrid's massive pet dog.
Spanish mastiff characteristics
The biggest difference between Spanish mastiffs and other mastiff breeds is that the Spanish mastiff has a medium-length coat whereas the rest have short coats. This gives this breed a fluffy appearance. The coat can come in a variety of colors including black, fawn, red, gray and yellow, and can feature brindle or white markings. Spanish mastiffs can be taller than all other mastiff breeds, with the AKC listing their height standing at 28 to-35 inches at the shoulder, regardless of gender. They usually weigh between 140-and-200 pounds and can live 10-to-12 years.
Characteristics of French mastiffs
Also known as a dogue de Bordeaux, the French mastiff has a more wrinkled face than bull mastiffs, Spanish mastiffs and English mastiffs, though not quite as saggy as the Neapolitan mastiff. Their coat comes only in fawn. They are the smallest of all mastiff breeds, though by no means petite, with their AKC standard stating they should stand between 23-and-27 inches tall at the shoulder, with the males weighing 110 pounds or more and females weighing 99 pounds and up. The dogue de Bordeaux is also the shortest-lived of all mastiffs, with a lifespan of only 6-to-8 years.