The mastiff is a large dog ideally suited for use as a guard dog. Mastiffs are one of the larger dog breeds in existence and are distinguished by a large powerful body, a wide head, a limited range of coloring and a black mask. They are gentle dogs, but alert and fiercely protective of their group, making them highly prized and valuable companions for humans. Descended from the Alaunt group of dogs, the original mastiffs were from Britain and known as the English Mastiff.
The greatest range of mastiff breeds occurs in Europe where many countries have developed their own unique mastiff dogs. In Germany, the German Mastiff is more popularly known as the massive Great Dane. The French have their own mastiff breed known as the Dog de Bordeaux. There is the Alpine Mastiff or St Bernard, the Pyrenean Mastiff, the Spanish Mastiff and the Neapolitan Mastiff from Italy known for its wrinkly appearance.
In America, the American Mastiff can be traced back to one breeder who in the 1990s crossed an English Mastiff with an Anatolian Mastiff. One of the most well-known breeds of mastiff is the fearsome Brazilian Mastiff, more popularly known as the Fila Brasiliero, which was crossed with a Bloodhound and has a very aggressive nature. There is also the Argentinean Mastiff -- known as the Dogo Argentino and developed for large game-hunting -- the Cuban Mastiff and the Gran Mastin de Borinquen or Puerto Rican Mastiff.
Asia has many breeds of mastiff dogs such as the Korean Mastiff – also known as the dosa gae. They were introduced to Korea in the 19th century and mainly used as house guards. There is the furry Tibetan Mastiff known for its long, thick coat, and the Japanese Mastiff, also known as the Tosa, which is a fierce breed bred for fighting.
Other notable breeds of mastiff include the South African Mastiff or boerbul, the Anatolian Mastiff from Turkey -- an agile and speedy breed known for guarding sheep and other livestock herds -- and the Bully Kutta from Pakistan. The Bullmastiff is a common breed widespread throughout the world and said to be a cross between the English Mastiff and the Bulldog.