Mastiffs are a group of large, solidly built
of dogs typically
with heavy bones, pendant ears, a relatively short and well-muscled neck, and a
short muzzle. The
English Mastiff breed is also sometimes called simply a Mastiff.
Although some mastiff breeds are used for
search and rescue, such as the
Saint Bernard and the
Newfoundland, most are used as
due to their deep voices and natural guarding instincts, or
dogs, not for actual herding but for protection against large predators as
well as poachers. Some breeds like the
Greater Swiss Mountain Dog have also been used as cart dogs.
The word "Mastiff" is derived from Old French mastin or Provençal
mastis, which both derive from Vulgar Latin *mansuetinus
"domesticated". The form of the word is also influenced by another Old French
word, namely mestif "mongrel".
Other words for "mastiff" are "molosser" (from
Molossia, a country once located in what is now Western Greece), "dogge"
(Germanic) and "dogue" or "dogo" (romance languages).
The origin of the Mastiff is disputed, but
bas-relief carvings of Mastiffs found in
back as far as approximately 640 BC. Many believe that the
Tibetan Mastiff is the ancestor of modern Mastiffs, although there is little
evidence to support this theory. It is a fact, though, that large watchdogs have
existed in Asia and
Middle East for several thousand years.
Some of today's Mastiff breeds come from the
British Isles and points farther north, which accounts for their thick coats
and solid build. The name "Mastiff" is also used specifically for one breed,
also known as the
English Mastiff or Old English Mastiff.
The Bulldog breeds split from the Mastiffs in England and spread to the New
World with colonization as well as Western Europe and, though smaller, are
considered by some to still be mastiff breeds.
Mastiff breeds include the following:
This list is
incomplete; you can help by
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