Tibetan Mastiff and puppy

Year of the Dogs: Tibetan Mastiff


Let’s take a look at a friend of the Lhasa Apso, our last featured dog.

Today we’re looking at the Tibetan Mastiff.

Tibetan Mastiff in the snow

The Tibetan Mastiff’s English name simply refers to it being a Tibetan dog with a body of the general mastiff type, although this is technically incorrect. Other names suggested for accuracy are Tibetan Mountain Dog and Himalayan Mountain Dog. In Tibetan it is known as Drog-Khyi (འབྲོག་ཁྱི), a name that alternatively means “nomad dog”, “dog which may be tied”, or “dog which may be kept”.

The Tibetan Mastiff is a very large, very solid dog. It is normal for them to reach heights of 83cm and weigh up to 90kg. Some non-Tibetan kennels however breed colossal versions that can weigh 115kg or more. Their long, thick and heavy coat is double layered and found in a wide variety of colours. These colours can include solid black, black and tan, various shades of red, and bluish-gray with white markings often featuring on all types. All the different coats feature a remarkable ability to shed dirt and odors, and all feature a large yearly molt on top of regular shedding.

As it’s name suggests the Tibetan Mastiff originates with Himalayan nomads, where it is believed to have been domesticated from wolves 16,000 years earlier than most other breeds. Studies have also suggested them as a possible ancestor of dogs like the Great Pyrenees, Bernese Mountain Dog, Rottweiler and Saint Bernard. The spread of the breed to the rest of the world was a slow one until they achieved lasting international popularity in the 1980s.

Living with nomads these dogs were originally guardians of flocks and tents. It is reported that during the day they would be kept tied in place, and at night were released to freely patrol their domain. Even without human intervention puppies would sometimes be born unusually large and heavy. These dogs would lack the mobility the nomads required, and instead become guardians of temples. These heavy “temple types” would guard while the exterior of temples while the much smaller Lhasa Apsos would patrol the interior corridors. Nowadays they continue to work in their traditional roles in their homeland, but elsewhere they are usually companions.

Do you have a favourite breed you want to see featured next?