Tibetan Mastiff
(AKC Working Group)
Tibetan Mastiff

The Tibetan Mastiff is a large dog with a broad, massive head and a heavy, dense, medium- length coat. The bear-like head is wedge-shaped with a wide, blunt muzzle and strongly defined stop. The upper lip usually covers the lower lip. Some wrinkling from eyes to mouth corners is present. The nose is large and generally black. The teeth form a scissors or level bite. The V-shaped, thick-leathered ears hang down. Mature dogs, particularly males, tend to have moderate dewlap. The body is slightly longer than tall, and the legs are heavy-boned and powerful. The topline is straight and level, and there is a pronounced tuck-up. Single or double rear dewclaws may be present (removal is optional). Front dewclaw removal is also optional. The coat forms a heavy ruff around the neck. The hair on the head is short. The plumed tail curls over the back in spitz fashion. Color is black, brown, or gray (all with or without tan markings); or shades of sable or gold. White markings may be present on the breast and feet.


The ancient Tibetan Mastiff, a descendant of the Mollossus Mastiff, may have been in existence as early as the Stone Age or Bronze Age. Mollossian dogs accompanied Alexander the Great from Tibet to Europe, and during this period helped found many of today’s other Mastiff breeds. Tibet later closed its doors to Westerners, so the breed developed for centuries in relative isolation. In the mid-1800s, a Tibetan Mastiff was given to Queen Victoria of England. Soon more dogs were imported to England and the British began to refine and standardize the breed. In the 1970s foundation stock was imported from India, Ladakh, Afghanistan, and Nepal to the United States. The Tibetan Mastiff is very rare in his native land, though some dogs are now being exported from Tibet. The breed is gaining popularity in England and the United States. The Tibetan Mastiff is an excellent livestock guardian, willing to fight fiercely against predators and intruders. Tibetan Mastiffs are also outstanding guard dogs. In Tibet, dogs were often tied up from 2 months of age to enhance their aggressive tendencies. One dog was sometimes used to guard an entire village. As a result of these practices and Tibetan selection for function, English-bred dogs are much more trainable and controllable than those from Tibet. The Tibetan Mastiff is recognized by the FCI (Federation Cynological International), and is now a member of the AKC Working Group. The breed can also be shown at Rare Breed and American Tibetan Mastiff Association dog shows. The American Tibetan Mastiff Association (ATMA) is the oldest existing club for the breed in the United States.

Key Facts:



Very protective and territorial. Brave and fearless when properly socialized. Aloof and dignified. Noble. Gentle with family. Somewhat strong-willed, but with a desire to please. Very determined. Patient and loyal. Highly intelligent and bred to take initiative. Tibetan Mastiffs should be supervised when introduced to other animals, but can do well if raised with them. If the owner wishes to add a second dog to the household, a mellow individual of the opposite sex, spayed or neutered, preferably of a non-dominant breed, is recommended. This breed, though highly valued as a guard in his homeland, does not have a history of close association with people. The Tibetan Mastiff must be thoroughly socialized and trained to become the fine family guard and companion he can be.