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Spanish Mastiff

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Spanish Mastiff

The Spanish Mastiff is a large to giant breed from Spain that has been around for thousands of years working with farmers and shepherds helping to guard livestock, mostly sheep but sometimes cattle too. It was bred to be imposingly large, brave and strong to defend against wolves and other predators, and also the occasional thief. It is a mountain type dog and its life span is 10 to 12 years. Other Spanish names it can have include Mastín español de campo y trabajo, Mastín ganadero, Mastín Leonés and Mastín Extremeño. There are two regional types of Spanish Mastiff, the more commonly seen heavy one called the Mastin Pesado and the lighter more agile one called Mastin Ligero.

The Spanish Mastiff at a Glance
Name Spanish Mastiff
Other names Mastín español de campo y trabajo, Mastín ganadero, Mastín Leonés, Mastín Extremeño
Nicknames SM
Origin Spain
Average size Large to giant
Average weight 88 to 220 pounds
Average height 26 to 35 inches
Life span 10 to 12 years
Coat type Thick, medium length
Hypoallergenic No
Color Black, red, grey, fawn, yellow and brindle or white markings
Popularity Not yet recognized by the AKC
Intelligence Above average
Tolerance to heat Very good to excellent
Tolerance to cold Very good to excellent
Shedding Average or more – expect fur around the home
Drooling High – as with a lot of large dogs drool and slobber are common
Obesity Average – make sure its food is measured and it gets enough exercise
Grooming/brushing Above average – brush twice a week plus other daily clear up to do like wiping away drool
Barking Occasional – does bark but should not be constant
Exercise needs Moderately active – needs a certain amount of physical activity because of its size but not a dog for super active people who want to jog every day with one
Trainability Moderate – helps if you have experience, its size and independent nature means it can be stubborn
Friendliness Very good with socialization
Good first dog Moderate – do not underestimate the demands of being a giant dog owner
Good family pet Very good with socialization
Good with children Very good with socialization
Good with other dogs Good to very good with socialization
Good with other pets Very good with socialization
Good with strangers Good but wary so socialization is needed to prevent it turning to suspicion
Good apartment dog Low – needs space and a yard and best in rural settings
Handles alone time well Good – can be left for short periods but not long ones
Health issues Quite healthy but a few issues can include bloat, heart problems, eye problems and hip dysplasia
Medical expenses $485 a year as least for basic medical needs and insurance
Food expenses $500 a year for a good quality dry dog food and treats
Miscellaneous expenses $295 for license, toys, miscellaneous items and basic training
Average annual expenses $1280 as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $1,200
Rescue organizations None breed specific, check local shelters and rescues
Biting Statistics None reported

The Spanish Mastiff's Beginnings

The Spanish Mastiff is an ancient breed from Spain and has been around for over two thousand years. It is thought it came to the Iberian Peninsula with the Phoenicians or the Greeks, before even the Romans came to invade and was used to guard and protect livestock. It was able to handle extreme conditions both heat and cold and protected against wolves mainly, moving with the Merino livestock as it moved or migrated. Its color meant that it was able to blend in with its flock but stand out from the attacking predators. In records dating from 1526 reveals that around 3.5 million Merino sheep migrated and for about every 100 of them there was a Spanish Mastiff.

There is also some suggestion that back then the dog was used in battles, and they were also used as draft dogs, to guard property like vineyards, orchards and estates and in the Spanish Civil War guarded munitions. Over the years several crosses were made creating other breeds and two types developed based on a difference in region when means there is a heavier type and a more agile lighter type. It did not appear in dog shows until the early 1900s and no standard was actually created for it until 1946. Unfortunately this did lead at one time to a decline in purebred dogs.

New Lease on Life

Breeders worked to rectify this problems and today the numbers are recovering. It is still used as a livestock guardian and as a companion and protector of Spanish homes and family. While it is popular in Spanish dog shows and in its home land it is not that well known outside of it. It is the national dog of Spain and it is estimated that there are around 24,000 of them in the country. The Spanish Mastiff is to the Spanish what Labrador Retriever is to the US! The northwest area of Spain in the Leon province has the largest amount of Spanish Mastiffs, particularly in the mountain area. In the US the club MECA was formed, Mastin Espanol Club of America to improve the bloodlines. It does well today also in working roles such as police work, guard dog, tracking, military, hunting and watchdog.

The Dog You See Today

The Spanish Mastiff is a large to giant sized dog breed weighing 88 to 220 pounds and standing 26 to 35 inches tall. It is a very powerful and strong and imposing looking breed with much in common on looks to other Mastiff breeds like the Tibetan Mastiff or the Neapolitan Mastiff. Its body is rectangular shaped and it has a large chest with strong bones and rustic robust look. The neck is strong and has a dewlap and the hind feet have double dewclaws. Its tail is held low and has a fringe. The coat is short to medium length and the skin has some loose folds. It is straight and dense and common colors are fawn, grey, yellow, red, black and white or brindle markings.

It has a large powerful head with a deep muzzle, full lips and strong jaws. Its eyes are small and its ears are triangular drop ears. As mentioned there are two types, a larger heavier type that is the one more often seen called the Mastin Pesado and a lighter type called the Mastin Ligero. The heavier type is more common in the north of Spain. It has a larger head, more loose skin and the dewlap is looser. The lighter one is more athletic and agile more common in the south of Spain. Interbreeding can happen.


The Inner Spanish Mastiff


The Spanish Mastiff is a noble and calm dog as an adult but it takes 21/2 to 3 years to reach that maturity. It takes its role as guardian and protector very seriously. With strangers it is aloof and wary so make sure it is well socialized so it does not react with suspicion towards them. It is alert and will bark (deep and loud) to let you know of any intruder and will also act to defend you and its home if it is needed. It is loyal and devoted to its family but it is not the best dog for new owners, it needs to be handled with confidence and experience.

These dogs will be devoted to its family but are not always extremely demonstrative with their affection. It likes to be close to its owner but its work does mean it is used to being independent making decisions by itself, and it can handle being alone for short periods. When guarding its flock or its home it will bark aggressively first to warn the attacker away and if that does not work will fight with determination and courage when the attacker reaches them. It does not chase them away. As a result in Spain it is common to see the dog with spiked collars to give their necks protection.

Living with a Spanish Mastiff

What will training look like?

The Spanish Mastiff needs to be well socialized and trained for it stable and calm nature. Experience is needed as a large and dominant dog like this needs their owner to be confident, consistent, patient and firm. It is used to making its own decisions when it needs to and a meek owner will be challenged by it. Things can get difficult when it is not inclined to be obedient. Training sessions should be positive and engaging to avoid boredom, and done with treats and other motivation tools and rewards. Keep socialization going so that it learns appropriate responses to different people, places, situations, sounds, animals and so on.

How active is the Spanish Mastiff?

These dogs are not super active, but it needs a certain amount to stay healthy and being so large this means a short walk around the block is just not enough. It may be large more likely to lumber around than run at high speeds, but in fact it can actually move a lot quicker than you might expect when it needs to. It is used to having a role or job to to do and is happiest when that is how things are. One or two long walks a day will keep it healthy and happy, along with some play time with you, and chances to have safe off leash time too. It does best in a rural setting, this is not a city dog. It needs a large yard it can move around in that is well fenced and a home a with space too, so it is also not suited to be an apartment dog. Its coat means it can handle all kinds of weather conditions from hot to very cold so it is happy to go out whatever the weather but it does prefer dry to wet.

Caring for the Spanish Mastiff

Grooming needs

The Spanish Mastiff is an average to above average breed when it comes to grooming, its heavy shedding means it needs daily brushing and there will be clean up needed around the home. It does slobber and drool so it will need its face wiping daily in all probability. Only bathe when it really needs one with a proper canine shampoo to avoid damaging its natural oils in its skin. Its size can mean for some people proper baths are difficult anyway so either save them for a sunny day in the yard with a hose on, or check out local groomers and see if any have bathing facilities for giant dogs.


Other needs include cleaning and looking after the ears, nails and teeth. Its ears should be wiped clean weekly using a damp cloth or dog ear cleaning solution and cotton ball. You can also use this time to check for signs of infection like redness, wax or a bad smell. Do not push anything down its ears. Its teeth should be brushed at least three times a week with a good dog toothbrush and toothpaste. Its nails need to be trimmed as needed and this is something you can do yourself, or you can have a professional groomer or a vet take care of it. Make sure you know about dog nails, they are not like ours! The lower section has nerves and blood vessels passing through and cutting them will cause it to bleed and hurt it.

Feeding Time

A giant breed like the SM will eat 5 to 12 cups of a good quality or better dry dog food a day, split into at least two meals. You need to work out how much to feed your dog depending on its age, health size, level of activity and metabolism. Make sure it has water at all times and that it is kept fresh as much as possible.

How is the Spanish Mastiff with other animals and children?

In general with good socialization this dog is gentle and patient with children and that really is true for when it is raised with them too. Care should be taken with younger children just because it is likely to knock them over from its size. Make sure all children are taught how to touch and approach it properly. If raised with them and with socialization it can also get along fine with other pets and with other dogs. With other dogs of the same sex there can be dominance issues.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

The Spanish Mastiff has a pretty good life span for a dog of its size at 10 to 12 years. It is fairly healthy but there are a few issues to be aware of such as hip dysplasia, heart problems, pan, eye problems, bloat and birthing problems.

Biting Statistics

When looking at reports from North America of dog attacks causing bodily harm over about 35 years, there is no mention of the Spanish Mastiff but there is of just Mastiffs. These are reported to have been involved in 28 attacks, 17 were maimings, 23 were child victims and there were 5 deaths. Of course the Spanish Mastiff is not a common breed in that area so it is less likely to be involved in such incidents anyway. Make sure you are sure you can handle this dog, it does need an owner with experience and confidence. You can never completely guarantee a dog is 100% safe at all times but socializing, training, giving it the attention and role that it needs can help.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

The prices can start at $1200 for a Spanish Mastiff puppy of pet quality. Be sure you take the time to find a decent breeder who has some experience. The show dogs from top breeders with a lot of pedigree to their name will be a lot more that that. If you cannot find breeders where you are then there are additional costs of transportation to you. Be prepared for the possibility that you will be placed on a waiting list too. Even then be sure to avoid puppy mills, pet stores or back yard breeders. Shelters and rescues are another option, though finding this breed in them is unlikely. You might see a mix breed that you love though and rescues can be $50 to $400 to adopt.


When you have your new SM puppy you should take it to a vet for blood tests, micro chipping, deworming, shots, spaying or neutering and a physical exam which will come to around $290. Then some initial costs for items you will need like a crate, collar and leash, bowls and such. These will cost around $200.

Then the ongoing costs when you have it will include things like basic health care, items, licensing and food. For the Spanish Mastiff the good quality dry dog food and its treats will come to about $500 a year. Miscellaneous costs like items, license, toys and basic training will come to an annual cost of $295. Then annual basic health care like check ups, tick and flea prevention, shots and savings or insurance will cost at least $485. This gives a starting figure cost of $1280 a year.


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The Spanish Mastiff is an intimidating dog to look at but unless it is reacting in defense of its flock, home or family it is not an aggressive dog. It needs strong and experienced owners who are prepared for a dog that slobbers, snores, sheds, takes up a lot of room and has a lot of other needs. It is also though a devoted, loyal, gentle and steady dog.

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