These large dogs were originally bred to be guardians of villagers living in the Himalayas and while they look imposing, Tibetan Mastiffs are actually just big balls of love. Like other guardian dogs, Tibetan Mastiffs are devoted to their families and are incredibly protective. Their physically intimidating size allows for a scary first impression to strangers but in reality, these dogs are big softies with their families.
The exact origins of the Tibetan Mastiff are difficult to nail down but as you might imagine, this breed comes from the country of Tibet. DNA evidence suggests that there were mastiff-type dogs in that same region ~5,000 years ago and the breed we now know as Tibetan Mastiff is a descendant of those dogs. These large dogs were guardians for villages, monasteries, and even a few nomadic herdsmen in the Himalayas. In Tibet, this breed is also known as “do-khyi”, meaning “tied dog”, and has also been called “Tibetan or Himalayan Mountain Dogs”. Eventually, a few Tibetan Mastiffs were sent as a gift to Queen Victoria from the Viceroy of India in 1847.
Tibetan Mastiffs are not well suited for apartment life or for novice owners, as they will be physically large and quite stubborn. Temperament-wise, this breed is independent and has a strong sense of self. A confident owner and proper trainer/socialization can really help prevent one from becoming territorially aggressive or too aloof around strangers, as their guardian instincts make these dogs wary of strangers and stubborn to a fault. Having a yard with a tall fence can really help, as these dogs love to protect their homes.
These dogs can get to be 70-160 pounds when fully grown and stand at least 2 feet at the shoulder. Tibetan mastiffs are muscular and their lion-esque manes make them look even bigger. With their thick double coats and history in the Himalayas, these dogs are unsuited for hot, humid climates. They do shed a bit, particularly in the spring and fall. As large dogs, this breed has an average lifespan of 10-12 years and while generally healthy, they are prone to certain genetic conditions like hip/elbow dysplasia, hypothyroidism, and osteochondrosis dissecans. They also don’t need a ton of exercise but 20-30 minutes of play or walking can really help keep them happy and healthy.
If you’re a fan of big dogs, have had dogs before, and have the space, Tibetan Mastiffs are wonderful dogs that can be a bit stubborn but ultimately devoted to their family. Because of their size, coat, and temperament, these dogs aren’t great for novice owners or those living in apartments or hot climates. But given the right care, a Tibetan Mastiff can be a loving, devoted companion!