Spanish Mastiff: The Spanish Giant

Spanish Mastiff standing on grass
John Walton
Written by John Walton

Are you looking for a dog that has some solid weight to them? Then why not go all the way and get yourself a Spanish Mastiff? These dogs look mean and bear-like, but, once you get to know them, they‘re really just gentle giants. Originated from Spain, they were used traditionally as herd guardians; however, now, they‘re protectors of families.

If your family is looking for a dog that‘ll get you outside, then the Spanish Mastiff will do the trick. They need daily exercise, however, don‘t have overwhelming energy that you can‘t control. They‘ll be a warm and big addition to your home.

Now, you‘re probably wanting to know a little bit more about the breed. The Spanish Mastiff is an interesting breed and is easily overlooked due to its size. However, the Spanish Mastiff is full of personality, which you’ll find out more about below. We will discuss their history, how to care for them, and how they will fit into different types of setting.

Breed Characteristics

Spanish Mastiff lying on snow

  • Adaptability: Moderate; need quite a lot of space
  • Trainability: Moderate
  • Health and Grooming: Moderate
  • All Around Friendliness: Good; but wary of strangers
  • Exercise Needs: Above Average Needs
Dog Breed GroupWorking Dogs
Height28 - 35 inches
WeightMale: 185-220 lbs
Female: 145-170 lbs
Lifespan10 - 12 years

The Spanish Mastiffs is one gentle giant. Though their looks are deceiving, they‘re highly lovable and gentle dogs.

Many people assume that extra-large dogs are lazy and low-maintenance when it comes to physical activity. However, it‘s completely the opposite. They may not have the energy of a Jack Russell, but they need a couple of walks a day in order to stay mentally and physically sharp.

The Spanish Mastiff are typically easy-going dogs. However, they‘re bred to herd and protect animals, so, they have a strong need to protect their property and family by whatever means necessary. They‘re a little wary around strangers; however, you can reduce their suspicious behavior through socialization and training.

The Spanish Mastiff are dogs which are ideal for families. In addition, they‘re dogs which need a firm, yet gentle hand when it comes to training. If you have previous experience with dogs, then you‘ll be able to handle the Spanish Mastiff with ease. They‘re a tough dog to handle if you‘ve never had a dog before.

Main Highlights

Spanish Mastiff walking

  • The Spanish Mastiff is a large breed—extra-large!

  • They have been recorded in the Foundation Stock Service since 2008.

  • The Spanish Mastiff is the Mastin Espanol in its country of origin, Spain.

  • The Spanish Mastiff has been assigned to the Working Group.

  • The Spanish Mastiff is calm, however, loves going outside and needs exercise for mental and physical well-being.

  • Spanish Mastiffs are extremely calm and are great for families with children.

  • The word “mastiff” comes from the Latin word, “mansuetus” which means tame, gentle, and mild.

  • They’re an extremely old breed, appearing on the Iberian Peninsula pre-Roman invasion, over 2,000 years ago.

Breed History

Spanish Mastiff lying on ground

The Spanish Mastiff is a very old breed that first showed itself on the Iberian Peninsula pre-Roman invasion. They were brought over by the Greeks and Phoenicians over 2,000 years ago.

The first time the Spanish Mastiff was mentioned in writing was by Virgil in 30 A.D. He wrote about their guardian and nurturing characteristics when defending the herd.

It wasn‘t until the 10th century that the Mastiff was used as a farming dog on the farms in Spain. They needed a protector of their herds as their main economy was based on the production of wool.

In the 12th century, sheep herding hit a high with shepherds moving their herds from the south of Spain in the winter to northern Spain for the summer. The sheep were accompanied by around 40,000 shepherds, all of them having a Mastiff by their side to control their herd.

Today, they‘re used mainly as companion dogs, though, their herding skills are still very much in them. The Spanish Mastiff is the national dog of Spain with over 24,000 of them living in Spain.


Spanish Mastiff walking on grass

Well, what can we say—the Spanish Mastiff is one big dog. They‘re extra-large in size, meaning, hopefully, you train them not to sleep on your bed. Males can weigh between 185-220 lbs while females can weigh between 145-170 lbs.

They‘re one of the largest Spanish native dog breeds. They‘re stocky and sturdy-looking dogs that have massive chests. They have a rectangular body that‘s muscular and well-proportioned. Their deep jaws and large lips are strong characteristics of the Spanish Mastiff.

Personality and Character

The Spanish Mastiff is a very loyal and calm dog, even though they‘re extra-large in size. They‘re bred to be herders and protectors of herds and flocks. Thus, they have strong instincts to protect their family and territory.

Around strangers, they‘re not quick to warm up to them, however, through socialization, you‘ll be able to reduce their suspicion. If they feel threatened, they‘ll release a low and deep bark and, if necessary, they‘ll defend the home.

For their personalities, it‘s best if you‘ve had a dog before as you need to understand how to handle a territorial dog.

Like we’ve said before, they‘re highly devoted dogs, but they‘re not always willing to show affection. Yes, they like being close to their owners and family, but, they also like being able to feel independent in their decisions.

See Also: How to Stop Aggressive Behavior and Socialize a Dog

Health and Potential Problems

black Spanish Mastiff

Of course, we all want our dogs to be as healthy as possible. However, there’s no perfect breed. Every breed, including the Spanish Mastiff, has their own set of health problems.

Here are some of the more common health conditions that can occur in the Spanish Mastiff.

#1: Bloating

For us humans, bloating is slightly uncomfortable but passes over time. However, for dogs, bloating can be a serious issue. Bloating, or also known as gastric dilatation and volvulus, is when the dog‘s stomach presses against their diaphragm, causing breathing problems.

#2: Heart Problems

Heart problems can vary from murmurs to heart disease. However, if you feel that your dog has a heart problem, you‘ll notice that they struggle with breathing, have a dry cough, faint, and experience weight loss.

#3: Eye Problems

The Spanish Mastiff has the possibility to experience a variety of eye problems such as entropion, cherry eye, corneal wounds, and cataracts. Taking your dog on routine vet visits can prevent these conditions from happening. Also by checking your dog‘s eyes on a regular basis, you can catch an infection before it gets worse.

#4: Entropion

Entropion is a condition in which the eyelid folds inward. It‘s very uncomfortable for animals to experience this as the eyelashes rub against the cornea. This rubbing causes irritation. This can be reversed through surgery.

#5: Pano-ostiosis

Thankfully, this isn‘t a chronic condition, rather, something that occurs during your dog‘s growing years. This is a painful condition which causes limping due to growing pains. This is typical in large dogs as their bones are growing at a quick rate. This usually occurs between the period of 5 to 18 months of age.

#6: Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a condition of the hip joints. You can treat mild cases with pain medication, but if the condition is severe, then your Spanish Mastiff will need to undergo hip replacement surgery to replace the joints.

You are able to screen this condition beforehand through the breeder. Make sure that you have all the certification which verifies that the parents are healthy and free of hip dysplasia. If not, it’s a risk.

Some breeds have more issues than others. However, you can avoid this by asking the breeder to show you a certification of health. This certification shows that the parents of the puppy are both healthy.

Care Features

Spanish Mastiffs playing

The Spanish Mastiff are generally easy going dogs, making them easy to take care of. Though, just because they’re calm doesn’t mean they don’t require exercise.

The Spanish Mastiff needs daily exercise to ensure their mental and physical health. They do best when off-leash as they’re able to run around freely. However, you should make sure that before you take them off-leash, they’re properly trained or in a fenced area.

If you’re going to keep your Spanish Mastiff on-leash, then you should take them for several daily walks. The Spanish Mastiff loves outdoor activities such as swimming, hiking, and playing games. If you take the extra time out of your day to make sure they’re physically active, they’ll maintain strong health.

See Also: How Much Exercise Does My Dog Need

Feeding Schedule

Spanish Mastiff's head

Regardless of the breed you choose, every dog needs a diet which is packed with essential nutrients. It’s important to keep in mind that you’re going to be feeding your dog this food for the rest of their lives, thus, if you feed them low-quality junk food, your dog is going to feel the impact of it.

Your Spanish Mastiff is going to go through a couple of phases in their life from puppyhood to their senior years. Thus, throughout their life, their nutritional needs change. Since the Spanish Mastiff is an extra-large dog breed, you’re going to need to choose food which caters specifically to extra-large dogs.

Coat, Color, and Grooming

Spanish Mastiff of unusual color

The Spanish Mastiff’s coat is usually fawn-colored. However, the dog can also be found with brindle, black, or a wolf grey coat. If you see reddish tones in your Spanish Mastiff, this indicates miscegenation.

Their coats are thick and bushy, which gives the impression that they’re high maintenance when it comes to grooming. However, that’s incorrect. Their bushy coats are highly deceiving as they only need regular weekly brushing to remove dead cells and freshen their coats. When they start to smell, give them a bath. See? They’re easy to take care of.

In terms of other forms of grooming, you want to make sure that you trim their nails on a regular basis. Their nails grow quite quickly, thus, by trimming them you avoid cracking, overgrowth, and splitting.

In addition, make sure that you check their ears on a regular basis in case there’s debris or wax buildup. Both debris and wax are contributors to ear infections. Lastly, if you can, brush their teeth. If you’re not able to, then provide them with teeth cleaning treats.

See Also: Best Dog Ear Cleaner

Children and Other Pets Compatibility

The Spanish Mastiff is a very large and powerful dog. Naturally, because of their size, they come off as extremely intimidating and dangerous; however, that’s not the case. The Spanish Mastiff is extremely devoted and loyal to their families, making them outstanding dogs for people who have children.

They’ll have no problem protecting their home and family if they feel threatened since they were previously used to protect herds and flocks from wolves. This makes them a tad wary of strangers; however, if you socialize your Spanish Mastiff from puppyhood, they’ll be polite and accepting of people they don’t know.

Towards other animals, it’s important that you socialize them with non-aggressive dogs during puppyhood. This will reduce the aggression that they have towards other animals. Training them to be around other animals is easy as they’re highly food-motivated.

See Also: Food Dogs Should Not Eat

Wrap Up

Spanish Mastiff and her puppy sleeping

Choosing the right dog for your home is no easy task. When picking the right breed, you‘re trying to make sure that they suit the vibe and flow of your family so that they blend in easily.

The Spanish Mastiff is a gentle giant that loves to protect their home and family. They do require lots of physical activity, but if you like walking or running, this won‘t be a problem. They‘ll be great additions to your daily exercise routine.

If you really want to make them happy, let them run off-leash in fenced areas. That way, they get to stretch their limbs.

The Spanish Mastiff is great around their family members including children. They‘re low maintenance when it comes to grooming even though they‘re giant bushy dogs. All you need to make sure of is that you brush them weekly.

In addition, they don‘t have many health problems either, so, you won‘t have to worry about costly vet bills. With all this being said, the Spanish Mastiff sounds like a great breed, right?

If you’re looking for an active, calm, and gentle breed, then why not consider bringing home a Spanish Mastiff? Though they look like big aggressive dogs, they‘re actually gentle giants that make great family dogs. Let us know what you think in the comment section below! Do check out our list of big dog names if you decide to adopt a Spanish Mastiff.

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.