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Tibetan Mastiff

The Tibetan Mastiff (Zang'Ao in Mandarin, Do-khyi in Tibetan, meaning 'tied dog' or 'Bhote Kukur' in Nepali which means Tibetan Dog) is a rare breed of domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris) originating in Tibet and neighboring countries with similar nomadic cultures (e.g. Mongolia, where it is called "bankhar", meaning "guard dog").

The Tibetan Mastiff is among the largest breeds. It is found in a heavier mastiff type and a more moderately sized mountain type. Its sturdy bone structure and large, wide head makes it appear considerably more massive than other dogs of a similar height. It can reach heights up to 31+ inches (80+cm) at the withers, although the standard for the breed is typically in the 25 to 28 inch (61 to 72 cm) range. History records the largest of the breed weighing over 110 kg[citation needed] but dogs in America are more typically between 100lb (45kg) to 160lb (72kg). The Tibetan Mastiff is considered a primitive breed and is one of the only dog breeds that have a single oestrus per year insted of two. This caracteristic is still found in more primitive canids species like wolf. Since their oestrus usually takes place during late fall, most Tibetan Mastiff puppies are born between December and January.

Its double coat is long, and found in a wide variety of colors from solid black to tri-color with the rarest being white. Like other types of mastiffs, the larger variety can have greater size, a heavier head and more pronounced wrinkling, while the mountain type has a smoother rather than wrinkled brow with less jowling, giving them a drier mouth than other mastiff breeds. They are also hypoallergenic with a thick double coat that only sheds once per year.

Tibetan Mastiffs are separated by Chinese breed-standard into two categories - Lion Head (relatively smaller in size, exceptionally long hair from forehead to withers, in which creates a lion mane alike head) and Tiger Head (relatively larger in size, shorter hair)

The native strain of dog, which still exists in Tibet, and the Westernized breed can vary in temperament. Elizabeth Schuler states, "The few individuals that remain in Tibet are ferocious and aggressive, unpredictable in their behavior, and very difficult to train. But the dogs bred by the English are obedient and attached to their masters." Others claim that the ferocity of those in Tibet is due to selective breeding and their training as guard dogs, more than companion dogs. Many breeders throughout Asia are now seeking to preserve and breed the larger, original, more protective Tibetan Mastiff while Western breeders have sought to stabilize the temperament, in both size varieties.

As a flock guardian dog in Tibet, it is tenacious in its ability to confront predators the size of wolves and leopards. As a socialized, more domestic Western dog, it thrives in a spacious, fenced yard with a canine companion, but it is not an appropriate dog for apartment living. Still, the Western-bred dogs are generally more easy-going, although somewhat aloof with strangers coming to the home. Through hundreds and hundreds of years of selective breeding for a protective flock and family guardian, the breed has been prized for being a nocturnal sentry, keeping would-be predators and intruders at bay, barking at sounds throughout the night. So, leaving a Tibetan Mastiff outside all night with neighbors nearby is not usually recommended.


Tibetan Mastiff
Other names: Do-Khyi, Tsang-khyi
Country of origin: Tibet

Like all flock guardian breeds, they are intelligent and stubborn to a fault, so obedience classes are recommended since this is a strong-willed, powerful breed with great size potential. Socialization is also critical with this breed because of their reserved nature with strangers and guarding instincts. They are, however, excellent family dogs.

Unlike most very large breeds, its life expectancy is relatively long, some 10-14 years. The breed has relatively lower comparative incidence of genetic health problems, but cases can be found of hypothyroidism, entropion or ectropion, skin problems including allergies, missing teeth, malocclusion (overbite or underbite), cardiac problems, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), and small ear canals with a tendency for infection. As with most giant breeds, some will suffer with elbow or hip dysplasia, although this has not been a major problem in the Tibetan Mastiff. Another concern includes canine inherited demyelinative neuropathy (CIDN), a rare inherited neural disease that appeared in one bloodline in the early 1980s. However, it is believed that this problem has been all but eliminated in contemporary breeding lines.

This is an ancient breed, descended from very early large Tibetan dogs from which many of today's Molossuses are descended. The first known record of a Tibetan mastiff was in 1121 BC, when a dog trained for hunting was given to a Chinese emperor. Marco Polo encountered the large Tibetan dogs in his travels and described them as "tall as a donkey with a voice as powerful as that of a lion." They were used as guard dogs outside the sacred city of Lhasa.

In the early 19th century, King George IV owned a pair, and there were enough of the breed in England in 1906 to be shown at the 1906 Crystal Palace show. However, during the war years, the breed lost favor and focus and nearly died out in England. Gaining in popularity worldwide, there are more and more active breeders, although the breed is still considered somewhat uncommon. Initially the breed suffered because of the limited genepool from the original stock, but today's reputable breeders work hard at reducing the genetic problems through selective breeding and the international exchange of new bloodlines.

In 2008, the Tibetan Mastiff competed for the first time in the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.