Tibetan Mastiffs

12 October 2022 - 4 min read
Tibetan Mastiff laying on the floor

Vital stats

  • Breed type: Working
  • Size: 50 - 60 cm
  • Weight: 34 - 74 kg
  • Lifespan: 10 - 14 years


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What is a Tibetan Mastiff?

The Tibetan Mastiff is a large and majestic looking dog, originally bred in the Himalayan Mountains of Tibet.

They’re one of the oldest dog breeds in the world and for thousands of years were used to protect homes, livestock and monasteries. They can still be found performing this role today but they have now become family companion dogs.

The name Tibetan Mastiff is misleading as they are not a real mastiff. When Europeans began visiting Tibet for the first time, they’re called the breed a mastiff as this was the name given to all large breeds in the West.

They were first introduced to the Western world in 1847 when they were brought to England and entered into The Kennel Club's first studbook.

Chinese Tibetan Mastiffs are some of the most expensive puppies in the world. In 2014, a golden-haired Tibetan mastiff puppy was reported to have sold for just under $2 million in China, making it the world’s most expensive dog at the time.

Tibetan Mastiffs are a primitive breed – one of the oldest dog breeds found anywhere the world. Historically they lived in specific parts of the world and were not affected by interbreeding and rarely crossed paths with other dogs.

Primitive dog breeds are seen as a link between domesticated dogs and their wild ancestors and many share similar personality traits. Unlike domestic dogs which breed twice a year, primitive dogs only breed once a year just like their wild ancestors.

Tibetan Mastiff

Tibetan Mastiff temperament and characteristics

Tibetan Mastiffs have worked closely alongside humans for hundreds of years and have developed a loyal and gentle temperament.

Mastiffs are strong willed and independent, characteristics found among many ancient dog breeds. As natural guard dogs, they’re fiercely protective towards their family and owners but wary and aloof towards strangers.

They are not the easiest breed to train. As a breed, they’re best suited to experienced and confident dog owners. Their independent and intelligent nature means they don’t react well to traditional obedience training. Good early socialisation with people and other dogs is important.

They can make good family pets and will be comfortable around children if they’ve been raised with them from an early age. Because of their size and temperament, they will be better suited to families with older children who can understand and be taught how to interact and behave appropriately around them.

Their ancestry as guarding dogs, means they enjoy spending time outdoors and they need at least one hour of moderate exercise each day. Being a large breed they’re best suited to homes with plenty of space with a large secure garden or land to play and exercise in.

They’re not a breed that need lots of activity based exercises such as retrieving a ball. They’re happiest outdoors patrolling their territory.

As puppies they shouldn’t be over exercised as this can lead to joint damage which can be more common among large breeds.

Tibetan Mastiffs

Pet insurance for Tibetan Mastiffs

In 2021, the average cost to insure a Tibetan Mastiff with ManyPets was £1188.07. Our average dog insurance cost for all our breeds was £474.77, so Tibetan Mastiffs cost well over double the average. Mastiffs are a rare breed in the UK which explains why they’re more expensive. In 2021 we only insured 19 of them.

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Tibetan Mastiffs are a large dog breed and larger dogs generally cost more to insure than smaller ones. Due to their size and weight, larger breeds can be Mastiffs can be prone to certain genetic conditions.

You can reduce the price of insurance by choosing policies that offer multi-pet discounts. This can help people who want insurance for more than one pet.

Choosing to pay a higher excess can help in reducing the cost of insurance but it does mean having to pay more yourself if you have to make a claim.

Tibetan Mastiff types and colours

Tibetan Mastiffs have double coats. A heavy woollen undercoat and a thicker top coat. Their coats can be found in a variety of colours that include:

  • Black

  • Black and tan

  • Pale red

  • Brown

  • Deep red

Tibetan Mastiff health conditions

Hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia are common health conditions associated with Tibetan Mastiffs, along with many other large dog breeds. Both conditions are joint abnormalities where the hip or elbow joint doesn’t fit correctly into the socket.

Dogs affected by elbow dysplasia will show lameness in one or both front legs which are commonly seen in puppies and young dogs, but older dogs can also be affected.

Elbow dysplasia was the joint most common claim for Tibetan Mastiffs in 2021, with an average cost of £894.36. If your vet recommends surgery for dysplasia the cost is likely to be significantly more. Hip dysplasia surgery can cost £5,000+ per hip.

The other leading reason for claims in Tibetan Mastiffs was for third eyelid nictitating membrane disorder, more commonly known as 'cherry eye'. Dogs with the condition have a bright red, swollen, painful-looking eyes. It occurs after a tear gland in a dog’s third eyelid becomes inflamed.

All dog breeds have a third eyelid or nictitating membrane found in the lower eyelid. The average claim we paid in 2021 for Cherry Eye was £726.36.

Frequently asked questions about Tibetan Mastiffss

Are Tibetan Mastiffs the biggest breed in the world?

The Tibetan Mastiff is one of the largest dog breeds in the world but the official title belongs to the English Mastiff.

Are Tibetan Mastiffs a banned breed in the UK?

Tibetan Mastiffs are legal in the UK but there are many countries and cities across the world where Tibetan Mastiffs are banned due to public safety concerns.

Do Tibetan Mastiffs have lion's blood?

The quick answer is no.

Their round manes and intimidating size gives them a lion-like appearance but in 2011, a DNA study found a genetic link between the Tibetan Mastiff and the Great Pyrenees, the Bernese Mountain Dog, the Rottweiler and Saint Bernard.

The idea that they had ‘lion's blood’ was made popular by breeders as Mastiffs became highly desired status symbols amongst China’s wealthy elite. In 2014 a Chinese businessman paid $1.9 million dollars for a Tibetan Mastiff!