The Spanish Mastiff or Mastín Español is a large sized, heavy and muscular dog that was developed in Spain. The Spanish Mastiff is an ancient breed in the past was used for herding large flocks of sheep and protecting them from predators and robbers. The Spanish Mastiff of today is more of a family dog, but is occasionally still used as a protector of herds or watch dog.
Spanish Mastiff History
The Spanish Mastiff is a canine breed of Spain and was especially abundant in Cantabria, Castile and Leon, Extremadura and Castilla-La Mancha.
Spanish Mastiffs, like other mastiff breeds have ancient predecessors, Molosser dogs can be seen on ancient Babylonian relics (around 2000 BC) and Assyrian sculptures (around 650 BC). These dogs were used as war dogs. The Greeks were next in line that prominently used these dogs and gave the Molossers their name.
These Molosser dogs were brought to Spain by Phoenician traders about 1000 BC., believed to be same Molosser dogs which traveled throughout Europe with Alexander the Great. First mentions about a mastiff from Iberian Peninsula appears in notes of Virgilius and in around the 30th year A.D. Virgilius in Georgics shows the way of the Iberian Mastiff's nourishing in such a way that it would be the best guardian and defender of the herd. They have been proudly guarding flocks and homes on the Iberian Peninsula since the Roman Empire. Spanish Mastiffs were even used during the conquest of America, in battles like against Tainos, Aztecs, or Mayans (Native Americans) by the Spanish conquistadors. These specially trained dogs were feared by the Indians, because of their strength and ferocity.
The role of mastiffs grew much in the 10th century, when the organised guided farming of animals became one of the important trades in Europe so Spain became a county of sheep, and the state economy was based on the production and the elaboration of wool. The peak came with the 12th century, when the breeding of a new genre of sheep; merinos emerged. Those animals usually spent their winter on the south of Spain, moving to the mountain slopes of the north at the beginning of the summer. In 1273 Spanish nobles called to life the organisation called "La Mesta". These large herds of wandering sheep needed protection from wolves, bears and robbers. The migrations of herds became a big scale endeavor. The historical sources quote, that in 1526 about 3.5 million sheep were safeguarded by La Mesta. The wandering herds of sheep were accompanied by about 40 thousand shepherds and each shepherd had at least one mastiff to defend both shepherd and his sheep, normally several, and ratios of one mastiff for hundred sheep were common. Such enormous migrations made a mark on Spanish culture and we can read about Spanish Mastiff in literary works as well as admire it on paintings of Velazquez. By then, these dogs had been bred to be resistant towards the different climate conditions of Spain as well as showing an independent drive or instinct as a defender, which made it possible for them to almost independently fulfill their duties.
At the end of the 19th century with the disappearance of the Mesta and the transfers of cattle, the Mastín Español underwent a backward movement, that accentuated during the 20th century and of more drastic form after the Spanish Civil War and its consequent period of shortage.
The standard of the breed was created only a few decades ago in 1946. Although it is a common and very popular dog in Spain, outside of that region Spanish Mastiffs are practically unknown. However, they are believed to have played a role in the development of the Saint Bernard, as well as other breeds not as well-known in the West.
Spanish Mastiff Appearance
Body: the Spanish Mastiff is a large, heavy and muscular dog with a heavy bone structure and a harmonious build. Despite its weight and size, the dog moves elegantly and graceful. The body is longer than tall. The strong and muscular back is straight and level. The loins are broad and strong and the croup slopes slightly. The tail is very thick at the base, carried low at rest, the end often bends. The belly is slightly tucked. The chest is broad and deep, measuring a pronounced sternum. The ribs are well sprung. The sloping shoulders are very muscular. The legs are straight and have strong bones. The backhand is pretty bent. Mastin Espanols have closed cat feet. The neck is wide, strong and well muscled, with well-developed double dewlaps.
Head: the head is large and strong. The length ratio of skull and muzzle is 6:4. The stop is slight. The muzzle is somewhat narrower towards the nose, but should not taper. The medium, triangular ears are above eye level and are carried hanging. The relatively small eyes are almond shaped.
Height at Withers: the dogs have on average a shoulderheight of 78 up to 88 (30.7 to 34.6 inches) centimetres and bitches on average measure 74 up to 84 centimetres (29.1 to 33.1 inches). There is no maximum height.
Weight: for dogs it's between 84.1 to 102.3 kg (185 and 225 lbs) and bitches are between 65.9 to 77.3 kg (145 to 170 lbs). Much heavierdogs do exist, but as a rule this comes at a cost affecting the dogs health.
Coat: the Mastin Espanol has an almost wooly texture with a thick undercoat. The coat is dense, rough and smooth over the entire body. The top off the back and tail is more hairy and longer.
Colors: Mastin Espanols come in different colors, where solid colors are preferred. Solid colors include the colors yellow, red, black, gray and brown. White spotted brindle animals are allowed, but white should not predominate.
Spanish Mastiff Temperament
Character: the Spanish Mastiff is a very intelligent, rather independent dog that is very self-confident. Towards the family this is a meek and docile breed. On average they are very quiet dogs, sensible, making an almost contemplative impression. They are sober and hard on himself. The dog will defend, your family and home and hearth wholeheartedly against two and four-legged intruders. They will seldomly use their heavy voice.
Social Build: for the Mastin Espanol his owner and his family are above everything. The breed takes its watchdog role very seriously and allows no man or animal to the area where his family lives. The dog takes this task for granted: he requires no extra incentives or commands. He is vigilant in a very controlled way and uses his power only in extreme emergencies. When the boss indicates that the visit is of the desired kind, the dog will accept it. Dealing with other animals usually does not bring problems, especially when these animals belong to their own household. When dealing with children, the Spanish Mastiff is very patient and friendly as a rule. Dealing with other dogs, particularly same sex ones, may be less harmonious.
Spanish Mastiff Socially
Care: the grooming of this breed is limited to a weekly brushing with a so called shepherd's rake. In the shedding period, it helps if brush the coat several times a week. Keep the nails short.
Education: the Spanish Mastiff should get a balanced, consistent way of education. A harsh and unjust education will surface undesirable traits in this breed. The owner of a Spanish Mastiff should be a balanced, peaceful person who naturally radiates a certain preponderance. The dog always seems to think first if it makes sense before he follows the command, the breed is not suited for long hours of training sessions. Proper socialization helps in devolping a character.
Activity: in a large fenced area, these dogs can partly take care of their own needs. Every now and then you can take the dog to the forest or heath to allow him to get some new impressions. They do not have the tendency to explore nearby areas alone. The Spanish Mastiff has a thick coat that protects him from the elements and can therefore easily be kept outside. The breed is less suited for city life.
Usability: a Mastín Español is perfectly suited as a trusted guard and family dog for people who have enough space both indoors and outdoors.
Spanish Mastiff Quotes / Trivia