The Tibetan Mastiff (also Bhote Kukur) is a large sized, long coated, muscular dog that originated in Tibet, China.
The Tibetan Mastiff History
This is one of the world's most ancient breeds, descended from very early large Tibetan dogs from which most, if not all, of today's Mastiff-type and Molossers are descended. Some of the modern breeds thought to have Tibetan Mastiff ancestry include the Leonberger, the Newfoundland, the Kuvasz, and even the toy dog breed, the Pug, which itself was a well-established breed before the 1500s. 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. Strong enough to hunt all sorts of wild beasts, particularly the wild oxen which are extremely large and fierce." They were used as guard dogs outside the sacred city of Lhasa.
These dogs are known to have been highly prized by the ancient Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Huns, and Mongols, accompanying them on war expeditions, as they were trained to attack and kill men. Ancestors of these dogs traveled with Attila the Hun and Genghis Khan. Legend has it that two of these Tibetan Mastiff's marched with every company of Genghis Khan's army for the purpose of being sentries as compared to attack dogs.
In Tibet there were two types of Tibetan Mastiffs described. The first one was described as a family dog that was used in the villages and used as a house and flock guardian against wolves and other predators like leopards. The second was described as being bigger and as powerful as a bear, could be very ferocious and aggressive, and more difficult to train and was often kept chained during the day but set free at night. This type was used as the protector against human invaders and wild animals especially for things of great importance such as monasteries of Tibet and caravans, as well as hunting large game. The Tibetan people who preferred and actually encouraged aggressive behavior in those dogs, carefully chose the strongest dogs for these tasks for they were big and in their surroundings food was limited, they needed to be worth every bit of it.
With the 1959 occupation of Tibet, the breed became nearly extinct in its homeland. English breeders took an interest in it and developed the Tibetan Mastiff in their own country during the first half of the 19th century, creating a Westernized version of the breed. 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. Subsequently, however, the breed lost favor and nearly died out in England, as well.
Today there are many active breeders, although the breed is still uncommon. The breed has suffered from inbreeding over many generations because of the small number of the original stock, but today's reputable breeders work hard at reducing the genetic problems.
With its recent economic successes China has, rebound interest in the native strain of dog breed and it is now a national treasure and endangered species in China. Chinese enthusiasts will go trough great lengths to buy specimens of the native kind as featured in Tibet (some are even worth millions of dollars) and breed with a focus to maintain the powerful qualities of the original but rare native Tibetan stock. In China there now are two standards Do-Khyi (smaller show dog, mountain dog type) and Tsang-Khyi (working breed, Mastiff type).
For several thousand years, the Tibetan Mastiff has been a guardian and watch dog of both homestead and flock, and so he remains today.
Tibetan Mastiff Appearance
Body: the Tibetan Mastiff is an impressive, powerful and strong muscular dog, whose compact body is a fraction longer than it is high. The straight back is strong and muscular and the chest is broad and deep. It reaches past the elbows. The tail is set as an extension of the spine and in action it is worn curled along one side on the back. When worn downwards the tail may not extend beyond the hocks.
The hindquarters are powerful, muscled and well-cornered, with bent knee joints and strong, low heels. When viewed from the back his legs are straight. The compact feet are big and strong, tightly closed and well coated between the toes. The hindlegs uncommonly feature duwclaws. The muscular shoulders are well placed. The neck is wide and very powerfully muscled, with a light wrinkle in the skin.
Head: the head is fairly broad, heavy and strong. The stop is clearly marked. The massive skull has a clearly perceptible occiput. The skull is as long as the front muzzle. The broad snout gives a square impression from any side. The nose is broad and well-pigmented, with wide nostrils. The lips are drooping slightly. The eyes are placed slightly slanted and very expressive. The sidelings set, medium sized ears are triangular in shape and they are carried flat against the head. When they focus they are turned slightly forward. The jaws are preferably equipped with a complete and regular scissorbite, but a level bite is also allowed.
Height at Withers: males are at least 65 centimeters to about 77 centimeters height at the withers and bitches, are about 61 centimeters to 72 centimeters. There is no official upper limit and lengths of more than 80 centimeters are known.
Weight: the average weight of an adult male is approximately between 50 to 72 kg. With bitches, it's around 45 to 67 kg.
Coat: the coat consists of abundant, half long, flat lying, hard and rugged to the toutch outer coat and a very dense fairly woolly inner coat. The hair is very richly spread around the shoulders and neck froming a collar (or manes), which runs through to the back of the skull. The thighs and the bottom of the tail have very long and dense hair. The face, ears and legs are short and smooth, but are covered with very dense hair. The back of the front legs are equipped with a fine feathering.
Colors: the familiar colors are black with tan markings and gray with tan markings. There are also solid black, gray and golden animals. The color of the tan can vary greatly, from a very deep into a light tint. A white chest spot is allowed as well as not too big white markings on the toes. Bleach-beige and cream coloured animals are not allowed. However originally there were more variations, such as solid almost white tainted dogs. White Tibetan Mastiffs are also known as Snow Lion.
Tibetan Mastiff Temperament
Character: Tibetan Mastiffs are characterized by their quiet, dignified and thoughtful nature. They are balanced dogs, that radiant a certain pride. Despite their unfailing faith and attachment to their own people, they are far from being intrusive and they also do not take a dependent attitude. They are, however, sensitive and happy in the vicinity of their people. On their own terrain, they are very confident. They have a strong territorial drift and they take the surveillance and defence of their family, homestead for granted and do so very convincingly. It really is not needed to stimulate this attribute to the breed. They are no barkers, but they let their heavy voices be heard when trouble arrives. In house, they are usually quiet, but outside they can at times be quite active. Tibetan Mastiffs like to be outside. Their coat protects them against all weather conditions. Despite the fact that these dogs like to be outside, they are generally not considered suitable as kennel dogs. The Tibetan Mastiff matures late both physically and mentally.
Social Build: Dogs of this breed adhere strongly to the members of the family. They carry an unbreakable faith. The present pets of the family are regarded as 'private' and treated as such. Therefore dealing with cats, rabbits and (small)cattle rarely encounters problems, as long as there is a good socialization. With children, most Tibetan Mastiffs are very tolerant, patient and cautious. Unknown visitors will be brought to a halt, but when the owner makes clear to the dog that the visit is desired, the dog will accept this. Outside its own terrain the dog has no territorial behaviour, but nevertheless remains a bit reserved towards strangers. In particular, the males are sometimes dominant in relations with other males. They will rarely start a fight, but they will not walk away from it either.
Tibetan Mastiff Socially
Care: During fall and winter, the Tibetan Mastiff has the in the breed standard described abundant and very thick coat, which requires little care. Usually it's enough to comb the coat once a month or once every two weeks using a rough comb. In the spring, the undercoat almost completely comes off. During this period, a daily thorough combing session is recommended. While their size and mass suggests otherwise Tibetan Mastiffs eat comparatively little.
Education: this dog requires a consistent and fair education, preferably by a quiet owner who is secure about himself, and possesses a natural superiority. It does not work and is even has a counterproductive effect, for a dog of this breed to be tought brutally or too demanding. Given the right approach this intelligent dog quickly learns new commands, and is generally obedient. They are not the type of dogs that will simply follow every command, they need to see the command is useful in their eyes.
Activity: the Tibetan Mastiff has an average need for exersize. If you have a large fenced garden than to a large extent he will care for his own exersize. In addition, the dog will value it greatly when he regularly is taken along for long walks or when you go cycling. He is happy to go to forest and moor, but is not the type of dog that runs behind balls or sticks to fetch them enthousiasticly. Make sure you won't overload his bones, muscles and tendons when the dog still growing.
Usability: Tibetan Mastiffs are fine family dogs, who operate best when they are offered both indoor and outdoor space. Guarding and defending your family and property they take on themselves and take this role for granted. For the various dogsports the breed, due to the somewhat thoughtful and independent nature, are usually unsuitable. They do not lend themselves for hours of obedience training which bring out resisting behaviour and stubbornness in the dog.
Tibetan Mastiff Quotes / Trivia
A special feature of this breed is the almost oderlessness of the coat, even during rainy days. They are also hypoallergenic with a thick double coat that often only sheds once per year. The bitches usually go into heat only once a year.