Tibetan Mastiff

Tibetan Mastiff (Do-Khyi and Tsang-Khyi) is a massive working dog breed of the nomad herders of the Himalaya and a traditional guard dog for the Tibetan monasteries watchdog Lhasa Apso. Tibetan Mastiff dog’s price shot up a few years ago, making the breed famous as the most expensive dog breed in the world. The price of Tibetan Mastiff dog breed has declined since 2016-2017 due to increased supply and reduced demand.

Why is the Tibetan Mastiff breed so famous in China? Why do so many dog lovers pay such a hefty price for the Tibetan mastiff? Let us explore this amazing breed in-depth. Let us also try to find out if the Tibetan Mastiff is the best breed suitable for you.

This page not only includes precise info, facts, FAQs, breed standards, and info. For choosing the best Tibetan Mastiff puppy, many more insights and knowledge derived from years of experience with owning, training, breeding, and judging the Tibetan Mastiff breed in the show ring.

Tibetan Mastiff dog breed

Great praise has surrounded the Tibetan Mastiff dog breed since its first discovery in antiquity. From the mentioning by Aristotle (384-322 BC) to the famous writings of Marco Polo, who went to Asia in 1271, all historical reports praise the natural strength and impressiveness of the lion dog Tibetan Mastiff – both physically and mentally. Even its bark has been described as a unique and highly treasured feature of the breed. Leading European cynologists of the past, like Martin and Youatt, Megnin, Beckmann, Siber as well as Strebel and Bylandt, have intensively covered the Tibetan Mastiff dog breed, as they had been fascinated by its origin and function in the Tibetan culture. Some even considered the Tibetan Mastiff dog breed to be the forefather of all large mountain and massive mastiff breeds.

Tibetan Mastiff Pair
Tibetan Mastiff pair barking. The breed’s bark is a treasured feature.

Tibetan Mastiff FAQs

Let us seek some answers related to the Tibetan Mastiff breed. Are they aggressive? Do they shed a lot? Do they bark a lot? Are they good guard dogs? Are they good family dogs? Good with children? And many more questions that a potential Tibetan Mastiff owner may be concerned about.

What is the difference between Dho-Khyi and Tsang-Khyi Tibetan Mastiffs?

Tsang-Khyi Tibetan Mastiffs are larger than the Do-Khyi. The Do-Khyi are dogs for guarding flocks of sheep of the Tibetan nomadic shepherds or villagers. The Tsang-Khyi, on the other hand, serves as guardians, though, in this, they protect the Buddhist monks or lamas of Tibet.

Are Tibetan Mastiffs aggressive?

Yes and No. They are wise about their aggressiveness. They will not intimidate or attack everyone they see when people are around, and everything is normal. But during the night-time, when they are guarding, they will be thorough about their guard duty. Some Tibetan Mastiffs are more protective of guarding and watchdog work than other breeds. The breed can be highly territorial. Once off territory, they are usually non-territorial. They may also be aggressive with dogs of the same sex. They look intimidating, and often their mere presence is enough to discourage intruders.

Are Tibetan Mastiffs friendly?

Yes, they can be friendly with their owners and family. However, strangers often find them too intimidating to approach and touch. Don’t expect them to wag their tail and welcome everyone to play with them as a Golden Retriever or Boxer would! Also, they are huge and look intimidating. Strangers will usually prefer viewing them from a distance.

Do Tibetan Mastiffs bark a lot?

No. Tibetan Mastiffs do not bark a lot. They bark at night (but not a lot). They have a deep, impressive bark. Tibetan Mastiffs are famous for their deep impressive bark.

Are Tibetan Mastiffs banned in the United States? Around the world?

Yes and No. Many places around the world have banned Tibetan Mastiffs. Tibetan mastiffs are banned in some states in the United States but not all. It is worth knowing that these dogs are amongst strong-willed breeds. Training and proper socialization with other animals and people are essential for them and owners to live a happy life together.

Several cities in the United States have banned Tibetan Mastiffs because of their huge size. Wapato, a city in Washington, has banned all kinds of mastiffs! Apart from Wapato, Wisconsin and Abbotsford have also banned all kinds of mastiffs.

Tibetan Mastiffs are banned or restricted in Malaysia, the Maldives, the Bermuda Islands, Australia, Singapore, and France. This ban is in place to protect people from accidental dog attacks. However, there is no concrete evidence that bigger dogs are more aggressive or dangerous than smaller ones.

Is the Tibetan Mastiff a good family dog?

Yes. The Tibetan Mastiff can be a wonderful Breed for a proper owner and home. By proper owner, we mean someone who will do justice to owning such a special breed. Common sense accompanied by respect will keep the owner and the dog happy with each other. For example, if you want a dog who will fetch a ball every time you throw it, get a retriever (not a Tibetan Mastiff!).

Tibetan Mastiff Black Tan

Is the Tibetan Mastiff a good guard dog?

Tibetan Mastiff owners will say the Tibetan Mastiff is THE best guard dog. No other breed can guard like the Tibetan Mastiff. Due to its temperament, calm demeanor, alertness, agility, size, and looks, it is one of our favorite guard dog breeds.

Do Tibetan Mastiffs shed a lot?

Yes. Tibetan Mastiffs shed a lot all through the year. They will shed even more during the summer. Bitches may shed more during heat due to increased stress and hormonal changes.

Are Tibetan Mastiffs good with children?

Yes. Tibetan Mastiffs are good with children during normal circumstances. However, don’t let kids disturb dogs while eating, mating, sleeping, guarding, etc. Also, allow some time for socialization for the kid as well as the dog.

Can you leave a Tibetan Mastiff alone?

Yes. Most Tibetan Mastiffs can be left alone in a fenced property.

Are Tibetan Mastiffs Lazy?

No. Tibetan Mastiffs are not lazy. They will do their duty diligently. They are very agile for their size.

What should I know before choosing a Tibetan Mastiff?

Here are a few other things you should know about Tibetan Mastiff dogs:

Tibetan Mastiff is the only dog breed in which the bitch is on the heat only once a year (like wolves).

Tibetan Mastiffs learn things very fast. They are very stubborn and strong-willed.

It is important to know that Tibetan Mastiffs will not always look for guidance. They are independent guard dogs. While they will enjoy their owners’ company and bond with them, they may not always obey them.

Tibetan Mastiffs are good family members. These dogs do extremely well when raised with kids or exposed to them often. However, if you argue with your partner or shout at kids, Tibetan Mastiffs will become upset.

Tibetan Mastiffs are more active in the early morning and evening. However, they are inactive while inside the house and moderately active while outside the house.

Tibetan Mastiffs are quiet during the day. However, they bark at night, so you should not leave them outdoors at night.

Without mental and physical stimulation, these dogs can become bored. This can cause negative behaviors, such as barking and destructiveness. They love digging and chewing. Tibetan Mastiffs are large dogs with big teeth. And they use those large teeth to keep themselves engaged when they get bored.

These dogs require early socialization that should continue throughout their lives. Without socialization, they can be inappropriately aggressive toward people and other animals they are not familiar with.

Tibetan Mastiffs should be kept in a fenced yard. They are capable of wandering.

How much does the Tibetan Mastiff cost? What is the price of a typical Tibetan Mastiff puppy? Is it the most expensive dog breed in the world?

Yes! A golden-haired Tibetan mastiff puppy has reportedly been sold for an outrageous amount of US$2 million in China, potentially making it the world’s most expensive dog. However, not all Tibetan Mastiffs are sold for such high prices! Expect to pay about US$1200 for a good puppy from a reasonable breeder. Price also depends on whether the puppies are registered as purebred. Many breeders do not or cannot register their puppies as the breed is banned in many places. The price for Tibetan Mastiffs has gone down in China since they were overbred.

How long do Tibetan Mastiffs live?

Tibetan Mastiffs have an average life span of 14 years, which is more than other mastiff and large-sized breeds.

Ok, so let’s assume you have chosen the Tibetan Mastiff as the best dog breed suitable for yourself. You have decided to find yourself a Tibetan mastiff puppy as your next family member. How will you choose the best pup? Let us look at some standard characteristics of this Tibetan dog breed, which will help you select the right puppy.

Choosing a good Tibetan Mastiff puppy

The definition of the best Tibetan Mastiff puppy depends on your requirements. Your expectations from an adult Tibetan Mastiff can be broadly categorized as follows: Confirmation for show or breeding; obedience; guard dog; smart dog; companion; homely pet.

Although it is tempting to look for all these qualities in one puppy you plan to buy, it is rarely possible to find all qualities in a single pup.

If you want your Tibetan Mastiff puppy to grow up to be a champion in the show ring, you should look for confirmation of the Tibetan Mastiff dog breed standards. We have put together a general guideline for selecting an all-around good puppy for you. Our guideline includes breed standards and gives importance to temperament, appearance, physical details, gait, health issues, grooming needs, and maintenance.

Look for the following characteristics while choosing a Tibetan Mastiff puppy.

Tibetan Mastiff’s General Appearance

Powerful, heavy, well built, with good bone. Impressive; of solemn and earnest appearance. Combines majestic strength, robustness, and endurance; fit to work in all climate conditions. The Tibetan Mastiff matures slowly compared to other breeds. Only reaching its best at 2-3 years in females and at least 4 years in males. Important Proportions: Skull measured from occiput to stop equal to muzzle from stop to end of the nose, but muzzle may be a little shorter; Body slightly longer than the height at withers.

Tibetan Mastiff Guard Dog
A Black Tibetan mastiff looks ferocious.
Tibetan Mastiff Guarding
The Tibetan mastiff is surprisingly agile for its size.

Tibetan Mastiff’s Temperament

Independent. Protective. Commands respect. Most loyal to his family and territory.

The Tibetan Mastiff is loving, gentle, patient, and understanding. His centuries of working closely with humans have made him very sophisticated in the ways he understands people. He’s a hard worker, protective of his family, fearless, and loyal.

Tibetan Mastiff’s Size

Height at the withers: Dogs: 66 cm (26 inches) minimum. Bitches: 61 cm (24 inches) minimum.

Tibetan Mastiff’s Coat

Red Tibetan Mastiff dog
Red-colored Tibetan Mastiffs are in high demand.
White Tibetan Mastiff dog
White Tibetan Mastiff Dog

Hair: Quality of greater importance than quantity. Coat harsh, thick, top coat not too long, with dense and rather woolly undercoat in cold weather which becomes rather sparse in warmer months. Males carry noticeably more coat than females. Hair fine but harsh, straight, and offstanding. Never silky, curly, or wavy. Neck and shoulders heavily coated, giving a mane-like appearance. Tail bushy and well feathered; hindlegs well feathered on upper rear parts.

Tibetan Mastiff Colors

Rich black, with or without tan marking; blue, with or without tan markings; gold, from rich fawn to deep red, sable. All colors to be as pure as possible. Tan ranges from a rich chestnut to a lighter color. White star on breast permissible. Minimal white marks on the feet acceptable. Tan markings appear above eyes, on the lower part of legs, and underside of the tail. Tan markings on muzzle; spectacle markings tolerated around eyes.

Tibetan Mastiff’s Head

Broad, heavy, and strong. In adults, a wrinkle may extend from above the eyes down to the corner of the mouth. Skull: Large, very slightly rounded, with a strongly pronounced occiput. Stop: Well defined. Nose: Broad, as dark as possible depending on coat color, well-opened nostrils. Muzzle: Fairly broad, well filled, and deep. End of muzzle square. Lips: Well developed and covering the underjaw. Jaws/Teeth: Jaws strong with perfect, regular, and complete scissor bite, i.e., upper incisors closely overlapping the lower incisors and set square to the jaws. Level bite acceptable. Dentition fits tightly. Eyes: Medium size, any shade of brown, and in accordance with coat color, the darker, the better. Set well apart, oval, and slightly slanting. Eyelids tightly fitting the eyeball. Expression of dignity. Ears: Medium size, triangular, pendant, set between the level of the skull and the eye, dropping forward and hanging close to head; carried forward when alert—ear leathers covered with soft, short hair.

Original Tibetan Mastiff
Tibetan Mastiffs in Tibet

Mastiff with Tibetan Kid

Tibetan Mastiff’s Neck

Strong, well-muscled, arched. Not too much dewlap. Covered by the thick upstanding mane, not so pronounced in bitches.

Tibetan Mastiff’s Forequarters

Straight, well covered all over with strong hair. Shoulders: Well laid, muscular. Elbows: Neither turned in nor out—forearms: Straight. Strong bone. Metacarpus (Pasterns): Strong, slightly sloping.

Tibetan Mastiff in snow

Tibetan Mastiff’s Body

Strong. Back: Straight, muscular. Croup: Almost imperceptible. Chest: Rather deep, of moderate breadth, with good spring of rib, to give heart-shaped ribcage. Brisket reaching to below elbows.

Tibetan Mastiff’s Hindquarters

Powerful, muscular, with good angulation. Seen from behind, hindlegs parallel. Upper thigh: Rather long; strong, with good hard muscles, but not bulging. Stifle: Well bent. Hock: Strong, low set. Dewclaws are optional—feet: Fairly large, strong, round, and compact, with good feathering between well-arched toes.

Tibetan Mastiff’s Tail

Medium length. Set high on line with the top of back, carried high, loosely curled over the back, when dog alert or in motion; well feathered.

Tibetan Mastiff

Tibetan Mastiff’s Gait

Powerful, but always light and elastic: with good reach and drive. When speed increases tend to singletrack. When walking appears very deliberate. Capable of functioning over varied terrain with stamina and suppleness.

Faults observed in the TM breed: Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault, and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree.

Severe Faults: Lacking physical condition and fitness. ; Head light or heavily wrinkled. ; Pendulous flews. ; Pronounced dewlap. ; Large and/or low-set ears. ; Light eyes or staring expression. ; Weak pigmentation, particularly of the nose. ; Barrelled ribs. ; Tightly curled tail over hips. ; Over angulated or straight hindquarters. ; Heavy constrained movement. ; Under minimum height, tolerance 2 cm.

Disqualification: Aggressive or overly shy. ; Undershot or overshot mouth. ; All other colors than above mentioned, e.g., white, cream, grey, brown (liver), lilac, brindle, parti-colors.

Tibetan Mastiff with puppy
Tibetan Mastiff Dog with a puppy
Tibetan Mastiff puppy
4-month-old Tibetan Mastiff puppy with Hemchandra Inamdar

Tibetan Mastiff Videos

In this Russian Video, witness the amazing natural protection dog quality of the Tibetan Mastiff breed. Testing the working qualities of Tibetan mastiffs at the Heritage of Tibet nursery. The dogs have not been trained for defense and are not familiar with the defendants.

This video is about living with Tibetan Mastiffs. Kathryn and her husband Brad live on Colorado’s front range with 14 Alpacas and eleven Tibetan Mastiffs. The Tibetans bred two types: the Do-Khyi and Tsang-Khyi, a larger dog than the Do-Khyi. The Do-Khyi are dogs for guarding flocks of sheep of the Tibetan nomadic shepherds or villagers. The Tsang-Khyi, on the other hand, serves as guardians, though, in this, they protect the Buddhist monks or lamas of Tibet.

6 thoughts on “Tibetan Mastiff”

  1. Urbanization and uncontrolled breeding of Tibetan mastiffs have resulted in a surge of stray dogs in parts of the Tibetan plateau, posing a growing threat to local people and the environment!
    Legacy

    In the vast hilly pastures of China’s western regions, local Tibetans are close to their dogs. The Tibetan mastiff, a breed of sheepdog native to the highlands, has long been kept by nomadic households as a loyal guardian of family and livestock against potential threats. The massive dogs, some weighing as much as 70 kg, are fierce companions.
    According to Tibetan folklore, the very first seed of highland barley, the staple food in Tibetan regions, was brought by a mastiff. Even today, during the celebration of Losar, or Tibetan New Year, nomadic Tibetans still feed their family dogs with a bowl of zanba (roasted barley flour) to show their gratitude.

    “Traditionally, dogs are treated as important family members, and we never sell our dogs to others for money. Indeed, selling dogs is a taboo in our traditional culture,” Tashi Gongbao, a local Tibetan in Yushu said. “But when the fad for Tibetan mastiffs swept China in the late 1990s, the situation changed completely.”

    Tashi Gongbao was referring to the craze for Tibetan mastiffs across China, which prompted a frenzy of breeding and selling in the Tibetan regions, particularly around Yushu. This enthusiasm lasted till the mid-2010s. Driven by demand from Chinese nouveau riche, including coal tycoons, some premium purebreds were sold for over USD 200,000 [1.3 million yuan] during the height of the craze. Many people, both inside and outside of the Tibetan regions, bred dogs for purely commercial purposes.

    I visited Yushu in 2010 and saw caged Tibetan mastiffs in various parts of downtown Yushu. Local sources at that time said the average market price for a mastiff dog was over 200,000 yuan (USD 29,040). In around 2005, some breeders in Yushu began tube-feeding dogs with cheese fluid or steroids to make them bigger and stronger, according to a June 2016 report by Sanlian Lifeweek Magazine. Some breeders even pumped their dogs with silicone or water to make them look more powerful – greatly damaging the dog’s health.

    But like other speculative markets, the Tibetan mastiff trade was badly hit by the combination of economic slowdown and the nationwide anti-corruption campaign from 2012 onward. The bubble burst around 2013, when prices plummeted suddenly. In early 2015, New York Times reported that around 20 mastiffs were stuffed into a truck and sent to a slaughterhouse in northeast China where, “at roughly USD 5 [35 yuan] a head, they would have been rendered into hot pot ingredients, imitation leather and the lining for winter gloves.”

    As the booming market collapsed, and as more nomadic families settled down into city life, demand for Tibetan mastiffs continued to fall.

    “Before 2010, almost every household was investing a lot of money into feeding and breeding mastiffs. A limited number of people succeeded, but most just got poorer,” Tashi Gongbao explained. “And after breeders foolishly mated pure Tibetan mastiffs with other breeds, it devalued the breed and turned off would-be customers.”

    Tashi Gongbao said that some cross breed dogs lost the loyalty so valued in mastiffs, and even turned on their own masters. This had a critical impact upon the breed’s image, causing a surge dogs being abandoned by callous owners and breeders, resulting in a large number of strays.

    With the buyers gone, the breeders soon disappeared. Zhou Yi, the chairman of the Qinghai Tibetan Mastiff Association, told the Xinhua News Agency in early 2015, that about a third of breeders in Tibet have closed their businesses, and the annual trade in for Tibetan mastiffs in Qinghai had dropped from over 200 million yuan (USD 29 million) to less than 50 million (USD 7.2 million).

    With no measures taken by the local government, the number of abandoned dogs has grown rapidly, resulting in numerous attacks on people.

    Buddhist resistance

    According to an inside source, some local governments in different parts of Yushu have made secret attempts to solve the problem by mass killings of dogs. But local Tibetans are strong believers in Buddhism, which preaches compassion towards all living things, and the killings produced public resistance.

    Some local villages resorted to setting up shelters for stray dogs in order to avoid the slaughter. In Maozhuang, a village in Nangqian county, an animal shelter covering over 13 acres was set up with joint investment from a local monastery and the village council.

    During a visit to Maozhuang in late August 2016, this reporter witnessed the open shelter accommodating over 1,000 stray dogs, along the road leading to the village.

    Cairen Yongzang, a local villager, said that before the shelter was set up, stray dogs were everywhere, and elderly people and children were afraid of going out alone. Dog faeces and urine stank up the village, threatening health. Locals lived in fear of attacks by strays. “A large number of dogs were left by their previous owners with the local Sumang monastery in Maozhuang, expecting the monks to take care of them,” continued Cairen, “The monastery then decided to find a permanent resolution to the pressing issue.”

    Sumang monastery raised a total of 400,000 yuan (USD 58,000), half of which was funded by the government, to set up the stray dog shelter in early 2016. Community members from each household in Maozhuang were called up to assist by catching those dogs and moving them into the shelter.

    “We built fences and three dog houses and some infrastructure including a water diversion pipeline from the hill down to the shelter,” Tashi, the monastery keeper, said. According to Tashi, a forty-seven year old local monk who was born in Maozhuang [a different person to the previously mentioned Tashi Gongbao], the monastery allowed villagers three days to bring them to the shelter. “After that, we forbade additional new dogs to avoid group attacks on the newcomers,” he explained.

    Then the monastery paid a local vet to sterilize the female dogs and employees from two villagers to cook for the hungry hounds. Barley mixture is the staple feed for those dogs with additional leftover food from nearby villagers. There are just 600 households in Maozhuang, but villagers try their best to give barley, noodles and yogurt intermittently to the monastery as feed for dogs. The total daily cost of maintaining the shelter and looking after the dogs is significant, at least 1,000 yuan (USD 145) according to Tashi.

    There has been no follow-up financial support from the Yushu government, apart from a recent donation of 10,000 kg of flour. According to Tashi, the Gangri Neichog Research and Conservation Centre, a Qinghai-based environment NGO, provided the monastery with 10,000 yuan (USD 1,446) through crowd funding in 2016. Apart from this, “the major economic burden of caring for these 1,000 or so dogs falls solely on the monastery,” said Yong Qiang, a Maozhuang villager.

    Unsustainable care

    The attempt to shelter the strays in Maozhuang is unprecedented in the region. Although a government-invested dog shelter is said to have been set up near downtown Yushu, this has not been verified. The Yushu government intentionally plays down the issue to avoid a negative impact upon tourism, said an inside source who wants to remain anonymous.

    But the monks and villagers in Maozhuang know the situation can’t last. The first problem is the shortage of food. Then there’s the fighting between dogs and the disease inevitably spread among so many dogs cooped up together.

  2. This mastiff looks very different from other mastiffs. The Tibetan mastiff breed looks more like a wolf but larger and more powerful. Cost of good tm puppy has reduced due to over-breeding in China. Unlike popular belief these dogs don’t eat a huge amount of food. They will eat well and slowly. It’s a very dignified sober breed not easily excited.

  3. In monasteries of Tibet, these Tibetan mastiff dogs are still used as guards.. many can be seen on the road as well.. some crosses with other mutts can also be seen on the roads of Tibet and also in the Himalayas. These TM crosses dominate the other mutts and look good. Their coat develops matts and they look very unique in their homeland. If you are a TM lover, you should visit Tibet to explore where they came from.. their bark is deep and overall it’s a very impressive breed.

  4. Tibetan mastiffs are a dignified sober breed. They will behave like wise monk when they mature. Very good and attractive breed to own. I have had 1 female personally as a pet and have seen many.. they will not bark unnecessarily during the day but are vocal and highly alert at night.

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