The Tibetan Mastiff is one of dogdom’s oldest dog breeds and has been variously known by any one of the following names:
- Thibet Dog
- Tibetan Dog
- Tibetaanse Mastiff
- Thibet Mastiff
The Tibetan Mastiff has traditionally been used by Tibetans as sentry dogs to protect their villages and more famously by Tibetan monks to protect their legendary monasteries.
There are many who believe that the bloodline of the modern mastiffs started with the Tibetan Mastiff and perhaps one unique characteristic of the Tibetan Mastiff dog breed that lends weight to such belief is the fact that unlike other dog breeds it only has one breeding season annually; like it’s not too distant cousin the wolf.
Other factors also support the theory that the Tibetan Mastiff is the progenitor of the modern mastiff line; one such important factor is the region where the Tibetan Mastiff hails from, The Himalayas. The Himalayan region is a harsh environment located at high altitudes which tends to run the extreme as far as weather is concerned, very, very cold winters and hottish summers.
Thus this region favored the natural development of a big, hardy dog breed as defined by the Tibetan Mastiff.
The Tibetan Mastiff In History
This dog breed was largely unknown outside its home range until 1828 when a specimen was presented to the London Zoo by King George IV. Later in 1847 the Viceroy of India sent a Tibetan Mastiff to Queen Victoria as a gift and later still the Prince of Wales of the time returned with two dogs in 1874.
Following the end of World War II, the Dalai Lama presented a pair to the American President, Dwight Eisenhower.
When China annexed Tibet during its brutal expansion, the communist authorities decreed that all dogs had to be bludgeoned to death by their owners otherwise the owners themselves would be beaten to death. It was during that bloody and tragic period that the Tibetan Mastiff almost became extinct. Luckily by then enough specimens of the breed had been exported to Europe and Asia to perpetuate the existence of this wonderful dog breed.
Interestingly enough during the 1970s Nepalese drug smugglers found a novel way to get their drugs into the United States without detection. They shipped their drugs into the country hidden in false bottoms of dog crates transporting Tibetan Mastiffs. Custom officials were naturally intimated by these large dogs and thereby never searched the crates thoroughly!
Folklore has it that the Tibetan Mastiff of yesteryear was a massively powerful dog that characteristically was as big as a donkey. In fact legend has it that a Tibetan Mastiff that stood four feet at the shoulder (124 cm) was presented to the Emperor of China (which would indeed have made the dog the size of a large donkey and probably the biggest dog that ever lived).
Donkey-sized dogs notwithstanding, it is certainly true that the Tibetan Mastiff was once bigger than its modern counterpart, many dogs characteristically attaining a body weight of 200 lbs. Perhaps the loss in body bulk could be explained by the fact that the dogs found in Europe and America no longer have a physiological reason to maintain such bulk as they are no longer exposed to such high altitudes and the extreme cold that accompanies such heights!
Article on Tibetan Mastiff written by kayye Nynne