Tibetan Mastiff

 

General appearance:

Large, powerfully built, slightly longer than high, Well boned and
muscled, never light but always agile. Impressive head provides a noble, dignified look, enhanced by a mane, which is more pronounced in males, balanced by a well-feathered tail carried over the back.

Characteristics:
A loyal companion and guardian. Slow to mature.

Temperament:
Independently minded, aloof and protective. Calm and patient. May be wary of strangers.

Head and skull
Broad, heavy and strong. Skull large, with strongly defined occiput and marked stop. Length from nose to stop equal or slightly less than length from stop to occiput. Muzzle fairly broad, well filled, blunt, and square viewed from all sides. Broad, black, well open nostrils. Lips well developed with moderate flews. In maturity, some wrinkling on head extending from above eyes to corner of mouth.

Eyes
Very expressive, medium size, dark brown. Set well apart, oval and slightly slanting. Dark, close fitting eye rims.

Ears
Medium size, triangular, pendent, not set too low, hanging close to head. When alert, carried forward. Ear leathers covered with soft, short hair.

Mouth
Jaws strong with perfect, regular and complete scissor bite, i.e. upper teeth closely overlapping lower teeth and set square to the jaws. Level bite acceptable. Full dentition desirable.

Neck
Strong, well muscled, slightly arched. Not too much dewlap.

Forequarters
Muscular, well-laid shoulders. Strongly boned, straight legs with strong, slightly sloping pasterns.

Body
From point of shoulder to point of buttock slightly longer than height at withers, as 10 to 9. Strong and straight back. Broad, muscular loins, with very slightly sloping croup. Chest rather deep, of moderate breadth. Ribcage oval, ribs well sprung but not barrelled, carried well back. Brisket reaching to, or just below, elbows.

Hindquarters
Powerful, muscular, with moderate angulation and strong, low-set hocks. Hindlegs, seen from behind, parallel. Single or double dewclaws may be present.

Feet
Fairly large, strong, with thick pads, rounded and compact. Having good feathering between toes.

Tail
Medium to long. Set on high. Loosely curled over back to one side. Well feathered.

Gait/Movement
Powerful and free, with purpose and agility. Measured and deliberate when walking. At speed will tend to single-track.

Coat
Males carry noticeably more than females. Quality of greater importance than quantity. Densely coated, fairly long, thick, with heavy, woolly undercoat in cold weather which becomes rather sparse in warmer months. Hair fine, hard and straight, never silky, curly or wavy. Hair on face short. Neck and shoulders heavily coated, giving mane-like appearance, Tail heavily feathered, hindlegs well feathered on upper rear parts.

Colour
Rich black, with or without tan; slate grey, with or without tan; rich golden. The rich tan markings appear above eyes, on muzzle, on chest, the lower part of legs and underside of tail. Spectacle markings around eyes acceptable. White star on breast permissible. Minimal white markings on feet tolerated. Cream, white, chocolate/liver, particolour, brindle or flecked are undesirable.

Size
A minimum height of 66cms (26ins) in dogs and 61 cms (24ins) in bitches is desirable, but on no account should type be sacrificed to size alone.

The Tibetan mastiff is considered a primitive breed. It typically retains the hardiness which would be required for it to survive in Tibet, Mongolia, Ladakh and other high-altitude Himalayan range.

Instinctive behaviours, including canine pack behaviour, contributed to the survival of the breed in harsh environments. It is one of the few primitive dog breeds that retains a single estrus per year instead of two, even at much lower altitudes and in much more temperate climates than its native climate. This characteristic is also found in wild canids such as the wolf and other wild animals. Since its estrus usually takes place during late autumn, most Tibetan mastiff puppies are born between December and January.[3]

Its double coat is long, subject to climate, and found in a wide variety of colours, including solid black, black and tan, various shades of red (from pale gold to deep red) and bluish-grey (dilute black), often with white markings. Some breeders are now (as of 2014) marketing white Tibetan mastiffs. These dogs are actually very pale gold, not truly white. Photoshop is often used to make dogs of normal colour(s) appear white in advertisements.

The coat of a Tibetan mastiff lacks the unpleasant big-dog smell that affects many large breeds. The coat, whatever its length or colour(s), should shed dirt and odours. Although the dogs shed somewhat throughout the year, there is generally one great molt in late winter or early spring and sometimes another, lesser molt in the late summer or early autumn. (Sterilization of the dog may dramatically affect the coat as to texture, density and shedding pattern.)

Tibetan mastiffs are shown under one standard in the West, but separated by the Indian breed standard into two varieties: Lion Head (smaller; exceptionally long hair from forehead to withers, creating a ruff or mane) and Tiger Head (larger; shorter hair).

As a flock guardian dog in Tibet, and in the West, it uses all the usual livestock guardian tactics (e.g., barking, scent-marking perimeters) to warn away predators and avoid direct confrontations.[2]

As a socialized, more domestic dog, it can thrive in a spacious, fenced yard with a canine companion, but it is not an appropriate dog for apartment living. The western-bred dogs are generally more easy-going, although still somewhat aloof with strangers. Through hundreds of years of selective breeding for a protective flock and family guardian, the breed has been prized for being a nocturnal sentry, keeping would-be predators and intruders at bay, and barking at unidentified sounds throughout the night. Leaving a Tibetan mastiff outside all night with neighbours nearby is not recommended. They often sleep during the day, making them more active, alert and aware at night.[2]

Like all flock guardian breeds, they are intelligent and stubborn to a fault, so obedience training is recommended (although it is only mildly successful with some individuals) since this is a strong-willed, powerful-bodied breed. Unless they are to be used exclusively as livestock guardians, socialization training is also critical with this breed, because of their reserved nature with strangers and guardian instincts. They can be excellent family dogs – depending on the family. Owners must understand canine psychology and be able and willing to assume the primary leadership position. Lack of consistent, rational discipline can result in the creation of dangerous, unpredictable dogs. The protectiveness of Tibetan mastiffs requires alertness and planning by the owner, in order to avoid mishaps when the dog is merely reacting as a guardian. The breed is not recommended for novice dog owners.

Many breeders claim a life expectancy of 10–16 years, but these claims are unsubstantiated. Some lines do produce long-lived dogs. Other, more closely inbred lines, produce short-lived, unhealthy dogs. The breed has fewer genetic health problems than many breeds, but cases can be found of hypothyroidism, entropion, ectropion, distichiasis, skin problems including allergies, autoimmune problems including demodex, Addison’s disease, Cushing’s disease, missing teeth, malocclusion (overbite, underbite, dry mouth), cardiac problems, seizures, epilepsy, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), cataracts, and small ear canals with a tendency for infection. As with most large breeds, some will suffer with elbow or hip dysplasia.

Originally these dogs were used to protect the monks and Tibetan monasteries from animals such as bears, and snow leopards.

The Tibetan mastiff is a phenotypically distinct dog breed that was bred as a flock guardian in the high altitudes of the Himalayas and the Tibetan Plateaus.[7][8]

Meer Izzut-oollah (1872) wrote:[9]

“The dogs of Thibet are twice the size of those seen in India, with large heads and hairy bodies. They are powerful animals…During the day they are kept chained up, and are let loose at night to guard their masters’ house.”[9]

In the early 20th century, the Prince of Wales, George, introduced a pair of Tibetan mastiffs, and enough of the breed were available in England in 1906 to be shown at the Crystal Palace show. However, during the war years, the breed lost favour and focus and nearly died out in England.

The breed has been gaining in popularity worldwide since 1980. Although the breed is still considered somewhat uncommon, as more active breeders arose and produced adequate numbers of dogs, various registries and show organizations (FCI, AKC) began to recognize the breed. In 2008, the Tibetan mastiff competed for the first time in the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

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