Tibetan Mastiff
The Tibetan Mastiff (Do-khyi) is an ancient breed
Dog breed
Dog breeds are groups of closely related and visibly similar domestic dogs, which are all of the subspecies Canis lupus familiaris, having characteristic traits that are selected and maintained by humans, bred from a known foundation stock....

 and type
Dog type
Dog types are broad categories of dogs based on function, with dogs identified primarily by specific function or style of work rather than by lineage or appearance....

 of domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris) originating with nomadic cultures of Central Asia
Central Asia
Central Asia is a core region of the Asian continent from the Caspian Sea in the west, China in the east, Afghanistan in the south, and Russia in the north...


Names and etymology

The Tibetan Mastiff also known as Do-khyi (variously translated as "home guard", "door guard", "dog which may be tied", "dog which may be kept"), reflects its use as a guardian of herds, flocks, tent
A tent is a shelter consisting of sheets of fabric or other material draped over or attached to a frame of poles or attached to a supporting rope. While smaller tents may be free-standing or attached to the ground, large tents are usually anchored using guy ropes tied to stakes or tent pegs...

s, villages, monasteries, and palace
A palace is a grand residence, especially a royal residence or the home of a head of state or some other high-ranking dignitary, such as a bishop or archbishop. The word itself is derived from the Latin name Palātium, for Palatine Hill, one of the seven hills in Rome. In many parts of Europe, the...

s, much as the old English ban-dog (also meaning tied dog) was a dog tied outside the home as a guardian. However, in nomad camps and in villages, the Do-khyi is traditionally allowed to run loose at night.

'Bhote Kukur' in Nepali
Nepali language
Nepali or Nepalese is a language in the Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European language family.It is the official language and de facto lingua franca of Nepal and is also spoken in Bhutan, parts of India and parts of Myanmar...

 means 'Tibetan Dog'. In Mandarin Chinese, the name is '藏獒' (Zang'Ao), which literally means 'Tibetan Mastiff' or 'Tibetan "big ferocious dog"'. In Mongolia
Mongolia is a landlocked country in East and Central Asia. It is bordered by Russia to the north and China to the south, east and west. Although Mongolia does not share a border with Kazakhstan, its western-most point is only from Kazakhstan's eastern tip. Ulan Bator, the capital and largest...

 it is called "bankhar", meaning "guard dog", but there is another type of mastiff in Mongolia called the 'Mongolian Mastiff' (Mongol Bankhar), which is bigger than the Tibetan Mastiff and has a darker color, but is not counted as a breed The molosser
Molosser is a category of large, solidly-built dog that includes several breeds, probably all descended from the same root stock. The name derives from Molossia, a subregion of ancient Epirus, ancient Greece, where the large shepherd dog was known as the Molossus.The proper noun "Mastiff", however,...

 type with which the modern Tibetan Mastiff breed is purportedly linked was known across the Ancient world by many names.

Note that the name Tibetan 'mastiff' is a misnomer. This dog is not a true mastiff, and first got that name when someone observed that it looked like a mastiff; a better name for the dog would be 'Tibetan mountain dog' or, to include the same dogs on the periphery of Tibet: 'Himalayan mountain dog'.

There is also controversy whether the Tibetan mastiff is a molosser.


Currently, some breeders differentiate between two "types" of Tibetan Mastiff: The Do-khyi and the "Tsang-khyi". The "Tsang-khyi" (which, to a Tibetan, means only "dog from Tsang") is also referred to as the "monastery type", described as generally taller, heavier, more heavily boned, with more facial wrinkling and haw than the "Do-khyi" or "nomad type". Both "types" are often produced in the same litter.

Males can reach heights up to 31+ inches (80+cm) at the withers
The withers is the ridge between the shoulder blades of a four-legged animal. In many species it is the tallest point of the body, and in horses and dogs it is the standard place to measure the animal's height .-Horses:The withers in horses are formed by the dorsal spinal processes of roughly the...

, although the standard for the breed is typically in the 25 to 28 inch (61 to 72 cm) range. The heaviest TM on record may be one weighing over 130 kg (286.6 Lbs) but dogs bred in the West are more typically between 140 lb (64 kg) to 180 lb (82 kg)—especially if they are in good condition and not overweight. The enormous dogs being produced in some Western and some Chinese kennels would have "cost" too much to keep fed to have been useful to nomads; and their questionable structure would have made them well-nigh useless as livestock guardians.

The Tibetan Mastiff is considered a primitive breed. It typically retains the instincts which would be required for it to survive in Tibet, including canine pack behaviour. In addition, it is one of the few primitive dog breeds that retains a single oestrus 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. Since its oestrus usually takes place during late fall, most Tibetan Mastiff puppies are born between December and January.
Its double coat is long, subject to climate, and found in a wide variety of colors, including solid black, black & tan, various shades of gold / "blonde", blue/gray, chocolate brown, red, the rarest being solid white.

The coat of a Tibetan Mastiff lacks the unpleasant "big-dog smell" that affects many large breeds. The coat, whatever its length or color(s), should shed dirt and odors. 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 fall. (Sterilization of the dog or bitch 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).


The native type of dog, which still exists in Tibet
Tibet is a plateau region in Asia, north-east of the Himalayas. It is the traditional homeland of the Tibetan people as well as some other ethnic groups such as Monpas, Qiang, and Lhobas, and is now also inhabited by considerable numbers of Han and Hui people...

 and the Himalayas (in Bhutan, Nepal, and North India), and the Westernized purebred breed can vary in temperament—but so can dogs of identical breeding, within the same litter, raised in the same household. Elizabeth Schuler states, "The few individuals that remain in Tibet are ferocious and aggressive, unpredictable in their behavior, and very difficult to train. But the dogs bred by the English are obedient and attached to their masters." However, other observers have found the dogs remaining in Tibet to be quite approachable under the right circumstances—and some Western-bred dogs to be completely unapproachable.

Some Western and Asian breeders are seeking to create a replica of the legendary dog which they identify as the "true Tibetan Mastiff" or "Tsang-khyi". Some breeders appear to select primarily for appearance (great size, profuse coat, heavy wrinkling, jowls, haw) while others also select for "soft" temperament (in the West) and fierce temperament (in Asia where the dogs' "ferocity" is much vaunted and encouraged).

As a flock guardian dog
Livestock guardian dog
A livestock guardian dog is a domesticated canine used to defend livestock against predators. LGDs are commonly referred to as "sheep dogs" since they most often have guarded flocks of sheep, but most are capable of guarding other species of livestock. They are classified as pastoral dogs...

 in Tibet and in the West, it is tenacious in its ability to confront predators the size of wolves and leopard
The leopard , Panthera pardus, is a member of the Felidae family and the smallest of the four "big cats" in the genus Panthera, the other three being the tiger, lion, and jaguar. The leopard was once distributed across eastern and southern Asia and Africa, from Siberia to South Africa, but its...

s. As a socialized, more domestic dog, it can thrive in a spacious, fenced yard with a canine companion, but it is generally not an appropriate dog for apartment living. The Western-bred dogs are generally more easy-going, although somewhat aloof with strangers coming to the home. 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, barking at sounds throughout the night. Leaving a Tibetan Mastiff outside all night with neighbors nearby is not recommended. They often sleep during the day to be more active, alert and aware at night.

Like all flock guardian breeds, they are intelligent and stubborn to a fault, so obedience training
Obedience training
Obedience training usually refers to the training of a dog and the term is most commonly used in that context. Obedience training ranges from very basic training, such as teaching the dog to reliably respond to basic commands such as "sit", "down", "come", and "stay", to high level competition...

 is recommended (although only mildly successful with some individuals) since this is a strong-willed, powerful breed. Socialization
Socialization is a term used by sociologists, social psychologists, anthropologists, political scientists and educationalists to refer to the process of inheriting and disseminating norms, customs and ideologies...

 is also critical with this breed because of their reserved nature with strangers and guardian instincts. They are excellent family dogs—for the right family. Owners must understand canine psychology and be willing and able to assume the primary leadership position. Lack of consistent, rational discipline can result in the creation of dangerous, unpredictable dogs (although this is true of virtually every dog breed).

Newspaper reports have suggested that a pair of these Mastiffs have killed tigers while guarding sheep in the highlands of Nepal.[citation needed]


Life Expectancy Unlike most large breeds, its life expectancy
Life expectancy
Life expectancy is the expected number of years of life remaining at a given age. It is denoted by ex, which means the average number of subsequent years of life for someone now aged x, according to a particular mortality experience...

 is long, some 10–14 years. The breed has fewer genetic health problems than many breeds, but cases can be found of hypothyroidism
Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland does not make enough thyroid hormone.Iodine deficiency is the most common cause of hypothyroidism worldwide but it can be caused by other causes such as several conditions of the thyroid gland or, less commonly, the pituitary gland or...

, entropion
Entropion is a medical condition in which the eyelid folds inward. It is very uncomfortable, as the eyelashes constantly rub against the cornea. Entropion is usually caused by genetic factors and may be congenital...

, ectropion
Ectropion is a medical condition in which the lower eyelid turns outwards. It is one of the notable aspects of newborns exhibiting congenital Harlequin type ichthyosis, but ectropion can occur due to any weakening of tissue of the lower eyelid. The condition can be repaired surgically...

, skin problems including allergies
An Allergy is a hypersensitivity disorder of the immune system. Allergic reactions occur when a person's immune system reacts to normally harmless substances in the environment. A substance that causes a reaction is called an allergen. These reactions are acquired, predictable, and rapid...

, autoimmune problems including demodex, missing teeth, malocclusion
A malocclusion is a misalignment of teeth or incorrect relation between the teeth of the two dental arches. The term was coined by Edward Angle, the "father of modern orthodontics", as a derivative of occlusion, which refers to the manner in which opposing teeth meet.-Presentation:Most people have...

Overbite refers to the extent of vertical overlap of the maxillary central incisors over the mandibular central incisors.Overbite may also refer to:* Overbite , an extension for the Mozilla Firefox web browser....

 or underbite), cardiac problems, epilepsy
Epilepsy is a common chronic neurological disorder characterized by seizures. These seizures are transient signs and/or symptoms of abnormal, excessive or hypersynchronous neuronal activity in the brain.About 50 million people worldwide have epilepsy, and nearly two out of every three new cases...

, progressive retinal atrophy
Progressive retinal atrophy
Progressive retinal atrophy is a group of genetic diseases seen in certain breeds of dogs and, more rarely, cats. Similar to retinitis pigmentosa in humans, it is characterized by the bilateral degeneration of the retina, causing progressive vision loss culminating in blindness...

 (PRA), cataract
A cataract is a clouding that develops in the crystalline lens of the eye or in its envelope, varying in degree from slight to complete opacity and obstructing the passage of light...

, and small ear canals with a tendency for infection. As with most large breeds, some will suffer with elbow or hip dysplasia, although this has not been a major problem in the Tibetan Mastiff. Another concern includes canine inherited demyelinative neuropathy
Polyneuropathy in dogs and cats
Polyneuropathy in dogs and cats is a collection of peripheral nerve disorders that often are breed-related in these animals. Polyneuropathy indicates that multiple nerves are involved, unlike mononeuropathy. Polyneuropathy usually involves motor nerve dysfunction, also known as lower motor neuron...

 (CIDN), a rare inherited neural disease that appeared in one bloodline in the early 1980s.

Canine Hip Dysplasia (CHD) takes many forms, e.g., the femoral head ("ball") may not fit well into the acetabulum ("socket"); the ligament connecting the two may be lax, allowing dislocation; there may be no femoral head at all. Not all forms cause clinical signs. Very active, well-muscled dogs with no femoral heads may show no impairment. Their owners may be unaware of their dogs' "hip dysplasia" unless/until there is a reason to x-ray the hips.

As with all dog breeds, hip dysplasia is caused by the interaction of genes and environment. Inheritance of CHD appears to be polygenic, i.e., it is caused by more than one gene. Mode of inheritance (dominant, recessive, dominant with incomplete penetrance, etc.)has not been determined but may be different in different breeds. Rapid growth and weight gain in puppies may trigger or exacerbate a genetic tendency to all sorts of skeletal problems. Many TM breeders recommend against feeding "puppy food" and especially against feeding "large-breed" puppy food, as these concoctions may contain too many calories, leading to fat puppies. Some breeders and owners believe that supplementation with Vitamin C may prevent the development of CHD even in dogs with the genes for it.

Canine Inherited Demyelinative Neuropathy is an inherited condition that appeared in one of the prominent lines of Tibetan Mastiffs in the early 1980s. CIDN affect the peripheral nervous system. Nerve fibers are unable to transmit impulses from the spinal cord to the muscles because of the breakdown of the myelin sheath. Starting at approximately six weeks of age, affected pups begin to lose the ability to walk or even stand. Progression of the condition can take anywhere from a few days to two weeks.

Because this condition is inherited as a simple autosomal recessive, it is virtually impossible to completely eliminate it from the gene pool. One known carrier was bred to over 30 times, producing at least 134 direct descendants. Many descendants of this dog are still being bred so there is always the risk—however slim—of producing more affected puppies. Breeders need to be cautious about pairing up any two descendants of this dog.

Hypothyroidism is fairly common in Tibetan Mastiffs, as it is in many large "Northern" breeds. TMs should be tested periodically throughout their lives using a complete thyroid "panel". (Simple T2/T4 testing is virtually useless.) However, because the standard thyroid levels were established using domestic dog breeds, test results must be considered in the context of what is "normal" for the breed, not what is normal across all breeds. Many TMs will have "low" thyroid values but no clinical symptoms. Vets—and owners—differ on the relative merits of medicating dogs who "test low" but are completely asymptomatic. Some researchers think that asymptomatic hypothyroidism may have been adaptive in the regions of origin for many breeds, since less nutrition is required for the dog to stay in good condition. Therefore, attempts to eliminate "low thyroid" dogs from the TM gene pool may have unintended consequences for the breed.

In affected dogs, symptoms may include decreased activity and playing, increased sleeping, weight gain, poor skin and coat condition such as flaking and scaling, a "yeasty" smell to the coat, frequent ear infections, and negative changes in temperament. Fortunately, this condition is easily treated by the use of daily thyroid supplementation.

Osteochondritis Dessicans is a skeletal defect in which the cartilage lifts off the bone, becomes thickened and cracked, causes inflammation and pain, and in severe cases degeneration of the joint. This conditions strikes males more than females. Keeping an affected puppy lean may help but surgery may be required to relieve pain.

Panosteitis is inflammation of the bones that strikes young dogs. The animal will become lame in one leg and then the inflammation will shift to a different leg. This is one condition that corrects itself over time, and only pain medication is needed.

Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy (HOD) is a condition that affects young large breed dogs. It is very painful and prognosis is fair to poor due to recurring episodes of the condition. Clinical signs of HOD include fever, lack of appetite, and depression. Lameness may vary from mild to severe. With multiple limbs affected, the dog may be reluctant to stand or walk. HOD may be mistaken for Panosteitis without proper diagnosis.

Treatment is only supportive. Intravenous fluids are usually required to keep the patient hydrated. Nutritional support is provided with a feeding tube if the dog refuses to eat for five or more days. Pain is controlled with narcotics and NSAIDs. Antibiotics are used if the dog has signs of pneumonia or other bacterial infections. If the bones become twisted due to growth plate damage, corrective surgery may be indicated. Because the distemper vaccination has been implicated, inoculation should be delayed until the pet has been in remission for a couple of months. Information from http://www.vetsurgerycentral.com/hod.htm

Ear Infections can be serious and the dog should be taken to the vet if you see it shaking its head or scratching more than normal. Tibetan Mastiffs have pendant ears, making them more prone to ear infections. The vet needs to determine the cause, and may prescribe antibiotics and/or ear drops. Some ear infections are contagious to other dogs if they involve mites or some bacteria.


This is an ancient breed. It has been theorized that an early Tibetan dog is the ancestor to all Molossuses
Molossus (dog)
-History:This ancient extinct breed of dog is commonly considered to be the ancestor of today's Mastiff-type dogs and of many other modern breeds. Mastiff-type dogs are often referred to as Molossus dogs or Molossers...

 breeds, although this is disputed by some experts. A study at Nanjing Agricultural University's Laboratory of Animal Reproductive Genetics and Molecular Evolution in Nanjing, China, found that while most common dog breeds genetically diverged from the wolf approximately 42,000 years ago, the Tibetan Mastiff genetically diverged from the wolf approximately 58,000 years ago. They share many characterisitcs of many Mountain dog
Mountain dog
Mountain dog is a generic form of canidae, dog, dog breed or landrace typically from mountain environs.They are often a working dog, particularly a livestock or flock guardian or farm dog. By and large, these dogs tend to have a claimed Molosser dog in their genetic heritage...


Many Tibetan Mastiff breeders and owners (and their web sites) claim that Marco Polo
Marco Polo
Marco Polo was a Venetian merchant traveler from the Venetian Republic whose travels are recorded in Il Milione, a book which did much to introduce Europeans to Central Asia and China. He learned about trading whilst his father and uncle, Niccolò and Maffeo, travelled through Asia and apparently...

 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." However, reading of Polo's works does not support this. In fact, other travels told Marco Polo about these enormous dogs—and about unicorns and other exotic creatures.

In the early 19th century, King George IV
George IV of the United Kingdom
George IV was the King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and also of Hanover from the death of his father, George III, on 29 January 1820 until his own death ten years later...

 owned a pair of TMs, and there were enough of the breed in England in 1906 to be shown at the 1906 Crystal Palace
The Crystal Palace
The Crystal Palace was a cast-iron and glass building originally erected in Hyde Park, London, England, to house the Great Exhibition of 1851. More than 14,000 exhibitors from around the world gathered in the Palace's of exhibition space to display examples of the latest technology developed in...

 show. However, during the war years, the breed lost favor and focus and nearly died out in England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...


After 1980, the breed began to gain in popularity worldwide. Although the breed is still considered somewhat uncommon, as various registries and show organizations (FCI, AKC) began to recognize the breed, more and more active breeders have arisen. Initially the breed suffered because of the limited gene pool from the original stock, but today's reputable breeders work hard at reducing the genetic problems through selective breeding and the international exchange of new bloodlines.

In 2008, the Tibetan Mastiff competed for the first time in the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show
Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show
The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is a two-day, all-breed benched conformation show that takes place at Madison Square Garden in New York City every year. The first Westminster show was held in 1877....


It was reported in September 2009 that a Chinese woman spent more than 4 million yuan
The Renminbi is the official currency of the People's Republic of China . Renminbi is legal tender in mainland China, but not in Hong Kong or Macau. It is issued by the People's Bank of China, the monetary authority of the PRC...

 to buy an 18 month old purebred male Tibetan Mastiff, which she named Yangtze No. 2. In March 2011, a red Tibetan mastiff was reported to have been sold to a 'coal baron' from northern China for 10 million yuan.

Tibetan Mastiffs in popular culture

  • A Tibetan Mastiff named Max is seen in the 1993 horror film, Man's Best Friend.
  • In Blood Rites
    Blood Rites
    Blood Rites is a 1968 horror film directed by Andy Milligan.-Plot:Three sisters, Veronica, Victoria and Elizabeth, receive letters from their late father's lawyer informing them of their father's wish that they spend three nights in his house on an isolated island before his will can be read...

    , a novel of The Dresden Files
    The Dresden Files
    The Dresden Files is a series of contemporary fantasy/mystery novels written by Jim Butcher.He provides a first person narrative of each story from the point of view of the main character, private investigator and wizard Harry Dresden, as he recounts investigations into supernatural disturbances in...

    by Jim Butcher
    Jim Butcher
    Jim Butcher is a New York Times Best Selling author most known for his contemporary fantasy book series The Dresden Files. He also wrote the Codex Alera series. Butcher grew up as the only son of his parents, and has two older sisters. He currently lives in Independence with his wife, Shannon K...

    , the main character, Harry Dresden
    Harry Dresden
    Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden is a fictional detective and wizard. He was created by Jim Butcher and is the protagonist of the contemporary fantasy series The Dresden Files. The series blends magic and hardboiled detective fiction...

    , is "adopted" by what is likely a Tibetan mastiff (with Foo Dog ancestry). He names the dog "Mouse", who becomes a stalwart protector of the wizard.
  • A Tibetan mastiff also shows up in books by the popular Western novelist, Louis L'Amour (in 'Haunted Mesa', 1987 and 'Treasure Mountain', 1972).
  • A Tibetan Mastiff is the subject of the 2011 animated film The Tibetan Dog
    The Tibetan Dog
    is a 2011 Chinese/Japanese animated film directed by Masayuki Kojima, co-produced by Madhouse and China Film Group Corporation. It premiered at 51st Annecy Film Festival in June 2011....


External links

  • Tibetan Mastiff Craze Sweeps China – slideshow by The Huffington Post
    The Huffington Post
    The Huffington Post is an American news website and content-aggregating blog founded by Arianna Huffington, Kenneth Lerer, and Jonah Peretti, featuring liberal minded columnists and various news sources. The site offers coverage of politics, theology, media, business, entertainment, living, style,...

  • Tibetan Mastiff Breed Profile
The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.