Mastiff ColorsAugust 15, 2021 2021-08-15 18:28
There are many different types of Mastiff dog and even more variety when it comes to coat color. From the striking white or cream Tibetan Mastiff to the blue Neapolitan and everything in between, there is a color of Mastiff to match every outfit you’ve ever worn, from your first lilac babygrow to your newest pair of gold Louboutin pumps.
Descended from the famed Grecian breed, the Molossus, the Mastiff is one of the oldest dog breeds in the world, dating back some 5,000 years. Despite its impressive size and somewhat ferocious appearance, all types of Mastiff are known for their affectionate and gentle natures.
Although they were pitted against both bears and humans in the ancient Roman arenas, these days they are more commonly found enjoying family life as a loyal companion dog.
The strong guardian instinct that once made this breed ideal for protecting livestock now gives them a tendency towards over-protectiveness but with the proper training and socialization, they can become docile, home-loving creatures that double up as very effective personal bodyguards.
Although breeds like the Cane Corso, Great Dane and Korean Mastiff are considered to be Mastiffs, the Tibetan Mastiff is not, despite its name. Having said that, they also introduce a whole spectrum of colors not found in other true Mastiff breeds, so for the sake of this article, we’re going to let them be a part of the Mastiff crew.
As some types of Mastiff display coat colors that don’t occur in other Mastiff breeds, we’re going to look at each one individually, even though some colors may overlap.
Table of Contents
Also known as the English or Old English Mastiff, this breed is recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC), the United Kennel Club (UKC), and the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI).
While the AKC and FCI recognize just three colors or patterns, namely apricot, brindle, and fawn, the UKC includes both silver fawn and dark fawn-brindle in its breed standard. The UKC also finds little wrong with other color variations, listing albinism as the only disqualifying color feature.
Starting with the three universally accepted colors, let’s explore the different variations you can find in the Mastiff.
Fawn is the most popular color of Mastiff and can range from a very light grayish-brown color to light, yellowish tan. At birth, fawn Mastiffs often appear darker thanks to their “puppy fuzz,” making it difficult to establish what color they’ll be once fully grown.
Due to the migration of melanoblasts during embryogenesis, fawn Mastiffs have a distinct black mask and black ears. In brindle Mastiffs, these produce the vertical stripes of the bridling pattern, but in fawn Mastiffs, a shortage of melanocytes means the black coloring only extends as far as the head and ears.
Recent studies suggest that this migration of melanoblasts means that “a brindle can be born from two phenotypic fawns,” despite the long-held notion that “you cannot have a brindle pup without a brindle parent.”
Fawn Mastiffs have become increasingly sought-after in recent years, and can be the most expensive of all Mastiff colors.
This eye-catching color ranges from a light strawberry blonde to a darker shade that appears almost red. Difficult to distinguish from the fawn Mastiff at birth, as the puppy matures, so the orange hue begins to emerge. Like the fawn, the apricot Mastiff wears a black mask over its eyes and muzzle and usually has black ears to match.
In some rare instances, you may find an apricot Mastiff with a brown or even blue mask, rather than the standard black variety.
For a brindle Mastiff to meet the AKC’s breed standard, the base color must be either apricot or fawn. The dog’s entire body should be covered in dark stripes, a little like those you find on a tiger. The black mask remains a principal aspect of this color variation and should be accompanied by black ears, eye rims, and nose.
Brindle is also a common color in the Mastiff’s cousins, the American Pitbull Terrier.
In addition to the officially recognized colors, in a few rare instances, you may come across a black and white or piebald Mastiff which, although not accepted in the show ring, were, according to some, “very much a part of the old Mastiff world.”
In 1886, Malcolm B. Wynn published The History of the Mastiff, in which he states, “Pieds are admissible and equal for purity.” Some breeders continue to produce piebald Mastiffs even though it’s no longer accepted as part of the breed standard.
The Tibetan Mastiff or Do-Khyi comes in a wider variety of colors than the true Mastiff breeds, and the kennel clubs are subsequently more relaxed about what colors are recognized in their breed standards.
The AKC, for example, lists black, brown, blue/grey, and gold as acceptable colors. Tan markings and even a white star on the breast are all permissible, although large, white markings are, according to the AKC “to be faulted.” The FCI makes no such distinction although it does state that only a “white star on breast” and “minimal white markings on feet” are permissible.
Although “black is so rare in the Mastiff that it has never been determined whether the allele is recessive or a mutation that is dominant,” this is the predominant color among Tibetan Mastiffs.
As we mentioned earlier, these aren’t considered true Mastiffs which could be why they wear a different colored coat. The only Mastiffs that sport black coats are those that, while being livestock guardian dogs, aren’t Mastiffs in the true sense of the word. In addition to the black Tibetan Mastiff, you can also find black Spanish and Neapolitan Mastiffs, none of which are true.
Brown Tibetan Mastiffs range in color from rich mahogany to a pale biscuit color. Some bear a marked resemblance to a lion, with their thick ruffs of hair covering the neck and shoulders.
Like its multi-colored cousins, the brown Tibetan Mastiff stands around 24 to 29 inches at the shoulder and weighs between 70 and 150 lb. As a result of its large size, this breed has been banned in many cities and countries around the world. Although that’s bad news for wannabe Mastiff owners in Wapato, Washington, it’s great news for those of you hoping to adopt one of these gentle giants.
Although blue is a color more commonly associated with the Neapolitan Mastiff, some breeders are specializing in blue Tibetan Mastiffs as well. These dogs have inherited a dilute gene from either one of their parents, which dilutes the black pigmentation, producing a range of colors from silver through to charcoal gray.
As a result of this gene, it’s not uncommon for blue Tibetan Mastiffs to have blue or gray eyes and noses.
Accepted by most kennel clubs as a recognized Tibetan Mastiff color, the golden hue can range “from a pure golden to a rich red gold.”
This color was highly sought-after during the breed’s peak of popularity, and in 2011, a red-gold Tibetan Mastiff called Big Splash sold for $1.5 million. This record was beaten three years later when an aspiring breeder handed over $1.9 million for a golden Tibetan Mastiff puppy.
This is one breed of dog that really is worth its weight in gold, or so it would seem!
#5 Black and Tan
Black and Tan Tibetan Mastiffs aren’t particularly common as it is produced by the most recessive gene in their DNA. As with the gold Mastiffs, the tan colorings can vary dramatically, appearing either very light or taking on a rich, golden hue similar to that of a lion.
Some Unofficial Colors Of Tibetan Mastiff
While that completes the recognized colors of the Tibetan Mastiff, there are plenty more that the kennel clubs have rejected.
Cream, for instance, is one color that occurs in native dogs, despite white being highly controversial. Black and white or piebald Tibetan Mastiffs are also not recognized by the kennel clubs but “are widely spread in Hinjang” and inner Mongolia.
Another native color, known as “Láng qù ing” is rarely seen outside of Tibet and resembles a wolf with its combination of grayish red base coat with darker patches and stripes over the top.
You may also find Tibetan Mastiffs with liver, lilac, or brindle coats and even some that are particolored, but these are neither particularly common nor especially sought-after.
Like the Mastiff, the Bullmastiff comes in a fairly limited selection of colors, and, as far as the kennel clubs are concerned, only “red, fawn, or brindle” Bullmastiffs are true to the breed standard. The limited colors of the Bullmastiff could potentially be related to the breed’s similarly restricted genetic diversity.
A study published in the PLOS One scientific journal in 2016 found evidence of “unequal founder use, and ancestral inbreeding and selection.” These practices may have impacted the breed’s genetic diversity and subsequently limited the variety of genes that determine coat color.
Red Bullmastiffs range from a light chestnut color to dark mahogany. These dogs almost always have black masks over their faces and may have a small white spot on the chest.
Fawn is as variable and viable a color of the Bullmastiff breed as red. It can range from a lighter, almost caramel hue to a duller, grayish color. These dogs may also have a small splash of white on the chest but rarely have any other white markings. A black mask is also standard.
Brindle is a highly-valued color for the Bullmastiff and is believed to have been favored by early breeders who were breeding gamekeeper’s dogs, so preferred the camouflage offered by the brindle pattern.
As the Bullmastiff became more of a companion dog, so the need for “night camouflage gave way in popularity to the lighter fawn coloration.”
There are two types of brindle Bullmastiffs – a true or pure brindle and a brindle with a masking gene. Although it can be difficult to differentiate the two, the FCI says a black muzzle is essential, which means a brindle with a poor masking gene “will not be readily displayed in the Breed Show Ring.”
Neapolitan Mastiff Colors
This massive dog breed is characterized by its folds of loose skin and a large dewlap. An ancient breed of dog believed to have originated in 3000 BC. Rediscovered in Italy in 1949, the Neapolitan Mastiff has become increasingly popular, despite its enormous size, making it into the AKC’s top 100 most popular breeds last year.
The Neapolitan Mastiff is one of the few breeds in which the color blue is relatively common and accepted by all the major kennel clubs, although some refer to this shade as gray rather than blue.
Blue Neapolitan Mastiffs sometimes retain the blue eyes they’re born with and may have some white markings, particularly on the chest, throat, stomach, and toes.
As blue is a recessive gene, for a Neapolitan Mastiff puppy to be born blue, both parents must carry the dilute gene, D locus.
Although solid colors are preferred in the show ring, blue Neapolitans with some brindling will also be accepted.
As with many breeds of Mastiff, black is a rare color amongst the Neapolitans but highly sought after. It can be difficult to distinguish a dark blue dog from a true black one unless you’re viewing them in direct sunlight. Partially black dogs often have white markings or light grey brindling.
Although black Neapolitans are just as healthy as any other color, their black coats make them more susceptible to heatstroke and heat exhaustion.
Both lighter and darker shades of Neapolitan Mastiff are accepted by the AKC and dogs with a tawny or mahogany coat can vary from a light tan coloration to a deep chocolate brown. The eye color of these dogs varies almost as much as their coats, with some sporting blue eyes and others dark brown or even black.
Neapolitans of this color usually have black markings around their eyes, paws, and muzzle and may have a few white markings, particularly on the chest.
Brindle Neapolitans can have any of the shades listed above as their base coat color. Over the top of this, they will display faint stripes of a different color. For AKC, the only acceptable brindle is a reverse brindle, in which tan stripes decorate a darker base color.
Other Flavors of Neapolitan Mastiff
Not unlike the Neapolitan ice cream with its variety of flavors and colors, the Neapolitan Mastiff comes in a variety of other shades in addition to those preferred by the kennel clubs. A 150-lb Neapolitan Mastiff sporting the pale lilac or creamy color, Isabella, is quite an eye-catching sight and, although not favored in the show ring, will be tolerated.
Brown, pale gray, and cream are also accepted by the UKC, while the FCI lists “hazel, dove-grey, and Isabella” as being “tolerated.”
Another breed that has mastiff in its name but isn’t considered to be a true Mastiff, the Pyrenean is nevertheless recognized by both the FCI and the UKC. The AKC, meanwhile, recognizes it only as a Foundation Stock Service breed, meaning it’s not eligible for competition.
Most Pyrenean Mastiffs are primarily white with a well-defined mask of a darker color. They usually have a few splashes of color on their bodies as well, making them more piebald than pure white.
Although a basic white color is preferred, a completely white Pyreanean is undesirable, as is a tan-colored dog.
For the UKC, the “most desirable color is snow white ground color” which then has patches of color, ranging from light beige through to medium gray or black.
In total, eight different accepted colors of Pyrenean Mastiff will usually appear as splashes of color on a primarily white coat:
- Light tan
While the kennel clubs are very specific about the correct colors for many Mastiff breeds, when it comes to the Spanish Mastiff, they appear to throw the rule book out of the window. The UKC even goes as far as to say the color of a Spanish Mastiff’s coat is “immaterial,” while the FCI says it’s “indifferent.” The AKC, once again, doesn’t recognize the breed which is not a true Mastiff.
The Spanish Mastiff or Mastín Español can be virtually any color, although the most common shades are:
Can a Tibetan Mastiff Be White?
The white Tibetan Mastiff is one of those and one whose popularity has stored up a hornet’s nest of controversy.
Some Tibetan Mastiff experts claim that white dogs have existed since the breed emerged while others, like Rick Eichhorn of Drakyi Tibetan Mastiffs in Palmdale, California, maintain that “There’s no such thing as a white Tibetan Mastiff in Tibet.”
Tibetan Mastiffs that appear white are often just very pale gold. Because of the dilution factor, they also often have brown or flesh-colored noses. Dogs with pure white coats and black noses are, according to some, the result of “an infusion of foreign blood.” In other words, they’re not pure Tibetan Mastiffs but are crossed with another breed, such as the Anatolian or Great Pyrenees.
What Is The Biggest Mastiff In The World?
Although the Great Dane is the biggest Mastiff breed, the largest Mastiff on record was an English Mastiff by the name of Aicama Zorba of La-Susa. In 1987, Zorba became the Guinness World Record holder for the longest and heaviest dog ever. He measured 8ft 3 inches from nose to tail and weighed 330 lb!
What Is The Most Popular Breed Of Mastiff?
According to the AKC’s most popular dog breeds of 2020, the English Mastiff is the most popular of all the Mastiff breeds, ranking 33 out of 195. The Bullmastiff comes in second with a ranking of 55 while the Neapolitan just manages to sneak into the top 100.
Are Mastiffs Aggressive?
Mastiffs are highly protective but not generally aggressive. Having said that, in June last year an 11-year-old girl and a 70-year-old man were both killed by pet Mastiffs in two separate incidents. The sheer size and strength of the Mastiff breeds mean they have the potential to do a lot of damage if not properly trained and socialized from a young age.