Let’s be honest: we all know it’s the truth when we say that dogs are man’s best friend; the love and compassion they show us is truly unparalleled, and it isn’t hard to find someone who will secretly admit to liking dogs more than people (heck some even call their pets their furry babies). Dogs come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and over the years there have been more dog breeds than you could possibly count. Don’t believe me? Next time you see your neighbor walking their dog try asking them what breed it is; I bet they’ll jump for joy at the opportunity to break out the charts and graphs of little Fido’s ancestry.
All dogs have a big heart, but there are some breeds which keep that heart in an equally massive body, which results in some of our furry friends growing up to be larger than we are. If you ever watch some of the dog training competitions, then you’ll know how super interesting it is just how big our pets can get. But of all the dogs running around, which breeds are the ones that really dwarf the competition? Here are the top ten largest dog breeds that make all the others look like puppies in comparison.
#10 – Black Russian Terrier (100-155 Pounds)
The Black Russian Terrier (or Tchiorny Terrier) was originally created during the middle of the 1900s by the Red Star Kennel in Moscow; it was bred for military work purposes, but also to serve as a companion for the soldiers. The Black Russian Terrier’s name can be deceiving, because it’s not actually a terrier: it was made using seventeen different breeds, and so the result is sort of a dog amalgamation. The “BRT” grows up to 29 inches tall, and is known for being a particularly shy breed.
One of the most interesting things about the Black Russian Terrier is that it needs a dedicated job in order to be happy: if it is left to its own devices it will become destructive and overly energetic, which comes with the added effect of making you feel guilty. The BRT has often been used for “carting,” which is basically the dog equivalent of a horse and carriage where the dog transports equipment or people via cart; you might be skeptical that a dog just over a hundred pounds could cart around something that’s a few times its own weight, but trust me: you’d be surprised.
#9 – Neapolitan Mastiff (130-155 Pounds)
When you hear the word “Neapolitan” you might think of Napoleon, the French general and political leader, but the Neapolitan Mastiff (also known as the Mastino, or the Mastini) is actually an Italian breed; it dates back for hundreds of years and was intended to serve as a guard dog that would intimidate would be criminals with its size and appearance. The Neapolitan Mastiff is rather unique as a guard dog because it only barks when it is provoked, which means that it will actually attack intruders without making noise or giving a prior warning.
Because of the Mastino’s early usage as a fighting dog, the breed has a rather significant pain tolerance, which means that the dog may not give any indication if it is suffering from a medical condition; they almost completely died out after World War 2, but a famed Italian painter named Piero Scanziani established a dedicated Mastiff kennel to turn the Neapolitan into a formal breed. The Neapolitan Mastiff should only be considered as a pet if you are extremely experienced with animals, as it requires a great deal of attention and obedience training if you don’t want it to be aggressive towards strangers and other dogs.
#8 – Leonberger (120-170 Pounds)
The Leonberger is named after the German city of Leonberg, and was intentionally bred by the mayor of the town to resemble the lion depicted on Leonberg’s town crest; in that sense the Leonberg is a sort of symbol to the town’s folk, which makes it one of the most popular mountain dogs in the world. The Leonberger is a dimorphic breed, which means it can be immediately identified as either a male or female because of how differently the physique of the genders are. The male can grow up to 31.5 inches tall, and it touts a muscular frame with thick bones, which makes it ideal for physically requiring work like hauling supplies uphill.
The Leonberger is a family dog first and foremost – meaning that it is easy to train and it reacts to children well; the only downside to adopting one into your family is the less than average life span (seven years), which is roughly 50% less than other pure breeds. On the plus side, during the seven years that the Leonberger brightens up your home, you won’t need to be making too many trips to the vet: it’s generally a rather healthy breed.
#7 – Landseer (143-175 Pounds)
The Landseer was named after Sir Edwin Henry Landseer, a famous English painter who included the dog in his 1838 painting, “A Distinguished Member of the Humane Society.” Among dog owners and kennel-clubs the Landseer is usually regarded as an alternate coloration of the “Newfoundland” dog breed, but there are enough differences with its size and physique that it is officially regarded as a separate breed. The Landseer males range from 28 to 32 inches in height, but you won’t have to worry about them knocking you over: they’re known for their sweet and serene personalities.
One of the more interesting facts about the Landseer is that they were originally used by fishermen to assist with hauling nets to shore; the remarkable swimming capacity of these dogs has been utilized since the mid 18th century, and the dog featured in Sir Edwin Henry Landseer’s painting is said to have saved over 20 people from drowning. The majority of the Landseer breed was killed in World War 1, but some Landseer enthusiasts in Switzerland, Germany, and the Netherlands, managed to repopulate the breed from 1945 to 1960, and we’re thankful they did!
#6 – The Great Dane (120-200 Pounds)
Everyone is familiar with The Great Dane, and it is widely considered to be the largest dog breed, but only because of its incredible height (up to 44 inches tall). The Great Dane currently holds the world record for tallest dog, but despite their imposing stature they are known for being one of the most love-hungry breeds, and constantly crave the affection of their owners, which gives it its nicknames as the “gentle giant” and “world’s biggest lapdogs.” References to The Great Dane can be found dating all the way back to Greek writings and Norse poems, with the oldest reference being as early as 5th century BC.
The Great Dane (formerly the German boarhound) was popular amongst the nobles of Europe, and was primarily used for hunting wild animals, where the dog would hold large animals like bears, boars, or other prey, while the hunter maintained their focus on bringing the target down for good; the needs of hunters changed when firearms became commonplace, and more powerful dogs were exchanged for more trainable and obedient fetching dogs. If you’re considering owning a Great Dane, then you should be aware that the breed requires daily walks in order to develop their bones: failure to do so is going to cost you far more than just your time.
#5 – Tosa Inu (130-200 Pounds)
The Tosa Inu (or Japanese Mastiff) was bred in Kochi, Japan, which was originally called Tosa back when the breed first appeared; it was bred to be a fighting dog, and is still used for blood sport today. The Tosa Inu greatly varies in size depending on where it is raised: the Japanese Tosa ranges from only 80 to 135 pounds, but outside Japan it averages from 130 to 200. Regardless where the Tosa Inu is raised, it still grows to about 32 inches in height – which is a rather considerable stature for a combat animal.
The Tosa Inu first appeared on the latter half of the nineteenth century, and was bred from the Shikoku-Inu, a rather tiny dog that maxed out at about 45 pounds. Because of the aggressive nature of the Tosa’s origin, ownership of the dog is considered illegal in the UK, as well as 13 other Countries (including Denmark, Iceland, Israel, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, and Turkey); importing the dog is a federal crime in Australia, whose government will also refuse to insure your home if you’re found to be keeping a dangerous animal.
#4 – Boerboel (120-220 Pounds)
The Boerboel (or South African Mastiff) was bred for the sole purpose of guarding farms and homes; the name “Boerboel” actually breaks down into two root words: “boer,” which is the Dutch and African word for “farmer,” and “boel,” which is how the Dutch phonetically spell the word “bull.” When you combine the Boerboel’s root words together it literally translates into “farming bull,” which somehow perfectly describes the Boerboel’s appearance. After companies started getting wind of how successful the Boerboel was at defending crops from intruders, the breed became an incredibly popular import.
If you have ever bought a diamond then you are probably familiar with De Beers, the company which essentially holds the exclusive monopoly on world-wide diamond production; they also happened to figure out that Boerboels and Bullmastiffs make great guards for their diamond mines, which means that one of the largest companies in the entire world trusts the security of its multi-billion dollar industry to a bunch of dogs. Are you suddenly feeling inspired to pull off some sort of elaborate Hollywood style diamond heist? I wouldn’t try it, because the Boerboel is highly alert, incredibly protective, and will defend its territory to the death!
#3 – Bully Kutta (140-210 Pounds)
Let’s just get this out of the way now… the Bully Kutta is one of the most intimidating dog breeds to ever see the light of day, and if you have any intention of holding one back from lunging at a nosy neighbor then you better bring two harnesses and an extra set of hands; it’s officially known as the Indian Alangu Mastiff, but its ferocious and aggressive temperament has earned it the nickname “bully:” if you thought the Boerboel was bad to the bone then I double dog dare you to cross this guy!
The Bully Kutta was bred for two primary reasons: protecting its owner and their property, and quickly and efficiently killing other dogs, which has made the Bully Kutta the ideal pick in Pakistan’s dog fighting pits. It is absolutely essential to train and coddle the Bully Kutta from a very young age because their instincts run rampant as they get older, and their amazing intellect conditions them to patiently wait for the perfect moment before they quickly become aggressive; they certainly aren’t “bad dogs” in any sense of the word, but if you’re looking to bring a puppy home for the wife and kids then I would likely suggest you keep looking.
#2 – English Mastiff (150-250 Pounds)
Many people think that the English Mastiff is the largest dog in the world, and it’s honestly pretty easy to see why: a fully gown Mastiff can be heavier than most adult men, and their size can be more comparable to a bear than a dog. The English Mastiff is the largest dog when judging only by pure body mass, and if you account for their lack of fur then they actually are the largest breed of dog; they only grow up to 30 inches in height, which may not be as impressive as some of the others on this list, but they make up for their lack of height with an incredible robust stature.
The heaviest dog to ever be recorded was an English Mastiff named “Aicama Zorba of La Susa,” which totally makes sense to me, because if my parents named me Aicama Zorba of La Susa then I would probably develop an eating disorder as well; he was listed as 343 pounds by the Guinness Book of Records, and served as one of the reasons why Guinness would later remove that category from their record holdings. Be wary before you go hunting for that new family pet, since when you buy an English Mastiff you are essentially paying for an incredibly heavy (yet lovable) baby.
#1 – Saint Bernard (140-264 Pounds)
The biggest dog breed to walk the earth is the St. Bernard, which is also known as the Alpine Mastiff. Originating from the Swiss Alps that it derives its name from, the St. Bernard was designed to be brought along for rescue missions; while other dogs may be used for location and scouting, the St. Bernard was intended to be large enough to drag and support a full bodied adult man. The most famous Bernard rescue dog was named Barry, who saved the lives of 40-100 people before his passing; his body is currently preserved in the Natural History Museum of Berne, and his efforts have been immortalized through a monument in the Cimetere des Chiens.
The earliest writings which speak of St. Bernards are dated back to 1707, and the breed can be found in earlier pieces of artwork. One thing that is fascinating about the St. Bernard is that they would naturally teach their offspring all of the rescue protocols they had learned, which required no special or dedicated training in order to get a new generation of dogs up to speed. Most of the original St. Bernard training dogs were killed during various avalanches in the early 1800s, and in order to preserve the species they were crossbred with the Newfoundland: leading to its current hairier appearance, and removing its usefulness in the Alps.