Though the Spanish Mastiff is named a mastiff, it has filled the role of Livestock Guardian Dog for hundreds of years. A breed standard wasn’t created until 1946, however, a full thirty five years after programmed breeding began with the organization of the Royal Society of Supporting Dog Breeds in Spain.
The FCI standard makes no mention of the two types of Spanish Mastiff we found referred to in several sources. The Mastin Pesado, or Heavy Mastiff, is most prevalent in the mountains of northern Spain, and is the type more typically seen at dog shows and exhibits. It has more loose skin, more dewlaps, and a bigger head. The Mastin Ligero, or Light Mastiff, by contrast, has what some describe as a refined “steppe type.” It is lighter, more athletically built, and subsequently is seen to be the faster and more agile of the two.
Whatever the type, some 24,000 Spanish Mastiffs are believed to live in Spain, particularly in the province of Leon in northwestern Spain which has become popularly known as the Spanish Mastiff capital of the country. Because the Spanish Mastiff is the most numerous of the native dog breeds, many sources describe it as the National Dog of Spain.
Image of Lois Jordan’s Spanish Mastiff youngster from 2014