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Caucasian Shepherd vs. Tibetan Mastiff: What’s The Difference?

Emma Braby

Last Updated: March 31, 2020 | 12 min read

Caucasian Shepherd vs Tibetan Mastiff

The Caucasian Shepherd and the Tibetan Mastiff are very similar dogs. Not only do they look very similar, but because they were bred for similar purposes they also act similarly too. Have you come to a point where you are comparing the Caucasian Shepherd vs. the Tibetan Mastiff for your next family pet? There are very slight differences between the two breeds that might persuade a family to welcome one over the other into their lives. Here in this guide, we will look at their similarities and differences, so you can figure out which breed is best for your family.

They were bred to protect, and protective they both definitely are! They are both challenging dogs and neither are suited to a first-time dog owner, so only experienced dog handlers should sign up for one of these guys. Lifelong training is needed, but in return you will receive utmost loyalty and love from your humongous pooch.

They are both finding their way into family homes across America, seeking flock work during the day and lazy warm sofa cuddles at night, rather than their traditional mountain living. So, let’s take a closer look at how similar these guys really are!

Breed Comparison Chart

 
Caucasian Shepherd
Tibetian Mastiff
Height
23 – 30 inches (M & F)
26 Inches Plus (M)
24 Inches Plus (F)
Weight
Up to 125 – 200 pounds (M)
Up to 100 - 175 pounds (F)
90 – 160 pounds (M)
70 – 120 pounds (F)
Temperament
Bold, Fearless, Loyal
Independent, Reserve, Intelligent
Energy
Low Energy
Low Energy
Health
Average
Average
Grooming
Daily Brushing
Daily
Lifespan
10-12 years
10-12 years
Price
$1,000+
$1,500+

Breed Histories

The Caucasian Shepherd and the Tibetan Mastiff have separate histories, but it is believed that they are related to one another, and as such their histories are somewhat intertwined.  Both breeds can sometimes be confused for one another, so let’s learn a little bit more about each breed’s history before comparing traits between each breed.

Caucasian Shepherd

Caucasian Shepherd Dog
The Caucasian Shepherd is a mountain dog with a thick coat.

The Caucasian Shepherd is also known as the Russian Bear dog or the Caucasian Ovcharka, and he is an ancient Molosser dog who is around 2,000 years old, who descends from Mastiff type dogs (believed to be the Tibetan Mastiff and another larger breed). He comes from the Caucasus Mountain range between Europe and Asia (formally part of Russia hence his nickname).

His original purpose was to spend look after his flock or cattle on the mountains from wolves, bears and thieves, as well as protecting his human master. There are other Molosser dogs that look similar, as many breeds that come from this lineage share similar traits and looks.

For a long time he was the chosen breed of choice for military personnel who needed protection in Eastern Europe. Whilst he still is protective and bold, he is slowly finding his way into the homes of families who love big protective doggos that also love to cuddle their family. He is not formally recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC), but he is making his way to fully recognizable status.

Tibetan Mastiff

Tibetan Mastiff History
The Tibetan Mastiff has become far more popular in the last 5 years.

The Tibetan Mastiff’s history is somewhat of a secret, simply because the region where they come from, Tibet, has always been isolated and closely guarded by their people. All we know for sure, is that they were the protectors of the Temples in the Himalayas. At the temples they worked with small Lhasa Apsos, who would alert their colleague, the Tibetan Mastiff, to danger and the Tibetan Mastiff would spring to action and guard the Temple and the monks.

Overtime, travelers to the Himalayas were given a gift, in the form of a Tibetan Mastiff, and as such the Tibetan Mastiff travelled to other parts of Europe and Asia. On his travels, he was bred with other large dogs, and the Tibetan Mastiff is thought to be the forefather of all the Mastiff breeds. It is likely that he was taken to the Georgia region where the Caucasian Shepherd was born, which is why it is thought that he is related to the Caucasian Shepherd.

It was in the 1950s that the Tibetan Mastiff came to America as a gift to the President, but he kept them a secret, and it wasn’t until 2 decades later that a few more were imported and the love affair with this big breed began. In 2020, the Tibetan Mastiff is listed by the American Kennel Club as the 131st most popular breed in America.

Appearance

Caucasian Shepherd vs Tibetan Mastiff Appearance Fluffy Coats
While these breeds look similar in appearance, they are quite different pups.

The Caucasian Shepherd and the Tibetan Mastiff are very similar in their appearance, but there are some subtle differences between the two. One of the main factors that you need to take into consideration before getting one of these guys is their size, so if you live in an apartment you really need to think about another breed!

The Caucasian Shepherd weighs over 100 pounds, and although the breed standard only goes up to 170 pounds in weight, quite often the Caucasian Shepherd exceeds 200 pounds. The Tibetan Mastiff weighs slightly less between 70 and 150 pounds in weight, but often his fluffy coat and large mane makes him appear bigger than the Caucasian Shepherd, but in fact he weighs much less. The Caucasian Shepherd is considered to be a giant breed, and the Tibetan is a large breed.

They both have very fluffy coats, and of course that comes lots of shedding. The Caucasian Shepherd has three coat variations, short, medium and long, whereas the Tibetan Shepherd has the one coat, seriously fluffy! They both have a double coat that will keep them both warm in the Caucasus or Himalayan mountains. They both also come in shades of black, gray, brown and red either in a solid color or a mixture, but the Caucasian Shepherd leans towards the lighter colors and the Tibetan Mastiff leans towards black and darker colors. Both Breeds are often mistaken for long-haired English Mastiffs.

Temperament

Caucasian Shepherd vs Tibetan Mastiff Temperament
Both breeds are cautious, but they do have different tendencies in temperament.

Both the Caucasian Shepherd and the Tibetan Mastiff are big dogs who were always bred for their protective and guarding skills, and despite not being used to defend Temples or work in high altitudes anymore, they still retain these qualities.

When faced with danger, or they feel that their family is in danger, they will most certainly protect them without fail. Neither breed would attack unless necessary, instead, they will confidently stand guard, but if necessary, they will defend their family or flock, and have been known to take down bears and wolves with ease. When on guard, they are very formidable, and their appearance combined with poor training has linked them to an unfair reputation as ferocious dogs.

However, with proper training, they are both loving creatures who are very affectionate with their family, and love nothing more than to settle in front of the fire relaxing. They love each member of their family, and despite their size they are quite fond of children, and very soft with them, but because of their sheer size they should never be left unattended with them. They are both described as gentle giants and have little interest in intense exercise or games.

They are both very territorial, and this is a trait that needs to be taken seriously. If you do not want, or cannot handle, a territorial dog, then neither of these guys are for you. Being a single flock protector or temple guard, they also both love spending time outdoors in the fresh air in their own company, and as long as you have the right shelters for them, they would happily spend most of their day outside. So, ideally, they should only be placed with a family that can provide them with lots of living space, both indoors and outdoors.

Exercise

Russian Bear Dog vs Tibetan Mastiff Exercise Requirements
Both breeds have similar exercise needs.

Both the Caucasian Shepherd and the Tibetan Mastiff are quite low maintenance when it comes to exercise, in the sense that they do not need intense exercise or a lot of interaction.

They both need between 45 and 60 minutes of walking every day, simply to stretch their large legs and get their hearts pumping. Instead of interactive games and intense running, they would much prefer a larger garden to roam and patrol.

Training

Russian Bear Dog vs Caucasian Shepherd Dog Traning Needs
The Tibetan Mastiff and Caucasian Shepherd have similar training needs.

Neither of these breeds are suited to a novice dog owner, as they are both very stubborn and independent, which means that if they aren’t in the mood for a training session, they aren’t going to take one bit of notice! Everything is done on Shepherd or Mastiff time with these guys. Luckily though, they are both food orientated and could be persuaded with a treat or two, but just be sure not to feed them too many!

They are also seriously territorial by nature, which means that they both need to be socialized from an early age to ensure that they do not become overly aggressive or protective. Once outside of the family home, they will not feel the need to protect anywhere near as much as they do at home, so be sure to take them outside into unfamiliar surroundings and introduce them to other dogs and people on a regular basis.

They both need a firm leader who can commit to lifelong training, and if either breed sniffs out any weakness in your personality or training, then they will assume the role of pack leader, which in turn leads to behavioral problems. As a result, both breeds would benefit from obedience training with other dogs around, to instill discipline and to understand that they are not in charge.

Health

Russian Bear Dog and Tibetan Mastiff Health Needs
Both breeds are generally healthy, but have shorter lifespans due to their size.

Because they are both big dogs, they are both at risk from suffering from Hip Dysplasia, which overtime can lead to mobility issues and painful arthritis because of incorrectly formed hip joints. Because of their rapid growth rate during puppyhood, they are also both susceptible to other related joint concerns such as Osteochondrosis Dissecans and Panosteitis.

The other main health concern for both breeds is obesity. Because they both eat a lot and move very little, they are both prone to pilling on the weight quite easily. For this reason, you will need to monitor his weight, and if it begins to creep up you’ll need to switch him to diet kibble.

The Tibetan Mastiff is also known to suffer from Canine Inherited Demyelinative Neuropathy, which is an inherited disease only found in Tibetans. By the age of 6 weeks his back legs will be weak, and overtime this will lead to paralysis. This cannot be alleviated, only selective breeding can hope to avoid such conditions. 

Overall, they are both healthy dogs who enjoy a lifespan of 10 to 12 years, which is quite good considering their large size.                     

Nutrition

Nutrition Needs For Russian Bear Dog vs Tibetan Mastiff
Both dog breeds are similar in size, and have similar nutrition needs.

Both the Caucasian Shepherd and Tibetan Mastiff consume around 4 cups of food every day, and because they are both large breeds they should only be fed a high-quality kibble that is designed for large or giant breeds, as these cater to their specific giant nutritional requirements. You’ll likely need to be patient finding a food brand for either breed, as they both can be particular about the food they eat.

When it comes to feeding these guys, you need to make yourself aware about Bloat, as they are both prone to this potentially fatal condition. Ultimately, do not feed them immediately before or after exercise, feed them their daily allowance across 2 or 3 meals, and monitor them for the symptoms found in the link.

Grooming

Russian Bear Dog and Tibetan Mastiff Grooming Needs
There’s no way around the fact that both breeds shed and need to be groomed regularly.

Both the Caucasian Shepherd and the Tibetan Mastiff will need brushing almost every day to ensure that their coats do not become tangled and matted. This also helps to brush the dirt out, as well as spread the natural oils across his coat.  You’ll want to use a tool like the Furminator to deshed your pup on a weekly basis, as well as using an anti-shed shampoo in order to cut down on pet dander.

For these guys, a slick brush or a de-shedding tool is a must, and pay attention to their feathering fur and sensitive areas such as armpits and neck! Both of these guys will also need a bath once every 6 weeks to 8 weeks, and a walk-in bathtub or shower would be advisable here!

Price

The starting price for a Caucasian Shepherd starts from $1,000, and the starting price of a Tibetan Mastiff is $1,500, both from a reputable breeder.  The Tibetan Mastiff only has one oestrus every year, usually around late Fall, so Tibetan puppies are only usually available around December or January time, so remember this if you are looking for a Tibetan.

It is so important to work with a reputable breeder, especially when it comes to dogs who are territorial or protective, as they need to be properly raised and handled. Puppy mills will not be concerned with this, and so you’ll likely find a puppy with both health and behavioral problems.

If you are thinking about rescuing one of these beautiful dogs, then you might have a longer search on your hands because they are both much rarer than your standard dog breed, but once you do find one he will be worth the wait for sure!

Be sure to check out the Tibetan Mastiff Rescue website where they are dedicated to rehoming Tibetans across America. As Caucasian Shepherds are much rarer, a dedicated website is not available, but the Facebook Caucasian Shepherd Club of America group, will be able to point you in the right direction on your way to rescuing a Caucasian.

Final Thoughts

When comparing the Caucasian Shepherd vs. The Tibetian Mastiff, you’ll find they are seriously similar dogs, largely to do with the fact that they are related and serve the same purpose. The only real difference between them is their appearance and size. The Tibetan Mastiff is smaller in size, and him being a large breed rather than a giant breed is often the deciding factor, or a preference in overall appearance.

Whoever you choose to welcome into your life, you can expect a challenging dog who needs expert and consistent training, and one who is low energy. They are both happy to spend time alone, as well as time with their family, but overall, if you are seeking a family protector then both of these guys are equally up to the job.

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