The Fluffy English Mastiff: Can Mastiffs Have Long Hair?

Can English Mastiffs have long hair and be fluffy?  They most certainly can!  Fluffies are no different than a normal English Mastiff except for the fact that they have inherited a long haired genetic trait.  Breeders view the long hair as a fault, and will breed it out of their breeding lines if they have a pup that happened to inherit the gene.

There is some mixed thoughts on how the fluffy gene came to be, but from what I found doing some research is that the long hair is thought to be brought in from when the breed may have had some Saint Bernard brought into the breed in order to save it from extinction in the early 1900’s.

Fluffy Mastiffs look bigger because of their fluff, but they fall into the same buckets as all EMs when it comes to size and traits.  We personally own a fluffy mastiff, and we will tell you a little bit of his story if you’ll hang with us!

Finding Our Fluffy

We’d been shopping for Mastiffs for a long time when we bought Freyja, our American Mastiff Puppy.  We brought her home and it wasn’t long before we decided that we wanted to get her a friend to keep her company.  She was about 6 months old and we started looking for a rescue to add to the household.

I was surfing Facebook one day, and an interesting looking mastiff popped up in our feed from our local Mastiff Rescue here in Arizona.  We went to go check him out and see how he would respond to Freyja, our American Mastiff and Bailey, our Chocolate Labrador Retriever.

The Wilson Dog Clan
Here’s the Wilson Dog Clan, with our AM Freyja on the left, Uhtred the Fluffy in the Middle and Bailey our Chocolate lab on the right!

Once we went down to the rescue, they brought us into a room to meet our new fluffy friend.  When he came in, he was still a puppy, around 9 months old.  His hair was long, but not nearly as long as it is now that he’s 2 years old.  He got along extremely well with both our old lab (she was 11 years old at the time) and his new best friend, our AM puppy.

We chatted with the Rescue Volunteer and agreed to foster him.   We took him home and after 3 days we decided he was staying with us forever and it was time to adopt.  It was slightly crazy for a while with 3 dogs and 4 kids, but we eventually found our groove and he was home.  We get lots of questions about him, so we figured we would answer a few since there seems to be a lot of misinformation about them out there on the internet.

He’s not a Leonberger or a Tibetian Mastiff

Uhtred often gets mistaken for a Leonberger when we take him to Petsmart or just out for a walk.  Leonbergers are another large breed dog, and they look very much like Uhtred but their fur is noticably more dense and long.  Our Fluffy almost looks like the Golden Retriever coat equivalent when comparing that breed to the Lab.

At one local groomer, they have him labeled as a Tibetian Mastiff in their breed system because they bill us out for the cost it takes to groom him and that’s the closest thing they could find to label him.  He’s not a Tibetian Mastiff, and those dogs look FAR furrier than our Fluffy does.

How Did He Get Long Hair?

As mentioned prior, many breeders think that it’s when there was some Saint Bernard introduced into the breed when the English Mastiffs were all but going extinct back in the early 1900s.  There has also been some research done that indicates that it could have come through completely normal means, and just be a complete genetic variation where there’s long hair instead of short.

One thing is certain, breeders breed it out.  I’ve read some forum posts and some Facebook content that show how many people would actually love a fluffy, but breeders generally do not breed them.  When they are born, those pups will not be bred.  If they were bred with another fluffy mastiff, genetically there is a high likelihood that the offspring would also have long hair.

Because the Fluffy gene is not something that’s bred actively, they only usually randomly pop up if a breeder hasn’t DNA tested their dog for the gene and eliminated it from the line.  The types of fluffy hair can range from longer and silky to all out major fluff ball.

If you are interested in the genetics behind it, there’s a good chart right here that will walk you through the genetics.

Does He Shed?

Yep.  He sheds more than our American Mastiff, which leads me to believe that he probably sheds more than a normal English Mastiff too.  Because of the sheer volume of hair, we have it on our stairs, in our kitchen, in our bedroom and just about everywhere else.  It’s a running joke that we take him with us wherever we go, whether we want to or not.

We have family that have Golden Retrievers and he does not shed really any more than they do.  He’s just bigger and has more hair, so it’s likely he sheds about the same amount as two full grown Goldens, seeing is he weighs about as much as two of them combined (he’s about 155 pounds).  So yes, if you get a fluffy, be prepared to brush them and deal with the hair.

Does He Take a Long Time to Groom?

Yep, because he’s twice the dog with twice the amount of hair, he takes longer to groom.  We do have to brush him pretty frequently.  We make it a point to stay on top of his hair on a daily or every other day basis so it doesn’t get too overwhelming.  But whenever we clean out his crate area, there’s always tons of hair hanging out in the cracks.

Uhtred the Fluffy in a Chair
Uhtred loves to sit his fluffy backside in chairs he can’t really fit in.

We do use a special oatmeal shampoo for him because he’s got relatively sensitive skin.  We use that shampoo for both him and our American Mastiff and t hey both react very well to it.  He gets matted hair behind his ears as well if we don’t keep up with it.  When we got him from the rescue, he had huge clumps of matted hair behind his ears, and we had to shave the fur off the back of his ears to get rid of them.

Keep in mind, he’s just a hairier version of a normal English Mastiff, so being a giant breed means in general he’s going to take longer to bathe.

Is his Fur Soft?

We get this question a lot because some people are too intimidated to touch his fur and find out for themselves.  Owning a mastiff is not for everyone.  He’s quite imposing with his size, even though we don’t see it anymore.  He’s only 2 years old, so he’s still got some puppy tendencies in him, but he’s a complete lover and will be anyone’s best friend that will give him attention.  His fur is quite soft, I would say even more than our AM.

It probably helps that we use a special shampoo and conditioner to keep his fur soft and well taken care of, but his fur is naturally very soft and our kids love to snuggle with him on his bed or on the floor.

Where Can I Get One?

Your best bet is to put feelers out to every breeder out there and tell them what you are looking for.  If they have any mastiffs in their breeding line that are carriers of the long haired gene, it’s possible any breeder could end up with a Fluffy.  In reality because the gene is bred out, they are quite rare.

The best thing to do is put feelers out to every breeder out there and tell them what you want.  They are pretty rare to come along, but if you put your name on a waiting list with a large number of breeders, there’s a  chance you will eventually end up with one.  We just got lucky when we got ours because we wanted a fluffy when we got our AM, so we lucked out with our rescue.

Are You Sure He’s an English Mastiff?

Yep!  In fact, we had him take a pet DNA test from Embark because we were curious if he was a carrier of any other type of breed.  You can see the results below, and if you are curious about our experience with Embark, we can say we were quite satisfied with the results.  The Embark test not only confirmed he is 100% Mastiff, but we also got the health screening.

The health screening was helpful because it can identify problem markers for other health defects.  Mastiffs are known for elbow and hip dysplasia, and he was not a carrier of either of those genes.  Our AM has already torn her ACL (thank goodness for pet insurance) and we were told that defect is degenerative (meaning it’s genetic and will likely happen to her other knee).  While things can definitely happen, we are happy to know he’s not only a purebred English Mastiff but that he’s got good genes and should be healthy for a long time.Fluffy Mastiff Embark Test Results

Would You Recommend a Fluffy?

It’s a personal choice.  We love our fluff – but we love him because of his personality.  It definitely got our foot in the door at the rescue when we saw him come up as an available dog to adopt.  We wanted a fluff when we first found out it was a possibility.  We were looking at a number of large and giant breeds at the time, including the Bermese Mountain Dog.

The fluff got us in the door, but ultimately our Uhtred won us over with his shining personality and velcro like ability to follow you into just about any room you walk into.  Overall he’s a great dog, and we love him very much.  We’d recommend you get the dog you want based on breed and feel with that dog around your family rather than looks, but if it has to be a fluffy, the mastiff has quickly become our favorite breed of any dog we’ve ever owned.

Final Thoughts

Yes, Mastiffs can have long hair and they are called “fluffies” or “floofs.”  We’ve heard folks call them “long coats” as well.  Really when it comes down to our fluffy boy, we love him and would have probably adopted him regardless of the length of his coat. If you are looking for a great breed to fit your family’s needs, the English Mastiff is one of the best family dogs you can introduce to your tribe.

We will continue loving the slobber, long hair and sparkling personality that our fluffy brings into our home for as long as we have him.  If you find a fluff at a rescue, the Embark DNA test was a really cool experience for us and allowed us to get a little insight into our boy’s heritage.  We’d recommend it if you really want to know what kind of dog you have, regardless of if it’s a Mastiff or another “question mark” looking dog breed.