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English Mastiff vs. Great Pyrenees: Breed Differences & Similarities

Thinking of adopting a new gentle giant into your family, but can't decide between the Great Pyrenees vs. the English Mastiff? Find out what you can expect from both breeds before deciding which one to welcome into your home.

Kelly Wilson

Last Updated: April 22, 2021 | 9 min read

English Mastiff vs. Great Pyrenees

Comparing an English Mastiff vs. the Great Pyrenees as your next homestead guardian? These two dogs are both gentle giants and are often compared to one another by giant breed enthusiasts looking to adopt a larger dog breed.

Although these two dogs share some big differences, they obviously share one big thing in common: their size. If you’re looking to adopt, you’ll find all the information you need to make an informed decision below.

If you’re just curious about these two breeds and adoption’s not in your future, this article is great for learning more about which breed is which, and what behavioral traits they both share. Let’s jump in and compare these two large breed dogs in detail.

Breed Comparison

English Mastiff

  • Height 27-32 Inches
  • Weight 130-220 Pounds
  • Temperament Docile, Protective, Loyal
  • Energy Low
  • Health Average
  • Lifespan 6-10 Years
  • Price $1,000-$1,500

Great Pyranees

  • Height 25-32 Inches
  • Weight 85-160 Pounds
  • Temperament Guardian, Stoic, Majestic
  • Energy Medium
  • Health Average
  • Lifespan 10-12 Years
  • Price $1,500 and Up

Breed History

Both of the breeds we’re looking at today have long, even ancient, histories. While they both fall into the Working group, they differ in terms of what kind of work they were originally bred to perform. For sure, both breeds started off as guard dogs of one type or another.

English Mastiff

Massive Dog Close Up
The incredibly large English Mastiffs have been around for nearly 2,000 years.

According to the Old English Mastiff Club, which claims the dog to be a British breed, the Mastiff may have its origins as far as 2,000 years ago. Romans visiting England would have likely adopted the massive breed and brought them home to use them in popular games like lion hunts conducted in the Colosseum.

The name “Mastiff” likely came about from French immigrants to England who called the giant dogs “Mastin” or “watchdog.” Around the time of the pilgrims, an English Mastiff was likely aboard the Mayflower.

Skip forward 1,800 years, and the Mastiff had found its more or less modern occupation in England as a guard dog for large provincial houses. The aristocrats of the day would own several Mastiffs to patrol large properties. But Mastiffs were also bred to be patient and peaceful towards friends and families, though vigilant and loyal, too.

Great Pyrenees

Large White Dog Close Up
The Great Pyrenees also has a very long history, dating back about 3,000 years.

If the English Mastiff has a long history, the Great Pyrenees is just as long. Some genealogists have suggested that the original breed came to the French and Spanish border from Asia Minor about 3,000 years ago. Though we don’t know what they looked like, they were certainly sheepherding dogs with their famous all-white coat developed early on.

Though Great Pyrenees (frequently shortened to “Pyrs or Pyrenees”) share many characteristics with English Mastiffs, we can look to a particular time in their histories that make them unrelated breeds. We look at the teeth!

Pyrnees have what is called a ‘lupomolossoid’ tooth structure, while Mastiffs do not. This means that they were likely descendants of an Asian white wolf (lupo- is the prefix meaning wolflike) and not part of the migration pattern that the Mastiffs followed. So, we can use history to estimate why, although both breeds are some of the largest breeds out there, they likely descend from different animals.

The Great Pyrenees Club of America provides a lot of extraordinary history behind the breed. They were bred as a peasant shepherd’s dog, taking care of large flocks in the high Pyrenees mountain range.

When the French-Basque people sailed to Canada in the 17th century, the traders met Englishmen and their favorite black curly-coated retrievers. The result was the Newfoundland breed.

Today, the Pyrnees is a versatile dog, hard-working for some livestock farmers, and a great home companion for all.

Appearance

Pairs of Huge Dogs
The hair color and patterning between these breeds couldn’t be more different.

When talking about these breeds’ appearance, it’s hard to overlook size and weight. The Mastiff weighs more than the Pyrnees. On average male Mastiffs weigh between 150-250 pounds, with females 30 pounds less. The Pyrnees male averages 100 pounds, a female 85.

The height and weight comparison of both breeds yields similar results. Generally, these breeds have heights between 27-32 inches, with females two inches below.

The Pyrenees is well-known for its dazzling white, super-dense coat. But many dogs have spots in brown, grey, and red. They were initially bred to withstand cold winters in the mountains, and its fur is just as coarse and luxurious as you’d imagine. Pyrs do well in cooler climates, but they are adaptable to warm summers. Just don’t trim his hair!

The Mastiff has a short flat coat that comes in a few color variations, from fawn to apricot to brindle. He has floppy ears, a slobbery mouth, and droopy eyes that will have you answering his pleas for attention every time he throws a sad look at you. His body is rectangular with defined muscles.

It’s essential to keep the appearance of your dog in mind when thinking about adopting. Thicker coats will require more care inside the house and out, and drooling will cause a bit of a mess if you’re not prepared to love it as much as your dog. It’s a package deal!

Temperament

Happy Dogs With Their Tongues Out
Calm, mellow, and gentle are words used to describe both breeds’ temperaments.

When comparing these two breeds’ temperament and behavior, there’s a lot they have in common. Since they both trace their breeding to being guardians of one sort or another, for Mastiffs, the house, and Pyrnees, the flock and the house, it’s no wonder they act similarly.

Pyrenees love to bark at nature. They also have some of the most sensitive ears of all dog breeds, resulting in barking activity to alert homeowners. Other than occasional bursts of noise, they are known for a zen-like calm.

Mastiffs display a calm, mellow demeanor much more consistently. They aren’t great barkers. They would be excellent family members with children, although toddlers and children may not be ideal for him due to his size.

Pyrenees are also great additions to families with younger members. They generally lead a solitary and relaxed life with their family, just like Mastiffs. However, Pyrenees are known to be quite stubborn. This is a quality that their sheepdog background instilled in them. Some owners mistake this for them being dumb, but it’s really anything but. It just means training can take longer than it does for Mastiffs.

Exercise

Standing Dogs Outdoors
Mastiffs need only 30 minutes of daily exercise whereas Pyrenees need closer to 60 minutes.

Judging by the droopy face on the Mastiff, you might be inclined to believe he’s a good dog for couch potatoes. You would be right. Mastiffs can tend to be under-exercised, but owners will love their dog much more with regular workouts of at least 30 minutes a day.

For the very reason that Mastiffs don’t require a lot of exercise, they would be excellent breeds for city dwellers. However, rural homes are also suitable for this breed.

The Pyrenees is a much more proactive breed, despite being laid back among the family or on lazy afternoons. The ideal atmosphere would have more open space, such as a rural or suburban landscape. This breed should try for one hour of exercise per day, even if it’s running in a backyard.

Plus, with their tendency to bark, having more space is always better. Trust us. Your ears will thank you. And it’s worth noting, that because of their size, both breeds will need a plethora of extremely large dog toys to keep them occupied.

Training

Sitting Dogs Outdoors
Both of these breeds of dog really do need good training starting early on.

For Mastiffs, it’s important to socialize them early to acquaint them with other dogs so that their guarding tendencies don’t go unchecked. For Pyrs, training is a must to overcome their unbreakable sense of independence and lead them towards a social, easy-going lifestyle.

One good thing about training Mastiffs is, they are inborn with a desire to please their owners. That makes obedience training and socialization exercises relatively easy when compared to more stubborn breeds like the Pyrnees. The best way to train Mastiffs is with several short sessions per day. That’s because their attention spans are relatively short.

Pyrenees, on the other hand, are proudly one of the more stubborn breeds. Owners shouldn’t think negatively of stubborn behavior, but it’s just part of what makes this breed unique!

The Pyrenees independence originated with their sheepdog past in wide-open pastures where the dog needed to think for themselves. To help your Pyrnees be a little more agreeable, early obedience training with sitting, heeling, and staying are essential. Get ready, though– they will initially meet your training with boredom and slow responses.

Overall, training will likely be essential for both breeds early on. You’ll focus primarily on obedience for the Pyrenees and with the Mastiff, attuning him to socialization.

Health

Close Up of Senior Dogs
Both breeds have an average health rating and can live up to about 10-12 years.

Responsible dog owners should keep in mind the particular illnesses and health deficiencies their dogs are prone to carry. There are a few necessary tests for English Mastiffs that the Mastiff Club of America (MCOA) recommends breed owners have performed regularly. Those tests are:

  • Hip evaluation
  • Elbow evaluation
  • Ophthalmologist Exam
  • Cardiac exam

Since the Mastiff is one of the largest dogs, its massive body needs attention. Hygromas, harmless “cushions” which can develop around the elbow joints when this breed lies on the ground, are expected.

Additionally, the Mastiff is susceptible to seasonal allergies, eye issues, heart disease, cancer, eye and hip dysplasia, von Willebrand’s disease, epilepsy, and degenerative myelopathy. Despite the disorders this breed is prone to contract, it is a commonly healthy dog. It has a lifespan averaging 10-12 years.

Turning to the Great Pyrenees, this dog is also generally healthy. However, its great size requires some looking after. It shares some health issues with the Mastiff, including eye disorders, hip and elbow dysplasia, luxating patellas, and some neurological-mediated disorders.

Common to both breeds is the occurrence of bloat, a serious condition that many large, athletic purebreds can contract. Bloat occurs when the stomach twists or distends from its natural position. For signs of bloat, owners of either breed can find more information here at the AKC.

Nutrition

Hungry Dogs With Their Tongues Hanging Out
Large dogs require large amounts of food and certain nutrients to support their quickly-growing bodies as they mature.

For giant breeds such as these two, owners need to pay close attention to proper feeding from puppyhood to age two. The most critical mineral to include in a young Mastiff and Great Pyrenees diet is calcium and phosphorus to grow the skeletal structure. This allows your adolescent and fully-grown dog to grow to its full potential.

The ideal Mastiff diet will be high in calories, dispensed throughout the day instead of once or twice daily. The food should have a protein percentage no greater than 26 percent. Give calcium and phosphorus at approximately a 1.2 to 1 ratio.

Great Pyrenees share many of the same nutrition requirements, being a giant breed itself. Owners should be careful not to overfeed. Strangely, many owners claim that this breed eats much less than comparatively-sized giant dogs. However, you’re never sure to adopt a Pyrenees with a light appetite, so the best thing to do is watch your dog and don’t overfeed.

Both breeds have a propensity to suffer from bloat, also called GDV (gastric-dilatation-volvulus). Owners should feed bloat-prone dogs in smaller meals multiple times per day. Additionally, watch your dog for at least 30 minutes after eating to ensure they don’t engage in exercise.

Grooming

Handsome Dogs Lounging Outside
Pyrenees tend to shed more than Mastiffs and, therefore, require more attention.

Mastiffs can be slobbery, couch-hogging wonderful houseguests. Owners should know right off the bat that grooming a Mastiff can take a few minutes out of every day, consider it a labor of love.

Good news for Mastiff owners, these breeds generally shed very little over the year. Except for two seasonal periods where shedding is heaviest, the Mastiff has a short, stiff coat that rarely sheds. The eyes, muzzle, and face will need the bulk of your attention. Keep the wrinkles clean, ears inspected, and nails trimmed. Also: invest in a slobber-wiper!

One of the most notable differences between both breeds is the coat. Pyrenees owners will remark that it takes a lot of effort to make that brilliant white coat shine. However, their double coat takes care of a lot of the effort itself. It’s tangle-resistant and repels dirt naturally.

Pyrenees owners only need to brush their dogs weekly, usually with a slicker brush or pin brush. Taking a few minutes every week to brush out the undercoat will make vacuuming your carpets all the easier.

Puppy Prices

Cute Puppies
These breeds command roughly the same price for purebred puppies.

The Mastiff, which ranks as the #32 most popular breed by AKC internet searches, usually costs $1,000 to $1,500. The Old English Mastiff Club has been diligent in officiating proper purebred sales, so new owners should have confidence that the breed standards are consistently checked and renewed. The Mastiff is one of the oldest breeds recognized by the AKC.

The Great Pyrenees, ranked the #69 most popular dog by AKC, averages $1,300 to $5,000. Part of the higher top-end price has to do with the rareness of specific color schemes and breeder popularity.

Many Pyrenees owners regularly note that you can frequently find purebreds at shelters. The prevalence of these dog shelters varies widely, of course, but it’s always a good idea to keep a lookout at your local shelter for these pups.

Final Thoughts

There you have it, a comprehensive look at both of these fantastic breeds! Borth these dogs are great guard dogs with loyal, independent spirits. They are loveable family dogs willing to do anything to please their owners.

The English Mastiff is the dog for you if you’re looking for a massive statement of a dog to guard you, then sleep the rest of the day away in your arms.

Or maybe the Great Pyrenees, a sheepdog of the high mountains, is the partner for you, a fiercely independent and loyal friend who’ll be the first to tell you when he’s found something interesting. Either way, both these breeds are exceptional, bold, and easy-going dogs who will be the perfect pet for a loving home!

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