Most people who love big dogs would just tell you that there’s more to love. Just like every other breed out there, these big dogs are mostly the result of crossing several other breeds with each other, as well as hundreds of years of evolution. But sometimes, it can be hard to imagine that they’re even related to the teeny tiny breeds, at all.
What to know about big dogs
It’s not too surprising that there are so many big dogs out there. From the beginning, after all, a dog’s purpose was a practical one. They were meant for hunting, protection, fighting, and so on. While most of these behaviors have been mostly bred out of the big dogs we see today, some traces are still around, along with the size. Generally speaking, these massive breeds are known as giant dogs, and it’s easy to understand why, once you see one in person.
There are a few things to keep in mind when thinking about getting a big dog. For one thing, they tend to not live as long as smaller breeds. Their size makes them prone to health issues, and it’s sadly common for bigger breeds to not make it past ten years old. Hip dysplasia is often seen in big dogs, which can lead to pain, stiffness, and arthritis. Elbow dysplasia is a lesser-known issue that can have similar outcomes. In terms of other health problems, big dogs may deal with dilated cardiomyopathy, which essentially means that the heart becomes weak and can no longer adequately pump blood throughout the body. There are some issues that need to be considered.
Tall and impressive
At the top of the list of big dogs is the Irish Wolfhound. It may not be the heaviest, but it is muscular, and standing 32 inches or more, they are without a doubt the tallest of all breeds. They’re an old breed, originally bred for war and hunting in their home country of Ireland, over 1,500 years ago. Close on the list is the Scottish Deerhound, similar in size but slimmer in build, believed to have lived in Scotland even before the Scots got there in the 9th century. They’re usually at least 30 inches tall, and have much the same kind of coat and coloring as the Irish Wolfhound.
The largest dog ever, according to Guinness World Records, is not either of these breeds, however. Instead, it was a Great Dane named Zeus, who stood 3 feet and 10 inches at the shoulder, back in 2011. Today, the record for world’s biggest dog is still held by a Great Dane, but Zeus still remains the largest ever. The Great Dane, as a breed, would beat out the Irish Wolfhound on this list if the latter weren’t taller on average. As it is, the Dane usually stands at least 28 inches.
Big and heavy
There are some big dogs that may not be the tallest, but they’re definitely still impressive in size. Among them are different types of mastiff breeds; the Mastiff, the Neapolitan Mastiff, the Tibetan Mastiff, and the Bullmastiff. They’re all strong and powerfully built, protective in nature, and will guard their family against any threat. But they’re generally still peaceful and friendly, and don’t require much in terms of exercise or grooming. The exception may be the Tibetan Mastiff, which has a stronger independent streak, and an impressive double coat that needs regular brushing. All four breeds come in at 25-28 inches tall.
Some fluffier big dogs that belong here are the Saint Bernard, the Newfoundland, the Great Pyrenees, the Bernese Mountain Dog, and the Leonberger. The Saint Bernard is strong and heavy, well-known for its mellow temperament and rescuer-reputation, while the sweet-tempered Newfie is a just as chill and a hard worker. The Great Pyrenees has been used for herding in the mountains for the past couple of thousand years, and has more patience than most.
The Bernese Mountain Dog, like the name implies, is a hardy dog that is well-suited for cold weather. But their silky double coat sheds, so regular brushing is a must. The Leonberger is a heavy, gentle breed that was originally bred to resemble a lion, in honor of the German city of Leonberg’s crest. Or so the legend goes, at least. Like all big dogs on this list, it generally stands at least 25 inches tall.
It’s easy for big dogs to look threatening and intimidating, even if it doesn’t at all match their personality. Some more obvious examples of this are the Dogue de Bordeaux and the Cane Corso. Both were originally bred to be guard dogs and/or hunters, and their protective instincts are still mostly intact, though they tend to be quite gentle and patient with their loved ones. Meanwhile, the Black Russian Terrier may come off as more harmless, with its black, curly coat and softer appearance. But don’t be fooled ― this robust dog is also a bred guardian, and will protect its family. Due to their thick coat, they need regular brushing.
Things to consider
Big dogs come with pros and cons, just like any other type of dog. They can be intimidating, which can be useful, but most of them are gentle giants, despite being originally bred for protection. There’s the financial aspect to consider ― big dogs eat more, and may have physical problems that need to be addressed. They also take up a lot of space, but ironically, most of them don’t need an inordinate amount of exercise.
There are some challenges with having a big dog. But at the end of the day, big dogs just don’t know how big they are, and we love them for it. Whether your pup prefers napping on the floor, or squeezing in with you on the couch, your life will be richer if you bring one into your home.