Bigger is not always better, but it is always impressive. People have been intrigued by giant-size dogs for millennia, keeping them to guard family, flocks and property and to hunt big game. They have also relied on four-legged giants to perform tasks that required size and strength, such as pulling carts with heavy loads. Giant breeds often possess tender, loving temperaments, but before you get one, remember to factor in the costs associated with keeping a large dog breed.
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In terms of food, veterinary bills and space, the costs can be gigantic. Here’s our take on this baker’s dozen of towering dogs.
The Irish Wolfhound, which is now more often found as family companion than bane of wolf pack, is described as having "great size and commanding appearance." He is the tallest of dogs, but not the heaviest. When full grown, a male Irish Wolfhound looms over other dogs, standing at least 32 inches tall and weighing 120 pounds. Females are a minimum of 30 inches and 105 pounds.
It’s possible that this breed’s name comes from the Latin word massivus, meaning massive. It’s certainly an appropriate description for a dog with a minimum height of 30 inches at the shoulder for males and 27.5 inches for females. Mastiffs have a weight range of 120 to 200 pounds or more.
This giant breed strode into the world’s view when GCh. Foxcliffe Hickory Wind ran away with the top dog title at the 2011 Westminster Kennel Club show. The lithe and lanky Scottish Deerhound, once bred to bring down stags in the Scottish highlands, is 28 to 32 inches tall, sometimes more, and weighs 75 to 110 pounds.
Because of his majestic appearance, the Great Dane is sometimes nicknamed “king of dogs.” His size belies his gentle nature, but beware of his thwacking tail, which can clear a coffee table in seconds or knock the unwary off their feet. Possibly created by blending the Irish Wolfhound and the Mastiff, the Great Dane was originally used to hunt boar and guard estates, but these days, he’s a family dog. Male Great Danes stand at least 30 inches tall and weigh a minimum of 120 pounds. Females are at least 28 inches tall and weigh a minimum of 100 pounds.
You wouldn’t want to run into the Neo, as he’s nicknamed, in a dark alley. His wrinkled, scowling face, plastered onto a massive head, and his massive body are enough to give any evildoer second thoughts — fast! Neapolitan Mastiffs range in height from 24 to 31 inches and weigh 110 to 150 pounds or more.
The Saint’s large size and thick coat helped him to rescue stranded travelers in the snowy Alps and take them to the Saint Bernard hostelry where they could be cared for. Now he spends his days snuggling with family members and keeping their hearts warm. Saint Bernards stand 25.5 to 27.5 inches tall and weigh 130 to 180 pounds.
Black Russian Terrier
Created in the erstwhile Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War to be a guard dog, the Black Russian Terrier has moved from military to civilian life as a welcomed family companion and guardian. Breeds used in its creation include the Airedale, the Giant Schnauzer, the Rottweiler, the Newfoundland and the Caucasian Ovtcharka. Males stand 27 to 30 inches tall and weigh 110 to 132 pounds. Females are 26 to 29 inches tall and weigh 100 to 110 pounds.
At least three big breeds went into the creation of the Leonberger: the Newfoundland, the Saint Bernard and the Great Pyrenees. No one really knows the “canine recipe” used by Heinrich Essig, but the result was a dog who at maturity stands 28 to 31.5 inches and weighs 120 to 170 pounds. Females are 25.5 to 29.5 inches tall and weigh 100 to 135 pounds.
The water-loving Newfoundland originally hauled in nets for fishermen, which often required swimming long distances, pulling heavy loads, and rescuing people at risk of drowning. Among his distinctive characteristics are a massive head, webbed feet and a water-resistant double coat. Males have an average height of 28 inches and weigh 130 to 150 pounds. Females average 26 inches and 100 to 120 pounds.
A flock guardian of French origin, the Great Pyrenees is distinguished by a thick, beautiful white coat. The breed once guarded the king of France and is still territorial in defense of family and property. Males stand 27 inches to 32 inches tall and weigh 100 to 140 pounds. Females are 25 inches to 29 inches tall and weigh 85 to 110 pounds.
This Turkish flock-guarding dog warned off wolves and other predators and still works in that capacity today. He’s also a fine family protector in the right home. Anatolian Shepherd males stand 29 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh 110 to 150 pounds. Females are 27 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh 80 to 120 pounds.
The Tibetan Mastiff impresses with his size, which is accentuated by his broad head and thick coat and mane. He is a family and property guardian who is aloof toward and watchful of strangers. Tibetan Mastiff males are 26 to 29 inches tall and usually weigh 100 to 140 pounds. Females are 24 to 27 inches and usually weigh 85 to 120 pounds. Tibetan Mastiffs are slow-growing and may not reach their full size until they are 3 to 5 years old.
The Hungarian cousin of the Great Pyrenees, the Kuvasz also has a history as a flock guardian. The white-coated breed is thought to have originated in Turkey but was brought to Hungary with Ottoman invaders. The Kuvasz male stands 28 to 30 inches at the shoulder and weighs 100 to 115 pounds. Females are 26 to 28 inches and weigh 70 to 90 pounds.