Mastiff vs Rottweiler: Are They Really So Different?

You are not alone if you find yourself comparing various dog breeds. You may compare seemingly similar dogs like the English Mastiff or Rottweiler if you are trying to decide which one would make a better pet.

As with many comparisons, which breed is better depends on your needs, personality, and family setting.

A Mastiff vs Rottweiler comparison generally contrasts the English Mastiff against the Rottweiler. Mastiffs are taller and heavier than Rottweilers with more massive heads. The former breed comes in a select variety of coat colors while the latter is almost always a black dog with brown markings. The term mastiff also refers to a familial type of dog to which Rottweilers belong.

What is the background of Mastiff vs Rottweiler?

Mastiffs and Rotties belong to the Molossoid group, deriving from a common ancestor.

Archeological evidence of mastiff-like dogs from Asia supports their existence before 2500 BC.

DNA analysis suggests that mastiffs emerged spontaneously in several areas at once. One of these mastiff types was the Pugnaces Britanniae, which experts believe first arrived in England in 500 BC via the Phoenicians.

Nevertheless, the English used mastiffs for hunting more than 2,000 years ago, and British exports had a large influence on the development of Roman mastiff breeds. Roman molossoids were war dogs renowned for their strength and bravery.

They also became fighting dogs, appearing in the ancient Colosseum in gladiator events against other dogs, lions, and bears.

Brittain further developed the Mastiff into a protector that guarded estates.

Lighter and more agile mastiffs diverged from the more massive dogs and proved invaluable in working with livestock.

One of these was the Rottweiler or Rottie ancestor, and ancient Roman warriors took these dogs with them to help drive their cattle across the Alps. The dogs also protected the legions against would-be cattle thieves.

Germany was responsible for developing the modern Rottweiler, although they originally allowed breeding between the Roman dogs and local generic herding curs to go unchecked.

Eventually, they selected the dogs with the best herding and guarding instincts to drive their cows to market, haul butchered meats, and guard money purses tied around their necks.

Both the Mastiff and the Rottweiler were threatened with imminent extinction at various points of their existence.

The English Mastiff all but disappeared in the UK by the end of the second world war. It had already declined in the late 1800s after the criminalization of blood sports. The breed took another huge hit around WWI because of their huge food requirements.

In the 1940s, imports from North America were used to revive the Mastiff in England.

The Rottweiler saw its purpose fulfilled by the new railroad engines and cars in the 1830s. By the 1850s, most good Rotties had disappeared.

Their athleticism and boldness saved them as people sought strong and versatile dogs for the police force. The Rottweiler’s skills also proved useful in the military, and thus, they survived World Wars I and II.

Mastiffs came to North America as early as the 1600s, but their strong foothold in the US did not begin until the 1900s. They joined the AKC in 1885.

Rotties entered the US initially in the early 1900s, and the AKC accepted them in 1931. Both the Rottweiler and English Mastiff are registered as working dogs.

Mastiffs and Rottweilers are similar yet distinct in appearance

The Rottweiler is much smaller and more refined than an English Mastiff. They are suited to separate purposes with their different conformations and personalities. They also fill different niches as family companions.

Appearance

Size

The English Mastiff is among the largest dog breeds, holding the Guinness World Record for the heaviest canine. It stands 27 to 30 inches tall at the top of the withers and weighs 125 to 230 pounds. The heaviest dog was named Zorba and weighed almost 314 pounds. Rottweilers are 22 to 27 inches tall and weigh 80 to 130 pounds.

Head

One of Mastiff’s defining characteristics is its head which should be massive. It is broad with wide-spaced ears.

Where some dogs have a dome shape, the Mastiff is flat. It has well-developed temples, cheeks, and jaws. It also has prominent brows, clear wrinkles on the forehead, and pronounced flews. The relatively small ears with their V-shaped tips make the skull appear even bigger.

English Mastiffs have medium-sized dark eyes that are set wide apart. The muzzle is half the length of the back skull and both deep and broad.

Rottweilers have many similarities to the Mastiff in the head. The head is broad with well-developed cheekbones, jaws, and temporal muscles.

A Rottie has wide-spaced ears and eyes. The eyes are medium-sized and deepest.

However, Rottweilers have minimal wrinkles on the forehead. Their flews are less prominent and their ears set higher and relatively larger than a Mastiff.

Also, A Rottweiler’s muzzle is 2/3 of the length of the back skull. The German standard calls for muzzle proportion that is closer to that of a Mastiff.

Neck, Chest, and Body

Both the English Mastiff and Rottweiler have large powerful necks with moderate length. The Rottie’s neck is relatively longer than the Mastiff’s and dry. Mastiffs have a little loose skin around the neck.

As working dogs, the Mastiff and Rottweiler have strong and broad backs with level toplines. They are slightly longer in the body than they are tall. Both have deep and broad chests. Finally, each dog has a moderate abdominal uptuck.

Limbs and Feet

Both the Mastiff and Rottweiler have long sloping laidback shoulders. Their limbs are muscular with the appearance of power. Both breeds have long powerful upper hind legs, although the Mastiff is broader.

The Mastiff and Rottie are wide across the hips with a gently sloping croup that is conducive to the trotting working dog. These dogs have cat feet with compact and well-arched toes and strong nails.

Tail

Mastiffs and Rotties have different tails. The Mastiff’s tail is set somewhat high but hangs low. It curves upward when the dog is alert or excited.

A Rottie’s tail curves in a natural line from the croup and curves upward without quite reaching over the back. However, breeders usually dock a Rottweiler’s tail quite short as young puppies in the US.

Coat

The English Mastiff has a short coat with dense underfur. Rotties have a similar coat in that it is straight and coarse. The Rottweiler’s coat is longer and has fringes or breeching (furnishings) on the hind legs and tail (if full).

Rotties often have only a partial undercoat that is only present on the neck and hind legs. Both dogs, especially males, may have longer and thicker hair around the neck.

Colors

Mastiffs and Rottweilers come in limited colors and do not overlap with one another. Mastiffs can be fawn, brindle, or apricot.

They must have a black facial mask that encompasses the muzzle, area around the eyes under the brows, and the ears. Brindle is a fawn base with dark stripes, and you cannot see the facial mask.

Rottweilers are black and brown. Their brown markings or points are on the cheeks, chin, above the eyes, on the front of the chest, on the paws and part of the legs, and under the tail. A Rottie’s brown markings can be tan, mahogany, or rust.

Personality

Mastiffs are dignified and good-natured above all else. They are affectionate, patient, sweet, and stubborn. They are calm and not many phases them. Finally, they retain the protectiveness of their ancient days in noble castles.

Mastiffs, although excellent watchdogs are friendly once they determine the absence of any threat. Mastiffs are good to have around other dogs as well as cats because they tend to be gentle giants with a lower-than-average prey drive.

Rottweilers are more intense and vigilant than Mastiffs. However, like Mastiffs, Rotties are calm and fearless. They are watchful, alert, protective, and loyal. Some are more laid back and accepting of strangers while others remain suspicious of unfamiliar guests.

A few Rotties have a tendency to bond with only one person but must accept all family members.

Rottweilers can be exceedingly territorial and often prove aggressive to trespassers regardless of their previous familiarity.

Rotties are great around kids they know but are usually too large and rambunctious for smaller children. They are also a challenge to have around small dogs or cats. Rottweilers can get along with dogs that are close to their size or larger, but they commonly display same-sex hostility.

Feeding

Dogs need the same nutrients in dog food unless they are high-content wolves.

Mastiffs and Rottweilers should have a diet comprised mostly of animal proteins outside of the moisture content. They also need fatty acids which can come in the form of plant oils or animal fats.

Many commercial canine formulations use fish, coconut, corn, or olive oil. More innovative ways to balance Omega sixes and threes are the inclusion of krill.

Rottweilers need more calories per pound than do Mastiffs because they are smaller and more active.

Both breeds should eat at least two meals a day to prevent the feeding of huge amounts at a sitting, a practice that has been associated with bloat in dogs.

Grooming

The Mastiff and Rottweiler have similar grooming requirements.

  • Regular brushing to encourage circulation in the skin and distribute oils throughout the coat
  • Nail trim every six to eight weeks
  • Wipe the face daily
  • Brush the teeth a few times a week or make use of different types of chews (dental sticks, recreational bones)
  • Check the ears every few days for abnormal discharge, redness, or itching
  • Bathe and shampoo and clean the ears every one to three months or as needed

Mastiffs and Rotties have thick hard nails that are often black. These features make the claws difficult to trim, and you may need to enlist the aid of your veterinarian, vet technician, or groomer.

The quick (center of the nail bed where the nerves and blood vessels run) is almost impossible to see when the nail is black. Moreover, your trimmers must be sturdy and sharp.

Another option is to use a Dremel tool and file the nails every couple of weeks. Dogs that exercise a lot will wear their nails down to a point whereby you hardly ever need to trim them. However, some dogs have dewclaws that you will need to prevent from overgrowing.

Other than skin conditions that require a medicated bath, you should bathe your Mastiff or Rottweiler as infrequently as possible. Both breeds tend to have rather dry coats.

Mastiffs and Rottweilers shed moderately the entire years with the former losing a bit more fur.

Mastiffs shed more than Rottweilers when they lose their undercoat in the spring and fall. You should brush a Mastiff or Rottie twice a week. Neither dog is likely to have matted fur unless they develop skin sores.

Exercise

A Mastiff should get 40 to 60 minutes of exercise a day while Rottweilers require 90 to 120 minutes of daily exercise. It is easy to overlook Mastiff’s exercise requirements because they seem so laidback and almost lazy.

However, not offering your Mastiff a chance to engage in the occasional strenuous activity often leads to boredom and weight problems.

Both breeds require a period of running, playing games, interacting with you, and training. As puppies, most of your exercise routine should focus on training and socialization.

Young puppies of large-breed dogs need restraint when it comes to exercising because of the sensitivity of their bones and growth plates when they are growing rapidly.

Training

The Mastiff and Rootie each have their training challenges. Mastiffs are huge even as puppies and can be both stubborn and immovable.

Rottweilers are exceedingly smart when it comes to working and adapting. However, they have a dominant nature that they will use to challenge their owners, especially novices.

Health

A Mastiff will generally live six to eight years with some living to the age of twelve years. Rotties typically live eight to ten years although a few live longer. Mastiffs and Rottweilers suffer from many of the same health issues.

  • Von Willebrand’s disease – clotting disorder
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Elbow dysplasia
  • Osteochondrosis desiccant (OCD) – a cartilage problem of young dogs
  • Eyelid abnormalities
  • Progressive retinal atrophy – is genetic and dogs eventually go blind
  • Osteosarcoma – bone cancer
  • Dilatative cardiomyopathy – a wall of the heart is weak, causing inefficient cardiac contractions and eventual enlargement; leads to congestive heart failure or sudden death
  • Bloat – stomach fills with fluid or gas and then twists

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