Meet 7 of the largest dog breeds on the planet

  • The largest dog breeds have a special appeal. Some people are enchanted by the smallest dog breeds, while others just adore a wooly mammoth of a dog or a statuesque canine protector. You may be asked when you’re out and about if you have forgotten your saddle, but one thing’s for sure, you’ll certainly turn heads when you’re out walking – and you’ll feel safe with your loyal bodyguard at your side. Large dogs have a sort of majestic stoicism; they aren’t yappy or nippy – they are typically a gentle giant with a great big heart.

    There are a few considerations – besides whether you have enough space for something the size of a Shetland pony in your home. Giant breeds tend to be slow to mature, and their joints can be prone to injury. Everything needs to be bigger – his bed (choose from the best large dog beds), toys, bowls, your car boot, and your budget too.

    Training is another concern. What a little dog might get away with, such as pulling on the lead or jumping up, is massively exacerbated when the dog is five times as large, so you need to train consistently from the outset.

    Defining which are the largest dog breeds is open to debate. Large could be tall, long, wide, heavy or just generally massive. Here’s a selection of dog breeds that are giant in at least one dimension.

    7 of the largest dog breeds

    Great Dane

    Described as the “Apollo of dogs”, this tall, elegant breed makes a wonderful family dog. Bred for hunting wild boar, this noble dog makes a wonderful family companion, being gentle and loyal. They are strong and muscular, majestic and dignified with a lithe and springy action.

    A Great Dane holds the Guinness World Record for the tallest dog: Zeus from Michigan. Zeus, who died aged five, was 1.046m (3ft 5.2) tall at his withers, and over 2.25m when standing on his hindlegs. He weighed 70.3kg (155lb).

    Size: a minimum of 71cm (female); 76cm (male)
    Weight: minimum of 46kg (female); 54kg (male)

    Old English Mastiff: huge dog

    English Mastiff

    The English Mastiff is the largest of all the mastiff breeds and a favourite of H&H’s resident canine behaviour expert Helen Masters. This is a colossal, powerful dog: massive, heavy-boned and fairly intimidating to those outside his inner circle. However, this British dog breed is typically docile and dignified, but also a loyal protector of their clan.

    An English Mastiff holds the Guinness World Record for the heaviest and longest dog: Zorba from London. He weighed 156.5kg, and measured 2.51m from tip of the nose to tip of the tail. He was 94cm tall at the withers.

    Size: a minimum of 70cm (female); 76cm (male)
    Average weight: 68–110kg

    Three Newfoundland dogs


    This gentle-giant breed developed in Canada is a true working dog. They have worked alongside humans trawling fishermen’s carts, lugging logs, hauling in nets and helping out fishermen. As superb swimmers (with webbed feet and an oily coat), they have also been used to rescue swimmers in distress – jumping out of low-flying planes!

    They have a strong but well-balanced physique with substantial bone and giving the impression of power without being overly heavy. They are docile, patient and have natural life-saving instincts.

    Average size: 66cm (female); 71cm (male)
    Average weight: 50–54.5kg (female); 64–69kg (male)

    St Bernard Dog Running

    St Bernard

    Switzerland’s national dog is named after a monk who founded a hospice to care for travellers through the Alps – the original Alpine Mastiff was used to guard the property but also in search and rescue. They have exceptional capacities in rescue work, and have been used for centuries to locate lost and stranded travellers.

    While powerful and imposing, with great strength and muscularity, they typically have a gentle, genial nature and an intelligent, friendly expression.

    A St Bernard holds the Guinness World Record for the longest tongue – 18.5cm – belonging to Mochi from South Dakota.

    Size: a minimum of 70cm (female); 75cm (male)
    Average weight: 54–64kg (female); 64–82kg (male)


    Not yet an official breed with the Kennel Club in the UK, the Boerboel was admitted to the American Kennel Club in 2015. It is a breed developed in South Africa and descended from European mastiff and bull types, creating the Boer Dog, which was used as a big-game hunter and guard dog. Although this breed has been specialised to protect the home, it is a watchful dog, discerning to tell friend from foe, as well as versatile in its skills range. They are sufficiently powerful to be used in competitive weight-pulling, and trainable enough to make docile therapy dogs.

    Size: ideal height 61cm (bitch); 66cm (dog)
    Average weight: 50–80kg

    Dog Leonberger adult standard profile in a meadow


    Developed from crossing St Bernards with Newfoundlands, with perhaps some Pyrenean mountain dog blood, this breed has a leonine appearance. It was originally used as a guard dog, but is blessed with a gentle and affectionate temperament. They are powerful, strong and statuesque, with a confident and playful demeanour.

    Size: 65–75m (female); 72–80cm (male)
    Average weight: 45–61kg (female); 54–77kg (male)

    Irish wolfhound (Canis lupus familiaris) close up in garden

    Irish Wolfhound

    Long ago, it is believed that Phoenician sailors brought greyhounds from the Middle East to Ireland, which were crossed with local mastiffs. This produced jumbo-sized dogs who had both the speed and the strength to chase away the wolves that menaced the Irish livestock population.

    The Irish wolfhound is the tallest of all the hound breeds, and is enormously tall, yet graceful – with power, speed and courage. They typically have a calm, gentle and friendly nature.

    Size: a minimum of 71cm (female); 79cm (male) – the aim is to establish the breed averaging 81–86cm
    Weight: a minimum of 40.9kg (female); 54.5kg (male)

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