The Top 20 Largest Dog Breeds Whose Hearts Are as Big as Their Paws
Without question, the largest dog breeds in the world are awe-inspiring. While it's easy to simply marvel over their mammoth size, each one also has an interesting history. Jerry Klein, DVM, is the chief veterinary officer for the American Kennel Club (AKC). He says these breeds have distinct personality characteristics, too, depending on the purpose for which they were originally developed.
"Potential owners of any dog should educate themselves to be sure the personality of the dog they're considering matches as best as possible to their expectations, lifestyle, and family needs," he tells Daily Paws.
Choosing a Large Dog Breed
Talk about being unapologetically extra: everything about these sizable superstars is more—much more! Klein recommends doing an in-depth evaluation on the following before committing your heart to a big dog:
- Life span: "Giant dog breeds are magnificent and loving, but they take longer to mature. They may take up to 18–24 months to fully mature versus 9–12 months for a toy or small dog breed," Klein says. "They also generally have shorter life spans than smaller breeds—many living about 8-11 years."
- Cost: From accessories such as leashes, collars, food bowls, and dog beds to food, medication, grooming, and boarding fees, your colossal canine requires more love and money.
- Efficient training: Klein says although large dogs are often gentle and kind, it's critical to know what it takes to raise them. "Having experienced owners to invest the time, expense, and energy into proper and ongoing training at formative stages in the puppy's growth and socialization is incredibly important for any dog, but especially with one who weighs as much as an adult human," he says. "Proper training isn't just about commanding orders, but also learning how to communicate to create a strong relationship and approach life as a team."
- Housing: Klein adds that while not every large dog is excessively energetic, they take up a lot of room to stretch out, exercise, play, or just sleep. Also, many apartments or condominiums have weight and height requirements for dogs, which could be limiting. Heck, can your furniture even hold up to repeated flounces from such a massive pup?
As you swoon over pictures of the largest dog breeds below and start to imagine all the fun you'll have together, you might also need to measure the back of your car— just to make sure a new XXL doggo will fit inside!
Weight: 120–230 pounds. Height: 25–30+ inches.
Mastiffs, also referred to as English mastiffs, are descendants of the Molossus—war dogs from ancient Greece. Murals dating back to 2500 B.C. depict them tussling with lions and gladiators, but today, this family-focused pooch is a lover, not a fighter. A true kindly companion, they might develop separation anxiety if away from you for too long.
Weight: 70–150 pounds. Height: 24–26 inches.
Oh, the clever Tibetan mastiff will keep you on your tippy-toes! Originally dedicated homestead guardians in the Himalayan mountains, these independent thinkers take monitoring the backyard fence line seriously as to better take care of their people. For all her size, she's nimble like a cat … and kind of has a "Don't call me, I'll call you" attitude to match.
Weight: 100–120 pounds. Height: 24–27 inches.
A cross between the English mastiff and bulldog, an adorable bullmastiff sometimes hears "No" as "Maybe!" So as Klein says, consistent training of large dog breeds brings out their best. Fond of long leisurely walks and "sniffaris," bullmastiffs were once called "gamekeeper's night dog" because of their ability to roam the vast English countryside in search of poachers.
Weight: 110–150 pounds. Height: 24–31 inches.
Neapolitan mastiffs, also with Molossus heritage but from Italy, are affectionately referred to as "knuckleheads" by fans because of that big ol' noggin! If you're a Harry Potter fan, you know this was Hagrid's favorite breed—and the pooch pictured here is that movie actor dog's sibling. Awww! These wrinkly faced dogs are devoted pals to older children but watch out: drool is their love language.
Weight: 110–175 pounds. Height: 28–32 inches.
Gargantuan? Yep. Gentle? Also yep! A Great Dane consistently ranks in the top 20 of the most popular dog breeds in the U.S. Bred as a canine companion since the 1600s, this German dog breed (yep, totally not Danish!) is a good-natured family pal who learns socialization skills like a pro and plays well with everyone. But if you can't find the cat, he's likely sitting on her!
Weight: 105–180 pounds. Height: 30–35 inches.
As the AKC's tallest registered breed, ancient Irish wolfhounds evolved from the big game hunters they used to be. In fact, they were almost extinct in their native Emerald Isle until the late 1800s, when a British army captain revived the line. Are these playful and sweet-natured scruffmuffins still considered among the top Irish dog breeds? Ar ndóigh! (Of course!)
Bernese Mountain Dog
Weight: 70–115 pounds. Height: 23–27.5 inches.
A robust working aptitude is just what you expect from the largest breeds of dogs, and this Swiss pup more than handles any task! Bernese mountain dogs can pull 10 times their own weight, so if you need a pleasant four-pawed farmhand who prefers family life and full-on togetherness, this floofy pooch might be for you.
Weight: 80–150 pounds. Height: 27–29 inches.
This big boi needs wide open spaces and a job to do. For more than 6,000 years, Anatolian shepherds were the premier sheep guardians in Turkey, so they're not about to laze around the fireplace hearth all day. Farmers and ranchers who are experienced dog owners will marvel at this smart doggo's ability to watch over both their flock and their people.
Weight: 80–100+ pounds. Height: 25–32 inches.
If any breed will graduate with honors from puppy kindergarten and be ready to accept new skills and people in equal measure, it's the Great Pyrenees. Among white dogs, she's certainly the largest dog breed, able to travel wild mountainous range between France and Spain—for which she's named. Calm, cool, and collected are her trademarks.
Weight: 100–150 pounds. Height: 26–28 inches.
A laid-back Newfoundland, also known as a "Newfie," is not only a famed swimmer but also a top contender in the best "playmates for kids" category. Breed historians indicate they're one of the few native North American dogs—Canadian Algonquin and Sioux tribes had them, as did American wilderness explorers Lewis and Clark in the early 1800s.
Weight: 90–170 pounds. Height: 25.5–31.5 inches.
The German Leonberger almost didn't survive World War II. Only eight were available for breeding after the war. Fortunately, people believed these loving and sensitive creatures deserved a second chance. Exceptional at search and rescue, you can keep them active and engaged with regular scent training.
Weight: 120–180 pounds. Height: 26–30 inches.
As a runway model for double-coated dog breeds, the Saint Bernard might need more fur—and slobber!—control, but like many of the largest dog breeds on this list, fluffy cuddles make it totally worth it. Because of their heroic efforts saving stranded souls in Alpine passes between Italy and Switzerland, these mellow wonders were also known as "Sacred Dogs."
Weight: 88–110 pounds. Height: 23.5–27.5 inches.
Another muscular Molossus descendant, the Italian Cane Corso has a detailed history in the military and for hunting big game. It's no surprise, as he's one of the smartest dog breeds. Eager to always be engaged and active, he'll lap up all kinds of consistent positive reinforcement training and the chance to compete in various canine sporting events.
Weight: 150–200 pounds. Height: 22–27 inches.
Experienced dog owners are often smitten with the South African boerboel. In the Afrikaans language, boerboel is pronounced "boo-r-bull" which means "farmer's dog," and these guardians are known for their responsible, amiable natures. Like many other African dog breeds, they're not as well known in the U.S. but were recognized by the AKC in 2015.
Weight: 75–85 pounds. Height: 23–25 inches.
There are few better get-up-and-go buddies for brisk winter activities than Alaskan Malamutes. The 49th state's official dog, these talkative and affectionate pups expect rigorous activity such as skijoring and flyball. After all, any pooch named after the Mahlemuit Inuit tribe and used to schlepping supplies during the Yukon Gold Rush and military missions needs something to do!
Weight: 70–130 pounds. Height: 26–28 inches.
The discerning Akita saves her playful and tender side for her family—and might prefer being the only pet, too. As one of six Japanese dog breeds considered national natural monuments, she's a symbol of good luck and health. Once a rugged hunting dog, she's now content to take a fleet-footed walk, then settle into a snug and quiet corner to watch over her people.
Weight: 75–110 pounds. Height: 28–32 inches.
As their name suggests, Scottish deerhounds roamed the Highlands with their humans chasing wild game—at speeds of up to 30 mph! Supremely loyal, they're also rare dog breeds outside of their native Alba. Shaggy and sweet, they'll often choose their special person over another dog (meaning: they'd probably thrive in a home without other animals.)
Weight: 60–105 pounds. Height: 26+ inches.
Once known as the Russian wolfhound, the elegant borzoi (pronounced BOR-zoy) is a large dog breed that makes you sit up and take notice! And even when you do, he'll still be taller than you. In the Russian language, borzyi means swift, so this sighthound requires daily exercise and engagement activities—after which he'll use your lap as a comfy pillow for that long snout.
Weight: 60–100 pounds. Height: 24–28 inches.
Just because an athletic Doberman pinscher is intelligent enough to be trained as a highly recognized protector and K-9 officer doesn't mean that's all she's capable of becoming. This German beauty is also prized for being ever faithful to her humans and even a bit anxious when away from them for long. Nothing a good run, positive reinforcement training sessions, and languid snuggles won't fix!
Weight: 100–200 pounds. Height: 21.5–23.5 inches.
Another pupbassador from Japan is the Tosa Inu. Also referred to as the Japanese mastiff, they're sometimes compared to sumo wrestlers because of their fighting history and sheer ooofness. Their best home is with experienced dog owners dedicated to their training and without other animals and small children, so as they throw their weight around in a silly, puppy-like manner, no one gets hurt.