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French Mastiff – Dogue de Bordeaux Dog Breed Information – 10 important things you must know

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Dogue de Bordeaux (French Mastiff): Dog Breed Profile

Characteristics, History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Written by Jenna Stregowski, RVT

Dogue De Bordeaux dog breed French Mastiff
Nick Ridley / Getty Images

In This Article

  • Characteristics
  • Breed History
  • Training and Care
  • Health Problems
  • Diet and Nutrition
  • Where to Adopt or Buy
  • Further Research

One of the oldest breeds in France, the Dogue de Bordeaux is an immense, muscular, stocky, and well-balanced dog with a massive head. It is sometimes called the French Mastiff—dogue means mastiff in French. Despite its powerful appearance, the Dogue is quite gentle in demeanor. On the other hand, its intense loyalty makes the breed a highly effective guard dog.

The Dogue de Bordeaux is an excellent dog for most households. They can get along quite well with kids, but make sure to be careful around small children. Giant dogs are not always aware of their size. Overall, the Dogue de Bordeaux is an excellent choice if you want a large dog that makes a wonderful protector and companion.

Breed Overview

Group: Working

Height: 23 to 27 inches at the shoulder 

Weight: 99 to 150 pounds

Coat and Colors: Short coat in various shades of fawn, ranging from light to dark red; small patches of white may be present

Life Expectancy: 5 to 8 years

Characteristics of the Dogue de Bordeaux

Affection LevelHigh
FriendlinessLow
Kid-FriendlyHigh
Pet-FriendlyLow
Exercise NeedsHigh
PlayfulnessMedium
Energy LevelMedium
TrainabilityMedium
IntelligenceMedium
Tendency to BarkLow
Amount of SheddingMedium

History of the Dogue de Bordeaux

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Though the Dogue de Bordeaux did not become eligible for AKC registration until 2007, it is considered one of the oldest breeds in France. While its true origins are not completely clear, the Dogue is likely a relative of the bulldog and bullmastiff.

The Dogue was classically used to protect, herd cattle, hunt, and bull bait. The breed was historically found in wealthy French homes, but it endured many hardships throughout time.

In the 1960s, enthusiasts further developed the breed, leading to increased popularity. The Dogue de Bordeaux is perhaps best known for its lovable role in the 1989 film “Turner & Hooch.”

Dogue de Bordeaux Care

If you are interested in this breed, take note—this dog is a slobbery one. You’ll probably want to carry a “drool rag” and duck for cover if it shakes its head.

The Dogue de Bordeaux has a very short, soft-hair coat that requires little attention. Occasional use of a grooming mitt or glove should be sufficient for coat care. However, the numerous skin folds on the Dogue’s face do require routine cleaning to avoid irritation and infection. Because of its giant size, a grooming routine should be established early on so your dog gets used to it. Although the Dogue’s nails may wear down naturally, check them periodically and trim the nails as needed. Your dog should only need bathing a couple of times per year.

By nature, the Dogue de Bordeaux is a vigilant and fearless protector but is by no means considered an aggressive breed. This giant dog breed will do what it takes to defend its family but is generally quite gentle and docile (and even goofy at times). That being said, a rigorous training program should be established as soon as possible after getting a Dogue. Socialization is equally important. This is, in part, due to the massive size of the breed. An untrained dog of this size can become utterly uncontrollable.

This breed can have a strong instinct to chase smaller animals such as cats. They also may not tolerate another dog in the household, especially of the same sex. While socialization and training can help prevent problems, it may not be able to eliminate the risk.

The Dogue de Bordeaux is moderately energetic for its size and needs a proper outlet. Along with training, adequate exercise, such as one long walk or a few shorter walks each day is very important. However, remember not to overdo it. This large breed dog may be prone to orthopedic problems. Additionally, the Dogue is a brachycephalic (short-nosed) breed that can possibly overheat or develop breathing issues. Make sure you have a firm understanding of your dog’s endurance level. You won’t be able to carry this dog home it he cannot make it through a walk on his own.

Training french mastiff
elisacicinelli / Getty Images

Common Health Problems

The Dogue de Bordeaux typically has a shorter life than smaller dog breeds. They most often die of cancer or heart disease, especially sub-aortic stenosis. Another 15 percent die from gastric dilatation/volvulus, also known as bloat and stomach torsion. In this condition, gas is produced in the intestinal tract and the stomach twists, which leads to a medical emergency.

Responsible breeders strive to maintain the highest breed standards as established by kennel clubs like the AKC. Dogs bred by these standards are less likely to inherit health conditions. However, some hereditary health problems can occur in the breed.

These breed is prone to both hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia. Dysplasia is a genetic disorder which causes abnormal growth of cells in the joints. This, in turn, leads, to malformation of the joints, pain, and, if not properly treated, lameness.

To prevent problems while puppies are growing, they should not be over-exercised and they shouldn’t be allowed to put on excessive weight.

dogue de bordeauxs as pets illustration
Illustration: The Spruce / Emilie Dunphy

Diet and Nutrition

Adult dogs need four to seven cups of dry food each day, which should be split into two meals. You will need to take care that your dog does not gulp down a large amount of food at once as that increases the risk of bloat and stomach torsion. Feed the dog twice a day and don’t allow free-feeding or exercise for one to two hours after a meal. Have clean, fresh water available.

This breed is prone to food allergies, especially wheat, and you may have to provide a special diet. Luckily, there are good-quality commercial large breed dog foods that are wheat-free.

These dogs can be expensive to feed as an adult male will eat a 50-pound bag of dry food per month. Monitor your dog for weight gain and discuss any needed changes in his diet, feeding schedule, and exercise with your veterinarian.The Best Giant Dog Breeds That Make Great Pets Pros

  • Loyal
  • Courageous and protective
  • Affectionate and even-tempered

Cons

  • Slobbery
  • Nutrition needs can be expensive
  • Does not get along well with other pets in the house, particularly other dogs

Where to Adopt or Buy a Dogue de Bordeaux

The Dogue de Bordeaux Society of America is the best place to start your search for a dog of this breed. They provide a directory of breeders who are in good standing with the club, as well as contact information for a rescue group representative. Dogue de Bordeaux Rescue is another group that is dedicated to the breed and provides leads on adoptable Dogues.

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

If you think the Dogue de Bordeaux is the right breed for you, do plenty of research before you get one. Ask for advice from veterinarians, Dogue de Bordeaux owners, breeders, and giant dog rescue groups.

Size

These dogs are known for their large size.

Males:

Bordeaux and loving companion
  • Weight – Minimum of 110 pounds
  • Height – 23.5 to 27 inches at the shoulder

Females:

  • Weight – Minimum of 99 pounds
  • Height – 23 to 26 inches at the shoulder

Head

This breed’s head is the most impressive part of the package. The ideal head is massive and equipped with a broad nose and strong jaws. The muzzle is approximately one third the length of the head, and there is a definite stop where it meets the dog’s forehead. The bite is undershot, which means the lower teeth are set in front of the upper teeth when the jaw is closed. Loose jowls drape down from the muzzle and cause these dogs to drool. The eyes are oval-shaped and wide-set. Their skin is fairly loose and quite thick with significant wrinkles on the head, face and neck. The ears are relatively short and hang downward.

Coat

The French Mastiff’s coat is short and surprisingly soft for such a large dog, and it ranges in color from light fawn to red fawn. These dogs may carry either a black or brown mask or sometimes no mask at all, but the mask should be limited to the muzzle and eye areas and not spread up into the head. The color of the nose should match the mask.

Gait

This dog typically gaits at a trot with very free movement, although he is capable of great speed in short bursts. His head tends to stretch down and forward the faster he goes. His front legs should move parallel to one another, as should the rear legs, but both tend to converge towards his center at higher speeds. When standing still, the rear legs should not bend in toward each other at the hocks.

French Mastiff Temperament

Since the French Mastiff is such a large and powerful animal, it is imperative that his temperament is steady and dependable. According to the American Kennel Club standard, the ideal specimen is very calm and not easily roused to excitement. The dog should display devoted affection toward his owner and behave as a good companion to the entire family. Even though this dog is a natural guard dog, the Mastiff’s character should be vigilant, not aggressive.

Socialization and Training

Loving and devoted French Mastiff

A French Mastiff puppy needs socialization and early training to nurture the desired temperament. The old saying “start out as you mean to go” definitely applies here. Be consistent in your rules. Do not allow your pup on the furniture now and expect him to stay off it when full grown. Likewise, do not tolerate play biting that could lead to something more dangerous when his massive jaws are fully grown. Remember, what you raise is what you get.

It’s true that these dogs do not always appreciate sharing their home with other pets, especially other dogs, so socialization must take place while they are still young and more manageable. It should also be noted that adult males find it especially difficult to tolerate each other.

Obedience training is also imperative for establishing the proper relationship between dog and owner. If you do not take your place as your Mastiff’s leader, the dog will soon be leading you.

Well-socialized and obedience trained French Mastiffs are suitable for training in search and rescue work as well as therapy dogs.

Exercise Needs

This Mastiff is actually quite agile for its size, and he can get by on a moderate amount of exercise. A good daily walk is sufficient to meet his needs, so he can actually do well in a home with a small yard. That said, these dogs do enjoy physical activity and are quite willing to pull weights and participate in obedience competitions. When you’re considering exercise, don’t forget this dog’s mind as well as his body. Physical exercise helps burn off stress as well as extra calories, and a change of scenery provides much needed mental stimulation that will help keep this dog from becoming bored and displaying destructive behaviors.

Two Mastiffs playing in the snow

Grooming

Due to the fact that the wrinkles on the face and neck can collect moisture, it’s important to bathe these dogs approximately every two weeks to avoid developing odors. The facial wrinkles and eyes should be wiped down daily to keep them free of bacteria and accumulated debris. Shedding is only moderate with this breed, so a good brushing a couple times a week will keep loose hairs to a minimum. The folded ears should also be swabbed out twice a month, and nails must be kept trimmed to help the dog walk on his feet properly and avoid joint damage from carrying so much weight.

It’s beneficial to establish these grooming routines while the dog is still a puppy, before he reaches his full size and strength.

Health Issues

Ten-week-old Bordeaux pup

The French Mastiff faces many of the same health challenges as other large breeds including:

  • Heart disease – This includes heart murmurs and subvalvular aortic stenosis.
  • Dysplasia – This is a degenerative condition of the hips and elbows that causes pain and lameness.
  • Entropion – The lower eyelid rolls inward and cause the lashes to rub against the eye and damage the tissue.
  • Hyperkeratosis – This condition causes production of excess keratin, which in turn causes the footpads and nose tissue to become thick and somewhat calloused.
  • Epilepsy – This is a brain condition that causes recurring seizures over a period of time.
  • Arthritis – This is a painful, degenerative disease of the joints that leads to cartilage loss and joint wear.
  • Torsion, aka bloat – The cause of this condition is still unknown, but it results in a painful bloating and twisting of the stomach that seals off the organ and leads to a fatal buildup of gases and stomach acids.
  • Obesity – Excessive weight gain can lead to a host of other conditions including diabetes and heart disease.
  • Kidney disease – The kidneys have a reduced ability to filter toxins, and the condition eventually leads to total kidney failure.

French Mastiff Lifespan

Large breeds often don’t live as long as smaller breeds due to the strain their bulk puts on their internal organs. However, the French Mastiff has a relatively long lifespan considering his size and the health problems noted in the breed. The average lifespan is eight to ten years, but some dogs live even longer. Of course, feeding this dog high-quality food, making sure he gets regular exercise and providing routine veterinary care will go a long way toward extending his life.

A Little History on the French Mastiff

This breed has an interesting history.

Bordeaux hugging his owner

Origin Isn’t Exactly Clear

No one is completely sure about the origins of this breed, but theories abound. Some believe the French Mastiff descended from European Mastiff breeds that were possibly crossbred with other large working dogs. Others believe these dogs are more likely the descendants of Greco-Roman dogs of war. There’s speculation that the Tibetan Mastiff also played a significant role in the breed’s foundation. The only thing that is certain is that these dogs definitely belong in the Mastiff family.

Early French Specimens

According to the AKC’s history on this breed, early French Mastiffs/Bordeaux looked a bit different from the breed today. They came in colors other than shades of fawn, including brindle. While markings are considered undesirable today and must be limited to a small patch on the chest and a touch on the feet, early Bordeaux often had more extensive white markings.

Their jaws were not uniform either, and some dogs actually had scissors bites where the top teeth rest in front of the bottom teeth when the jaws are closed. Today, these dogs are expected to have undershot bites. There was also some disparity in head size, with some lines having much smaller heads than others. Breeding for a single type has lead to the breed’s modern, more uniform appearance.

In the past, there were three different “types.”

  • The Bordeaux type – This type was the closest to the ancient French Mastiff, and it displayed the now familiar head type with distinct stop.
  • The Paris type – These dogs looked similar to Great Danes, but they were built heavier.
  • The Toulouse type – This type closely resembled the Bordeaux, but they came in different colors, including the aforementioned brindle.

Brought Back from the Edge of Extinction

Once the preferred guard dog of shop keepers and the elite, this Mastiff faced a dire threat of extinction during the French Revolution and again during WWI and WWII. However, the breed was revived largely due to the efforts of French breeder Raymond Triquet who, along with a group of diligent breeders, re-established the breed during the 1960s. Today, the population is growing beyond the breed’s stronghold in France.

Bred to Work

Whatever their history, these dogs have served as cattle dogs, bull-baiters, guard dogs and even fought in the infamous Roman arenas. They live mainly as house pets today, but they still enjoy having some sort of job to perform.

Official AKC Recognition

French Mastiff pup

Despite the French Mastiff’s ancient roots, it was not officially recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) until 2008 and goes by the name of Dogue De Bordeaux. Some of the other organizations that recognize this breed by either name include:

These organizations are good places to look for breeders if you are interested in finding French Mastiff puppies for sale. Expect the price for a French Mastiff puppy to range between $1,000 and $5,000.

Stardom Brings Recognition

Before the 1989 film Turner & Hooch, the French Mastiff was still mainly unknown to much of the general public. Beasly, the canine star of the film, brought a lot of recognition to the breed that highlighted many of the joys and challenges of living with these dogs. Beasly passed away in 1992, but his work in the film still generates attention for the breed.

Breed Books

If you’d like to read more about the French Mastiff/Dogue de Bordeaux, check out these fun and informative references.

Breed Clubs

Breed clubs can be wonderful resources for more info on the Bordeaux. A few of the largest clubs include: