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English Mastiff vs. Irish Wolfhound: Breed Differences & Similarities


Last Updated: August 9, 2023 | 10 min read | 2 Comments

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The Irish Wolfhound and the English Mastiff are both record-holders for canine extremes. Irish Wolfhounds are the tallest dog breed in the world. And the English Mastiff is the largest dog breed in the world.

So, if you’re trying to decide between these two pups, it’s safe to say that you’ll need a lot of room! Apartment dwellers look away now unless you like tight spaces! But these gentle giants need more than just lots of room. They need companionship, regular exercise, parents willing to show them how to behave, and much more.

Here in this breed guide, we are going to compare these two massive breeds in every aspect. Meaning by the end, you’ll know which pooch will suit you and your lifestyle better. So, let’s take a look at what these two gentle giants have to offer.

Breed Comparison

Irish Wolfhound

  • Height 30+ inches
  • Weight 105 – 120 pounds
  • Temperament Courageous, dignified, calm
  • Energy Low
  • Health Average
  • Lifespan 6 – 8 years
  • Puppy Prices $1,500 and Up

English Mastiff

  • Height 27 – 30 inches
  • Weight 120 – 230 pounds
  • Temperament Courageous, dignified, good-natured
  • Energy Low
  • Health Average
  • Lifespan 6 – 10 years
  • Puppy Prices $1,000 and Up

Breed History

Taking a look at a dog’s breed history can tell you a lot about what they will be like as a family pet. Their breed purpose, along with a few fun facts along the way, will be impressively useful when deciding whether they are the right breed for you. So, let’s take a closer look to see how these guy’s histories compare.

Irish Wolfhound

Large Dog Walking in Grass
Irish Wolfhounds were originally bred to hunt Irish Elk.

The Irish Wolfhound is one of the oldest dog breeds in the world, and it is believed that he dates back to 391 A.D. It is documented that seven Wolfhounds were presented to the Romans after their successful invasion of the British Isles. They are from Ireland, as given away by their name. And their breed purpose? A hound tasked with hunting the now-extinct Irish elk to put food on the table.

The Irish countryside was being overrun with wolves, and so their masters tasked them with hunting them instead. This was when they were officially crowned as Irish Wolfhounds. They excelled so much in their hunting that their prey was pushed to extinction. And then, they were no longer needed. Being expensive to feed and not having any purpose meant their numbers dwindled too.

Thankfully, Irish breed fanciers in the 19th century took action to preserve the breed. Their numbers recovered. It is not known when they came over to America, but the Irish Wolfhound Club of America was founded in 1927. The Wolfhound is a rare breed and usually finds himself between 70th and 80th place in the American Kennel Club (AKC) registry.

English Mastiff

Giant Breed Dog Standing in Grass
English Mastiffs were once used by Caesar to fight gladiators and lions in the ring.

The English Mastiff is the older of the two breeds, as he dates back to 55 B.C. Julius Caesar documented his love for the beastly dogs that protected the British Isles during his Roman invasion. Caesar took them back to his homeland, where he presented their extraordinary strength against gladiators and lions in the ring. Don’t worry – the Mastiffs that we know and love today are smaller and less ferocious than those specimens back then.

When cruel bloodsports came out of favor, the human race discovered that Mastiffs were also incredibly loving and gentle with humans. So, he quickly found a space in the family home. Centuries ago, he was also used on English estates as a big game fighter and protector. The Mastiff was also expensive to feed. Like the Wolfhound, he also nearly faced extinction because families could no longer afford to feed him after World War II.

Thankfully, breed lovers came together to save the breed, and since then, he has become popular again. The Mastiff usually finds himself in the top 30 most popular dog breeds, making him a more common sight than Wolfhound. The current Mastiff Club of America was formed in 1929.


Two Dogs Standing in Open Field
Both of these breeds are large, however, Mastiffs are heavier.

These two breeds are almost complete opposites in their looks. The only similarity is that they have four paws and are huge. But they are huge in different ways. Although the Great Dane currently holds the official title for the tallest dog globally, the Wolfhound is averagely the tallest breed. Females measure a minimum of 30 inches tall, from paw to shoulder, and males measure a minimum of 32 inches. Mastiffs measure 30 inches at their very tallest.

The Wolfhound usually weighs between 105 and 120 pounds. And although this makes him a giant breed, he is much lighter than the mighty Mastiff. Mastiffs usually weigh between 120 and 230 pounds. The record for the heaviest dog ever was held by a Mastiff named Zorba, who weighed an impressive 343 pounds. Although this is rare, you need to be prepared for one huge doggy butt if you welcome a Mastiff into your life.

Their weight alone makes them look different. The Mastiff is broad, square, and squat looking. Compared to the leggy and more elegant-looking Wolfhound, who often gets mistaken for a Scottish Deerhound. The Wolfhound has smaller, pointier ears, and Mastiffs have large, dropdown ears that frame his handsome face.

They also have very different coats. Mastiffs have a short and dense coat that lies close to their body. Wolfhounds have a harsh, wiry coat that makes him look more scruffy than the Mastiff. His eyebrows and beard are particularly wiry. But for some, this is all part of his hairy hound charm. Rarely will you find a beautiful long-haired Mastiff, but they do exist.


Two Giant Dogs Outside
These two breeds are known to be gentle giants and make great family pets.

The personalities of these two dogs are both similar and different. They are both gentle giants who both make family-favorite companions. Both dogs are well-mannered and calm in their home, which is just as well considering their size! They love to snuggle up on the sofa with their family, and they have no concept of personal space.

Both of these giant breeds adore children, which is another reason why they both make awesome family pets. It’s worth mentioning here that although you should always supervise children with all dog breeds, both of these guys are accidentally capable of squashing small children because of their sheer size.

Their size also lends them to clumsiness too. The Wolfhound is all legs, and the Mastiff is all butt. Watch out for their long tails, too! A tail swipe will probably end up in a bruise, but it’s all part of the giant dog-owning course. Overall, Mastiffs are a bit sillier, too, and is a canine clown for sure. Whereas the Wolfhound takes himself a bit more seriously.

Mastiffs make better watchdogs of the two breeds. Mastiffs are known to be slightly more protective of their family, even if he is a bit lazier than the Wolfhound. Irish Wolfhounds are less suspicious compared to the Mastiff, and more likely to let strangers wander into your home without batting an eyelid. Which is why he makes a terrible guard dog.

The Wolfhound is the more sensitive of the two dogs, and his family needs to be around for most of the day. Many Wolfhounds suffer from separation anxiety, so this is something to consider when thinking about welcoming this pooch into your life. And although the Mastiff will miss his family, if he’s got a comfy bed and had his favorite breaky, he’ll be happy to snooze the afternoon away in his own company.


Giant Dogs Running and Playing
Both of these breeds are known to be low energy and will only need around 30-45 minutes of exercise each day.

When it comes to their exercise needs, both breeds are incredibly similar. Unlike many large dog breeds, they are both relatively low in energy. They only need between 30 to 45 minutes of steady exercise every day. Their large bodies and joints mean they should avoid intense exercise such as jogging. Instead, stick to long walks in different locations to keep their interest piqued.

Out of the two breeds, the Wolfhounds are known to have explosive bursts of energy. He is a hound, after all. Especially if he sees something small and furry to chase! He has a very high-prey drive, so it’s wise to keep him on a leash when out in public. You’ll need to be alert when out walking because if he decides to leg it, chances are you’ll be going with him if you’re not paying attention.

The Mastiff is often described as a lazy breed, so he might try to persuade you that he doesn’t need any exercise. You’ll often find him belly up on the sofa, snoring the afternoon away. Whereas Wolfhounds are always up for a daily adventure, and he’ll love to play a game of fetch in the park too.

Despite being low-energy breeds, they both need plenty of mental stimulation back home to prevent them from becoming bored and destructive. To keep them happy and out of trouble, be sure to invest in a few very large dog toys. They can both become very destructive dogs when bored. Plus, it’ll relieve some of the anxiety that the Wolfhound feels when you leave him alone too.


Two Giant Dogs Sitting
Both dogs can be quite lazy, with the Wolfhound being easier to train.

Both breeds are very different when it comes to training. The English Mastiff is not the most intelligent dog breed (we don’t like to say dumb) Whereas the Irish Wolfhound is eager to please his master, making him the easiest to train. Mastiffs are stubborn, which doesn’t make them the best option for first-time dog owners.

To get the best out of these two breeds, you need to start training as early as possible. And all training should be short and fun, especially for the easily distracted Mastiff. Both will respond well to positive reinforcement training, so be sure to read up on it. Mastiffs are likely to be motivated by food, and Wolfhouhds are likely to be motivated by toys to chase.

Like all pups, both of these dog breeds need to be socialized early for them to grow into polite adults – especially the Mastiff, who has more of a protective streak. Mix them both with as many other dogs and unfamiliar humans as you can. And be sure to expose them to things they will do regularly, such as their grooming regime and walking along loud sidewalks. It’ll build their confidence.

Both dog breeds will benefit from being crate trained. But it will be particularly useful for the sensitive Irish Wolfhound who doesn’t like to be left alone for too long. Dogs naturally crave shelter, and having a space to call his own will comfort him when you are not there. Both of these pups will need strong, durable crates designed for XXL breeds.


Two Giant Dogs Up Close
These two breeds are fairly healthy dogs but because of their size, they typically have a shorter lifespan.

Both breeds are relatively healthy dog breeds. But, like all giant dog breeds, they have a much shorter lifespan compared to smaller-sized breeds. The Irish Wolfhound has an expected lifespan of 6 to 8 years, compared to the Mastiff, who enjoys 6 to 10 years. It’s important to keep up to date with regular health checks to keep them with you for as long as possible.

Responsible Wolfhound and Mastiff breeders will test for elbow and hip dysplasia. Joint dysplasia is one of the most common concerns in all dog breeds, especially large dogs. They are also both at risk of various eye conditions, especially progressive retinal atrophy. The Mastiff is prone to something called cherry eye, and the Wolfhound is prone to iris cysts. Finally, they are both at risk of cardiac concerns, particularly dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).

Wolfhounds are also prone to several other conditions. A common concern found in Wolfhounds is pneumonia. It is often caused by another underlying health condition, but it is life-threatening if not seen to quickly. And portosystemic shunt, also known as liver shunt, is another condition that is common in the Irish.


Two Big Dogs Laying Down
Both of these breeds will consume quite a bit of food, especially as adults.

As you might expect, both of these breeds eat a fair bit, and their monthly food bill is much higher than the average canine. Both the Irish and the Mastiff can eat up to eight cups of food a day, but the average Mastiff eats more dog food than the average Irish. The Mastiff is also more prone to becoming overweight, so be sure to watch the calorie intake to prevent weight gain.

Your dog’s kibble should be high-quality, as these provide a well-balanced diet compared to poor-quality kibbles. Feeding your pooch the best nutrition that you can afford is a simple way to keep them both healthy.

Always feed them an age-appropriate kibble designed for large or giant dog breeds, especially during puppyhood. They both need optimized nutrients to control rapid bone growth and support joints as they develop.

Both of these breeds are at risk of gastric torsion, which is often referred to as bloat. As large and deep-chested breeds, they are more at risk of these compared to other dog breeds. It is a life-threatening condition, so you need to learn what symptoms to look out for. Avoid feeding your pooch immediately before or after exercise, and spread their daily food allowance out across several meal sittings.


Two Fawn Colored Dogs in Field
The Irish Wolfhound is prone to matting, requiring more upkeep than a Mastiff.

Both breeds have very different coat types, meaning their grooming regimes are slightly different. The Mastiff will need brushing once a week, and the Irish will need brushing twice a week.

More frequent brushing is needed to prevent hair matting, so be sure to pay extra attention to areas such as his armpits and behind his ears. Overall, the Mastiff is a higher shedder than the Irish, and he is a bit more drooly too.

The Wolfhound needs bathing once every 6 to 8 weeks, compared to the Mastiff who needs bathing once every 8 to 12 weeks. You might need a walk-in shower as lifting them into the tub could be a struggle. Their teeth need brushing several times a week with doggy-specific toothpaste to prevent periodontal diseases. The Mastiff is likely to need his nails clipping more frequently than the Irish as he will not naturally wear his nails down as much.

Puppy Prices

Two Giant Breed Puppies
Expect to pay around $1000-$1500 for one of these large dog breeds.

The price of an Irish Wolfhound puppy usually starts from $1,500, compared to the English Mastiff, who usually starts from $1,000. However, depending on where you live and what breeder you decide to work with, it could be slightly less or more than this.

The Irish Wolfhound is a rarer breed, meaning that you will probably have to travel further afield to find a reputable breeder. Alternatively, adopting either of these breeds from rescue shelters is an option, and it’s slightly cheaper too.

Working with a reputable breeder is really important, especially considering how short the Wolfhound and Mastiff’s lifespan is. Reputable breeders do everything that they can to produce healthy litters.

Owning a giant dog is awesome, but they are more expensive to care for than the average sized-dog. This is something that you need to consider before committing to one of these guys. They eat more food, need XXL products and toys that are more expensive, and often have higher insurance and medical costs. Considering that the Mastiff is larger, eats more, and outlives the Wolfhound, he is likely to cost slightly more than the Wolfhound in the long run.

Final Thoughts

The Irish Wolfhound and the English Mastiff are both incredibly amazing dogs who make wonderful family pets. These gentle giants have more similarities than they do differences. Thankfully their differences set them apart, meaning that choosing between the two is easier now that you’ve read our breed comparison guide.

The Mastiff is the larger of the two breeds, and he needs more room for sure. Plus, he has a protective streak making him a much better guard dog than the Wolfhound. Irish Wolfhounds are more sensitive pups who needs constant companionship.

They are easier to train, which makes them the better option for first-time dog owners. He is slightly more energetic too. But whether you’re team Irish or English, know that you’ll find an amazing bestie in both breeds!

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