10 Biggest Dogs in the World

Everyone who loves dogs has a favorite breed. Some of us like fuzzy little pooches like Pomeranians and Maltese, while others go for the sleek, almost hairless looks of whippets and greyhounds. And then there are the daring souls who can’t resist the giant dog breeds — those 100-plus-pound bundles of joy that are so majestic they almost take your breath away. Sure, they can eat as much as a healthy teenage boy, and they may not live as long as a smaller dog. But they can steal your heart just the same.

Giant breeds come in many forms. From the sleek, slender Great Dane to the muscular Cane Corso, to the glossy-coated Bernese Mountain dog, giant breeds are as diverse in appearance and temperament as their smaller counterparts. So if you’re thinking about bringing a big dog into your home, take some time to learn about what the dog may need in the way of diet, exercise, attention, and grooming before you take the leap.


No 1. Great Dane

Stunning to behold and a treasure to have in your home, the Great Dane is not the heaviest but is certainly one of the tallest of the giant dog breeds. Standing an average of 28 to 32 inches at the withers, these gentle giants weigh in at an average of 100 to 120 pounds. They make great companion dogs and are wonderful with children. That said, they are muscular and very strong and can have a bit of a stubborn streak. Thus, obedience training, preferably when the dog is a puppy, is a must.

10 Biggest Dogs in the World 1
The black and white harlequin Great Dane is arguably one of the world’s most majestic dogs.

Appearance and Grooming

Great Danes are short-haired and floppy-eared, although many owners crop the ears so they stand erect. They come in a variety of colors, including black, blue, fawn (brindle) and harlequin. (The black and white harlequins are often felt to be the most handsome of these.) They are light shedders, which makes housekeeping less of a chore. Unfortunately, they also tend to be heavy droolers, so you may find yourself wiping the floors (and the countertops!!) a bit more than you do now.

Exercise and Socialization

Despite their size, Danes need only a moderate amount of exercise to maintain a healthy body weight. For most adult dogs, one brisk 45-minute walk and a few outdoor “potty breaks” is enough. That said, Great Danes are playful and people-oriented, so a trip to the park for a game of Frisbee or fetch is a wonderful way to enjoy a Sunday afternoon with your pet!

As mentioned earlier, Great Danes are good with children and, usually, other pets. However, they are sometimes aggressive with other dogs, particularly if they were raised in a one-dog home. They are also innately protective of anyone in their “pack,” so it’s possible your dog might attack a person they perceive as a threat. Aggression against visitors or friendly strangers, however, is very rare.

Health and Longevity

Like most giant breed dogs, the Great Dane tends to have a short life-span of about 5 to 8 years, although some dogs live to 9 or 10. Their greatest health challenges are “wobblers disease” and “bloat.”

  • Wobblers disease or wobbler’s syndrome is a disease of the cervical spine that causes neurological disability. Its symptoms include a “wobbly” or unsteady gait, weakness in the hind legs (progressing to the forelegs), and difficulty standing up. The dog may have trouble holding its head up, which is probably a sign of neck pain. In Great Danes, the average age of onset is 2 to 3 years.

Fortunately, wobblers is amenable to treatment with either anti-inflammatory medications or surgery. According to the Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, both options are about 80 percent effective in treating the disease.

  • Bloat, also known as gastric dilatation with volvulus (GDV), is a potentially life-threatening condition in which the stomach becomes dilated and then twists on itself, cutting off blood supply to the organ and putting pressure on internal blood vessels and nerves. In mild cases, the only symptom may be abdominal distention. But if the condition progresses, the dog can rapidly develop symptoms of shock, such as weakness, difficulty breathing, pallor, and a rapid pulse. In that case, he will need immediate veterinary care. Emergency surgery may be necessary to untwist the stomach and allow blood flow to resume. Your vet may also recommend a procedure known as gastropexy, in which she staples the stomach in place.

Bloat in Great Danes isn’t entirely preventable, but you can minimize the risk by feeding your dog small, frequent meals (three to four times a day), elevating his food bowl, and not exercising him for at least an hour after a meal.


Great Danes have been around a very long time — at least 400 years. They are believed to be descended from a type of mastiff bred by German aristocrats to guard their country estates. Also known as Boar Hounds, their size and strength make them excellent hunting dogs as well.

Today, the Great Dane is a popular breed among city-dwellers. There’s nothing like the bark of a Dane to scare away a would-be intruder in the middle of the night! Further, despite their large size, these dogs adapt amazingly well to apartment living, especially once they have outgrown the puppy stage.

No. 2. St. Bernard

Beautiful, adorable, and very, very large, the St, Bernard is another gentle giant that makes a wonderful addition to a household with kids. Typically weighing in at about 140 to 180 pounds and standing up to 30 inches tall, the St. Bernard takes up a lot of room, but can nonetheless make itself at home in a fairly small space.

Bred as a guard and rescue dog, the St. Bernard hails from Switzerland, where it earned its reputation as a savior of travelers stranded in the Swiss Alps. Smart, obedient, friendly and resilient, these dogs are well suited to family life. They thrive on human companionship and want nothing more than to be part of your “pack.” Classified by the American Kennel Club as part of the working class of dogs, St. Bernards are also very strong and excel at drafting competitions as well as in the show ring.

10 Biggest Dogs in the World 2
A beautiful, friendly, intelligent dog, the St. Bernard makes a great family pet. 

Appearance and Grooming

St. Bernards come in short and long-haired varieties. The former has a short, dense coat, while the latter sports slightly longer hair, which may be either wavy or straight. Both types come in a variety of colors, including red and white, yellowish-brown and white, or a reddish-brown brindle with white. The breed usually has black markings around the eyes, muzzle and ears.

With their extra-large size and heavy coats, St. Bernards can be a challenge to groom. They are also heavy shedders and tend to drool quite a bit. So if you’re a bit of a neat freak, this may not be the breed for you.

Exercise and Socialization

Despite its size, the St. Bernard does not need a lot of exercise. One 30 to 45 minutes walk a day is usually adequate, although the dog will certainly benefit from a little play-time outdoors. That said, St. Bernards do not tolerate the heat and are prone to heatstroke, so outside play should be limited to the coolest part of the day.

Even-tempered and patient, Saints are not terribly playful, but they will tolerate a lot of rough-housing from kids. They love cold weather and thoroughly enjoy a romp in the snow, but don’t do well when they are kept outside continuously. They are very people-oriented and need human companionship to thrive.

Health and Longevity

Because of its bulk, the St. Bernard has a relatively short life-span of about 8 to 10 years. The breed is prone to orthopedic issues, particularly canine hip dysplasia (CHD) and elbow dysplasia, according to PetMD. They are also genetically predisposed to osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer, and dilated cardiomyopathy, a form of heart disease. Disorders of the eyelid such as ectropion (drooping of the lower eyelid) and entropion (inversion of the eyelids) are also common. Further, like Great Danes and other giant dog breeds, Saints are prone to developing bloat.


The St. Bernard is officially recognized as a molosser type dog, an ancient breed of large working dogs that originated in Molossia, an area that is now part of Albania and Greece. The first record of the breed is found in writings by the monks at the Great St. Bernard Hospice during the late 1600s.

St. Bernards became known as a search and rescue dogs when the monks at the hospice began training them to find travelers lost in the treacherous Great St. Bernard Pass. Barry, the most famous of the original St. Bernards, is said to have rescued at least 40 travelers during his 12-year career. After he died at the ripe old age of 14, his body was stuffed and placed on display at the Natural History Museum of Bern.

No. 3 Dogue de Bordeaux

Like its distant cousin the St. Bernard, the Dogue de Bordeaux (DDB for short) is a molosser type breed with a stocky, muscular build. A bit shorter and closer to the ground than some other giant dog breeds, the DDB stands about 23 to 27 inches tall (females tend to be about 26 inches max) and weighs in at about  110 pounds. Intelligent, loyal and calm, DDBs are also very courageous and will go to great lengths to protect their pack.

Also known as the Bordeaux Mastiff, the Dogue de Bordeaux is a great family dog and generally does well with kids. Despite their docile temperament and affectionate nature, however, these dogs can be headstrong, and they may try to dominate a caretaker who fails to establish herself as the pack leader early on. Given the dog’s great strength and size once it reaches adulthood, obedience training should begin when the dog is young.

10 Biggest Dogs in the World 3
The Dogue de Bordeaux is a gorgeous creature with a  powerful build. Despite its bulk, however, the DDB can move quickly when the mood strikes. 

Appearance and Grooming

The Dogue de Bordeaux is a handsome dog, with intelligent eyes, a furrowed brow and a strong, powerful build. Its square head is the largest proportionally of any dog breed, and its face is adorned with a set of pendulous jowls. It has a short, glossy coat that is typically fawn in color but may also be blue, mahogany or red. Some dogs have a black or brown mask and/or white markings.

DDBs need regular grooming to maintain the integrity of the skin around their faces and necks. This task is especially important (and time-consuming) because Bordeaux mastiffs drool — a lot!!! Keeping the areas under their heavy skin folds clean and dry is essential to preventing irritation and secondary infections by bacteria or yeast.

10 Biggest Dogs in the World 4
The Dogue de Bordeaux’s impressive jowls and skin folds leave the dog susceptible to infections with bacteria or yeast, so keeping the areas clean and dry is a must. 

Activity and Socialization

Although the Dogue de Bordeaux is a bulky breed, these dogs are fairly energetic and love to play. That said, the activity of dogs under 18 months old should be limited to low-impact exercise such as walking and swimming to protect their developing joints. Because DDBs are brachycephalic, they are also prone to overheating, so you should take care to exercise your dog in the evening or morning, and keep him indoors on very hot days.

The Bordeaux mastiff is a generally docile dog that gets along well with humans and (usually) other dogs. Aggression can become a problem, however, if the dog isn’t socialized at an early age.

Despite its bulk, the DDB is quite sensitive and has a strong need for human companionship. Like Saint Bernards, they will not do well if kept as an “outside-only” dog. Highly intelligent and loyal, DDBs excel at doggie sports such as cart pulling and agility. Their sweet nature also makes them wonderful therapy dogs.

Health and Longevity

As is the case with all giant dogs, the lifespan of the Dog de Bordeaux is short — about 6 to 8 years, although they can live to be 10 or 11 with good genes and the right care. Like almost all giant breed dogs, they are prone to orthopedic problems, such as hip and elbow dysplasia, and bloat. Cancer, especially lymphoma, is also fairly common in the breed, particularly in females.


The Dog de Bordeaux is an ancient breed whose origins are unclear. Its roots appear to be French, but they may have been brought to the region (then known as Gaul) by Julius Caesar’s armies during the first century BCE. Legend has it that they were originally fighting dogs, bred for war and the gladiator’s ring. Much later, after the fall of the Roman Empire, they were kept as guard dogs on the estates of French aristocrats. But when the French Revolution did away with most of the aristocracy, the dogs were appropriated by cattle farmers, who used them as working and herding dogs.

Today, DDBs are popular family dogs here in the United States, thanks in large part to the exposure they gained from the 1989 Tom Hanks movie, “Turner and Hooch.” A comedy about a police detective (Hanks) and his stubborn, quirky canine sidekick (played by Beasley the Dog), the film introduced the DDB to the world outside of France. Today, the breed’s popularity is 67th out of 193 breeds listed with the Amerian Kennel Club.

No. 4 Newfoundland

A super-gentle giant like the St. Bernard and Dane, the Newfoundland is a large, long-haired beauty that makes a wonderful family pet. Very smart and eager to please, these dogs are incredibly affectionate and wonderful with kids. But they do need some room to accommodate their giant size. Males typically stand about 25 to 30 inches high and weigh in at about 120 to 150 pounds, while females are a tad shorter and weigh between 100 and 120 pounds.

Not surprisingly, Newfoundlands hail from the island of Newfoundland, Canada, where they were originally used as working dogs, pulling nets for fishermen and hauling logs from the forest for building homes. Exceptionally strong swimmers, Newfoundlands are heavily muscled, have wide, webbed paws and an oily double-coat, which made them perfectly suited to the task of rescuing shipwrecked sailors in the frigid waters of the Northern Atlantic, which they often did. These days, they are known for rescuing drowning children from backyard swimming pools.

10 Biggest Dogs in the World 5
The Newfoundland is an intelligent, affectionate companion dog who is also beautiful to behold

Appearance and Grooming

The Newfoundland is a noble-looking dog, with a large head, intelligent eyes, and a sweet expression that will quickly melt your heart. They are double-coated, with a thick, soft, oily undercoat covered by long, coarse fur. Their color is usually grey, black, brown, or black and white. Black and white Newfs are called Landseer Newfoundlands after the artist Sir Edwin Landseer, whose paintings often depicted dogs with this coloring.

Given its extra-large size and thick, heavy coat, grooming a Newfoundland can be challenging, although the dog’s love for the water makes bathtime a little less of a chore. Regular brushing is essential to prevent mats and tangles — most dogs will need to be brushed and/or combed at least once if not several times each week. The breed’s propensity for drooling is also fairly high, so you’ll need to keep a few towels handy if you plan to keep your floors clean and dry.

Activity and Socialization

Unlike many giant dogs, Newfoundlands need a fair amount of exercise to stay healthy and trim. During the week, a daily long walk is usually sufficient, but on weekends and days off it’s important to give your Newf a chance to enjoy the outdoors. Equally at home in the water and on land, these dogs love swimming and hiking and camping with their pack. And since they are affable and friendly with other dogs, a trip to the dog park is also a great idea. Keep in mind, though, that the Newfoundland is built for cold temperatures, so don’t exercise your dog during the hottest part of the day.

Health and Longevity

Like all giant breed dogs, the Newfoundland is a short-lived breed, with an average lifespan of 8 to 10 years. Their health issues are also similar to those that plague other giant dogs and include hip and elbow dysplasia and bloat. Newfs are also genetically predisposed to a heart defect known as subaortic stenosis, and the illness cystinuria, a kidney disease that results in bladder stones. According to Animal Genetics, cystinuria occurs in up to 60 breeds of dog but is most severe in Newfoundlands, who may develop urinary blockages needing surgical intervention as early as 6 months of age.


Although today’s Newfoundlands hail from the Canadian island of the same name, they are believed to have been brought to North America by the Vikings sometime prior to the 1st century CE. A quintessential working dog, the Newf has long been revered for its strength and trainability and has worked alongside farmers, loggers, and fishermen for centuries. A Newfoundland named Seaman even accompanied the explorers Lewis and Clark on their 8,000-mile trek across the western United States, acting as a guard and hunting dog.

Particularly beloved in Great Britain, the Newfoundland breed is memorialized in a monument dedicated to a dog named Boatswain, who was once owned by the famous British poet Lord Byron. Located at Byron’s one-time home, the monument bears an inscription that reads in part, “Beauty without Vanity/Strength without Insolence/Courage without Ferocity/And all the Virtues of Man without his Vices.”

No. 5 Irish Wolfhound

Stately and regal-looking, the Irish wolfhound is the tallest of the AKC recognized dog breeds. Males stand at least 32 inches tall and may reach heights of up to 3 feet. Females are only slightly shorter, at an average height of about 30 inches or more. Their average weight is 100 to 120 pounds, but some males weigh in at 175 pounds and up.

Calm and amiable, the Irish wolfhound makes a great family dog, but it needs a lot of room to spread out. It’s lean, tall, muscled body is built for galloping, and it can reach speeds of 40 mph when it hits its stride (just shy of the top speed of its close relative, the greyhound.) Although wolfhounds are sweet and docile and great with children, their sheer size and speed makes them a poor choice for a household with very young kids.

Appearance and Grooming

A sweet-natured dog with a long muzzle, a soft mouth and scruffy “bangs” hanging over its eyes,  Irish wolfhounds give off an air of friendliness and charm. They are double-coated dogs, with a soft, downy undercoat and coarse wiry hair on top. Their color can vary a great deal, from white, cream, blue, red, black or gray, with a number of brindle variations thrown into the mix. Wolfhounds are not particularly heavy shedders but still need a good brushing about once a week.

10 Biggest Dogs in the World 6

A gigantic Irish wolfhound dwarfs a small chihuahua mix.

Activity and Socialization

Unlike many giant dog breeds, the Irish wolfhound needs a good deal of exercise to stay healthy and fit. Long daily walks are pretty much a necessity, as is a regular dose of play-time either at a dog park or in your yard. Because the wolfhound has a strong prey instinct, it will often chase any animal that crosses its path, so it should always be confined to a fenced-in area or on a leash (For the same reason, wolfhounds are also best in homes that don’t have other small animals such as rabbits or cats.)

Wolfhounds are very friendly and sociable with people and other dogs. They are also far too accepting of strangers to be good watchdogs (although their sheer size should chase any bad guys away!) Due to their intelligence, sensitivity, and eagerness to please, they do very well at sports such as tracking and agility and often make great therapy dogs.

Health and Longevity

The Irish wolfhound is, sadly, a very short-lived dog, with an average lifespan of only 5 to 7 years. That said, these dogs tend to be fairly healthy for most of their lives, and here are few serious health issues specific to the breed. Like many of their giant-breed relatives, Irish wolfhounds are susceptible to joint problems like hip and elbow dysplasia and have a predisposition to dilated cardiomyopathy and bloat. They are also slightly more susceptible than other dogs to a congenital bleeding disorder known as von Willebrand’s disease, according to PetMD.

If you decide to take home an Irish wolfhound puppy, make sure it has been screened for a congenital liver disorder known as portosystemic shunt (PSS). A potentially life-threatening condition, PSS can cause failure to thrive and neurological problems if left untreated and may even result in liver failure if it becomes severe. Fortunately, it can usually be surgically corrected, especially if the dog is young and otherwise well.


The Irish wolfhound has been around in some form or another for a very long time, with roots that date back to the 1st century CE. Initially bred as fighting dogs, they were a staple on the battlefield, where they pulled armor-clad soldiers from their horses and killed them. In ancient Ireland, they were known as “Cu Faoil,” (the Irish Wolfdogge) and were trained to protect the homes and livestock of peasants and to hunt deer and wild boar. Their strong prey instinct and exceptional speed also allowed them to catch smaller predators, like coyotes and the now-extinct Irish wolf.

Later, as peace came to the region, the statuesque dogs were often sold to European noblemen, who kept them as symbols of power and wealth. Slowly, the dogs began to disappear from the Irish countryside, and by 1800, the traditional Irish wolfhound was extinct.

Today’s Irish wolfhound is a creation of Captain George Augustus Graham, who lamented the disappearance of the original breed. According to various reports, Graham sought out the largest and strongest Great Danes and Scottish deerhounds and bred them, later adding a “big shaggy dog” (possibly with a Tibetan mastiff) and a Borzoi into the mix. Later, in 1885, Graham joined with other breeders to found the Irish Wolfhound Club and establish a standard for the new, rejuvenated breed.

No. 6. Great Pyrenees

Calm, courageous and very strong, the Great Pyrenees is a working dog bred to guard livestock and protect them from predators such as wolves and bears. Also known as the Pyrenean Mountain Dog, it hails from the Pyrenees mountains that form the border between France and Spain. They are very large dogs — males can be up to 32 inches tall and over 130 pounds — and appear even larger because of their heavy double coat.

Classified as a working dog, the Great Pyrenees also makes a good family pet. Well-mannered and calm, these dogs are generally good with children, although they are not particularly playful and may have little interest in a game of fetch. Bred to be loners, they enjoy human companionship but are less people-oriented and eager to please than many giant breed dogs. Nevertheless, the Great Pyrenees is a loyal companion who will go to great lengths to protect his pack.

10 Biggest Dogs in the World 7

The Great Pyrenees is well-insulated from the frigid temperatures of the mountainous region from which it gets its name.

Appearance and Grooming

Great Pyrenees dogs are very fluffy, with a dense wooly undercoat covered with long, thick, coarse hair that’s thicker around the neck. With intelligent eyes, a long muzzle and a soft mouth, it has a gentle countenance that belies its enormous strength.

The Great Pyrenees is typically all-white, though some dogs have tan or grey markings, especially around the face. Their coats are naturally dirt-resistant, so they don’t need as much bathing as some giant breeds. That said, they are prodigious shedders, so plan on spending a lot of time vacuuming if you bring the Pyrenees into your home. Regular brushing with a good pin or slicker brush can help keep some of the flying fur under control.

Activity and Socialization

The Great Pyrenees is a strong dog, but not a terribly active one. Bred to sit for long periods of time guarding livestock, it tolerates a fair amount of inactivity, although it definitely needs at least one 30 to 45 minute walk a day to stay healthy and trim. These dogs love to patrol their territory, so they will be happy spending time outdoors in a large, fenced-in yard. That said, they are naturally nocturnal and have a tendency to bark — a lot!  So unless you live in a rural area where your neighbors won’t be disturbed, it’s best to keep the dog in the house at night.

Bred as guard dogs, Great Pyrenees can become overly protective of their family and territory if they are not socialized when they are young. Puppies should be introduced to as many new people and situations as possible to keep their protective instincts in check.

Health and Longevity

For a giant breed, the Great Pyrenees has a relatively long lifespan — about 10 to 12 years. Nevertheless, it is still predisposed to some of the same health issues that occur in other giant dogs, particularly hip dysplasia and other orthopedic issues, including patellar luxation (dislocated kneecap), according to PetMD.


Believed to be descended from an ancient breed of guard dog that lived around 10,000 BCE, Great Pyrenees dogs first arrived in Europe with nomadic shepherds from Asia, who brought the dogs along to guard their flocks. Once on the continent, they migrated with their owners to the Pyrenees Mountains, where they served as livestock guardians for many centuries (and still do today). Later, the breed became popular with the French nobility and found a place in the Royal Court of Louis XIV, who named the breed the “Royal Dog of France” in 1675.

The Great Pyrenees breed was first introduced in the United States in the early 1930s and was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1933. Although their popularity as pets has waned a bit through the years, they are still ranked 66th in popularity out of 193 breeds listed with the AKC today.

No. 7 Bernese Mountain Dog

Statuesque and exceptionally beautiful, the Bernese Mountain dog hails from the Swiss canton of Bern, from which it gets its name. Classified as a working dog, the Berner, as it is sometimes called, is also a wonderful family pet. Gentle, patient, intelligent and good with children, these dogs stand about 25 to 28 inches tall. Males typically weigh between 90 and 120 pounds, while females are a bit smaller with an average weight of about 75 to 90 pounds.

Bred to herd cattle and guard farms in their native Switzerland, Bernese Mountain dogs have large, muscular hindquarters and are exceptionally strong. Because of their size and strength, early obedience training and socialization are a must.

Appearance and Grooming

Bernese Mountain dogs are striking animals, with medium-length, glossy, tri-color coats that are always black, rust (or tan) and white. They have a long muzzle, intelligent eyes, floppy ears and a sweet expression that gives them an air of nobility and inner calm. They are moderate shedders and need a fair amount of grooming to keep them looking their best. Daily brushing and a bath every few weeks should keep your dog in tip-top shape.

10 Biggest Dogs in the World 8

With its beautiful tri-color coat and dark, intelligent eyes, the Bernese Mountain dog has an air of quiet dignity and calm. 

Activity and Socialization

People-oriented and extremely loyal, Bernese Mountain Dogs become very attached to their families but often pick one person with whom they form the closest bond. They love the outdoors, especially in cold weather, and enjoy hiking, camping and long walks in the park. They also excel at pulling things, so if you have a few young children and a sturdy cart, your dog will have fun pulling them around the yard. Berners also love the cold weather and snow and will be more than willing to give your kids a free sleigh ride anytime.

As a rule, Berners need at least one long, brisk walk each day to stay fit and trim, but they will benefit from more. However, like other giant, heavy-coated dogs, they do not tolerate the heat, so exercise should be confined to the coolest parts of the day. They typically get along well with humans and other dogs but can be somewhat aloof with strangers. Early socialization can help mediate that trait.

Despite their heavy coats and love of the outdoors, Bernese Mountain Dogs should be kept as an indoor pet. They need to be around their “pack” and will be anxious and unhappy if left outside alone for long periods of time.

Health and Longevity

Despite their strength and hardiness, Bernese Mountain Dogs have a very short average lifespan of about 5 to 8 years. Many dogs succumb to ailments such as cardiomyopathy and subaortic stenosis, but the breed is also prone to certain cancers, including osteosarcoma and mast cell tumors, according to PetMD. Berners are also genetically predisposed to a type of immune-cell cancer known as histiocytic sarcoma, an aggressive cancer that carries a relatively poor prognosis even with surgery and chemotherapy. They may also develop less serious problems such as hip and elbow dysplasia, cataracts, entropion, ectropion, and bloat.


The Bernese Mountain Dog is native to the Swiss Alps, but there is some evidence that its roots date back to the time of the Roman Empire when the Roman army bred large mastiffs with local herding dogs. Long revered as prodigious workers, the breed excelled as an all-around farm dog, driving cattle, herding sheep, pulling carts, and protecting the homes of farmers throughout the region. Despite their popularity (or perhaps because of it) however, the breed stock was not well-maintained, and the quality of the dogs began to diminish over time.

That changed in 1907, when the geologist Prof. Albert Heim began studying Swiss mountain dogs and determined that the Bernese dogs were a unique breed. He found the most stunning dogs in the region of Durbach, so he initially named the dogs Durrbachler. Eventually, however, the breed gained popularity and spread to other parts of the region, and was given the name Bernese Mountain Dog.

No. 8. Cane Corso

Calm, dependable and loyal, the Cane Corso (Corso for short) is a strong, muscular breed closely related to the Neopolitan Mastiff. Bred in Italy, the Coso is said to be descended from ancient war dogs and has been used as a working dog by local farmers for centuries. It excels at herding and hunting and is a popular guard dog even today. The average Corso stands 25 to 27 inches tall and weighs about 90 to 120 pounds.

Cane Corso’s are intelligent and sensitive, but they have a strong tendency to try to dominate their owners, so consistency and firmness in training the dog is a must. They can be very good companion pets, but everyone in the household should feel comfortable setting boundaries and not allow the dog to dictate its own rules. Since that can be an onerous task for small children, this isn’t a good dog for families with very young kids.

Appearance and Grooming

The Cane Corso is a beautiful, heavily muscled dog with a sleek coat and a large, square head. Its ears are naturally floppy, but the vast majority of owners crop the ears so they stand erect. These dogs typically have a noble, aloof expression and a demeanor that demands respect.  Their coloring varies and includes grey, fawn, black, or red, and various brindle shades. They are fairly heavy shedders, so having a good vacuum on hand in pretty much a must.

10 Biggest Dogs in the World 9
A brindle Cane Corso demonstrates the dog’s calm, aloof nature, well-muscled body and beautiful coat. 


Exercise and Socialization

The Corso is an active dog that needs lots of exercise and stimulation to thrive. Adult dogs need a least two brisk 30-minute walks every day with as well as dedicated time for obedience training or practicing some sort of learned skill (Running alongside a bicycle or practicing on an agility course are good choices for this breed.) Corsi are very smart and easily bored, so if you don’t give them a task to perform, they will find one on their own (think digging up the yard or chewing up your couch.)

Cane Corsos have a strong prey drive, so as a rule, they shouldn’t be brought into a household with small pets such as rabbits, cats or even small dogs. That said, they will generally get along well with most humans and other dogs as long as they are properly socialized at an early age. Obedience training and giving your dog a “job” to do will help him build confidence, which is essential to curbing any tendency to fear aggression around strangers and other pets.

Because of their independent nature, Cane Corsi may wander, which should never be allowed. If you are going to leave the dog outdoors alone, he should be behind at least a 6-foot-tall fence. Electronic fences are not sufficient to contain this breed.

Although they can be docile and dependable family dogs, Corsi are not a good choice for first-time dog owners or anyone who isn’t comfortable handling a big, strong, somewhat headstrong dog.

Health and Longevity

As giant dogs go, the Cane Corso is relatively long-lived, with an average lifespan of 10 to 12 years. Their main health issues are similar to those of other giant-breed dogs and include hip dysplasia, bloat, and entropion. They also have a slight genetic predisposition to demodectic mange (also called Demodex), a skin condition caused by the Demodex mite. Unlike sarcoptic mange, Demodex is not contagious; it’s caused by a mite that is present in small amounts of all dog’s skin. Dogs who develop symptoms usually are young with immature immune systems. Older dogs may have a defect in their immune systems that allow the mites to multiply.


The Cane Corso is an ancient dog breed of the molosser (mastiff) type. Like other molosser dogs, it is believed to have its roots in the region of Epirus, which now forms the border between Albania and Greece. Originally used as dogs of war, Corsi eventually became popular with local farmers, who trained them to hunt game and guard livestock and the family home. Over time, however, wars, famine, and a destabilized social structure eventually led to fewer and fewer Corsi being bred. By the early 20th century, they were almost extinct.

Then, in the early 1970s, a group of dedicated dog lovers began an effort to bring the breed back to life. Their efforts succeeded, and in 1994 the Cane Corso was officially recognized by the Italian Kennel Club. A decade later, it was recognized internationally and was finally recognized by the American Kennel Club in 2010. Today, it ranks 32nd in popularity out of 193 AKC breeds.

No. 9 Leonberger

Yet another gentle giant, the Leonberger hails from Leonberg in Baden Wattenberg, Germany. Good-natured and friendly, they make wonderful companion dogs and are super gentle with kids. That said, they are very large dogs who take up a whole lot of room. The average male can stand 32 inches tall and weigh up to 170 pounds, while females are slightly smaller and weigh between 90 and 140 pounds.

Despite their imposing size, Leonbergers are the quintessential family dog. They love their humans and are not content to be left alone for long periods of time. They make wonderful watchdogs, but should never be chained outside alone. A Leo is happiest when it is with its pack, whether it’s cuddled up on a (big) sofa, backpacking through the wilderness, or sharing a day at the beach.

Appearance and Grooming

The Leonberger is a handsome, double-coated dog that sports a soft, downy undercoat and a thick, dense,medium-length topcoat. Their color may be reddish-brown, tan or light brown with black markings and a characteristic black face mask. Males have a striking, lion-like ruff around the face and neck. Despite their imposing size, Leos have a sweet, gentle countenance and an open, friendly face.

Leonbergers need lots of grooming. They are heavy shedders and require daily brushing to keep that to a minimum and prevent mats. A longer grooming session is usually necessary about once a week. That said, the Leos dense, waterproof coat is fairly soil-resistant, so baths can usually be limited to once per month.

10 Biggest Dogs in the World 10
A male Leonberger sports a lion-like mane and a thick, wavy coat. 

Activity and Socialization

Despite their size and stature, Leonbergers are graceful dogs that move with an almost feline gait. They are an active, working breed, and need regular, vigorous exercise to stay healthy and trim. A brisk daily walk plus a half-hour of playtime are probably sufficient for an adult dog, but young Leos will need more activity to keep their youthful exuberance in check. Running alongside a bicycle, swimming in a lake, or working an agility course are great activities for these high-energy, highly intelligent pups.

Leonbergers are very friendly and people-oriented, yet their sheer size makes them challenging to handle, especially when they are young. If you adopt a Leo puppy, begin obedience training early, preferably when the dog is four to five months old. Although aggression is rarely an issue with this breed, early socialization will ensure that your dog is comfortable in a variety of situations and feels confident around humans and other dogs.

Health and Longevity

Sadly, Leonbergers share the same short lifespan as most giant-breed dogs and typically live only about 8 or 9 years. Like their St. Bernard and Newfoundland cousins, they are also prone to orthopedic issues, including hip and elbow dysplasia and osteochondrosis dissecans, a disorder of the connective tissue that leads to abnormal growth of cartilage in the joints. They are also at risk for dilated cardiomyopathy and a number of cancers, including osteosarcoma, lymphoma, and hemangiosarcoma, a particularly deadly malignancy.  Minor health issues include entropion, ectropion, and panosteitis, a condition in which the superficial layer of the long bones of the dog’s legs becomes painful and inflamed. The disease seems to be initiated or at least aggravated by the rapid growth of certain giant-breed dogs.


The Leonberger breed was introduced in Germany by Herr Heinrich Essig, a dog lover and then- mayor of Leonberg, in 1846. According to legend, Essig bred the dogs to resemble the lion on the Leonberg town crest by crossing a Landseer Newfoundland with a St. Bernard. Later, he introduced a Great Pyrenees into the mix to produce a large, strong, double coated dog that was as comfortable in the water as it was on land. He promoted the breed by giving his dogs to European nobility, who promptly fell in love with these strikingly handsome, well-behaved dogs.

During World War I and II, almost all Leonberger dogs living in Germany were killed. It’s said that only 5 dogs remained by the end of the Second World War — these dogs were the ancestors of the Leonberger we know today. Because so few dogs were available for breeding, they were crossed with Newfoundlands, which accounts for the black mask and darker color of the modern breed.

Today, Leonbergers are popular family dogs, known for their calm temperament and good natured friendliness. Like the Newfoundland, they are also kept by the Canadian government as water-rescue dogs, and are one of several breeds trained in water-rescue at the Italian School of Lifeguard Dogs. 

No. 10 Black Russian Terrier

No overview of the biggest dogs in the world would be complete without a mention of the giant Schnauzer-type dog known as the Black Russian Terrier. Far from the cute and cuddly terrier breeds favored by most Americans, the BRT (the standard abbreviation) is a huge dog that stands about 27 to 30 inches tall and weighs in at between 80 and 140 pounds. Bred by the Russian Army to guard the forced labor camps and military installations of Siberia, these dogs are powerful, courageous, independent and headstrong and need a confident caretaker to keep their willful nature in check.

Appearance and Grooming

The Black Russian Terrier is an impressive-looking dog, with a huge, square head, big bones and enormous feet. Their all-black coat is thick and wavy, and a long fringe typically partially obscures the dog’s dark, intelligent eyes, They are a double-coated breed, with a soft, downy undercoat and coarse, thick, wavy overcoat, so they need frequent brushing and combing to prevent mats. Fortunately, despite all that fur, they are not heavy shedders, although they will “blow” their undercoat in the spring and fall.

10 Biggest Dogs in the World 11
The Black Russian Terrier is a powerful working dog bred to guard prison camps on the frigid Siberian peninsula.

Activity and Socialization

BRT’s are active, energetic working dogs who need lots of activity to thrive. They were bred as guard dogs: Taking down” escaping prisoners or suspected intruders was their job, so they are very brave and not easily intimidated. Although they can be wonderful family dogs, they need a confident caretaker who can set boundaries and establish herself as the pack leader at all times. Early obedience training and exposure to lots of different situations with humans and other dogs can also help to curb the BRT’s bossy side.

Black Russian Terriers need a fair amount of exercise and play time —  at least one brisk daily walk is more or less mandatory, as is a bit of activity in the yard or at the park. These dogs are as at home in the water as they are on land and will enjoy hiking, trotting alongside a bicycle, backpacking or swimming in a lake or even a backyard pool. Because of their dark coloring and heavy double-coat, they are easily overheated, so don’t exercise your pup under the hot summer sun.

Health and Longevity

A sturdy and relatively healthy breed, the Black Russian Terrier usually lives about 10 to 12 years. They are, in general, prone to fewer health issues than many giant-breed breed dogs, though they do have a higher risk of hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia than many smaller dogs, BRTs also have a slightly increased incidence of progressive retinal atrophy, an eye disease that eventually leads to blindness, and dwarfism.


The story of the Black Russian Terrier is immensely interesting. Back in the 1930s, prior to World War II, the Russian military set out to create a “superdog” that could be put to work guarding the system of Gulags, or forced labor camps, that proliferated during Stalin’s rule.They needed a dog that was strong, courageous, intelligent, obedient and able to withstand sub-zero termperatures with ease. But in the wake of the Russian Revolution and WWI, dogs with those traits were few and far between.

It’s said that the Russian army used 17 different dog breeds to create the BRT, including Giant Schnauzers, Airedale Terriers, Rottweilers and Newfoundlands. The program dwindled during the second World War, but was rejuvenated when prime specimens from Germany were appropriated by the Russian army and added to the breeding stock. By the mid-20th century, the Russians had succeeded in creating the dog that is now known as the BRT. And while the military continued to use the dogs as guardians and working dogs, they soon became available to the public and began to proliferate in other parts of Europe and, eventually, the United States.


Giant-breed dogs are a pleasure to behold and a treasure to own. From the gentle giants like the St. Bernard and Newfoundland to the energetic and obedient Cane Corso, their personalities are as unique as those of you and I. Still, one thing they have in common is that they are great companions when raised with the right guidance and plenty of love.
10 Biggest Dogs in the World 12