Kyle is an enthusiastic writer and animal researcher who has two pups of his own.
Dog breeds come in an astounding range of sizes. It’s almost hard to believe that a chihuahua and a Great Dane are the same species, but artificial selection can do some pretty drastic things to an animal breed’s appearance over a relatively short time. You could argue that dogs have more phenotypic variety than almost any other species of domestic animal.
Can Dogs Grow as Large as Wolves?
Interestingly, even the largest dogs are at least a little bit smaller than grey wolves from which they descended. This is especially true of the heads and skulls of large dogs, which are smaller relative to body size than the heads of wolves. However, some of the largest dogs do rival wolves in shoulder height and sometimes in weight. Wolves generally stand around 26 to 32 inches at the shoulder, and very large dogs like Great Danes can reach about that same height.
But which dog breeds are actually the largest? There are a handful of very large breeds, several of which are roughly equivalent in size. These six are arguably the largest overall.
The 6 Largest Domestic Dog Breeds
- Great Dane
- English Mastiff
- Cane Corso
- Great Pyrenees
- Irish Wolfhound
Dog Height and Weight By Breed
|Height (Male)||Height (Female)||Weight (Male)||Weight (Female)|
120 lbs +
105 lbs +
Great Danes are not typically aggressive despite their large stature.
1. Great Dane
This lithe, elegant breed is well-known for its unusually large size. Quite interestingly, there are depictions of dogs that look very similar to Great Danes from throughout a very long segment of ancient Greek history that spanned from the 14th century BCE to the Hellenistic period (323–31 BC).
The Great Dane is descended from hybrids between English Mastiffs and Irish Wolfhounds. They were used by German nobility for hunting bear, boar, and deer. The dog’s job was to seize large game animals and hold them in place until the huntsman was able to kill them. These dogs were also companions and often served as Kammerhunde (chamber dogs).
According to American Kennel Club breed standards, a male Great Dane should be at least 30" at the shoulder, and females must measure at least 28." The tallest dog on record was a Great Dane named Zeus.
Despite the fact that Great Danes were bred as hunting dogs, they don’t generally show a high prey drive and aren’t prone to an aggressive disposition. They tend to be friendly and loyal, although they may be aggressive or nervous toward strangers or unfamiliar stimuli if they haven’t been socialized properly.
Males: 30" and above
Females: 28" and above
Male: 120–200 lbs
Female: 99–130 lbs
Mastiffs are known to love playing fetch.
2. English Mastiff
The English Mastiff, sometimes simply known as the Mastiff, is a very large dog breed. Unlike Great Danes, which are lithe and sleek, English Mastiffs are large, heavy, and broad, with a solid build. While they aren’t as tall as some of the other big breeds, like Great Danes and Irish Wolfhounds, English Mastiffs are more massive and robust. The heaviest dog on record was an English Mastiff named Aicama Zorba, who weighed in at 343 pounds.
According to the American Kennel Club breed standards for English Mastiffs, males should stand at least 30" at the shoulder, and females should stand at least 27 ½". This breed has a docile and good-natured temperament and a demeanor that brings the word “dignity” to mind. English Mastiffs like a good amount of exercise, and many enjoy fetching balls. Some dog ball throwers are made specifically for large breeds like the English Mastiff.
Male: 30" and above
Female: 27.5" and above
Male: 160–230 lbs
Female: 120–170 lbs
Historically, Newfoundlands have been used as fishing aids and water-rescue dogs.
The Newfoundland is a very large working dog that was originally bred to assist fishermen in Newfoundland on the east coast of Canada. They’re innate swimmers with naturally webbed feet and a thick, insulating coat, and they make excellent water rescue dogs. They also have great lung capacity and strong, robust musculature that helps them fight against strong currents and ocean waves in open water.
According to American Kennel Club standards, average height is 28" for adult male Newfoundlands and 26" for adult females. Males tend to weigh 130–150 pounds, and females between 100 and 120 pounds.
This breed has a calm temperament and is very good with children. However, be advised that due to their long coat, they usually require quite a bit of grooming.
Male: 28" on average
Female: 26" on average
Male: 130–150 lbs
Female: 99–120 lbs
Cane Corsos can require more training that some other breeds and are usually kept by experienced dog handlers.
4. Cane Corso
The Cane Corso (pronounced “kha-neh kor-so”), a variety of Mastiff, is a large Italian dog breed that serves as a companion, hunting dog, and guard dog. They’re said to be descended from the canis pugnax, a Roman dog used in warfare.
Although they’re quite muscular, Cane Corsos are generally less bulky than other Mastiffs. According to breed standards from the Fédération Cynologique Internationale, males should be about 24–28" at the withers, and females 23–26". They’re a bit tight skinned compared to many other Mastiff breeds, although they often have a bit of a dewlap at the neck.
Unlike many Mastiffs and other large dog breeds, Cane Corsos need strong leadership, consistent training, and socialization as early as possible when they’re puppies. They’re not a breed that’s recommended for novice dog owners, but when socialized and trained correctly, they only react protectively if a real threat is present. They can be loyal, loving pets, but they’re not the easiest dog breed to work with. Corsos are pretty aggressive chewers, so you need to make sure you have some durable dog toys to withstand their powerful jaws.
Male: 99–110 lbs
Female: 88–99 lbs
Pyrenees tend to have good temperaments and are often kept as family pets.
5. Great Pyrenees
The Great Pyrenees, known as the Pyrenean Mountain Dog outside of North America, is a large working dog that serves as a guardian for herds of livestock. They range from 27–32" at the withers and over 100 pounds for a male, and 25–29" and over 85 pounds for a female. While they are quite large, their shaggy coat can give the illusion of a bit more size and mass than is actually present.
This breed is quite gentle and affectionate with children, making them an excellent choice as a family pet. They do have a guardian instinct, as they’re bred to be shepherd dogs, and they can be protective of their flock or family if necessary. Interestingly, the Great Pyrenees is actually nocturnal and will bark at night unless they’re trained not to.
Male: 110–120 lbs
Female: 80–90 lbs
6. Irish Wolfhound
Very true to its name, the Irish Wolfhound is a large breed of dog originally bred in Ireland for the purpose of hunting wolves!
This breed is very old, dating back to 7000 BCE, and has served many purposes from ranging from hunting to guarding royalty. The American Kennel Club considers the Irish Wolfhound to be the tallest breed of dog, though they are more slender than other dogs their size.
Despite their intimidating size, this breed can make a great family dog as they're typically calm and reserved in temperament. Due to their large size, the average lifespan is only 7 years.
Male: 32" and above
Female: 30" and above
Male: 120 lbs and above
Female: 105 lbs and above
Is a Large Breed Right for You?
These are just a handful of the largest dog breeds out there, although the top two are probably Great Danes and English Mastiffs. Large dogs do tend to need room to roam and run around, so they’re not always well-suited to urban apartment living. With that said, most of them are incredibly gentle and sweet despite their size. They can make excellent and loyal family pets, and very large breeds are definitely worth considering if you’d like to adopt a purebred puppy.
Dr Mark from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on March 12, 2017:
Are you familiar with that small dog breed from Ireland called the Irish Wolfhound?
What to Consider When Choosing a Breed
Potential Health Issues. When you're choosing a breed, it's important to take into consideration the health problems they are prone to. Large and medium-sized dogs can develop hip dysplasia and bloat among other conditions. Smaller dogs can have breathing problems or problems with their knees and heart.
Living Space. Think about the environment you're in when choosing your dog breed. Small apartment complexes may not be the best for large or loud dogs. They need more room to move around. Small dogs might be more vocal and irritate close neighbors. If you're not home often, you'll have to have someone to care for your dog.
Time and Attention. Consider the amount of attention you plan on giving to your pooch. If you need a dog that likes to cuddle on your lap, large dogs might not be a good choice. Above all, commit to your pooches health and establish a relationship with a veterinarian you trust. Purchasing pet insurance can help you cover unexpected health problems.
American Kennel Club: “Labrador Retriever,” “German Shepherd Dogs,” “Golden Retrievers,” “French Bulldogs,” “Bulldogs,” “Poodles,” "What Dog Is Right For Me? How to Choose The Perfect Breed."
Most Popular Dog Breeds
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Dogs and people have shared their lives for thousands of years. People have guided the development of dogs to suit their needs. As humans developed into a more cultured species, dogs followed along. Dogs became more domestic and turned into a staple in people’s lives. Today, many canine companions are considered family members.
One of the best things about having a dog is choosing a breed that fits your personality and lifestyle. But because there are so many options, it can be tough to make a decision.
Dog Breeds by Size
All around us we find dogs coming in a great range of sizes and displaying a wide variety of characteristics. Studies reveal that among all mammals, domestic dogs show the greatest range of body size among its different breeds.
For example: The smallest dog breed- the Chihuahua can weigh as low as 3.3 lb (with most members of the breed weighing between 3.3 lb and 6.6 lb). The height of Chihuahuas usually ranges between 6 and 10 inches though some grow as tall as 12 inches or even 15 inches.
The largest dog breed, the Great Dane, weighs over 100 lbs and a male Great Dane can weigh even up to 200 lbs. The heights of the dogs of the breed can range between 28 and 42 inches!
Broadly speaking, dog breeds are classified into 3 varieties on the basis of their size.
Giant Variety - The very large dogs weighing around 100 pounds or even more are considered to belong to the giant variety. Their heights range between 22 and 42 inches.
Standard Variety - This variety of dogs includes the very large to large, large to medium and the medium to small dog breeds. The minimum weights of dogs belonging to this group lie around 25 pounds and the maximum weights of the dogs may even exceed 65 pounds.
Find more on the following:
Miniature Varieties – Miniature dogs are those that are very small as compared with other breeds.
- Teacups - ‘Teacup’ dogs or ‘tiny’ dogs are dogs that are smaller than the usual toy dogs. Chihuahuas of tiny sizes, Tiny English Spaniels and Tiny Fox Terriers etc are regarded as Teacup dogs.
Giant Dog Breeds
Giant breeds grow rapidly compared to other smaller breeds but take longer to mature into their full adult sizes.
These breeds are best suited to a good sized or even large yard with ample scope to run around and play.
Very Large to Large Dog Breeds
Large-sized dogs are classified as dog breeds weighing 50 or more pounds
Large dogs need more space, and are best suited to homes with a good sized yard. These dogs require regular exercise.
Alert and less startled, these breeds are better intruder detterents compared to smaller breeds.
Portuguese Podengo Grande
Romanian Carpathian Shepherd Dog
Large to Medium Dog Breeds
Large to Medium dog breeds weigh around 35 to 65 pounds, approximately.
These breeds are home loving dogs and love being around families.
Some of these dog breeds are usually related to guardian activities and are quite ideal to protect your house and family from any intruders or burglars.
Alapaha Blue Blood Bulldog
Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog
Austrian Shorthaired Pinscher
Miniature Australian Shepherd
Portuguese Podengo Medio (Medium)
Medium to Small Dog Breeds
Dogs, typically between 26 to 50 lbs or between 18 to 25 inch at the shoulder, approximately, are grouped under this category.
These dog breeds are suited to both apartments and homes with yard. These breeds need moderate exercise and daily walks will suffice.
Small Dog Breeds
Also known as Pocket Pet dog breeds and an average 10 inches or under at the shoulder, small dog breeds do great as lap dogs.
Small dogs breeds are great for apartment living as it requires minimum exercise. These breeds do fine without regular walks or play.
Though of a small size, small breeds are bold and can be fairly aggressive. They make good watchdogs.
What can be the reason behind this discrepancy in size of domestic dogs?
Researches carried out on 3000 domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) from 143 different breeds showed that the mutation (alteration) of a size-influencing gene has given rise to the variety of small dog breeds. Such mutations are nearly absent in case of large sized dog breeds.
Mutations in the case of small breed dogs happened over several years, either through the natural breeding process of dogs or by human intervention, through crossbreeding or accidental crosses.
Over the years the functional utility of dogs as efficient aides in hunting and keeping a watch/guarding has lost significance. Modern city-dwellers prefer to keep these all time friends of humans simply as sweet companions. A tiny, cute, slow-moving creature that has little need for exercise and low endurance is what people look for in their pet dogs nowadays.
The miniature and toy varieties of some breeds of dogs like Dachshund and Poodle that have been developed by special breeding meet such requirements of people. They have thus become very popular.
It may be noted however that Toy and Teacup dogs are not recognized as distinct breeds of dogs and the small sized dogs of different breeds (those that grow roughly to the size of an arm’s length) can be classified into the toy dog group.
In recent times the Doxiepoo- a cross breed of the Dachshund and the Poodle has also been developed. There are similar other designer breeds of dogs too like Mauxie, Chug and Muggin that are hybrids of different dog types.
Dog Breed Size Vs Exercise
A dog's exercising needs depend on the nature of the dog and its energy level. Its size has nothing to do with it.
A high-strung dog or a pet who is a bundle of energy will definitely need higher workout and play sessions to release its pent-up energy than dogs who are laid back.
Although, many dog owners believe that a Toy Dog with a small compact body will need little amount of exercise than a large breed, that's not so. Small dogs like the Affenpinscher, Papillon, Poodle, Miniature Pinscher, Pekingese, etc., have high energy level that need to be released through exercise to avoid boredom and behavioral problems.
Again medium sized dogs like the Shetland Sheepdog, Italian Greyhound, Bullmastiff, Greater Swiss Mountain Dog will remain content with regular walks and occasional playing sessions.
Working dogs like the Australian Kelpie or Blue Heeler will need vigorous exercise to keep them busy and active.
Dog Breed Size & Children
A number of small dog breeds like the Yorkshire Terrier, Shih-Tzu or Lhasa, tend to be snappy and moody compared to bigger dogs like Golden Retriever or Dalmatian who are patient and charming by nature.
A dog's compatibility with small children has nothing to do with its size and everything to do with its nature. Therefore, instead of going by the size, people with small kids, should do a good research regarding each dog's nature and temperament, before actually bringing the dog home.
However, no dog (no matter how tender its heart is) will tolerate being teased and irritated. Kids and their parents should always keep that it mind.