An impressively large dog with noble bearing, the Tibetan Mastiff is an aloof and watchful guardian breed. They possess a solemn but kind expression, with an immense double coat it can be black, brown and blue/grey, with or without tan markings, and various shades of gold. Although seen in shows in the United States today, they may not enjoy participating in organized activities such as obedience or agility due to their highly independent natures. The Tibetan Mastiff is a highly intelligent, independent, strong willed and rather reserved dog. He is aloof with strangers and highly protective of his charges and his property. In the ring he may exhibit reserve or lack of enthusiasm, but any sign of shyness is unacceptable and must be severely faulted as inappropriate for a guardian breed. Conversely, given its aloof nature, judges should also beware of putting a premium on showiness.
The Tibetan Mastiff is perhaps the most ancient of the large dog breeds, and most modern large breeds are believed to have descended from this breed. In Tibet, the Tibetan Mastiff is known as the Do-Keyi, which means "tied dog" or "gate dog". The breed was originally used to guard Tibetan monasteries and protect the villagers and campsites from intruders. Tibet's forbidden landscape kept the Tibetan Mastiff concealed from the world for many centuries, but in 1847 the Viceroy of India sent a Tibetan Mastiff named Siring to Queen Victoria and the Western world got their first glimpse of the breed. More dogs would be sent out of Tibet in coming years, but the breed's numbers outside of Tibet remained extremely low. However, in the 1950's, with the Chinese invasion of Tibet, fears for the breed's survival led fanciers to send several specimens around the world, including a pair sent by the Dalai Lama to President Eisenhower. The Tibetan Mastiff finally caught on with American breeders in the late 1960's, and in 1974 the American Tibetan Mastiff Association was formed. The Tibetan Mastiff was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 2006. Though today, in America, the Tibetan Mastiff is occasionally found in homes as a devoted companion and guardian, in its native Tibet, the breed still performs the same functions it has for thousands of years.