It isn’t as easy as it might seem to identify the strongest dog breeds.
There are as many myths and misconceptions about canine strength as there are data-driven facts.
For example, it can be tempting to measure the strongest dog breeds simply by sheer size or by weight.
Similarly, bite strength can be another measurement of dog strength that becomes misleading without any context.
Many people confuse the strongest dog breeds with the best dog breeds for livestock guarding, military or police work or hunting work.
However, just as not every strong person makes a good wrestler or weight-lifter, not every strong dog breed will make a good guard dog.
Having said that, traditionally, strength is considered to be a combination of loyalty, courage, fierceness when necessary, and most of all, intelligence and a natural reserve that comes from knowing your own strength.
With these traits in mind, let’s take a look at the world’s strongest dog breeds, including ways to measure strength, whether you are looking for small strong dogs or big strong dogs.
What is the strongest dog breed?
If you wanted to figure out the strongest dog breed pound for pound, how might you go about it?
There are a number of ways to measure canine strength.
Bite strength is one of the most popular approaches.
However, the ongoing lack of standardization in measurement techniques has produced some conflicting statistics.
For example, Rottweilers have been reported to have bite strengths ranging anywhere from 328 pounds to over 2,000 pounds!
Still, it is common knowledge in breeding and veterinary medicine circles that some of the top strongest dogs have been specifically bred for bite strength and what is called tenacity (essentially, not letting go).
These breeds include Rottweilers, American Pitbull Terriers and Rhodesian Ridgebacks.
Another approach for measuring the strongest dog breeds is to look at dog behavior such as aggression or fierceness versus timidity.
Individual kennel breeding strategies can greatly influence where a dog breed falls on this scale within the breed as a whole and even from litter to litter.
Certain breeds are naturally more fierce or more timid.
A research study at the Veterinary Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (VHUP) Behavior Clinic identified four big dog breeds that more commonly display excessive fierceness (“dominance aggression”): Chow Chows, American Cocker Spaniels, Dalmatians and English Springer Spaniels.
To contrast this, another study of canine aggression towards people and other dogs showed that the top three dog breeds most prone to aggression are little dogs: the Dachshund, the Chihuahua and the Jack Russell Terrier!
Strong Working Dogs
For still other dog breeds, the focus is on breeding a very strong dog with a high pain tolerance and an unstoppable work ethic.
Working sled dogs, livestock guarding dogs, hunting dogs, police and military dogs all need to have a high tolerance for pain and overall physical discomfort.
They also need tremendous motivation to remain “on task” even under extreme provocation.
Otherwise, they wouldn’t be able to keep doing their jobs when the going gets tough!
Examples of very strong dog breeds in this category include the German Shepherd, the Doberman Pinscher, the Rottweiler and a number of Pitbull-type dogs (mixed breeds identified as having some Pitbull genes).
Ultimately, because there are so many different ways of measuring canine strength, it is very challenging to pick out a single dog breed that is the strongest dog breed in the world.
The strongest dog breeds
In terms of bite strength, tenacity, sheer physical might, high pain tolerance and stellar work ethic, these dog breeds are all contenders for the title of “strongest dog ever.”
The German Shepherd dog, or GSD, is the second most popular purebred dog breed in the United States.
These intelligent and beautiful dogs can weigh up to 90 pounds, with females being on average 15 to 20 pounds lighter than males.
The German Shepherd dog, not surprisingly, is a dog breed that started in Germany and has since made it all around the globe.
GSDs can be found in nearly every working dog profession as well as being staples in the show ring.
Loyalty and courage are two of the German Shepherd’s top traits.
They also have the natural reticence common to guarding dog breeds.
German Shepherds make excellent pet dogs, but only for very active individuals or families who are willing to give this dog the daily exercise and activity (both physical and mental) the GSD needs and deserves.
There are two lines of German Shepherd: the working dog line and the show dog line.
The working dog line tends to be more stable in body since there isn’t the strict emphasis on back slope that is causing show GSDs some health troubles of late.
Hip dysplasia, degenerative myelopathy and bloat are also associated with this dog breed.
The Rottweiler is the eighth most popular pet dog breed in the United States.
This dog can weigh as much as 135 pounds in adulthood, with females weighing an average of 15 pounds less than males.
The Rottweiler, like so many working and guarding dog breeds, is incredibly loyal to her family but can be reserved with strangers.
Only a Rottie’s best human friends will ever get to see her playful side!
The Rottweiler is a product of the ancient Roman Empire and has working lines that extend all the way back to the breed’s earliest days.
This dog loves to play, run and exercise, and needs lots of mental and physical stimulation to be happy in suburban life.
The Rottie has some known health issues, including hip and elbow dysplasia, heart issues and eye issues. Cancer is also a concern.
This worry can be alleviated somewhat with regular vaccinations, which are known for keeping this dog’s immune system strong.
American Pitbull Terrier
A great deal of confusion and misinformation exists about the purebred dog breed known as the American Pitbull Terrier.
This member of the strongest dog breeds team is a cross between a bulldog and a terrier that was originally bred to be the greatest of honorable warriors – loyal, courageous and gentle with loved ones.
Today, the American Pitbull Terrier is often mistaken for many mixed breed dogs who may have some genetic influence from the purebred breed line and look similar.
The purebred APT will weigh anywhere from 35 to 60 pounds, with males generally outweighing females by about 15 pounds.
Purebred APT dogs can suffer from hip dysplasia, knee issues, thyroid dysfunction, skin disorders and nerve disease.
The Rhodesian Ridgeback was originally bred to hunt lions and other big game. Weighing in at just 70 to 85 pounds, these are sleek, powerful dogs with an effortless gait that allows them to keep up with leopards and other big cats.
The “Rhodesian” part of this dog’s name comes from the area where the breed was actually born – Rhodesia in Africa (now Zimbabwe and Zambia).
The “Ridgeback” comes from crossbreeding that occurred during that time period with semi-wild African ridge-backed dogs.
The Rhodesian Ridgeback can be a handful for the inexperienced hound owner.
However, unlike some hunting and guarding dogs, this dog only needs moderate exercise to be happy and healthy.
Health issues associated with this dog breed include hip and elbow dysplasia, thyroid dysfunction and eye issues.
The Anatolian Shepherd dog is an ancient livestock-guarding dog breed that first arose in what used to be called Anatolia, now Asia Minor/modern-day Turkey.
This dog was bred to work in the harshest desert environment imaginable, from extreme cold to scorching heat.
Anatolian Shepherds became popular livestock guarding dogs in the United States after the government passed the “Endangered Species Act,” which mandated humane (non-lethal) control of wild wolves.
Shepherds are experts at intimidating wolves and were the natural choice for guarding the livestock upon which wild wolves preyed.
These dogs can have issues with hip and elbow dysplasia and occasionally will suffer from bloat.
They can also have genetic sensitivities to medication, including anesthesia.
Karakachan Livestock-Guarding dog
The Karakachan Livestock-Guarding dog, or K-LGD for short, is a relatively unknown dog breed that originated in Bulgaria.
These dogs are so rare that estimates place the total worldwide population at less than 1,000 dogs!
The Karakachan dog, which is also known as the Bulgarian Shepherd dog, can weigh 120 pounds or more at maturity, although females tend to be smaller than males.
The Karakachan is an incredibly brave, powerful, intelligent dog that is really more easily socialized to the livestock they are bred to guard than they are to people.
K-LGDs can be very shy around people – even people they know – but there is no challenge they will not face down on behalf of their herds or flocks.
To date, there is very little available data on health issues associated with the Karakachan dog. This is likely due to the breed’s rarity.
The Kangal is a large breed livestock-guarding dog that originated in Turkey.
This dog has become more popular outside of Turkey due to sustained efforts by enthusiasts in the United States and Europe.
The Kangal, also known as the Turkish Shepherd dog, can weigh up to 140 pounds at maturity, although female dogs typically weigh 15 or so pounds less than adult males.
They are slow to mature and can be unresponsive to traditional training techniques because of their long history as a free-range livestock-guarding dog.
This dog breed is considered rare and comes from a very small gene pool.
The main health issues associated with this dog breed include hip dysplasia, benign fatty tumors called musculoskeletal lipomas and an eyelid condition called entropion.
The Transmontano Mastiff, also called the Transmontano Cattle dog, is another very rare livestock-guarding dog breed that hails from Portugal.
Like the Karakachan and the Kangal, these dogs live and breathe their duties tending to their flocks or herds.
They can be very reticent around humans.
They are not accustomed to being kept at all penned in, but are used to moving about freely with their livestock year-round.
The Transmontano is descended from the massive Iberian Mastiff line and can weigh up to 200 pounds at maturity.
These dogs bond so closely with their livestock charges that it is still common practice in Portugal, where most of these dogs reside, to transfer the dogs along with the herd when livestock is sold!
The massive Transmantano will go head-to-head with the fiercest wild predators, from coyotes to bears, to protect the livestock he lives with.
This dog breed can be prone to hip dysplasia but is considered to be a generally healthy dog breed otherwise.
The strongest dog in the world
The current reigning “strongest dog on earth” is a whippet named Wendy (you can see a picture of Wendy here).
Wendy, as you have likely already guessed, is no ordinary whippet.
Some whippets are born with a genetic mutation that leaves out a gene called myostatin that is responsible for limiting muscle growth.
When myostatin is missing, a whippet can literally grow a double set of muscles.
These dogs are called “bully whippets” because they are unusually strong.
Interestingly, like so many other things people share with dogs, this mutation can also happen to people (although it is incredibly rare).
The most recent reported case occurred in Germany in 2004.
Strongest dog breeds
We hope you have enjoyed learning about some of the strongest dog breeds on the planet!
Even more importantly, if you are researching the strongest dog breed because you are seeking a canine sidekick to perform a particular job or function, we hope this information has helped you move one step closer to identifying the strongest dog that is perfect for you!
What do you think is the strongest dog? Do you have a favorite canine contender? Please post a comment to share your thoughts!
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