It makes sense that natural selection would favor powerful jaws that can more easily disable even large prey, but human interest has also had a significant part to play in the powerful jaws of many modern dog breeds. From guarding livestock to hunting animals to intimidating rivals, dogs with the capacity to cause some serious damage have been a priority throughout history. Today’s dogs are more likely to be companions than warriors, and strong jaws are not synonymous with mean temperaments.
The dog breeds on this list may have the strongest bite force around, but any one of them can make a loyal and loving companion with the right training and care. A variety of methods have been used throughout history to measure bite strength, but modern math and engineering allow researchers a rather accurate and straightforward model: measuring the shape and size of the skull. And while there’s going to be some variance even between different members of a breed, the facts present a good understanding of how and why bite force varies between dog breeds.
The results are relatively straightforward: the larger the skull, the stronger the bite force. Jaw and skull shape also has some part to play, as dogs with shorter and wider snouts were able to apply more bite force. Perhaps unsurprisingly, these facts lead to the mastiff breeds dominating the list. Mastiffs were originally bred for fighting and protecting livestock and property, and it’s theorized that they’re descended from the ferocious Molossus — a legendary war dog from Greece’s classical era. But for the sake of variety — and to account for the fact that these measurements are subject to variance depending on individual characters — we’ve limited Mastiff breeds to the top half of the list so breeds from other families like the Bulldogs and Pitbulls can get the spotlight as well. Here are the key facts about the 10 dog breeds with the strongest bite force.
Bite Force: 235 PSI
Like many other breeds on this list, the American pitbull has a reputation for being violent — and like all the other fully domesticated breeds, it’s wholly unearned. Part of that reputation comes back from their history as dogs trained for the cruel sport of bull-baiting — and while that’s bred in them a sense of lively courage, it doesn’t make them an unnaturally aggressive breed. Though they might sometimes have issues with other Pitbulls in their home, these are adventurous dogs who love to explore and play. Just make sure that you have the space and the energy to keep them company.
#9: American Bulldog
Bite Force: 305 PSI
The myth of a dog being able to lock its jaw shut persists in conversations about the rottweiler, but it’s also dogged the bulldog. Despite that, the short but muscular jaw of the bulldog does allow it to leverage as much force as possible. This bite force was a necessity for the job these dogs were bred to do — controlling potentially dangerous livestock for butchers. Despite being much shorter than cattle, their muscular bodies and jaws allowed them to leap up and rip at the throat of any bulls that might become a threat. They have also been bred in the past for baiting bears, bulls, and other animals for sport. The American bulldog’s larger size accounts for the fact that its bite strength is significantly stronger than the X PSI the English bulldog can muster.
Bite Force: 328 PSI
A rottweiler can keep growing beyond the age of three years old, but their incredible bite strength is especially influenced by their enormous heads. And while their bite strength is powerful, several dangerous myths have been perpetuated about the breed. Rottweilers don’t have locking jaws and aren’t particularly prone to aggression. Nor are they difficult to train. This German breed got their start as crucial herd laborers who would bring cattle to market and pull carts for their caretakers. These dogs are naturally as gentle as any other breed, and they’re a well-regarded breed for therapy dogs.
Bite Force: 350 to 400 PSI
The Japanese Akita doesn’t have a bad reputation that the tosa does, but it does share a powerful bite. Despite being much smaller and having a muzzle that covers less surface area, the Akita has developed a jaw that works like scissors. That allows them to get more leverage out of their bites, and it also gives them one of the strongest grips around. In Japan, the Akita is known as a family protector, and it’s an accurate assessment. While they can be wary and territorial of strangers — or even dangerous and hostile without the right training — they show a cuddly and silly side to their closest family members.
Bite Force: 406 PSI
A wolf can apply 1,500 pounds per square inch with its powerful jaws, and that mostly comes down to some very basic facts. A wolf’s jaw has a surface area roughly 10 to 15% larger than a dog’s, and they possess larger and sharper teeth as well. It only makes sense that the wolfdog — which is not a recognized breed in its own right but which is the result of a dog breeding with any of the four species of the wolf — would inherit some of that bite force. But wolfdogs have also inherited the aggression and strong predatory instincts of their lupine parents, and so they’re only recommended for the most experienced of handlers.
#5: English Mastiff
Bite Force: 552 PSI
Despite having a close lineage — and sharing parental duties for the younger bullmastiff breed — there are quite a few characteristics that separate the English mastiff from its French counterpart. For one, these dogs can reach a weight of 250 pounds and a height of a full three feet. For another, they tend to be more stoic and less expressive. That doesn’t mean that these dogs aren’t loving and capable. They just require gentle care and devotion. The English mastiff is an exceptional working dog that has found significant usage in everything from farm labor to police operations to military expeditions.
#4: Tosa Inu
Bite Force: 556 PSI
Though it’s sometimes called the Japanese mastiff, this breed of dog comes from a diverse lineage of breeds including Saint Bernards, Great Danes, and German Shepherds. It’s also often referred to as the Japanese fighting dog because it was bred for that purpose around the turn of the twentieth century. In today’s Japan, dogfighting is banned and the tosa is considered a national treasure. Their reputation for aggression has led to this breed being restricted or outright banned in countries like Romania and Australia thanks to its reputation, and that’s contributed to it becoming a rare breed. Though loving and affectionate under the right care, it’s not a choice recommended for first-time dog owners.
#3: Dogue de Bordeaux
Bite Force: 556 PSI
It’s theorized that the Dogue de Bordeaux may be descended from the Tibetan Mastiff, but this big and gentle giant can at least be traced back to 14th century France. Also known as the French Mastiff, these breeds have shorter and rounder snouts compared to their French and English contemporaries — and that factor could explain their slight edge in terms of bite force despite being a smaller breed all-around. French mastiffs are smart dogs. That means they can sometimes be stubborn divas — but they’re quick to train and are eager workers who love to learn tricks and tasks. They’re also prodigious droolers, so be sure to carry a towel when they’re around.
#2: Cane Corso
Bite Force: 700 PSI
The lineage of the Cane Corso begins as guard dogs in Ancient Greece, involves a brief stint as a warrior and gladiatorial dogs during Rome’s rise to power, and nearly disappeared in the 1980s until a movement to save the breed brought them back from the brink of extinction. Thousands of years of breeding have naturally changed these dogs, but they continue to have the bearing, demeanor, and physicality befitting veteran and stoic warriors. Cane Corsos are known to be an especially empathetic breed and are effective at offering not just physical protection but emotional support as well.
Bite Force: 743 PSI
Turkey‘s premier shepherd dog is protective of both its flock and its family — and with a height that can reach nearly three feet, the Kangal has the sheer power to guard both effectively. While these dogs are considered mastiffs, the breed dates back to the 12th century and places them far closer to this family’s wild ancestors. Fortunately, their role as shepherds means that they’ve been bred throughout the generations to be gentle around all of their charges. These dogs can be great companions, though they need a good deal of activity to stay happy and healthy.
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