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A TikTok video of this impossibly pelted Tibetan Mastiff goes viral

You never know what will go viral on social media. Last month, it was a grooming session with a severely matted Tibetan Mastiff that lived outside most of the time and hadn’t been brushed in more than a year.

“Come with me to groom a very, very, very, matted and pelted dog,” began groomer Megan Pearson of Ontario, Canada, pronouncing it “one of the worst conditions of a coat I’ve ever seen in my career so far.” The four-hour grooming session garnered almost a half-million views and a write-up in Newsweek.

Shearing her surprisingly patient canine client like a sheep, Pearson wound up with three garbage bags full of matted hair, burrs and who-knows-what-else.


Pearson takes a break during grooming to photograph the mantle of matted hair she is removing.


While the three-plus-minute video was a cautionary tale about the importance of regular grooming for coated breeds, it raised this rhetorical question:

How much time do the nomads of the Tibetan steppe spend grooming their dogs?

“The monks and nomads often just left it and neglected it for years,” says Rick Eichhorn of Drakyi Tibetan Mastiffs in Palmdale, California, who described watching the video as a “cringe moment.”

The intense matting seen on the TikTok Tibetan Mastiff after only one year of inattention is “not typical” of most dogs in the breed, he continues. “We’re seeing it more in the Chinese lines, hinting of mixed heritage.”

Those who have followed the breed for years will remember that the Tibetan Mastiff boom of the early 2000s led to breeding on a massive scale, and cross-breeding to Chow Chows, Neapolitan Mastiffs and Newfoundlands — which must be regularly groomed to avoid serious matting — to enhance size and volume of coat.

Eichhorn explains that the correct Tibetan Mastiff coat has a harsh and weather-resistant outer coat and a woolly insulating undercoat. While “the animal does need some help purging the annual undercoat, which can get tangled in areas,” he says, a correctly textured, coarse outer coat will permit some of the undercoat to work its way out, as opposed to the dog in the video, where it all appears to be trapped under a seemingly slick coat.

(In the video, the Tibetan Mastiff appears to have long feathered ears. While that can sometimes be a sign of crossbreeding, Eichhorn notes that adult feathering can increase with age — “like old men with hair on their ears!”)


The same Tibetan Mastiff from left to right progressing in age — and feathering.


Like everything else about the Tibetan Mastiff, its double coat — fairly long, thick, coarse guard hairs and a heavy, soft undercoat — provided relief from the elements. And not just in winter.

“The shiny outer guard hairs offer protection from sun and insects in summer, when the annual woolly undercoat sheds out,” Eichhorn explains. “The coat cycle was essential in Tibet, where new undercoat would be shed out each spring and new, healthier coat had to come back and grow in for the approaching severe winters.”


One of Eichhorn's dogs demonstrates how prodigious the volume of undercoat can be.


Indeed, the Tibetan Mastiff’s coat cycle works hand in hand with its breeding cycle, in which females come into heat only once a year, during the winter months.

“Winter-born pups had six to nine months to grow up and put on enough coat to survive the extreme Tibetan winter ahead,” Eichhorn says.


Before and after the summer coat is removed. Photo courtesy Richard Eichhorn.


Tibetan Mastiffs that have been shorn, like the heavily matted female in the TikTok video, will not have their coats grow back the same way — at least, not for quite some time.

“It can take years for those guard hairs to grow back in enough to be functional and pleasing to the eye,” he says. In the meantime, "fuzz" is the operative word.



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