The Neapolitan Mastiff is an estate guard dog from Italy. While the Neapolitan Mastiff has been recognized as a breed in the modern world only since recognition by the FCI in 1949, we can see paintings and statues dating from 3000 years before Christ, that his roots trace to the giant war dogs of Egypt, Persia, Mesopotamia and Asia. Even as grand a figure as Alexander the Great (356-323 BC) was instrumental in creating the modern Neapolitan Mastiff.
It was not until the 1970s when this dog breed was documented in the United States. They were recognized by the AKC in 1996 and were official numbers of the AKC working group by the year 2004.
Neos can make wonderful pets. Although not aggressive by nature, the Neapolitan Mastiff has an intimidating look and bark that will scare off any intruder. While most adults of the breed are calm animals who sleep a lot, Neapolitan puppies are active, curious, and cuddly. Many people find that the adolescent Neapolitan, when awake, is an energetic, powerful animal. It is important to train the Mastino when he is young, so that when dealing with the strong, stubborn teenage personality stage, the appropriate hierarchy is already in place. By the age of 3 or 4, most Neapolitans demonstrate desirable laidback adult-type behavior. Neapolitans do not respond well to harsh training, and need an encouraging and rewarding atmosphere. Neapolitans saw the spotlight in a popular movie, Harry Potter, as Hagrid’s dog named “Fang.”
The English Mastiff, the AKC breed we know as the Mastiff, is a similarly ancient breed. When Julius Caesar led an invasion of Britain in 55 BC, he was impressed by the mastiffs who helped defend the island against his legions and made note of it in his campaign journal. British mastiffs were brought back to Rome to battle wild beasts and human gladiators in the arena.
The Mastiff as we know it came into focus in medieval England, used as big-game hunters, nighttime guardians of estates, and war dogs. At the end of World War II, England stood victorious but depleted. It was estimated that only 14 Mastiffs survived in the entire country. The Mastiff population was rebuilt with the help of U.S. breeders who exported specimens from good British stock back to the mother country. Today’s Mastiff is more docile and friendly than his ancient forebears, but no less courageous.
Mastiffs are patient, lovable companions and guardians who take best to gentle training. Eternally loyal Mastiffs are protective of family, and a natural wariness of strangers makes early training and socialization essential. Mastiffs are magnificent pets, but acquiring a powerful giant-breed dog is commitment not to be taken lightly. You may have seen an English Mastiff before, as one starred as “Hercules” in the movie Sandlot.
-Dogue de Bordeaux
Also known as a French Mastiff, the Dogue de Bordeaux is the most ancient of French dog breeds and was around even before France was France. With its pumpkin-sized head and low-slung body, its roots can be traced back to the Middle Ages. Used in the hunt of wild game and for protection of hearth and home, the Dogue was a particular favorite of butchers, earning a reputation for ferocity that belied the affection reserved for those he loved and admired. But by the 1960s, the Dogue de Bordeaux was flirting with extinction, thanks to the ripple effects of World War II, which decimated so many European breeds.
Today, it’s easy to gloss over those bleak postwar years, when the script for the Dogue de Bordeaux was verging toward the tear-jerker ending of “Turner and Hooch”. Recognized in the United States by the AKC in 2007 has ensured the breed remains consistent on both sides of the Atlantic. The Dogue has traveled the world, with champions in every major country where dog shows are held, and countless more snoozing in contented piles at their owners’ feet.
DDBs of proper temperament are sweet and sensitive souls. Owners appreciate their breed’s loyalty to loved ones of all ages, but also say DDBs can be stubborn and will dominate those who fail to apply firm but loving training in puppyhood. When acquiring such a strapping super-dog, finding a responsible breeder is key. Dogue de Bordeaux played one of the main characters in both versions of the movie Turner and Hooch.