Let’s Talk Breed Education!
THE NEAPOLITAN MASTIFF A Look at the Form & Function of this Ancient Breed
By Jim Deppen JEC of the USNMC
he Neapolitan Masti ff is an ancient war dog known throughout the world as one of the most fi erce and loyal protectors of his fam- ily and estate. Th e Neo is a
the voice of the parent club serving in the role as JEC. I have invested a great deal of time and energy working on dispelling these rumors. It is our continued GOAL to com- municate to the judging community that the Neapolitan Masti ff is a true warrior behind that heavily wrinkled face! He is very capable of defending his owners and property at a moment’s notice!! With the increasing large decline in show entries across the USA, it is becoming seemingly more and more di ffi cult for new and experienced judges alike to witness a large entry of the breed; aside from attend- ing the Nationals. As a result, the number of “quality” Neos that are being exhibited is very small. Th ere are pockets within the USA where judges can make kennel visits and get their hands on these dogs, but this is still a young breed in the AKC, supported by young breeders that are just learning the breed themselves, making it even more dif- fi cult for aspiring judges to truly understand the “Essence of Breed Type”. Understanding breed standards involves grasping important details of how a particu- lar breed matures. Th is is even more crucial for breeds that grow exponentially, like the Neapolitan Masti ff , where the weight alone can increase variably from 50 to 150 pounds in the fi rst 15-18 months of age. During this critical maturation period, the changes can be so dramatic that it is often times di ffi - cult to recognize the same dog! Th is has a huge impact when it comes down to breed- standard interpretation and the choice for placing your class. Most Neapolitan Masti ff s are not usu- ally mature enough to fi t the breed-standard description before 15-18 months of age. In the fi rst year the majority of dogs and bitches will excel in height more than width, and usually will not carry the substance we want in the fi nished adult. Th e growth in head and body starts invariably after one year of age and will continue to steadily improve
dog of immense power, strength, substance and formidable looks. His unmistakable bes- tial appearance and expression are created by an overlay of delineated, and symmetrical wrinkles and folds on the head. A well-divid- ed dewlap serves as protection of his vital arteries in the event of combat. He is capable of escaping and destroy- ing his opponent due to his loose thick skin which provides him his suit of Armor for bat- tle, and fi nally his massive size and muscula- ture, by design, enables him to overcome his opponent and explode into a warrior, defend- ing himself and his loved ones to the end. Th e breed standard is built around these characteristics, distinguishing him from any other breed. It should always be kept in mind that the general appearance, balance and head type are essential when judging the Neo. Th e essence of breed type is the embodiment of all elements of the standard that are essential to setting correct breed type. It is easy to judge a sound moving dog, but no matter how well he gaits, if he does not look like a Neo, then he is not typical for the breed. Over the past nine years since the Nea- politan Masti ff made his way into the Work- ing Group he has been revered as a big sloppy, slow moving, overly wrinkled, lum- bering, Hypertypical mess of a dog. By most standards known to those judges that do a lot of all-around judging, the movement of the “Neo” is something peculiar to himself. One of the biggest misconceptions in our breed is that the Neo is a giant breed that just lumbers around the ring with no purpose or constitution. Th rough Judges work-shops, like the ADSJ Group, breed- speci fi c edu- cation, and technical seminars, I have been
Lily formation of lips and beautiful symmetry of wrinkles and folds.
over the next four to fi ve years without much interruption. Where the majority of judges have the most di ffi culty in understanding the young Mastino is in the area of “wrinkling and loose skin”. We have a term in our breed referring to excessive wrinkling and too much skin known as “Hypertypical”. Rewarding the young Neo under the age of two years bearing an excessive amount of skin, as would be seen in the mature speci- men, is a very common mistake thinking that this dog or bitch will “grow into its own skin” like that of a Shar-Pei. When judging the young Mastino you have to be conscious of their bone struc- ture that supports the skin load and to keep in mind that we are looking for a dog that has balance and harmony—not excessive features — and it is equally important not to Powerful movement, desirable reach and drive, long elastic strides, a tail that is properly carried just above the horizontal aspect of the level topline, proper head carriage… the dog is looking where he is headed. Loose folds and skin that are not exaggerated but in balance and harmony with the body, and most importantly a topline that is strong, level, and does not run down hill when gaiting!
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“There have been judges who have actually disqualified a young Mastino FOR, IN THEIR OPINION, NOT DISPLAYING ENOUGH WRINKLING.”
penalize them for not having enough wrin- kling. Th ere have been judges who have actually disquali fi ed a young Mastino for, in their opinion, not displaying enough wrinkling. Th ere are those quintessential wrinkles over the skull, muzzle, dewlap, and shoulders that are paramount in the breed standard. Anything more is truly consid- ered an exaggeration of the standard and is to be faulted to degree of severity. Th e loose skin and wrinkling in the Neapolitan Masti ff develops gradually over time and should never overcome the skeletal bone in this breed. A young dog with exces- sive dewlap and skin in his hindquarters is not a good example of the breed standard and this condition will become even more excessive with age. It is more desirable to see a youngster with excellent bone construction and correct movement who is still develop- ing skin than a lighter boned adult with an unnecessarily excessive load of skin through- out the head and body. One needs to evaluate correct “thickness of skin” by simply lifting and feeling the skin between the thumb and fore fi nger. Th e density of the skin should feel thick and healthy— not thin or diseased. As the Neapolitan was a breed used as a war dog and protector of the estate, the loose thick skin served the speci fi c function of pro- tecting the vital arteries of the neck, as well as creating the classical intimidating and formi- dable look to ward o ff any potential enemy. Th ink of the skin of the Neapolitan as his armor; if the skin is too light and thin to
the touch or too tight, he is de fi cient in the armor that is to protect him in battle against his opponent. If his skin is too excessive and exaggerated, hanging all over the body, he is most likely unhealthy. Th is exaggerated and excessive skin type often is combined with relaxed ligaments, weak joints, and a weakened lymphatic condition leading to disease that has cursed this breed for years. Th e skin must appear to be attached to sub- cutaneous tissues, and the muscle of the body and its appearance should be healthy, and in harmony and balance with the body. One does not have to start pulling or stretching the skin during the hands-on portion of the exam. Once the Neapolitan takes his fi rst steps around the ring you will see the bones of articulation begin to undulate under the loose connective tissue and folds. Equally important when you evaluate the movement of the young Neo the skin in the young Mas- tino should be noticeably more connected to the body; as stated before, this skin will loosen up gradually with age. Th e overall make and shape of the Nea- politan Masti ff is that of a rectangular dog. We look for a specimen that is literally rect- angular in outline. Our standard calls for the length to exceed 10-15% of their height. We look for a dog that leans to the greater of 15% giving him his rectangular outline. He is a massive, powerful, heavy boned, awe- inspiring dog with a bestial appearance that is created by thick delineated folds of skin giving him his formidable looks! He has a
level topline and stands with equal propor- tions of body depth to length of leg when measured from the ground to the withers. He comes in a variety of solid coat colors ranging from gray (blue), black, mahogany, and tawny. Some brindling may be present in all colors, and some white markings on the feet, pasterns, belly, penis, and chest up to the throat. White should never to be seen on the trunk of the body or head as this would be an immediate DQ. Th e head and expression of the Neapoli- tan Masti ff is unique to this breed. It should be a massive Brachycephalic head, support- ing cubic bone structures, with planes of perfect parallelism embodied by a balanced delineation of folds and wrinkles that do not interfere with his ability to see and or perform his duty to bite and hold. Exces- sive wrinkling over the eyes that impedes his ability to see his opponent is a huge fault in the breed. While the eye is deep-set and protected by the skeletal frontal bones, in no way should the Neapolitan Masti ff not have a clear view of his surroundings. You must be able to see into the eye of the Neo when judging and the eye should be free from entropion disease or ulcers. Th e exposed haw on the Neo does give him a bit of a “devil look”, but the haw should not be so exposed as to give the appearance of being unhealthy. Th e tighter the rims of the eye, thus exposing less haw of the eye, the better! Th e skin load will often give way to a partially exposed haw due to gravity;
The eye must be visible in the Neapolitan Mastiff.
Example of ideal head study.
Proportions of muzzle to skull 1/3 to 2/3. Parallel planes of muzzle and skull.
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symmetrical. Each side of the dewlap will extend below the corner of the lips and must NOT drape or extend in exaggera- tion as to take away from the balance of skin surrounding the head. Typically if the dewlap is extended to or below the prosternum, the dog is Hypertypical in this area. When this excessive amount of skin is present you must remember to pri- oritize your judging to select the specimen that has the best overall balance of loose skin and wrinkle to body mass. Th e bite ranges from scissors to pincer (level), and a slight undershot is allowed. All of these bites are acceptable and the reversed scissors bite is the most e ff ective for biting and holding onto the opponent. A serious fault is an undershot jaw that protrudes or disrupts the outline of the lower jaw causing the expression to look bulldoggish. Do not reward this type of bite!! Th e tail of the Neo has been a nightmare for many to comprehend. Our standard says the tail is to be docked by 1/3. Th is is pretty ambiguous because as a judge you were not there to witness what 1/3 of a fully intact tail was when it was docked. As well, the stan- dard does not speak to a DQ for too long of a tail — only for too short of one. Th e rea- soning behind this was to keep those breed- ers from trying to hide a kinked tail and by docking it so short you would not know it ever existed at birth. Here is a really simple Rule of Th umb: just make a mental note that the tail should not be less than 1/3 in length from the point of insertion to the hock-joint. Th e easiest barometer for measuring is to use the reproductive organs as your guide it should clearly cover them when the tail is hanging in repose, or you just have too short of a tail, and it must be disquali fi ed! We do not want to see a tail that is car- ried over the back and curled like that of a monkey or a hound. When in action the tail can be carried just slightly higher than the horizontal aspect of the topline. Th e fully intact tail will have a slight curve at the end and may be carried slightly curved towards the midline or o ff to one side when gaiting. While in repose the tail hangs in a slight “S” shape or straight. Finally, we come back to the misnomer that the Neapolitan Masti ff is not revered as a sound moving dog by our American
Above: The expression and Bone structure is present as early as 7 weeks. Right: This photo demonstrates a beautifully balanced head with a muzzle that is square “cubic” nicely truncated into a square “cubic” skull. Take note the expression is keen, alert, and above all the dog can see you and you can see into his eyes. The wrinkle pattern displaced on the skull is not disorganized but rather symmetrical and organized. The function of the wrinkling is to direct bloodshed during battle away from the eyes and nostrils. Note the eye set and placement wide and deep set. The wrinkles and folds create the formidable looks the Neapolitan Mastiff is known for throughout History without EXAGGERATION!
this is normal, but should not occur to the extent of exaggeration! When examining the head of the Nea- politan you must keep in mind that the head is slightly larger than the body, but not to the extent that it is out of proportion to the mas- sive frame of the Neo. Th ere are two clearly de fi ned geometrical shapes of the muzzle and skull. You should view the dog from the front and easily see a cube on a cube e ff ect. Th e muzzle is the fi rst cube and the skull is the second. Th e head is Brachycephalic (meaning short and massive); the width of the head must be equal to its length. Th e muzzle width is almost equal to its length, and the depth is about double its length. Most impor- tant are the planes of the muzzle and skull… the Neapolitan Masti ff has complete parallel- ism from every view both laterally and frontal- ly. Th ere is no divergence or convergence of the head planes and the stop is well-pronounced, forming nearly a right angle. Th e proportions of muzzle to skull are 1/3 to 2/3rds and the prominent frontal bones are positioned just above the eyes, and are well-pronounced, sup-
porting the muscle and skin, thus preventing the eyes from taking on an expression of being closed or shut down! Th ere has been a great deal of discussion on the ear of the Neo. Th e ear is set on high, and you will see a variety of ear crops rang- ing from large equilateral triangles folded over the skull to what most of us call a teddy bear ear that stands erect just above the ear canal. Th e ear of the Neo can also be natu- ral (uncropped), triangular in shape, and you should pay close attention to the outer mar- gin which is slightly fl ared, and the interior margin should be framing the cheek. Th e ear should never to be “houndy” or fl eshy, creased or folded, and should not extend beyond the margin of the throat. Th e lips of the Neapolitan are heavy, thick, and long; the upper lips join beneath the nostrils to form an inverted ‘V”. Th is is the classical “Lily” formation of the lips detailing the expression of the Neapolitan Masti ff s head. In congruence with the lips of the Neo, we fi nd an ample dewlap that has to be fully divided and
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AKC standards of judging. Contrary to what most folks know about the breed or the 305 FCI breeds known throughout the rest of the World Wide dog fancy, the Neapolitan Masti ff has graced the Best in Show ring now three times in the past 20 years and has earned this coveted award of BIS at the World Show level. Here in America we have been fortu- nate to have a beautiful specimen that has captured two All Breed Best in Shows and the opportunity exists again, now that more judges are becoming more familiar with the “correct” movement of the breed. Th e movement and gaits of the Nea- politan Masti ff are unique to himself and, while he may not be the fl ashiest of mov- ers in the ring, he is certainly not a “crip- ple” as many would like to think. I hear time and time again… “I never knew they could move so well”…When you stop to think about it for a breed of dog that was fought in the Colosseum of Rome against man and beast, he had better be able to spring into action and protect himself, and move with a high degree of athleti- cism, or else he would have su ff ered a quick demise. Th e correct movement of the Neapolitan is that of great strength and power, his strides are long and elastic with ample reach and drive. Rolling and lumbering is characterized by the loose skin that rolls from side to side. His topline should remain steady and when
covering the ground he will remind you of a lion in motion when he is fully engaged. Pacing is acceptable and not to be penal- ized. However, it is not the preferred gait and when at all possible this is a trotting breed that can easily get around the ring. I like to start my class by walking them around to loosen up their joints and to relax them. Th ere have been several judges that feel the necessity to ask the exhibitor to pace, and trot the dog. Th is is not necessary we want to see them trotting at all times. If they begin to pace due to heat, nerves, or lack of training, please be forgiving and o ff er the exhibitor another trip around your ring. It will not hurt anyone to see the cor- rect movement and when you do, that Lion- like motion comes to life!! Th e Neapolitan Masti ff is an ancient breed dating back some 40 centuries in his- tory, and one should approach the breed with a great deal of respect for its history, resilience, fortitude, and perseverance; the Neapolitan Masti ff has been to Wars, has been starved and has survived near extinc- tion in his evolution to the present day! Get to know him you won’t be sorry!!
The Neapolitan at play again demonstrates his lion like movement and character! A real king of the working group!!
40 years. His first introduction to the breed came in 1985 when searching for a guardian to watch over his already established kennel of GSP. Over the past 20 years his dogs have won National Specialties, Best of Breed at the World Show, Breed, BOS, and Awards of Merit at Westminster on numerous occa- sions. Most recently his VeteranMale set breed history by being selected as the 2012 National Specialty BOB winner from the Veteran Class. Th is was a monumental an honor since it has never happened in any venue of this type worldwide. He has owned and campaigned multiple Group Winning and multiple top five ranked Neos over the past 9 years since the Neo’s inception into the AKC. His dogs hold the honors of the top producing sires and dam of the USNMC parent club. He is an approved AKC judge for a multitude of breeds including the Neapolitan Masti ff breed. He has o ffi ciated at shows both here and abroad in Europe and frequently speaks on behalf of the USNMC lecturing for judging groups working as the current JEC.
BIO Th e author has
been a breeder/ exhibitor in the sport of purebred dogs for the past
The str ides are long and elastic, at the same time, power ful, character ized by a long push from the hindquarters and extension of the forelegs. Rol l ing motion and swaying of the body at al l gaits is character istic.
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LIVING WITH THE NEAPOLITAN MASTIFF
By Joey Attaway, Karen Attaway & Nick Swindall
he Neapolitan Masti ff is a very confusing breed for many who do not own one. Th e purpose of this article is to docu- ment some of what a
true fancier of the breed and owner feels towards their Mastini. I would like to start fi rst with a owner quote that is of my sister Karen. “For those who own this mag- ni fi cent breed they understand what you put in them is what you get. Th ey com- mand respect and love. To own a dog like this takes dedication beyond many other working breeds. To love a Mastino is one thing but to be loved by one is a whole new world. Th e love and loyalty is unmatchable in the dog world. Th e emotions you share with your Mastino is very close to a child and parent. Th e love you give is returned to you 5 fold. Th ey will run through a fi re for you and never back down to protect you and your family. Once one has touched your heart you will be forever changed and you will never again want to without at least one.” Th e Mastino is intelligent. He is sensi- tive to his owner. He needs to be close to his master as much as possible. He is a very stubborn animal who typically hates to be
shown in a ring. Feeding and cleaning even the cleanest specimen is not for the faint of heart. Drool is to be seen ad nausem. Expect to get dirty. His coat is short but he blows his coat and cleanup especially in the drain after a bath is time consuming. If you are a small person expect him to be bigger than you are. Understand that he is not a show pony. He was never intended to be as such. He should not move like a dog but more like a big cat. He needs lots of socialization and please take him through obedience but do not typically expect him to like it all that much. Yes, he is not for a fi rst time dog owner nor is he the fi rst large or giant breed dog you should have owned. He also does not like the heat all too much but thrives in cold. Your love is his most precious possession and he will never tire of it nor does he take it lightly. He is beau- tiful and reminds one of a beast. He is not a dog he is Mastino. He is not for every- one but the diehard lovers of this breed not only understand that, but embrace it. I have been in love with this Italian dog over 10 years now and they never stop
amazing me. Th ere is a standard that is very detailed. However the nature of this breed allows for many fl avors and line types. We have a very detailed head description in our breed standards but it does not a ff ect the painters brush for a great mas- tino is truly a work of art and beauty. For many looking from the outside it is hard to explain one singular thing that makes a good mastino and what makes a great one. It is hard mainly due to the variance in tastes and type. If you love this breed you know when you see a great specimen. To own one borders on an unhealthy obses- sion with its majesty and undying love for you. Th en there is the legend. Th is rich his- tory of interesting and amazing dogs like Caligola Di Ponzano and Carnera Della Grotta Azzura. Th e breeders of old and its traditions are also fascinating. Th ere are both hard truths and elaborate romantic fantasies that a Mastino person can delve into. It moves beyond the dogs into a beau- tiful and amazing culture. How and why this breed was resurrected from extinction
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want a Mastino that would make the leg- ends say, “Now that is a dog”. People who do breed today that are doing it for their own personal sel fi sh non monetary reasons want a long lived healthy dog that can pro- tect but all the same be fully mastino in all ways. He should be able to see and not trip over his dewlap. He should be massive but not fat. His entire being should make him fully capable of protecting his owner with- out fault or struggle. A dog of immense strength and power. His mere presence can be felt even when you are not looking at him. His gaze a little frightening at times and warm in other situations. A dog that is a Lion! A King! Th at is a Mastino! Accept no substitutes. In closing I challenge all who love this breed especially myself to move it into the future by both understanding our tri- umphs and mistakes. Remain true to what he is and put the breed fi rst. Like many other dog breeds the Mastino has groups of people who do not like to intermingle with one another. I challenge a debate and further enjoyment of our breed. We need to have honest open discussion about how we can make the Mastino the dog not in legend but the reality of it. If you want to own this breed you must not cut corners. If you cannot provide the love, time and care for him then do not buy or attempt to breed him. Th en again he is worth every penny. Every 50 pound bag of dog food and every chewed cushion. So remember the Mastino community invites you to join the group with open arms but in the end your personal relationship with your dog is what matters. Th at goes from the larg- est breeder to the pet owner. Yes they are very cool dogs. But so so much more than wrinkles and size.
by Scanziani and his friends. How it has evolved from a Cane Corso type dog to freaks back to a balanced dog. Th ere are even interesting and rich stories of how this breed of ancient blood migrated to the world dog of today. If you love to meet interesting people with so many stories/ Do you love art?/How about genetics or lions?/ Th e Mastino and what is all Mas- tino is the place to be. Here is the catch. Th is is being hon- est about the breed that I love. Over the years especially right after when “Fang”
appeared on the big stage the Mastino has gained in popularity. Th is interest increased demand and thus breeding. Unscrupulous breeding practices hurt the skin, eyes and overall ancient expression of the Mastino. When breeding to meet demand the market commands certain things. Unknowing puppy buyers want to see pups with too many wrinkles too fast. Th at is what sells so production of such a dog increased. Honestly I believe some fell into the trap without looking for the big- ger picture. It still goes on today. I for one
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