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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