Posts Tagged ‘Neapolitan mastiff’

The Old Man and the Dog

neo mastiff

The Old Man didn’t know where the time had gone. All he knew now was that six years had passed since he drove home with a Neapolitan mastiff puppy, which he had named “Brutus.” And the little cropped-eared hippopotamus of a puppy had matured into a massive creature. It took the beast three years to reach 146 pounds, and for two years, he was a fell stallion among dogs.  But in his sixth year, Brutus was starting that ascent in old age, which comes awfully early for dogs in this breed.

In his prime, Brutus was slate gray and wrinkly.  He woke with the Old Man each day, and after his morning turnout, the big dog would trundle back into the house. The Old Man would prepare a hearty breakfast of scrambled eggs and sausage, and he would talk to the mastiff dog as if he were human. For as an old bachelor, now living fairly well on his pension, he had little company to entertain him, so he allowed his big dog to be his comrade at arms, his confidant, and his dearest friend.

The tunnel of the years was growing closer and closer on both Brutus and his master.  And the master knew it was coming sooner for Brutus than for himself.  So he knew now was the time enjoy the dog as best he could. He doubted that when the time came that he would be able to get another dog.  It took two years of hard core obedience training to turn that sloppy pup into something that society would deem a respectable dog, The stubbornness of Neapolitan mastiffs, especially plucky males like Brutus, meant lots of leash pops and shouting. The Old Man was not an expert at dog training, but he was an expert at exerting his will. That’s how he’d made a killing in the insurance business, and how he’d also gained many admirers and enemies– and not a single true friend.

He had owned dogs all through his life, mostly poorly-bred over-sized and oversexed male Labradors, but when that time came to collect his pension and go off and lounge in the world, he felt an aching for a real dog. He bought a few books on dog breeds and then became infatuated with the lore of the Roman Molossus, the dog of legend that is said to be the ancestor of all the European mastiffs. “Said to be” is, of course, dog world speak for a wondrous flight of fancy. But the Old Man was not an historian or a dog expert. However, he loved movies and novels about the Roman Empire, and he thought that somewhere along the line he might own a piece of Old Rome.

Within four months of retirement, he was on a breeder’s waiting list. Six months after that, he picked up Brutus and brought him home, and the two had begun their six year odyssey of training a ham-headed mastiff into a civilized guard dog.

His neighbors thought he was insane for bringing such a beast into the leafy green neighborhood. They feared for their children, their carefully manicured lawns, and delicately cultivated flower gardens.  But the Old Man made his dog obey, and he never left him outside to bark booming warnings at traffic or passersby.

He knew that he had a real dog on his hands, and that he had better make that beast listen.  And so he did.

He made civilizing Brutus is full-time avocation, and for a man who was used to working long hours, this project was the perfect thing to keep his life occupied. Twice a day, he marched the big mastiff down the quiet suburban lanes, popping leash corrections if the big boy stopped to sniff the grass or even hazarded an attempt to growl at barking dogs that cursed the pair as they passed by their fenced yards.

And Brutus responded with all that work by becoming intensely loyal. Indeed, the two began to develop a relationship of such intensity, that the big mastiff came to respond to clicks of his master’s tongue and the casting of his eyes. They were bonded man and dog, and no one could separate them.

So tightly were they bond, that the Old Man decided against taking that big European vacation that he’d always dreamed of. He couldn’t find anyone who could care for the big dog anyway, and what’s more, he couldn’t bare leaving his best friend.

So the Old Man lived out the first years of his retirement as a full-time dog keeper, and he felt better than he had in all those years of selling insurance policies, setting up new insurance offices, and generally being a successful businessman but a failure as a human being.

He smiled more. He laughed a lot.  He lost weight and gained muscle.  Brutus’s had given him so much more than he ever could have dreamed.

But now that Brutus was turning six, the reality of owning a dog such as this began to set in. Brutus began to limp with a bit of stiffness on cool October mornings. The vet put him on an anti-inflammatory medicine for arthritis.

The next month saw the Old Man get surgery for his cataracts.  Then a colonoscopy revealed a few nasty polyps that had to be excised.  The Old Man wasn’t that ill, but he wasn’t getting any younger. That realization was hitting him harder than before.

And then Brutus started becoming more tired on his walks, and the Old Man cut them shorter. And big dog gained weight. Within two months, Brutus tipped the scales at the vet’s office at 163 pounds.

And it was at that point that the vet intervened and told the Old Man to cut back on the daily ration of scrambled eggs and sausage.

But the first day he cut back, Brutus glared back at his master with sad but rheumy eyes, and the Old Man knew he couldn’t do it. He gave him his usual ration.

He knew intellectually that he shouldn’t do it, but he couldn’t refuse the old dog. He knew the dog’s life wouldn’t be too much longer, and life was too short to be rationing away all the goodness.

It is this sort of rationalization that leads to so many fat old dogs, but it is one that is hard to argue against, even with all the facts and reasoning on one’s side.

So Brutus grew slower and fatter all through the winter. The Old Man did much the same. His belly hung back out over his pants, just as it had done when he worked ten hours a day at the office.

Very little snow fell that whole season, so all Brutus and the Old Man woke up to was the decaying grayness of winter all around them. The sallow rays of the winter sun cast ugliness upon the skeleton trees. It frosted hard enough that one would worry about the plants, but the temperature would soon rise in the daylight to make the land nothing but ugly mud.

In late March, when the trees finally showed signs of budding, Brutus collapsed on the kitchen floor. The Old Man let the dog out for his morning urination and defecation run, and when the dog sallied back into the house for his daily rationing of sausage and eggs, he dropped to the floor.

And he would not rise.

The Old Man called the vet’s office, and the receptionist told him to bring Brutus in right away. The Old Man wanted to, but Brutus could not get up.

What is a man to do when his dog is too big for him to lift on his own?  The first thing most would do is call out to the neighbors, but he didn’t know any of the neighbors.  And he didn’t want to trouble them.

But in his panicked state, he realized that he’d have to swallow his introversion and ask for help.  Within a half hour, he’d assembled a crew of neighbors, including one particularly macho man whose main hobby was body-building and used to work for the local high school as a strength and conditional coach for the football team. They lifted the big dog onto a thick sheet of plywood and then hoisted the beast on this makeshift litter into the back of the Old Man’s SUV.

And off he sped to the vet clinic.

For two hours, the Old Man waited in complete silence in the reception area. He watched the various people passing back and forth with their golden retrievers and Labradors and pit bulls. He could not make a smile grace his face as he sat there staring into the foreboding, for he knew that nothing good was going to come of today’s events.

A receptionist called his name, but he did not hear it. She called it ten times, but the sound did not register upon the Old Man’s ears.

But then he heard his name, and it pierced him like a knife.  And he rose and entered the examination room. He waited there for twenty minutes, when a young veterinarian with closely cropped black hair and slender build slid into the room. His face was stubbly and grim, and his eyes had that look of sorrow mixed with professional dead seriousness of a medical professional.

Cancer of the spinal chord, probably quite malignant. Brutus would never walk again, and now was the time to have that serious talk about mortality.

The Old Man wept as he had never wept before. The tears rushed down the sides of his face and the skin of his cheeks flushed deep red. For twenty minutes he cried and cried and tried to catch himself.

And when he finally reached that level of composure to talk, his only words were.

“It is time.”

He then asked to see Brutus off on his final journey, and he was led to another room, where the great gray mastiff lay prone and still.

He stroked the old dog’s wrinkled head and sobbed out some goodbyes and a sweet little musing of “good dog.”

And then came the euthanasia, and Brutus’s hours of not being able to rise were ended.

The Old Man wept deeply, kissing the dead dog’s brow as he held the beast’s head in his lap.

And so the Old Man’s six year tenure as a mastiff keeper were ended.

A month passed, and the Old Man made arrangements to travel to Europe. It would be a six month vacation, traveling all over Europe.  He did make a special point to see the Coliseum in Rome, where he stood still and wondered if Brutus’s many, many greats grandfather had grappled with a lion there. All through Italy and especially the countryside around Naples seemed to sing the song of that old mastiff.

He couldn’t quite let go of the majesty and love that he had once known, and feeling such sadness when he finally left Italy for tour of the French Riviera, he didn’t know much what to do with himself. Sure, the sunny seashore should have raised his spirits.

But it didn’t.  At a simple French cafe, he met an English woman, a lecturer of literature who had a simple country home in the Devon Countryside.

A bit reluctant to talk to her, he suddenly felt at ease, and spoke to her about his life, about his hopes and dreams.

They met every evening for a week, and then she invited him to come and visit her in Devon. He spent a month there, and in his odd way, he fell in love with her. She fell in love with him.

And he fell for the lush countryside and for this wonderful woman, who somehow assuaged all his sorrow and made him feel complete as a man for the first time in his life.

And he knew the next step would be to move. He returned to the US, sold all his property there, and moved to that Devonshire cottage to be with his love. She was in her 40s, and he would be 70 next year. But it didn’t matter.

He was in love, and he knew it.

Every day, he walked along the country lanes of Devon, eyes open for the spying the hares and pheasants that popped out along the hedgerows. He walked every day, and some times he thought of Brutus and his old life. He missed that old dog so much. He wondered what he would think of walking freely in the beautiful countryside.  He figured the dog would have loved it so much.

One rainy April day, about a year after he had moved to England, the old man came trundling down one of his favorite country lanes, when a dog suddenly came bursting out of a hedgerow.

It was lurcher, blue merle and short-coated, and so gaunt even for being a lurcher that it was obvious that he wasn’t being fed well.

The dog approached him cautiously. It sniffed his hand and wagged its tail. Its eyes possessed that silly sighthound seriousness, which was bit offset because one was flecked with blue.

It was a female dog, and the Old Man didn’t know what to do.  He could take her to the animal shelter in town, but that would mean a long hike back to his car.

So he continued his walk, half hoping the dog wouldn’t follow and half hoping that she would. She followed. Indeed, she followed so closely that it almost appeared as if she had always belonged to him.

And when he turned to go back to the car, she followed him just as closely, and almost without thinking, he let her in the backseat, and drove back home.

At first he thought he would take her to the animal shelter in town, but as he drove, he felt strangely good to have a dog back there.

And by the time his wife arrived home from the university that evening, the lurcher was sprawled out on a blanket by the fireplace. There was no real discussion about what needed to be done.

The lurcher was to stay, and his love pretty much had to accept it.

And so the lurcher was named Bracken, and every day, she and the old man walked the countryside of Devon. She might have been a poacher’s dog, but she was now the pet of a transplanted country squire.

In her smooth flowing paw steps into the grass, the Old Man could sometimes hear the whisper of Brutus passing by. No, she wasn’t a Neapolitan mastiff.  She wasn’t broad-headed beast that needed to be made to obey.

Bracken was easy and light and soft, the perfect dog for an aging man who missed exquisite existence of being a dog keeper.

And so the two marched along those sweet country lanes. Man and dog together as one team.

Just as it once was, it was to be again.










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I’m so sorry that this dog has now gone, but I’ve never seen a Neapolitan mastiff with such extreme (and very uncomfortable and unhealthy conformation).


It’s sad when dogs die. They ought to live to be in their forties!

However,  we have a moral responsibility to breed dogs that have a good quality of life. Dogs with eyes that hang open, very loose connective tissue, bacteria and yeast-filled skin folds, and flews that never stop dripping really can’t be said to be living a good quality of life.

This dogs eyes were so severe that it was completely blind.

This is the kind of dog that is being produced through breeding according to its breed standard. This dog likely wouldn’t have won any prizes at a dog show, but its siblings might have.

This is one of those dogs where “pet quality” actually meant “vet quality.”




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Jemima Harrison Neapolitan mastiff

Photo by Jemima Harrison.

The above image comes from a 2011 post on Jemima Harrison’s blog. It is a part of series of photos she took at Crufts, most of which would make any rational person with any sense of empathy wince.  Why is such unnecessary suffering celebrated in the world of dog?

In it she writes:

These pictures were taken today at Crufts.

This should be the moment the Kennel Club realises that if it wants to be seen to have any shred of integrity, self-respect – or humanity – that it has to ban the Neapolitan Mastiff.

This is cruelty.

No ifs. No buts. Ban them. Now.

These dogs were produced by “responsible breeders.” They were “bred to standard,” but when we really think about it, a dog with open loose eyelids, constantly infected skin, and terrible structure suffers far more than any animal that is hunted. The animal that is hunted suffers only in the last seconds of its life– if at all. A dog like these Neapolitan mastiffs suffers through its entire life.

I should note that she is not calling for banning the breed as pit bulls are in the UK. She calling for them to be removed from the Kennel Club’s registry.

I pretty much said the same thing a few days ago. Until saner, more rational people take the helm in this breed, it should not be given any legitimacy by any major breed registry.

When breed registries allow dog breeds to be bred like this, they lose all moral authority.

It is enabling people with absolutely no empathy.

The only difference between these people and dog fighters is that at least dog fighters don’t make up nonsense about how loose skin makes the dogs better in combat. Game-bred pit bulls and even traditional shar pei don’t look like these Neapolitan mastiffs.

The Neapolitan mastiff as we know it now is just one giant flight of fancy. It was created by a Swiss science fiction writer, then mass-produced by Italian con-men trying to sell the “true Italian dog” to ignorant Northern Europeans and North Americans, and finally wrecked under the guise of “breed improvement” as it entered the international dog fancy.

It is perhaps the most pathetic dog story ever told.

Of course, it’s not the only one.

But it is so obviously messed up that any reasonable person can see it.

And it also tells you that by and large, the people who breed this dog in this way are not reasonable people.

They’ve bought into something that defies reason and logic which they will defend against any and all criticism.

It’s a faith-based position.

But it’s a faith-based position that leads to a great deal of suffering– but hey, it’s the only faith-based position that has caused suffering, is it?



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clint eastwood

It’s often said you can tell a lot about a person by who his or her enemies are.

Or to put it another way:

“When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.”

–Jonathan Swift

It’s no secret that I have exposed the dog fancy’s sins time and again on this blog, but generally the main perpetrators of  the crime have either been too ashamed to bother with my piddling piece of work.

Or they are of that generation that has no idea how to turn on a computer.

The only thugs I’ve ever dealt with are the bulldog mafia, but their arguments are so bad that they are nothing more than a minor nuisance.

If I had a dime for every time I got the following argument from bulldog owners, I’d be pretty wealthy man. It goes something like this:

My bulldog is entirely healthy! You’re mean!

Lots of data to work with there, eh?

I’ve written much more scathing posts on other breeds, especially Neapolitan mastiffs, a totally fantasy breed that its fanciers swear is the ancient war dog of the Roman legions.

It is, of course, nothing of the sort. It was created by a Swiss writer named Piero Scanziani (he was Italian-speaking Swiss), who wandered around Southern Italy after the War and began collecting farm mastiffs. As a writer of religious fiction, Scanziani wrote a fiction that these dogs were somehow connected to the ancient war dogs of Rome, and the ideas he expressed wound up gaining currency with many nouveau riche Europeans, who  began flocking to Southern Italy in search of a “real Roman war dog.’

And the Italians began to breed dogs solely for this market, and it wasn’t long before some of these local dog dealers began to select for very extreme traits– excessive skin, hanging eyelids, and massive size.

And moronic Northern Europeans and the North Americans bought into the delusion. The Romans actually had a freakazoid dog with a litany of health problems to serve them in war.

I don’t know who would think such a fiction possible, but the Neapolitan mastiff fanciers certainly do.

Which leads me to the attack I received today.

I woke up this morning to several bizarre comments that I absolutely would never approve on this blog.

If hell were frozen over, I would never approve them. They included several personal attacks on other people who had commented on the blog. I guessed that this person had watched too much Fox News and thought that was how we do business on this blog.


I banned the comment-maker.

And it normally ends there. I probably have to do this maybe twice a year, but normally I don’t hear anything back from these people.

But not this time.

Around noon today, I received an e-mail threatening lawsuits and calling me an idiot, which is to me the sign of someone with a severe mental disorder or a chemical dependency problem.

The person in question was Anne Latimer Goetz, a Neapolitan mastiff breeder, a science-denier, and a Grade-A Moron.

I need to tell Ms. Goetz something.

Apparently, she thinks she can get her way by bullying other people and screaming like a banshee.

Others, I guess have cowered away from her.

Well to quote Walt Kowalski in Grand Torino:

Ever notice how you come across somebody once in a while you shouldn’t have fucked with? That’s me.

Ms. Goetz has had the gall to ask me to retract a blog post.

For real.

Me?  Retract a blog post?

In your dreams!

This was the e-mail I received:

I have a photo of the internet posting that states that MY image of Magic standing on a rock by a river, is your original photo on retrieverman.whatever your blog is…..

Print a retraction.

Anne Goetz

Centurian Mastini

I’m sorry, Drama Queen.

We don’t roll that way.

If you don’t like what I write, then tough shit, Princess.

Not only does she have the temerity– that’s a big word for cajones– to demand that I retract what I wrote about freakazoid breeding Neapolitan mastiffs.

She has no moral authority to stand on.



Let me show you:

See, this crazy bint has her own blog.

A blog that, unlike this tome, has very little readership.

It’s called Neo News, and it’s very revealing about Neapolitan mastiffs and the culture of their breeders.

The most recent blog post is lamenting the death of a dog she produced. It died of osteosarcoma at the ripe ol’ age of three, and it’s full of woo and science denial.

We kept trying to get the pup back, and when we finally did, his joints were RUINED, btw, he was diagnosed with elbow dysplasia, by Dr Allen, who asked, as we had done, that the puppy be off the concrete! And, she advised high quality food, and medications, and supplements, and the Garcias ignored every one of her recommendations. So,this poor puppy stayed in these conditions for about 6 months. Outside, on concrete, Ole Roy food, no supplements.

We sent a friend to meet Mr Garcia when he finally decided to return our puppy and wait for another litter, (yes, I told him I would replace Blue. I would have done anything to get my dog away from these assholes) And, Mr Garcia met my young, pretty young female friend, and he was so sexually suggestive in his convesation [sic] and interactions with her, that she was frightened. And, the vet records he supplied, were actually, the vaccines we had given Blue prior to our shipping him, to them!!! He received no vet care at the Garcias, until we insisted he be taken to Dr Allen.

Blue is no longer with us. I blame the Garcias. I have to wonder if they are to blame for Moose’s death, also.

So, no, we did not supply them with another male to ruin. And, it won’t happen. Yes, they did take us to small claims court, and we told our story, and the court found against us.

The object of this post, is that we are warning anyone with a litter of neo pups to avoid the Garcias of New Jersey, like the plague.

In that blog post, she blames a dog’s death of osteosarcoma– a cancer with a very strong genetic basis— on vaccines, diet, and keeping the dog on concrete.

But the truth is the reason why the dog died of osteosarcoma is because it was the breed it is.

And a breed is only produced by a breeder. Concrete, vaccines, and cheap dog food won’t make a dime’s worth of difference.

And anyone who tells you otherwise is not a vet.

And it’s not just people like me, who hate the dog fancy, who have problems with Ms. Goetz.

It turns out that she is a dog dealer of the worst sort. On the Spanish Mastiff blog, she is attacked for being an inbreeding apologist and a person who crates her dogs too much. She also produced a litter of Spanish mastiffs, and she found out that she couldn’t sell them for exorbitant prices, so the poor mastinos would be living in cramped cages without enough access to food or water.

Now, it can be debated on what kind of condition the mastinos were in, but I can tell you that Neapolitan mastiff breeders, who are “breeding to standard,” as if that were some sort mission from God, have absolutely no moral authority in the world of dogs.

They continue to produce dogs with ectropion and entroprion. Dogs with bad hearts. Dogs with a very high incidence of cancer. Dogs that spend their entire lives in misery.

Dogs that die before they are 7 years old. It’s very telling that there has never been a dog longevity study on this breed, but most vets will tell you that these dogs are not long-lived. The Kennel Club (of the United Kingdom) did perform some longevity studies on its breed. The median age of death for Neo mastiff is a ripe old 2.33.

That’s pathetic.

But don’t blame the dog breeders, like Anne Goetz.

They are doing their best to “improve the breed.”

By “improve the breed,” they mean “win dog shows.”

And the other part of winning dog shows is to truncate and concentrate the gene pool as much as possible.

It’s pretty obvious to anyone with two or three functioning brain cells that Neo mastiff conformation isn’t healthy, but when you start paring away all that genetic diversity– not that there was much to start out with– you’re playing with fire.

This is the tragedy of the modern dog fancy, It allows scum like this to thrive, when they should be ostracized as much as possible.

In fact, if the AKC, KC, and FCI were worthy of the name of institutions that truly cared about the future and welfare of dogs, they would deep six the entire Neapolitan mastiff breed until someone with a bit more empathy or brains takes the helm.

This is a breed created because of fantasy, and its breeders live in a fantasy world in what is objectively objectionable is celebrated as virtuous.

There is no moral authority here. There is only claimed authority.

And there are too many totalitarians in the world of dogs for this sort of authority to go unquestioned or allowed to run amok in the already compromised gene pools of our domestic dog breeds.

So Ms. Goetz, my advice to you is to find another hobby.

You can continue to lambaste me on Facebook. Among the other things this child attacked me for was the fact that I am single.

I am single by choice.

I am happy as a single person, and I cannot think of anything lonelier than to be a relationship with a person who is totally wrong wrong me.

So if my regular readers can forgive me for my somewhat stroppy post this evening, please understand that the dog fancy has too many people like this.

They very rarely get to me. Otherwise, I’d stop writing about these issues.

But in the face of a cowardly internet bully who argues like a Fox News commentator, I have to turn upon the jackal as a good leopard must.

And do a bit of savaging.

Now, back to your regular programming.


Ms. Goetz is also one of those dumbass breeders who thinks that “incest is best.”

Check out the pedigree of the dog above, which she bred.

Click to make larger.

Click to make larger.

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This mahogany (liver) Neapolitan mastiff puppy looks just like ET:

Of course, the close ear crop makes it look even more bizarre.

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deformed neo

This dog is a monstrosity.

End of story.

This is not an argument about aesthetics.

This is an argument about welfare.

This dog’s eyes are constantly exposed to the elements. It can’t close and lubricate its eyes properly.  If you had eyelids like that, you’d be bitching about the how much pain and discomfort you were experiencing.

“But they’re supposed to look like that!”

No. They aren’t.

I don’t care what wins prizes at a dog show.

It is wrong to breed a dog that has these defects.

And what about its lips?

There is no way that having such pendulous flews is comfortable.

Further, dogs communicate with their faces, but this poor dog can’t fully express itself.

This breed has been designed for the vanity of man. It is not the ancient molosser dog of the Romans. That romantic fantasy hasn’t been confirmed in any genetic literature, and the real origin of this dog is with the farm guardian mastiffs of southern Italy.

Everything about this dog is mythological.

And too many of their fancier have very little grounding in reality.

They don’t care that the conformation standards of this breed require breeding for such a monstrosity.

Just so long as their egos are puffed up with their fantasy Roman war dogs.

I don’t believe in animal rights at all.

But this is a dog.

This is a creature that has emotions and instincts.

It has evolved to bond intensely with humans, so much so that it becomes part of our families.

An animal that is capable of having such a deep and intimate relationship with us deserves so much more.

We need sane breed standards.

Not standards that reward such unbelievable stupidity.

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Can’t make this up!

This one is obviously preparing to invade Russia.

You can get one from the same place that sells Burmese mountain dogs.

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The dog in the photo below is Indian Ch. Cadabom’s Neomass Notorio (call name “Ghost”).

This dog makes our Neapolitan freakazoids look moderate by comparison.

He is owned by breeder out of  Bangalore named Mr. Satish, who appears to be running a giant breed show mill.

On Ghost’s page, the dog is listed as “the most prolific and havely [sic] wrinkled dog in the world.

Here’s a full-body photo:

His owner has several videos of his “masterpiece” on Youtube.

This is what happens whenever the dog lowers its head:


As you can see from the comments on the videos, Mr. Satish is an asshole.  These videos have made their rounds on several other dog blogs, and readers form those blogs have come over to let their feelings about Mr. Satish’s creations be known.

Mr. Satish, who has no good comebacks, because he has adopted the dog show cult system of logic comes back with statements like this:

I think you are a big MORAN + BIG LOSSER….I think you would never get to see this kind of breed in the entire world and therefore you seem to be jealous:-) I have been getting applauds around the world and ppl know the fact.

I’m not a Moran. I’m not even Irish.

I’m not sure what a “losser” is either. Is that short for molosser?

If this asshat is getting applauds from around the world, then there must a larger number of idiots in this world than I thought.

Anyone with half a brain and even the basic understanding of dog anatomy can see that this animal is an absolute monstrosity.

It is something to be pitied, not lauded.

No one is jealous of you, Mr. Satish.

That’s wonderful little dodge you’ve shot out there. You don’t want to answer how much suffering you’re causing this dog. You just want to deny it. You’re not that much different from Western dog fanciers who produce creatures like this one, but your arguments that you’re using to defend this behavior are far less sophisticated.

No. No one would be jealous of someone so stupid and so cruel to consider breeding a dog like a great achievement.

We’re no more jealous of your dogs than we are of your grasp of the English language.

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I have never bought that Neapolitan mastiffs represented a relic population of Roman Molossus dogs. I do agree that mastiff type dogs are pretty old, but making claims about dogs based upon whether they superficially resemble dogs that appear on old artifacts is a very dubious proposition. (My personal favorite claim is that the Ancient Egyptians had dachshunds because one can find short-legged dogs depicted in wall art from that time period.)

So what was a Neapolitan mastiff before it became a fancy show dog?

Well, the old name for this breed in Engliahs was “Italian bulldog,” a name that I initially thought was dubious. These dogs do superficially look like bulldogs, but they are much more like mastiffs than bulldogs.

It turns out that the name “Italian bulldog” wasn’t a dubious proposition. These mastiffs were used as farm dogs- most specifically as livestock guardians that watched over herds of cattle.

My source for this bit of information comes from the 1908 Diplomatic and Consular Reports from the British Foreign Office:

The Neapolitan mastiff is a heavy and useful cattle dog. He has a fine smooth coat and is generally brindled or black. He is kind by nature, but easily made savage if he is tied up or ill-treated. His original use was to go out with the cattle and goats and protect them from the wolves which in olden days were very common all over the district. Then, as now, he guarded the homestead at night (pg. 15).

The dog wasn’t a bulldog in the same way that the English used them, but it isn’t that different from the way the Southern farm bulldogs were used in the United States. Farm bulldogs were  (and still are) used to guard stock and children to protect them from predators of all types.

So the Neapolitan mastiff’s original function wasn’t as a Roman war dog or a fighter in the Colosseum.

It was a type of livestock guardian dog– the indigenous livestock guardian dog of southern Italy.

It’s a lot less romantic original function than the one that connects this dog to the Roman Empire.

But it’s not unexpected.

Italians are not Romans. Italy has had a history since the fall of Rome.

And Italy itself didn’t exist as unified nation until the late nineteenth century.

The southern part of what is now Italy has been under the control of so many different political entities and royal houses that all sorts of different influences have come into the region.

A Neapolitan mastiff never existed as a closed registry breed until after the Second World War. The farm dogs of southern Italy were constantly getting new blood from different regions. There was a selection for strong guardian instincts but also docility toward the family and stock.

This also goes a long way to explaining why many early imports of Neapolitan mastiff to the United States often bonded very strongly to their owners and hated everyone else. This is exactly what one would want in a livestock guardian dog. Although North America livestock guardian dogs have been selected for a more docile temperament, those from the Old World often had tendencies toward hyper bonding toward stock and family and high aggression toward outsiders.

It also suggests that the traditional spiked collar that these dogs wear has more to do with protecting the neck from attacks from wolves than anything else.  The same goes for the cropped ears. Many livestock guardian breeds have cropped ears and wear spiked collars to assist in fending off attacks from wolves. Spiked collars prevent the wolves from biting down on the neck, and the nearly amputated ears don’t provide anything for the wolves to grab.

I’ve not seen anyone recommending Neapolitan mastiffs for this purpose. The fancy show dog is probably not hardy enough to withstand rustic conditions, though the dogs might be useful on a small farm where they can be observed more closely.


 In my research on Lord Byron’s Newfoundland, I came across another dog he owned.

In 1819, Byron procured a “bulldog”  from Italy.  This dog was named Moretto.

This particular dog accompanied Bryon on his ill-fated decision to join the Greeks in their war of independence against the Ottomans,

And I don’t know if anyone has considered this possibility, but it may have been that Moretto actually was part of the landrace that gave us the Neapolitan mastiff.

I’ve seen that the Newfoundland people have taken the story of Boatswain and run with it almost as far it could go. Never mind that Boatswain wasn’t  anything like the dogs we call Newfoundlands today.

But if Newfoundland dog people can make hay with Boatswain, I don’t see why the Neapolitan mastiff people aren’t making hay with Moretto.

Moretto was probably very much like the rough Neapolitan mastiffs before they became show dogs. Perhaps, he was much more like them than Boatswain was like today’s shaggy giant Newfoundland.

But people are selective in what romantic stories they want to believe.

The fact that Moretto was always described as a bulldog may have thrown everyone off.

Of course, the Neapolitan mastiff was always called the Italian bulldog in English until very recently.

I can’t imagine there ever being true English bulldog types in Italy until the foundation of the modern dog fancy, so it seems to me much more likely that he was a Neapolitan mastiff.

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