Massive and powerful describe both the Neapolitan mastiff and the Dogue de Bordeaux. Bred as guard dogs, either dog should intimidate intruders on sight. The Dogue de Bordeaux' ancestry includes the Neapolitan mastiff. The breed societies for both dogs recommend them only for owners experienced with large canines.
The Neapolitan mastiff traces his lineage to the war dogs of ancient Rome. His French relative, the Dogue de Bordeaux, reputedly shares ancestry with the Italian canine as well as with the bulldog. Both breeds are victims of war and social upheaval. The numbers of Neapolitan mastiffs declined greatly during World War II, while the Dogue de Bordeaux suffered greatly during the French Revolution, when their aristocratic owners either fled or lost their heads. Both are molossers, a type of giant dog long used for guarding.
The Neapolitan mastiff is somewhat larger than his French cousin. When full-grown, Neapolitan mastiffs stand between 24 to 29 inches high at the shoulder, weighing between 110 and 150 pounds. At maturity, the Dogue de Bordeaux ranges from 23 to 27 inches tall at the shoulder, with a minimum weight of 99 pounds. In both breeds, males are larger than females.
The Neapolitan mastiff breed standard permits solid coat colors of gray, tawny, mahogany and black. Reverse brindling -- tan hairs mixed among the solid shades, rather than the usual black hairs -- is allowed. Dogs may have white markings on the throat, underbelly, chest, toes, rear of the pasterns and, in males, the penis sheath.
Fawn is the only color allowed for the Dogue de Bordeaux, although it can range from dark reddish to light tan. Dogs may have a black or brown mask. Small white patches may appear on the chest and toes.
Wrinkles and Drool
Another area of commonality with these dogs concerns wrinkles and drool. You'll need to clean out the wrinkles with baby wipes regularly to get rid of infection-causing bacteria. Drooling is part of the package, so don't run out of paper towels. While drooling depends on the individual dog, the Neapolitan mastiff has looser skin and more wrinkles than the Dogue de Bordeaux.
If you enjoy taking long walks with your dog, neither of these breeds is particularly suitable. The Neapolitan mastiff requires very little exercise -- he's quite the couch potato. The Dogue de Bordeaux possesses more innate energy and can handle longer outings, but don't expect him to trot beside you for miles on a bike ride.
Both breeds bond with their people and are suspicious of strangers. They also tend to be dog-aggressive. The mastiff requires extensive socialization, or you could be asking for trouble when friends and relatives pay a visit to your home. The Dogue de Bordeaux, while somewhat stubborn, boasts a more forgiving temperament than his mastiff cousin. It's important that you establish yourself as pack leader for either of these big dogs. Allowing them to dominate the household invites problems.
By Jane Meggitt
About the Author
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.