Neapolitan Mastiff and Dogue de Bordeaux

Dogue de BordeauxDogue de Bordeaux

These two ancient breeds of Mastiffs with their loose skin may look somewhat similar. But their similarities and differences make an interesting study. Both breeds are very striking - the Neapolitan with his massive head and wrinkles and who could forget the Dogue de Bordeaux 'Hooch' who starred in the famous Tom Hanks film, 'Turner and Hooch'.

History of the Neapolitan Mastiff and Dogue de Bordeaux

Neopolitan Mastiffs Neopolitan Mastiffs

Both breeds probably had origins dating back to the earliest civilizations of Mesopotamia of around 2,000 BC. At that time wars and migrations spread settlements in several directions, together with their large Mastiff type hunting dogs. Those that went westwards travelled towards the eastern coasts of the Mediterranean basin which was then occupied by Phoenicians.

The Romans were very proud of their large Italian Mastiffs, with Julius Caesar referring to them as 'Pugnaces Brittanie'. Meanwhile different types of French Mastiff's (in the French language called "dogue') were developed in the various regions of France and writers of sport around 1400 AD called this type of dog an 'Alaunt'. The Neopolitan Mastiff was saved from extinction in the late 1900's by the Italian journalist Piero Scanziani[5] and with the advent of dog shows, the Neopolitan Mastiff was also resurrected in France to resemble those depicted by ancient drawings and engravings.

Neapolitan Mastiff and Dogue de Bordeaux Today

Dogue de BordeauxDogue de Bordeaux

At  a glance these two breeds may look similar. After all, both breeds are massive Mastiffs with thick, loose skin, and both are a little longer than high. But these two breeds are immediately distinguishable by two factors, their colour and their size. The colour of the Neo is usually grey, leaden grey or black, but mahogany brown, tawny fawn and deep fawn are permissible and even light brown or fawn is tolerated. The Dogue however can only be fawn with or without a black or brown mask. Regarding the size, the Neo is slightly larger than the Dogue within the height range of 58 - 75 cm (23 - 29.5 inches) while the smallest Dogue bitch may weigh only 45 kilo (110 pounds) with the largest Neo dog weighing up to 70 kilos (154 pounds).

Neopolitan MastiffNeopolitan Mastiff

They also have the following major differences:

1. Wrinkles - the Neo must have significant wrinkles falling from the head to thick heavy lips which combine with the dewlap of the neck. But the Dogue's wrinkles are far less pronounced, somewhat like the Bulldog's.

2. Head - the Neo's skull is flat with parallel head planes. But the Dogue's head is far more angular with a slightly concave muzzle which curves gently upwards from the skull

3. Muzzle and Bite - the Neo's muzzle is practically square, with a normal scissors bite but because the muzzle of the Dogue is slightly concave and curves upwards, he has a distinct chin with an undershot bite.

Comparison between Neopolitan Mastiff and Dogue de Bordeaux

The following table compares the main points of these two ancient Mastiff breeds:

Neapolitan Mastiff Dogue de Bordeaux
Head Massive, covered with distinctive loose skin forming thick mobile wrinkles covering a comparatively short head with parallel head planes Voluminous, broad angular and short with slightly converging head planes
Neopolitan MastiffNeopolitan Mastiff Dogue de BordeauxDogue de Bordeaux
Skull Flat with prominent cheek bones Rising from the stop so the forehead appears to dominate the face, the skull is slightly convex in outline but in diameter, measures roughly the dog's height at shoulder
Stop Pronounced, with the deep groove extending up the centre of the skull Very deep forming slightly more than a right angle with the muzzle. The groove that extends up the centre of the skull is deep
Muzzle Practically square, wide and deep with a normal scissors bite Broad and powerful, slightly concave so the lower jaw curves upwards with a distinct chin causing an undershot bite
Lips The lower profile of the muzzle is formed by the thick, fleshy upper lips which form an inverted 'V' which falls from outer corner of the eye when viewed from the front. From the side, the inner membranes of the mouth can be seen vertically underneath the eyes. Thick but nowhere near as pendulous as the Neo, making a rounded lower lip line. Viewed from the front the inverted 'V' of the upper lip is much wider than the Neo's, but should always be in contact with the lower lip, making the chin obvious.
Eyes Forward facing and of a darker colour than the coat. Appearing slightly deep set because of the wrinkles Oval with no visible haw and preferably hazel to dark brown
Ears Small and triangular in shape, hanging close to the cheeks. Cropping is permitted in some countries outside Australia Relatively small and high set with the front edge close to the cheek
Neck Rather short with a double dewlap that should not extend below the middle of the neck Almost as round as the head with dewlap that is not exaggerated.
Forelegs Strongly boned and vertical, with the elbows covered with loose skin. Pasterns strong and straight. The shoulders should have moderate angulation sufficient to support such a heavy dog. Strong and muscular, may incline slightly inwards when the dog has a very deep chest in which case, the pasterns may compensate by turning slightly outwards. The shoulders are strong with moderate angulation
Neopolitan MastiffNeopolitan Mastiff Dogue de BordeauxDogue de Bordeaux
Body The chest is broad and wide with well developed muscles. The body is also broad, muscular, and longer than height at withers. The topline should be as level as possible for such a heavy dog, with loose skin forming the underline. Chest broad, deep and well let down below the elbows. His well marked withers combined with his broad muscular back, broad loin and a rump that slopes moderately down to the tail, could give the impression that the dog is a bit high in the rear.
Hindquarters Powerful, sturdy and strongly boned with moderate angulation capable of required propulsion. Rear pastern or hock sufficiently long to support this large dog. Well angulated and robust with strong bone structure. However, they must be in balance the forequarters although they may not appear to be as broad.
Tail Set slightly below but can be carried slightly above the topline. Thick at the base and tapering Set and carried low. Thick at the base and tapering
Feet Large, round with well pigmented pads and strong nails Strong with tight toes so the dog stands well up on his feet
Neopolitan MastiffNeopolitan Mastiff Dogue de BordeauxDogue de Bordeaux
Gait Being such a large heavy dog, he may walk, pace or trot so long as it has strong thrust from the hindquarters and good reach of the forequarters When walking he moves close to the ground. But when trotting he moves with strong thrust from his hindquarters and with good extension of the forequarters. As he trots faster, his head drops and his front feet move closer together towards a median plane

References and Further Reading

[1] Neapolitan Mastiff - 'Keys to interpreting the Standard of the Neapolitan Mastiff' by Mario Perricone, USNMC (written by Peggy Wolfe, adapted to the Australian Standard by Lorene Evans and Giuseppe Alessandra).

[2] Dogue de Bordeaux - 'Understanding the Dogue de Bordeaux' supplied by Debbie Marshall. Also the Dogue de Bordeaux Standard by Lambda Kennels.

[3] Raymond Triquet 'The Saga of the Dogue de Bordeaux' First published 1997 in French. Translation Published by Bas Bosch Press, Netherlands. ISBN 90-76717-02-8. Picture 3a post page 48 photo credited to Pierre Maricq (2000). Picture 3b post page 128.

[4] 'The World of Dogues De Bordeaux in 2004 & 2005' edited by Bas Bosch, BBPress, The Netherlands, 2006, ISBN-10: 90-76717-15-X, picture page 4.

[5] The Italian Kennel Club 'Italian Breeds' World Dog Show 2015 preview published by 'Our Dogs' UK Page 18