Blog #8 – The “real” Italian Mastiffs

The Italian Mastiffs have always been an interest of mine for many reasons. Their history, their recovery/recreation and their current status are all major discussion points whenever the Neapolitan Mastiff and Cane Corso breeds come up. I have to admit that at times I do like to ruffle some feathers but it’s hard to comprehend how some people can be so blind sighted and ignore what’s right in front of them despite all of the evidence.

It’s sad to say but most of today’s Italian Mastiffs couldn’t do a day’s work on a farm or out hunting if their lives depended on it. Most are just too big, too heavy, over wrinkled and structurally incorrect to be able to cope with the demands of serious work. This is without going into detail about the many health issues that they come with due to many years of poor breeding. Despite all of this, the majority of breeders still continue to breed these sub par dogs for the sole purpose of making money without any care for what they are producing and how they are diminishing what once was a strong, athletic and courageous animal.

There is some people breeding some very nice looking Italian Mastiffs but mentally they lack the many qualities a working farm dog requires, I don’t think that’s the owners fault. As most of these breeders have never lived or worked livestock on a farm to know what’s required of a dog on a day to day basis to be a good working dog. However, I do think that breeding a dog with fitness and health in mind is much better than what many others are doing.

It’s important to remember that these dogs were working Mastiffs not couch or sit around Mastiffs. They have a long history in their motherland and were in abundance all over Italy. They were known by a variety of names up and down their country of origin. In some places they were called “Mastino Napolitano”, in others “Cane Corso” and “Cane da Presa” and in the island of Sicily in the Mediterranean Sea, they were called “Branchiero Siciliano”. This is not surprising as every region would have bred their own “type” and called it by a local name. On top of this, there was slightly different dialects from one village/region to the other and this would have added to each region having their own term to describe these dogs.

These dogs were every farmers right hand man for protection, guarding, farm work, herding and hunting. This was the case for many centuries and the Italian farmers bred working mastiff to working mastiff, as nothing else mattered. It was not until certain fanciers and breeders seeking Kennel Club recognition that these types began to be bred as an individual breed with the addition of foreign breeds. Despite what many will say and claim, dogs don’t change overnight and in a very short period the Italian Mastiffs being seen in the show ring were very different than the original dogs, this was not only because breeders were breeding for looks and a ridiculous standard but because a lot of foreign blood had been added to create today’s Neapolitan Mastiff and Cane Corso. I won’t go into what breeds I know and think that we’re used as there is no need for it, all that I will say is that these so called breeders and fanciers were lazy and instead of searching for good working dogs to use in the many farms across the Italian countryside they cheated and cut corners but using foreign blood without any real need to.

Therefore it’s great to still see this day and age what a proper working Italian Mastiff should look like… no pedigree, no kennel club papers, no silly standards, just a rustic farm dog that descends from a working line that’s been kept in the same family for three to four generations. A lot of credit must go to these few men who continue to breed and promote the true Italian Mastiff!

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