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'Ugliest' dog to join Westminster Show

February 9th, 2005, 01:31 PM
The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show doesn't offer a ribbon for Ugliest in Show. Not that there would be much competition this year anyway.

Sort of a cross between a gargoyle and a brontosaurus, with a little sphinx thrown in for good measure, the Neapolitan mastiff is the most prehistoric-looking branch of the Lassie family tree. And it will lumber around the ring at Madison Square Garden for the first time Monday at Westminster's 129th annual dog show. (Two other breeds officially recognized in 2004 by the American Kennel Club also make their Garden debut this time around, arguably to fewer gasps: the Glen of Imaal terrier and black Russian terrier.)

"I like things that look like they were hit by a car," volunteers Jim Deppen of Freehold, N.J., whose 3-year-old Champion Ironstone's Sirius Black is one of three Neapolitan mastiffs entered. "It all depends on what you think ugly is." advertisement

For centuries, Italian peasant farmers bred the mastino napoletano to deter intruders on looks alone -- hence the anvil-sized head, enough wrinkles to shame a Sharpei and pendulous lips that hang like curtains. But the breed's mastiff roots go back several millennia, when heavy-boned dogs capable of fighting lions and elephants followed Alexander the Great into battle.

In a modern reference, the massive creature that accompanies groundskeeper Hagrid in the "Harry Potter" movies is a Neapolitan mastiff. (Typically critical, most fanciers note that the dog playing Fang lacks the "WHaM factor," an acronym that stands for the three linchpins of the breed -- wrinkles, head and mass.)

Weighing between 120 and 180 pounds -- sometimes more -- the Neo, as he's called for short, costs a fortune to feed. Then there are the medical bills for the hereditary diseases to which the breed is prone, including bloat, a tear-gland defect called cherry eye, hip and elbow dysplasia, cardiomyopathy and hypothyroidism.

At about $2,500 each, puppies are expensive, in part because their sheer size makes Caesarian sections a foregone conclusion.

Despite the Neo's growing visibility, breeders are quick to note that this is hardly the new yuppie puppy.

"This is not Hagrid's dog," warns John Spizzirri of Shirley, N.Y., who buys baby wipes by the case at Costco to clean Neo drool off the walls and sometimes ceiling. "These are territorial dogs that form very strong bonds with their family, and can be overprotective."

Recognizing the Neo's giant size and alpha nature, most breeders will not sell to families with children under 12.

Peggy Wolfe of Glenellen, Ill., president of the United States Neapolitan Mastiff Club since 1998, stresses that the Neo requires a responsible, experienced owner. Neapolitans should be extensively socialized, thoroughly obedience trained and never, ever encouraged to develop their protective instincts.

"The war dog is asleep in the Neapolitan mastiff," she warns. "You don't want to wake it up."
The Neapolitan mastiff , like Brigitte del Castellaccio shown here, will make it's Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show debut this year.

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February 9th, 2005, 01:39 PM
Yes and they have gained recognition with the CKC as well just this year. Love these big monsters they are really great loyal dogs again with experienced owners. Now do you think MB would like to have these dogs get into the wrong hands the males can be over 200 pounds. P.S. They are not ugly that award goes to the Chinese Crested Neo's are beautiful

doggy lover
February 9th, 2005, 04:29 PM
If ya want to see a ugly dog look at the pet of the month,only a mother could love that. I guess it needs coats in the winter and suntan lotion in the summer.