Sarah and Roxie, two fluffies that belong to Fred Neal. Photo by Fred Neal.
By Denise Flaim
No matter what you call them – “fluffies,” “hairies” or “rough coats” – long-haired Mastiffs are instant conversation sparkers for those who have never seen one.
Fred B. Neal of Burlington, Kentucky, owns two fluffies, both of them rescues. The first, Sara, just “kind of popped up” when she was adopted with her littermate sister, Liberty.
“At that point I really didn’t know what a fluffy Mastiff was,” Neal says, adding that after some research he soon realized that purebred, long-haired Mastiffs existed. A short time later, he heard about a Leonberger who was up for adoption. It turned out to be a fluffy Mastiff.
Fluffy Mastiffs are often confused with Leonbergers (above), another large breed that shares its development with the Saint Bernard. But on closer inspection, the Leonberger has a far more refined head.
“If you go out in public with a Mastiff, it always attracts a lot of attention to begin – and with the fluffies, I have to do an awful lot of explaining,” he says. Most people inquire if the dogs are Saint Bernard mixes – a logical guess, since long-ago crosses to that breed are believed to have introduced the long-hair gene into the Mastiff (and, by extension, the Bullmastiff, too). Another popular guess is Leonberger, a German breed that, ironically, is believed to have introduced the long-haired gene into the monks’ breeding pool at the Hospice of Saint Bernard.
“Even dog people don’t really know what they’re looking at” when they encounter a purebred fluffy Mastiff, Neal says. “Most vets and vet techs have no clue.”