The Neapolitan Mastiff is a large, ancient breed of dog that can be traced back to about 100 BC. This dog is a massive breed often used as a guard and defender of owner and property. The breed is reported to have been pitted against leopards in the ancient Roman arenas.
Neapolitan Mastiffs are characterised by loose skin over their entire bodies; abundant, hanging wrinkles and folds on the head; and a voluminous dewlap. Coats can be grey (blue), black, tawny and mahogany, each colour may also come with reverse brindling . They can sometimes also have white on the chest or feet. Ears usually are half pricked and can be cropped. It has a large blocky head and a rolling gait.
Size and Proportion
According to the American Kennel Club (AKC) standards , male Neapolitan Mastiffs should measure 26-31 inches at the withers, weighing approximately 150 lbs, whilst females should be 24-29 inches and weigh around 110 lbs. Body length should be 10-15% more than that of the height. As long as proportion is maintained, larger weights are preferred, and smaller dogs may be heavily penalized, even disqualified.
The Neapolitan Mastiff is a fearless protector when it needs to be but is affectionate with its family and the family's friends; as a guarding breed it is quite wary around strangers but relaxes once it gets to know the person. It does not bark excessively and indeed only barks when something provokes it. As a breed the Neapolitan Mastiff can be stubborn, but it does not require repetitive training. Once it understands what its master wants, it obeys. It has a dominant attitude and must be taught from puppyhood that its master is the boss, not the other way around. Males can be much more aggressive and dominant than females. A female works best in a home with a family, as she is a bit more docile and better with children. These dogs are, however, usually very loving with children. Males do not get along with other males, but the Neopolitan can get along well with non-canine pets if raised with them from puppyhood.
The Neapolitan Mastiff is not a breed for everyone and not a dog for beginners. Children should be taught to respect these dogs. Neapolitan Mastiffs should be well socialized at an early age to avoid over-protectiveness. They will be quite protective even with extensive socialization. Additional protection training is unnecessary because they are natural guard dogs and have been for ages. Obedience training is very important in this breed. The Mastino is generally very tolerant of pain due to the breed's early fighting background. Males often drool quite heavily. They tend to drool more in hot weather or after drinking water.
The Neapolitan Mastiff is a descendant of the Molossus, the mammoth war dogs of the Middle East, and was frequently used in the Roman arenas pitted against lions, bears, and gladiators for entertainment. As dogs of war, they fought alongside the Roman legions, and in this way they were spread throughout Europe. Eventually the descendants of the Roman Molossian splintered into several different Mastiff breeds known across Europe.
The ancestral form of the Mastino was a favourite breed of Alexander the Great, who was given a pair by the defeated Asian king, King Porus, in northern India in the year 326 BC.
In the 1940s, this breed was rediscovered near Naples in Italy, and is now beginning to make a comeback.
The Neo is generally hardy, but like all breeds, has some specific health concerns. The most common and worrisome is hip dysplasia. Other include:
- Cherry eye
- Elbow dysplasia
- Progressive retinal atrophy
- Skin infections between skin folds
Additionally, Neos do not do well in hot weather, and are prone to heatstroke. Like most giant breeds of dogs, the Neapolitan Mastiff is not particularly long-lived, averaging 9 to 11 years.
Care and Maintenance
Due to the extensive wrinkle and large body mass Neapolitans do require extra care and maintenance for bathing, cleaning the face and body. Neapolitans also drool while excited, while eating and also drinking and they do make a mess. People that own or have owned a drooling breed have ample supplies of drool rags or towels that are not only around the home and kennel but carried with them at all times as well. If the wrinkles are not cared for properly the neapolitan mastiff will smell, can form acne due to the infections. A neapolitan's face and wrinkles should be kept as dry as possible in order to prevent such infections from forming.
Don't let the Neapolitan's size or laid back look fool you; they have bursts of energy like any other dog, especially while young, so they need to have room to run and play. When it comes to exercise, Neapolitans are not a jogging breed as their energy tends to be short lived and their weight causes stress to their joints when excessive.
Famous Neapolitan Mastiffs
- Alan from the film Babe: Pig in the City
- Fang from the Harry Potter films
- Pansy from Andrew Vachss' Burke novels
- Sweetie from Robert K. Tanenbaum's Butch Karp novels
Looking for a Neapolitan?
As with any breed finding the right breeder is essential. Being such a large breed these dogs come with serious health problems and in order to help prevent your dog from having problems in life finding a breeder that tests for Hip and Elbow Dysplasia at minimum is very important. Especially when dysplasia surgeries can cost upwards of $5,000 per joint. If you are looking for a puppy make sure your breeder(s) in question offer minimum of a 2 year guarantee for genetic health issues such as dysplasia, test their breeding stock and prove it with certificates and are not just out to sell puppies. Finding a breeder that cares as much about their puppies and dogs as they do the homes that they sell to is an asset to you and the dog.
If you have never had experience with the breed and would like to have a Neapolitan as a pet look into rescuing your first Neapolitan. This way you can get a dog that is already mature, known temperament, training at least started, housebroken, crate trained and ready to show you what Neapolitans are all about. This way you have the advantage of skipping the wild puppy stages , training issues, and stress of raising a puppy for the first couple years of it's life.
- ^ American Kennel Club Neapolitan Mastiff Breed Standards