History of the Neapolitan Mastiff
The Neapolitan Mastiff is said to be a descendant of that mightiest of dogs, the ancient Greek Molosser. Legend has it that Roman legionnaires brought them back to Italy as war dogs, and to fight and die in the Coliseum.
Whether or not that is true what is known, is that Mastini Neapolitano became guardians of home and stock. Their imposing presence discouraged any human intruder, and their courage and strength protected the flock from harm.
The breed, like many others at the time, dwindled and all but petered out during the first and second world wars. People could hardly feed themselves and their kids, never mind finding enough sustenance for these great tanks of dogs.
By the time the first dog show after the World War II was held, the Neapolitan Mastiffs that were entered in the competition were thin, gangly creatures, mere shadows of their impressive ancestors. All that is, except for Guaglione.
Just as the Doges de Bordeaux were saved by Raymond Triquet, Guaglione inspired in one man, Piero Scanziani, a deep admiration and a desire to rescue the breed and restore it to its former glory.
Piero Scanziani, a well-known Swiss artist was joined by other prominent citizens of the day to promote the breed.
The modern Mastini that we know and love today can be traced back through the fine dogs of dedicated and passionate breeders and aficionados such as Mario Querci, Francesco Manno, Gennaro Giacco. Paolino Scotti, Antonio Ciccarelli, Eugenio Circolo, Saverio Bilangione, Antonio Sorbo, Giovanni Allocca, Mario and Peppe Siano, Umberto Miranda, and many others.
To say that a Neapolitan Mastiff is a big doggo is an enormous understatement. These dogs are huge. Big in size, solid, big-boned, large-headed, and just as big in character.
Size: Males can reach between 26 to 31 inches in height, while females are 24 to 29 inches.
Weight: The average weight for a male Mastini is 150 lbs, with bitches averaging 110 lbs, however, they can be much heavier and as long as the proportions as correct this can be a positive to show judges.
Head: Their heads are large and heavily wrinkled. Show standards require folds from the outer margin of the eyelids to the outer edges of the lips. The lack of wrinkles is a disqualifying factor.
Expression: The Neapolitan Mastiff is expected to have an intimidating air and penetrating eyes when alert, and appear wistful when at rest.
Coat: The coat is short, dense and smooth and can be either solid color gray, black, mahogony, tawny or tan brindle in any color. White markings on the chest, throat, belly and toes is acceptable.
See the AKC Neapolitan Breed Standard.
The Temperament of Neapolitan Mastiff
With its historical role as a protector and guardian, the Mastini is watchful but not aggressive. He is a calm and impressive presence, steady, loyal and regal.
They are not active dogs, given to zoomies and dashing about. In fact, Their slow, lumbering gait may be taken for laziness. But don’t be fooled, if your Neapolitan Mastiff thinks his family or property is under threat he can spring into action with surprising speed.
Like many of the big doggos we cover on the site, these Italian mastiff’s are not in general, aggressive or prone to start fights but they will certainly finish any fight started by another dog.
That said, any dog that is not socialized and trained from an early age has the potential to be aggressive, shy or fearful.
Given consistent training from an early age, Neapolitanos make excellent family pets. However, no matter how good-natured your dog is, this massive breed can easily cause injury to small kids or pets without intending to, simply by being clumsy. It is always necessary to supervise any interaction between them.
While generally quite healthy considering their great size, Neapolitan Mastiffs do have some health issues. As is common in the big doggos hip and elbow dysplasia should be screened for. Heart issues are also a concern and an eye condition called cherry eye which looks worse than it is, can sometimes afflict the breed.
Another big doggo condition is bloat, Gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV). This is a life-threatening condition that is found in deep-chested breeds like the Mastiff and the Great Dane. Some owners choose to have preemptive tack in the stomach to prevent bloat, and the general advice is to feed smaller portions often, and not to directly before or after exercise.
Neapolitan Mastiff pups shoot up in the first year and this makes them prone to panosteitis, commonly known as growing pains. This can be mimized or avoided by feeding appropriate food for large breed puppies.
While the pup is in this rapidly growing phase it is important that you prevent them from overexertion.