In the world which we know, among the different and primitive geniuses that preside over the evolution of the several species, there exists not one, excepting that of the dog, that ever gave a thought to the presence of man. – Maurice Maeterlinck
The Neapolitan Mastiff is one of the ancient and rare breeds of dogs. He is believed to be descended from the giant war dogs of Egypt, Persia, Mesopotamia, and Asia, and in particular the great Roman mastiff described by Columelle in the first century A.D. in his book “de re
rustica”. The Neo’s ancestors fought with the Romans in battle, and protected and defended them on the home front.
Accompanying the Romans throughout the empire as they invaded the other countries, he is the ancestor of many of the mastiff breeds found in Europe.
Having survived centuries throughout Europe, it took only the four years of World War II to push the breed to the point of extinction. An Italian painter established a breeding kennel to rescue the Neopolitan Mastiff. The breed survived mainly around Naples, Italy from which it took its name and has been recognized as a breed in the modern world since 1949.
Originally bred primarily as a guardian and defender of owner and property, Neapolitan Mastiffs were also trained to bait bulls, bears and jaguars.
This animal is a stay-at-home type, with a low activity level. He does require exercise to keep in shape. A large, fenced yard is ideal.
Photos displayed courtesy of Tommy Chang, TDYChang, Ontario
The Neapolitan Mastiff is a massive, strongly-built dog standing up to 29 inches (75 cm) tall at the shoulder. He may weigh as much as 154 pounds (70 kg). The Neapolitan Mastiff’s massive head, heavy jowls (he’s a world class drooler!), and wrinkles are compelling enough to deter any intruders. Despite his size, he has a reputation for sneaking quietly up on unsuspecting trespassers.
His coat is smooth and short and requires minimal grooming. It is typically grey, leaden grey or black and may have white patches on the chest or toes. The coat may also be brown, fawn or deep fawn (red deer) in colour. The gray or blue as it is known is the most common colour and the most desirable. For Neos working as guard dogs, this colouring allows the animal to blend into the night.
Although originally bred as a protection dog he has a steady temperament, and is loyal and docile rather than outwardly aggressive. Socialization to children is important as they are large, powerful dogs who can unintentionally injure a child. The Neo can be fierce when defending his home. For this reason, he needs extensive socialization to learn to accept strangers, including any children’s friends, especially within the home.
As natural guardians, obedience training is imperative. His pain tolerance is high and he will lay down his life to protect his own. Without early socialization and training, he is likely to exhibit aggression towards strangers and unfamiliar dogs.