Height: 24-31 inches
Weight: Over 110 pounds
Life Span: 8-10 years
Coloring: Solid Black, Gray, Mahogany and Tawny. Some brindling allowed with tan.
Area of Origin: Italy
Similar Breeds: Bull Mastiff, Dogue de Bordeaux, English Mastiff, and the Old English Bulldog.
History and Origin:
The Neapolitan Mastiff comes from a long line of noble war dogs, the Molossus. They were used for fights both in and out of the arena and were able to hold their own versus whatever exotic animals the Romans decided to pit them against such as tigers and bears and often gladiators themselves.
The breed as we know it today surfaced in Italy in 1940 where it was given the name of Neapolitan Mastiff. This dog has served its people well over the years from the Romans to soldiers during the World War, police and other professions which utilize the Neapolitan Mastiff’s size, appearance and ability to protect and defend its people fiercely without hesitation.
The breed itself was first recorded by name in England in 1946 and officially recognized by the American Kennel Club in 2004.
Personality and Temperament:
Fearless, proud and loyal are three very commonly used words to describe the Neapolitan Mastiff. This dog is, despite its outward appearance, incredibly gentle with their family and will protect them with its life. These dogs make wonderful guard dogs and have been used extensively by soldiers and the police over the years.
While this dog’s family will be heartily greeted without reservations, any visitors will be regarded with skepticism and closely monitored. Children should never be left alone with this dog as rough housing may be perceived as a potential danger to his family and will be dealt with accordingly. As such, these dogs are not beginner dogs, however, and training is mandatory as opposed to recommended. These dogs without proper training can assert themselves in the worst ways possible and considering their size and overall strength, this is the perfect equation for unfortunate situations to occur.
This is not a small dog either and often, particularly when young, misjudge their strength and size and may push children over or hurt them accidently; however, this will pass with time. As they do not often realize their size they have repeatedly been referred to as an overgrown lap dog.
These dogs are very strong willed and will not follow orders blindly and without question. In all, this is not a dog for the faint of heart nor those with a weak will as these dogs demand respect and constant consistent training to help them achieve the wonderful dog they can become.
Exercise & Training:
The Neapolitan Mastiff requires plenty of space and limited exercise. This dog would not be happy in the city let alone in an apartment. These are truly country dogs and require room to stretch out. Despite the amount of exercise this dog requires, it is still very quiet in the house often wanting to sit around, if not on, their family members.
These dogs often have issues with their joints and their back due to weight issues and therefore will often fail to be a good jogging partner as their energy is extremely limited and best saved for emergency situations.
Careful attention should be taken to avoid excessive exercise particularly as puppies as they are prone to injury in part due to the fact they are very clumsy. Their bones and joints are very fragile as they do grow very quickly and their joints have more room for slippage.
Training needs to be gentle yet firm and very consistent. These dogs should never be allowed to do as they wish unquestioned and need extensive socialization particularly with other animals and children. These will never be dogs who will happily greet all strangers with a wagging tail, they are more apt to sit in the corner and keep an eye on the newcomers activities while in your home.
It is much easier to correct the actions of a 30-50 pound puppy than a 150 pound adult who is already set in their way. These dogs are fairly intelligent yet due to their strong wills may have their owners questioning this at times. They will often test their owners as well to ensure that the rules remain the same and that the status quo has not been changed.
Grooming the Neapolitan Mastiff requires very little grooming yet it is rather specific and unique.
Like most short-haired dogs, the Neapolitan Mastiff requires minimal brushing and a weekly brushing with either a stiff brush or a glove will do the job of removing dead fur and dirt from their coat. Checking the dog’s nails and teeth at this point is important to ensure they are the correct length and that they are clean.
If the weather has been humidor raining, it is important to clean the folds of the dog out with a moist cloth and then thoroughly dry the skin afterwards. If this is not done, it can cause all sorts of skin irritations and the smell can be quite prominent.
Bathing these dogs should only be done on a monthly or as-needed basis and special care should be taken to ensure that the skin is thoroughly dry particularly in the folds.
As these dogs are as large as they are, it is very important to accustom the dog to handling over the full body with careful attention to their paws and their mouths. This will make grooming as well as veterinary visits much easier.
Health and Wellness:
Unfortunately, due to this dogs large size, fast growth and common weight issues, the Neapolitan Mastiff does have some rather major health issues. The chances of these can be reduced with proper screening of the parents prior to breeding. The Neapolitan Mastiff is very sensitive to anesthesia and care should be taken whenever any form of anesthesia is to be used. The issues most commonly seen in this breed are:
- Bloat (Torsion/Gastric Dilation-Volvulus)
- Bloat is a serious condition that kills many deep-chested dogs annually. There is no set reason for why it occurs or what causes it although gulping down food, swallowing air, or drinking excessively after eating combined with exercise seem to be serious concerns. Unfortunately, by the time bloat has been diagnosed, time is already racing against you. The best thing to do is to call the veterinarian on the way to their office where they will attempt to clear the blockage through fluids and steroids; however, this is rarely enough and emergency surgery is usually required which due to their sensitivity to anesthesia may cause additional complications.
- A disease where the heart is unable to beat regularly and as it must work harder, it begins to grow out of proportion. These dogs will show signs of heart failure and will be put on medication, change of diet and rest although there is no cure and the dog will eventually succumb to their fate, usually years before their time.
- Cherry Eye
- A very common condition where the tear duct bulges out from under the eyelid. This may go away on its own in a mild case but most will require surgery. This is often a recurring condition. This condition can cause further issues and complications such as damage to the eye itself.
- Cleft Palate
- A condition where the roof of the mouth (either the bone or the tissue, hard or soft palate) is missing at birth. The only treatment is surgery to repair the hole and is necessary for the puppy to survive and euthanasia is often chosen.
- Demodectic Mange
- A condition where the dog is infested with mites passed on by the mother. Usually dogs have little to no side effects as their immune systems keep the mites at bay, yet for dogs with compromised immune systems either from stress, autoimmune disease, allergies, or malnutrition this can cause hair loss and skin infections. Usually treatment is not necessary; however, when it is required it can be easily treated with antibiotics and medicated shampoo.
- Elbow Dysplasia
- Essentially the same as hip dysplasia except it occurs in the elbow of the dog. It is incredibly painful for the dog and often will require surgery to correct as other methods of treatment will usually end up with the issue recurring.
- Hip Dysplasia
- A genetic condition where the dog’s hip joint is shaped incorrectly causing painful rubbing and tearing of the surrounding tissue. This is usually treated by medication, physiotherapy, massage therapy and diet for mild cases. Severe cases may require surgery to either fix or replace the affected joint. This can be tested for by the parents.
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)
- A genetic condition which causes the dog to slowly lose their vision until they eventually go blind. There is no treatment; however, there is a simple DNA test which can be taken by the parents prior to breeding to prevent the likelihood of this being passed on to any offspring.
- A common bacterial infection often caused by Staphyolococcus intermedius. As there are plenty of folds, there are plenty of locations where this can manifest itself on a Neapolitan Mastiff and can be treated topically or with antibiotics. Only in the most severe cases is surgery suggested although it is highly effective.
Unfortunately, due to these issues many dogs do not live past their 8th birthday, yet if their weight is maintained properly, they are given adequate yet gentle exercise and are on a proper diet, these dogs can live longer and provide many more years of faithful companionship to you and your family.
As ethical breeders work to reduce these risks, it is important to make sure the breeder you are buying from does check for all of the above and that her breeding dogs are all well socialized, well trained and properly screened for all genetic issues. Also as most of these do not show up until the dog has reached 2-3 years old, it is important that these dogs are not bred before their second birthday. The Kennel Club has added this as a stipulation although the American Kennel Club has yet to implement this as a rule.
Interesting Facts about the Neapolitan Mastiff:
- Despite being fairly uncommon, the Neapolitan Mastiff is easily recognizable in a crowd and will effortlessly turn heads.
- This dog can easily eat 4-6 cups of food in a day.
- The Neapolitan Mastiff is known for drooling and can fling that drool in a full 360º circle when shaking their head.
- Fang, Hagrid’s dog from Harry Potter, is a Neapolitan Mastiff.
- Neapolitan Mastiffs believe themselves to be lap dogs and will happily climb onto their family’s unsuspecting laps.
Organizations dedicated to the Neapolitan Mastiff:
- United States Neapolitan Mastiff Club – https://neapolitan.org/
- Neapolitan World – https://neapolitanworld.com/
- NeoRescue, Inc. – https://neorescueinc.org/