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About the Neapolitan Mastiff / Mastino Napoletano



The Neapolitan Mastiff is amongst the oldest of breeds. More than likely they have probably descended from the great mastiffs that Alexander the Great regarded so highly in Greece, the early Neapolitan Mastiffs are described in literature of the Roman era as having been used in Rome as gladiator dogs in the arena and in war, as well as in homes as guardians. Alexander probably acquired ancestors of these dogs in his conquests of lands stretching from India to Macedonia. A clay relief of a Sumerian Molossan bitch suckling her pups (2025-1763BC) and a Terracotta statue of a Mesopotamian mastiff dog dating from the second millennium BC show a remarkable resemblance to the Mastino of today. This helps substantiate the thinking that today’s Neapolitan is a living relic of 5000 years ago. The preservation of the Neapolitan Mastiff and its entry into the show ring was mainly due to Piero Scanziani who, recognising the value of the breed, began breeding the best Neapolitan Mastiff stock he could obtain in Italy at his kennels in Rome in the 1940’s. The Italian Kennel Club accepted a breed standard proposed by Scanziani. Excellent Neapolitan Mastiff stock is being bred in Italy today, but is often very difficult to obtain if one is an outsider, especially a foreigner, and is very expensive. Fortunately, as quite a few Neapolitan Mastiff enthusiasts have close ties to Italy, some of Italy's best bloodlines are available. A well-bred dog is still fairly expensive, but really no more than any well-bred show dog.


Conformation: The Neapolitan is a massive dog, powerfully built, strong and of majestic appearance. When first seen, the dog's great volume and large heavily wrinkled head should be striking. A grown male stands 65 to 75cms at the withers and weighs 70 to 90 Kgs. Females are a little smaller, 60 to 68cms at the withers and weigh 50 to 70kgs. The ears are not cropped in New Zealand,Australia or UK, but in Italy and other countries often severely cropped. Tails are cropped to 2/3 of original length. Body length is 110% or more of the height at the withers

Temperament: The Neapolitan is a guard dog by breeding and is protective by nature. Early socialisation is a must! These dogs are generally not overactive, always content to lie at the master's feet, although when necessary this dog can move with incredible speed and cover ground in very short time. He is courageous with an even temperament of a docile laid back nature, not aggressive but a totally loyal defender of his people and property. The Neapolitan is loyal to his family and visitors need to be introduced and re-introduced each visit. A mature Neapolitan will rarely accept food from a non-family member and will never be bribed.


Health Issues: The health problems of the Neapolitan Mastiff are due to two main factors. Firstly the Neapolitan shares the problems of all giant breeds- hips, hearts, and heat. Secondly today’s Neapolitan's are descendants of a small gene pool used in their "reconstruction". Hypothyroidism does occur in this and many other breeds of dogs. Some feel that this defect is "part and parcel" of the Neapolitan body type. Many of the most "typey" Neapolitan's alive in the world today have healthy normal thyroid function. Mastiffs are not statues and their hips tend to be looser in general. In fact loose joints seem to go with the loose skin. Neapolitan puppies can appear to be double-jointed. A zero hip score rating is uncommon. The breed average is currently 30/46. Many breeders believe that any score under 44/106 is breed worthy. Rough housing with a pup, either by children or older dogs, can lead to permanent injury to the hips and elbows. If you think that your puppy should go on long runs with you, get a different breed. Most breeders will recommend against frequent trips up and down the home staircase. On maturity of course a Neapolitan can accompany you on long walks and tolerate vigorous exercise but during growth until at least 18 months of age all exercise and play should be in moderation. Overexertion, before or after a meal, can lead to torsion, bloat, and death. This applies more so in hot weather. Prolapse of the gland of the third eyelid "cherry eye" is common in the Neapolitan. Those with experience insist that removal of this tear gland is the only proper treatment. The procedure is best done under general anaesthetic by a Vet. Many Vets, totally unfamiliar with this breed, will insist upon "tacking" the gland back inside the lower eyelid. In general, this does not last long and another surgery to remove the gland must be done. Removal of the gland frequently costs less than $300 NZ . Skin problems are relatively scarce in the Neapolitan Mastiff. Annual change of coat and bare patches and flaking skin can give the appearance of skin problems - however this resolves when the coat change is complete. Humid climates can cause a bacterial build up especially around the dewlaps - drying and cleansing will help lessen this problem. Callous and bursars on elbows and hocks are common, especially in heavy males. These can be prevented or minimised with the correct bedding and general environment.


How much do they cost? This depends on the age, quality, breeding, and colour of the pup under consideration. A pup of "pet" quality can cost from $1000. Perhaps an unwanted spot of colour, a kinked or damaged tail, or some other minor fault prevents this dog from being shown. This doesn't mean it can't win your heart and that of your family! A pup of show quality and of proven show quality parents can start at $2000. Expect to pay somewhat more for a full-grown dog than for a pup. After all the previous owner has absorbed the risk of the unknown pup and growing any large dog is an expensive proposition. Females are usually more expensive than males.

What is the life expectancy? Eight to ten years is considered an average life expectancy but some have been known to live a couple of years more .

 What are the colours of the Neapolitan? Grey (also known as blue) is the most common colour. It can vary from a charcoal to a very light hue. Black is becoming more common these days. Mahogany is rarer but is growing in popularity. Tawny is a term applied to a light fawn colour. All colours may also show brindling.

General The Neapolitan Mastiff is not a breed for everyone. Due to their large size and “mastiff” characteristics they are not a dog for inexperienced owners. Training and socialisation are musts if you are to have a happy and friendly Neapolitan. First and foremost, the Neapolitan is a super-loyal family dog. While the breed is generally suspicious of strangers and politely tolerant of friends, it becomes enamoured of its human family, particularly to its one master. Children and Neapolitans can and do get on very well together but as with all dogs supervision is a must. Please bear in mind that the Neapolitan is an “alpha” animal and as such must learn that all family members are higher in the pack. The Neapolitan is also an extraordinarily intelligent dog. Don’t let the droopy face of the Neapolitan fool you into thinking that the dog is dull. Nothing could be further from the truth.

As a deterrent against crime the Neapolitan Mastiff is as perfect as a dog can be. Its overall appearance, both head and body, suggests a potential for unprecedented brutality and, while the dog is exceptionally gentle around its family and friends, this brutality can easily be realised should the Neapolitan's home or family be seriously threatened. Its size is also a substantial deterrent. Every inch of the dog suggests terrific power, which is put to work even as the dog moves casually. Everything about the Neapolitan Mastiff, often called the Mastino, Italian Mastiff, or simply the Neo, suggests top-notch suitability as a guard dog. Functionally, the Neapolitan Mastiff is even more capable than its appearance suggests.When you examine a Neapolitan closely, you will realise that, in spite of its heavy appearance and deliberate movement, this is a dog that can really spring into action like a shot should something unexpected happen. Its heavy muscle is very obvious, even though its tough skin is loose and does not connect to the underlying tissue, as does the skin of other dogs. The head of the Neapolitan is huge, the jaws are short and powerful, and the teeth are big and strong. In general, this is most definitely not a dog you want to find yourself face to face with as you step through a stranger's window in order to burglarise his home.
Do They drool.? The Neapolitan has the well-deserved reputation of being the King of droolers! However lovers of the breed have been heard to refer to this as Neo Nectar rather than drool. The problem arises mostly at feeding time and after exercise. When shown in the ring, most handlers carry a cloth in the rear pocket with which to mop up. Neapolitan's can spend considerable times inside with you without a drool problem if you take the simple precaution of wiping their mouths & jowls before entry and not feeding or allowing them to drink inside the house. Puppies take a fair amount of time to become expert droolers.

Perfect specimen of an excellent mastino puppy