The Neapolitan Mastiff is a large, ancient dog whose ancestry is traceable back to about 100 BC. This dog is a massive breed used as a guard and defender of owner and property.
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 Gray (Blue), Black, tawny and mahogany, each color 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.
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 repetitious 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, provided the children do not tease them. Males do not get along with other males, but the Neopolitan can get along well with noncanine 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 socialised at an early age to avoid over-protectiveness. They will be quite protective even with extensive socialisation. 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: English Mastiff, Dogue de Bordeaux, Spanish Mastiff, St. Bernard, and Rottweiler.
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 326BC.
In the 1940s, this breed was rediscovered near Naples in Italy, and is now beginning to make a comeback. A Neapolitan Mastiff was featured in the Harry Potter movies as Hagrid’s dog Fang.
Like most giant breeds of dogs, the Neopolitan Mastiff is not particularly long-lived, averaging 9 to 11 years.