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Neapolitan Mastiff Origin and History

The Neapolitan Mastiff, sometimes referred to as the Neo Mastiff is one of the oldest dog breeds in recorded in written history. Traced back to the end of the first century in Italy , the Mastiff has a fascinating history.

What makes the Mastiff fascinating is how little it has changed in almost 2000 years. Where other dog breeds have died out, or been cross bred to keep the breed alive, the Mastiff has undergone very little change other than coat colour.

In ancient Roman times, Mastiffs were used as both guard dogs, and fighting gods. Although little documentation exists to support it, it is believed that the Mastiff was pitted against leopards, as a blood spectator sport. With their huge heads, strong necks and muscular bodies, the Mastiff often succeeded in destroying the leopard.

First described by Columella as a guard dog with ‘amplissimus corporis’ which literally meant the dogs head was bigger than its body. In ancient times this large head signified that the Mastiff was an excellent guard dog and in fact they are still used for that purpose today.

Somewhere along the line the strain of Neapolitan Mastiffs developed a slightly smaller head. While their heads are still large and predominantly square shape, the Mastiff if coming from a pedigree line should not appear ill proportioned. While the traditional colour was in fact grey blue an almost twilight colour which allowed the dog to blend in at night and creep up unsuspectingly on intruders, today’s colours are more varied. Dark brown flecked with gold or brindled is a popular colour of the Mastiff, and on occasion a Neapolitan Mastiff may be all black. Over the years the trademark white chest has appeared, even on those of grey blue colour.

Mastiffs are not especially attractive to look at. They often appear to have hooded eyes due to the large flaps of skin that fall from the top of the head and often partially shield the eyes. Due to their large jowls, Mastiffs often drool a lot and may be extremely messy with their food which can make them unappealing as a family pet.

The average male mastiff grows to be approximately one hundred and fifty pounds and at its tallest point stands 26-31 inches high. The female is slightly smaller weighing on average one hundred and ten pounds and standing 24-29 inches high.

Many families are in fact finding that the Neapolitan Mastiff is a great family pet if there is appropriate space and time given to them. Referred to as ‘gentle giants’ Mastiffs are generally a peaceful breed but may occasionally suffer from some anxiety. Extremely loyal to their owners they are keen defenders of the family home and very protective around children. Due to the size of the breed and the strength, Neapolitan Mastiffs can cause havoc when something gets in their path, so watch where you put the family china.

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