AKC Dog Breeds: Neapolitan Mastiff

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Working Group
Height 24-30 inches  Weight 110-154 pounds Color gray, blue, black, mahogany and tawny

An ancient breed, rediscovered in Italy in the 1940's, the Neapolitan Mastiff is a heavy-boned, massive, awe inspiring dog bred for use as a guard and defender of owner and property. He is characterized by loose skin, over his entire body, abundant, hanging wrinkles and folds on the head and a voluminous dewlap.  The Neapolitan Mastiff is a breed that was reconstructed in the 1940s by Piero Scanziani and other lovers of the Mastini. Scanziani came across the breed in Vesuvius, Italy when it was on the brink of extinction. The breed was steeped in 4000 years of historical presence that seemingly originated with the breeding of large, massive dogs by the Sumerians and the Mesopotamians. Throughout history, the Neapolitan Mastiff was used by the Romans in wartime, later as a hunter of deer and wild boar, and fighters of wild animals in the circus and in arenas as gladiators, but always remaining true to its heritage with an inherent talent as a guard dog. The breed was registered with the AKC in 2001.

General Appearance
The Neapolitan Mastiff is a serious, powerful, looking dog. It is muscular with a rather rectangular body, massive head, and wrinkled face. The facial wrinkles continue under the chin and down the neck to form a prominent dewlap. The skull is broad and flat on top, and the nose is large. The teeth meet in a scissors or level bite. A tradition was established when the dogs were used in combat to crop the ears short and dock the very thick tail by one third. Many owners opt out of docking and cropping, preferring the natural look, as it is painful for the dog. The short, harsh coat is dense and smooth. The most common coat color is blue, though black is the next most common color. Chocolate dogs are rare. The Neo can be either solid or brindle. The dark colors and brindles help the Neo blend into the night shadows as he waits for the unsuspecting prowler. Puppies begin life with blue eyes, which later darken. Adult Neo eyes vary with the color of their coat. Dewclaws should be removed. The Neapolitan Mastiff has a loose, rolling, cat-like gait.


The Neapolitan Mastiff is a very loyal, devoted, and protective dog, making him the ideal choice for watchdog and guard dog duties. These dogs will defend their loved ones to the end, and have plenty of courage and determination, along with the size and brawn to back it up. The Neapolitan Mastiff will shower love and affection on his family, and may bond more closely with one particular person. This is not the dog for those that cannot commit to a pet, as he needs attention and affection from his owner. The Neapolitan Mastiff should be socialized early on in order to promote stability, and to reduce the risk of timidity or aggression. Training can be difficult, as the Neapolitan Mastiff makes up his own mind and is very independent. Neapolitan Mastiffs are droolers and snorers, so if you are a house-proud person or you enjoy total peace and quiet, you may want to think carefully before opting for the Neapolitan Mastiff. The Neapolitan Mastiff is very intelligent and learns very quickly.

Owners must be prepared to deal with drool. Neos drool when they are excited, eating, drinking, or some (because of the massive folds of facial skin) drool constantly. Many Neo owners keep towels handy to keep the dewlap and folds dry and infection free. Many owners also state that the Mastinos have a distinctive odor which may be classified as woodsy. Grooming will not eliminate the scent. However, weekly brushing, ear, eye, teeth, and skin care are highly recommended. This is an average shedding breed; however, very easy to care for. The ears and tail are normally cropped.

Health Problems and Life Expectancy
The life expectancy of the Neapolitan Mastiff is short compared to many smaller breeds, and these dogs tend to live to around 8-10 years of age. Cherry Eye is a condition caused when the gland of the third eyelid of the dog becomes inflamed, swells up, and if it pops out of place it will become more inflamed, swollen and irritated such that it becomes bloody and ulcerated, and can cover 1/2 of the eye of the dog. If this occurs then the cherry eye is referred to as follicular conjunctivitis. In the Neos, it is recommended to remove the gland because of the massive wrinkles and excessive weight of the additional facial skin that folding down or any other cherry eye surgical correction procedure will only have to be repeated with the condition worsening each occasion. Despite the wrinkles and loose skin, the Neos should not have skin problems.

Activity Level
The Neapolitan Mastiff should always have regular exercise, meaning at least two long walks per day to remain healthy and active. This large breed should have an average sized yard.


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