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Neapolitan Mastiff

Neapolitan Mastiff
Capolavoro Cicero
Photo with thanks to Pat Wilson

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Group Working Dogs (KC)

Origin / History The Neapolitan Mastiff, also called the Mastino or Italian Mastiff, is an ancient breed that dates back to 168 BC. It was initially bred in Naples, Italy as a war dog and used in Roman fighting arenas, which explains its fearsome stance and vicious expression. It is one of the oldest varieties of mastiff, alongside the Tibetan and other Asian lines. Despite its age, however, it was only recognized as a breed in 1946, and its breed standards established only in 1949.

Modern-day Neapolitan mastiffs (or Neos) are very versatile, particularly in their country of origin. Italian police, farmers, and owners of estate and business establishments all employ them for guarding and livestock protection. However, the breed is still largely unknown in the United States, where dogs are kept more for companionship than livelihood.

Appearance The Neo is easily distinguished by its heavily wrinkled face and the noticeable dewlap that hangs under its chin. Some breeders find this desirable and produce Neos with loose skin all over, although others prefer a leaner body. Its head is broad and flat at the top, and its nose large and slightly upturned. The body is large and heavy, giving it a rolling, lumbering gait in contrast with the elegant stance of other large breeds.

Colours Neapolitan Mastiffs can come in black, gray, tawny, or mahogany. Solid and brindled colors are preferred; white markings are allowed only on the chest and feet.

Temperament Neos are made to look fierce and imposing to ward off intruders, but are actually very peaceful. They do not bark much except when provoked. They are very loving and protective of their human families, but can be shy and aloof around strangers. Females make better family pets as they are less aggressive and more caring, although males can be trained for house companionship from an early age. Both males and females get along well with children, but can be snappish when teased.

Height and Weight 61 - 74 cm in height and 50 - 70 Kg in weight. Males are larger than females and at the top end of the size ranges.

Common Health Problems Hip dysplasia is the most common problem among Neos, owing to their heavy bulk. Pano-ostiosis, or growing pains, can occur from age 4 to 18 months, although the condition usually disappears on its own. Another common problem is cherry eye, in which eye tissues protrude and make the eye red and swollen. This can be corrected with minor surgery.

Living Conditions Neos will do well in an apartment, provided there is enough space to stretch and walk around. A small yard is recommended, however, since these dogs need sufficient exercise and sunlight. They should sleep on soft surfaces as their weight can cause pressure markings. They also need help adapting to weather changes—owners should give them adequate bedding in the winter, and ample shade and water in the summer.

Exercise Requirements Young Neos don’t need much exercise—in fact, physical activity must be limited since pups tire out easily. A short, leisurely walk once a day should be enough. However, exercise needs increase with age, so owners should gradually increase exercise as the dog grows older. Adult Neos can be walked twice a day and may engage in active play.

Training Requirements This breed can be hard to train, especially after the first year. Obedience training is a must should start at a young age. Owners should have a firm hand and establish dominance early on; otherwise the dog becomes stubborn and aggressive. They can also be overprotective of their owners, so they should be socialized as pups to keep them from attacking outsiders.

Life Expectancy Neapolitan Mastiffs have a relatively short lifespan, averaging 9 to 11 years.

Grooming Grooming is fairly easy since the coat is short and sleek. However, dirt and sweat can accumulate between the wrinkles, so bathing should be frequent and regular. Extra care should be given to the face and muzzle wrinkles, where drool can dry up and smell unpleasant. Keep the wrinkled areas as dry as possible to prevent skin problems.

Famous Examples

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Neapolitan Mastiff
Leo the Neo, Male, Blue-grey
Neapolitan Mastiff
Leo the Neo, Male, Blue-grey
Photo with thanks Cass Wilson of Del Corpo Guardia NZ.
Neapolitan Mastiff
Capolavoro Nenzia
Neapolitan Mastiff
Capolavoro Cicero
Photo with thanks to Pat Wilson.

 

 

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