Selecting a Neapolitan Mastiff

Choosing a Neapolitan Mastiff

The Neapolitan mastiff, also known as the Italian mastiff, is an eye-catching breed that has recently gained popularity throughout the world.

History and Origin

The Neapolitan mastiff is a breed native to Italy, dating back to 300 BC when the ancestors of the breed appeared with Alexander the Great. In ancient Roman times, Alexander the Great was known for breeding several large dogs together to develop a shorthaired dog known as the Molossus. The Neapolitan mastiff is considered to be a descendant of the Molossus.

In southern Italy, breeders wanted to create a mastiff that maintained the size and strength of the Molossus. They wanted a breed with a mean, serious look for protection, but gentle enough to stay at home with the family. From the Molossus and the Tibetan mastiff came the Neapolitan mastiff that had all the desired characteristics.

Until World War II, the Neapolitan was a treasured secret of Italy. Following the war, Italians began to promote the breed to the public. By 1973, the breed eventually made it to the United States and the Neapolitan Mastiff Club of America was formed. The Neapolitan mastiff has grown in population in the United States and in May of 2004, the American Kennel Club accepted the breed as a member of the working group.

Appearance and Size

The Neapolitan mastiff has a large head with many wrinkles and folds, drooping jaws and pronounced dewlaps. The eyes are set deep and hidden beneath drooping upper eyelids. The ears of the Neapolitan mastiff can be cropped or uncropped depending on the owner’s preference and the dog’s job. The body is heavily boned and well muscled with a tail carried straight up or curved slightly over the back. The coat is short and dense with uniform length over the entire body. The colors of the hair coat include solids of gray, black, mahogany, and fawn with solid white markings on the chest and toes of some dogs. The height of the Neapolitan mastiff is 24 to 30 inches at the shoulder and weighs between 100 and 150 pounds.


The Neapolitan mastiff is a sweet, affectionate and loyal companion. If necessary, the Neapolitan mastiff can be a formidable foe if his family is in danger.

Home and Family Relations

The Neapolitan mastiff is a docile and friendly dog that makes a good watch dog. The breed is used as a guard dog, a police dog, for tracking as well as a companion. The Neapolitan mastiff has a calm attitude, and is unlikely to attack without being provoked or on command. They are laid back and love to run and play with children. The Neapolitan mastiff is a gentle giant around children and will protect them and the rest of the family from harm.


The Neapolitan mastiff is easily trained with obedience commands. They are happiest when given a job to do.


The Neapolitan mastiff needs daily brushing to keep the coat clean and shiny.

Special Care

The Neapolitan mastiff needs a reasonable amount of space for exercise to be happy. As with other mastiffs, firm handling and obedience training should be started early to prevent dominance issues later in life.

Common Diseases and Disorders

Life Span