The Neapolitan Mastiff, also called the Italian Mastiff, the Italian Bull, the Molosso Italiano, the Mastino Napoletano, the Mastino or simply the "Neo," is known as the "giant guard dog of Italy." While its ancestors were used in battle and arena combat, today's Neapolitan Mastiff has evolved to protect person and property and to serve as a loyal family companion. The most notable feature of this breed is its remarkable appearance; it has been described as perhaps the most terrifying of all dogs, with a face so ugly that it is strangely appealing. Although physically smaller than the English Mastiff, the Neapolitan Mastiff seems larger and more imposing because of its heavy bone, thick body, tremendously loose skin and extraordinary head. At first glance, it looks something like a cross between a Great Dane and a Shar Pei.
The breed standard describes the Neapolitan Mastiff's head as being large in proportion to the rest of the dog, covered with wrinkles and deep folds, with penetrating deep-set eyes hidden under heavy upper lids, drooping haws (lower eyelids), pendulous lips and an pronounced dewlap (loose skin under the neck and chin that creates a multi-chin appearance). Neo's are called the "king of droolers," although breed fanciers affectionately refer to their slobber as "Neo Nectar." The breed is also known for its ponderous, lumbering gait and its propensity to snore. The Neapolitan Mastiff was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 2004, as a member of the Working Group.
Mature males should stand from 26 to 31 inches at the withers and weigh on average 150 pounds. Adult females should stand 24 to 29 inches at the withers and weigh on average 110 pounds. Greater weight is usual and highly preferred. The Neapolitan Mastiff has a short, dense coat that comes in solid shades of gray (blue), black, mahogany and tawny. Reverse brindling is permissible on all coat colors. The Neo's ears are typically cropped into tiny triangles, and its tail may be docked by one-third of its normal length.
Images of dogs resembling the Neapolitan Mastiff have been found on Assyrian reliefs and Persian plaques from the 7th century B.C. Throughout ancient civilizations, the ancestors of the Neo were prized as fighting dogs of early courts, palaces and warrior leaders. It is said that they "fought anything, guarded everything and, in suitable armour, even went to war." The Neapolitan Mastiff's predecessors were bred for performance and ability rather than consistency in looks. Alexander the Great was instrumental in creating the Neapolitan Mastiff that we know today. In the 4th century B.C., he apparently crossed his giant Macedonian and Epirian war dogs with short-haired Indian dogs to create a breed called the Molossus, which he used to fight lions, tigers, elephants and men. The Romans later adopted the Molossus for their own use in battle, hunting and Coliseum competition. The Roman's conquest of Britain in 54 B.C. gave them access to other enormous breeds, which they crossed with the Molossus.
Over the ensuing centuries, Neapolitan farmers in southern Italy selectively bred the Mastino dog (descending from the Roman Molossus crosses) to retain the huge size, loose skin and heavy dewlap of its ancestors, but to be more of a stay-at-home dog that blended well with families while still being proficient at deterring intruders. Many reports suggest that the Neapolitan Mastiff was purposely developed to be alarmingly ugly, with looks alone sufficient to repulse and repel unwelcome visitors. One author has described the Neo as the only dog that looks like a hippopotamus.
Italians began to seriously focus on the breed after the Second World War. The Mastini became a national treasure. Six Neapolitan Mastiffs were shown in the first dog show held in Naples, in 1946. The breed standard was drafted by the Italian painter and so-called father of the modern Neapolitan Mastiff, Piero Scanziani, in 1948. The Neo was officially recognized in Italy in 1949, by both the Italian Kennel Club (Ente Nazionale della Cinafilia Italiana) and the Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI). The Italian standard was revised in 1971 for greater precision. Neapolitan Mastiffs were widespread in Europe by the 1970s and had significant footholds in Germany and America as well. The Neapolitan Mastiff Club of America was founded in 1973. In the early 1990s, two clubs were formed: the American Neapolitan Mastiff Club and the United States Neapolitan Mastiff Club. In the mid-1990s, the United States Neapolitan Mastiff Club became the primary registry for this breed. The Neapolitan Mastiff was accepted into the American Kennel Club's Working Group in 2004.
The Neo's type and unique appearance were created in the Neapolitan countryside by years of inbreeding. As a result, the traits that make the Mastino an unusual dog - its wrinkles, dewlap, loose skin, enormous bone and distinctive rolling gait - are created by an accumulation of recessive genes. To breed a sound dog with these attributes is truly an art...and a challenge.
The modern Neapolitan Mastiff is a calm and steady companion, as well as an imposing (but not flashy) competitor in the conformation ring. Neos have been used as police dogs and draught dogs (cart-pullers). They are natural guard dogs, despite their sometimes lazy appearance. If his owner is threatened, a Neapolitan Mastiff can react with alarming swiftness and ferocity. It is said that where a "normal" guard dog may bite an intruder's arm, a Neapolitan Mastiff may remove the arm entirely.
The average life span of the Neapolitan Mastiff is 8 to 10 years. Breed health concerns may include entropion, ectropion, cranial cruciate ligament rupture (CCL or ACL), eversion of the cartilage of the nictitating membrane, cataracts, vaginal hyperplasia, hypothyroidism, hip dysplasia, panosteitis, prolapse of the gland of the third eyelid ("cherry eye") and halitosis (bad breath). This breed is especially sensitive to halothane gas anesthesia; owners should discuss this with their veterinarian and suggest that isoflurane be used if their Neapolitan Mastiff needs to be put under general anesthesia. This breed does not tolerate hot weather well.
The Neapolitan Mastiff, weighing in at 200 pounds can be an imposing figure. They move in a slow, lumbered fashion and can strike fear into the hearts of passers-by, but they are really judy big babies with hearts of gold. Make no mistake, the Mastino (as lovers of the breed call them) is a guard dog and will fiercely protect the ones he loves, but day-to-day they are giant love bugs who want nothing more than love and attention. They often want to be lap dogs, and will try their hardest to score a place on the couch or in your bed, despite the fact that they can't fit. Mastinos form deep bonds with their favorite people, following them from room to room like a shadow. They are loving and patient with children, and are happy to provide a place for kids to prop themselves up to watch television. Their massive size isn't for everyone, but for those who have plenty of room and lots of love to give, Mastinos make excellent family companions.
As Mastinos grow up, they are much more interested in lounging around the house than romping around outside, and you may have to coax him to get up and move around. They don't require much exercise to maintain health, but you should walk your Neo a few times a day. Though they are quiet and fairly sedentary indoors, they are much too large to live in an apartment or condo, unless you happen to live in a sprawling penthouse.
Mastinos can be quite challenging to train, so lessons should begin as early as possible. This giant breed can exhibit dominance, so firm, calm-assertive leadership is a must at all times. They respond best to lots of adoring praise and treats, and will shut down completely if treated harshly.
Socialization should also begin early. Neos are naturally suspicious of outsiders and have a strong protective urge. It is important that he learn early on how welcome guests behave, so that he knows the difference between friend and foe.
Mastions are not generally aggressive toward other animals, but they will posture and make a lot of noise if an strange animal trespasses on his property. Problems arise when the other dog postures back. Mastinos are not fight starters, but they will not back down if challenged. Socializing your puppy around other animals can help prevent this problem, but it is best that Mastinos not be left off-leash.
Neapolitan Mastiffs make a lot of noise and create a lot of mess. They snort, snore, grunt, slobber and have notoriously offensive flatulence. They make a terrible mess around their water dish and do not make the best housemates for neat freaks.
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 essence of the Neapolitan is his bestial appearance, astounding head and imposing size and attitude. Due to his massive structure, his characteristic movement is rolling and lumbering, not elegant or showy.
Size, Proportion, Substance
A stocky, heavy boned dog, massive in substance, rectangular in proportion. Length of body is 10% - 15% greater than height. Height: Dogs: 26 to 31 inches, Bitches: 24 to 29 inches. Average weight of mature Dogs: 150 pounds; Bitches: 110 pounds; but greater weight is usual and preferable as long as correct proportion and function are maintained.
The absence of massiveness is to be so severely penalized as to eliminate from competition.
Large in comparison to the body. Differentiated from that of other mastiff breeds by more extensive wrinkling and pendulous lips which blend into an ample dewlap. Toplines of cranium and the muzzle must be parallel. The face is made up of heavy wrinkles and folds. Required folds are those extending from the outside margin of the eyelids to the dewlap, and from under the lower lids to the outer edges of the lips. Severe Faults: Toplines of the cranium and muzzle not parallel. Disqualifications: Absence of wrinkles and folds. Expression: Wistful at rest, intimidating when alert. Penetrating stare. Eyes: Set deep and almost hidden beneath drooping upper lids. Lower lids droop to reveal haw. Eye Color: Shades of amber or brown, in accordance with coat color. Pigmentation of the eye rims same as coat color. Severe Faults: Whitish-blue eyes; incomplete pigmentation of the eye rims. Ears: Set well above the cheekbones. May be cropped or uncropped, but are usually cropped to an equilateral triangle for health reasons. If uncropped, they are medium sized, triangular in shape, held tight to the cheeks, and not extending beyond the lower margin of the throat. Skull: Wide flat between the ears, slightly arched at the frontal part, and covered with wrinkled skin. The width of the cranium between the cheekbones is approximately equal to its length from occiput stop. The brow is very developed. Frontal furrow is marked. Occiput is barely apparent. Stop: Very defined, forming a right angle at the junction of muzzle and frontal bones, and the sloping back at a greater angle where the frontal bones meet the frontal furrow of the forehead. Nose: Large with well-opened nostrils, and in color the same as the coat. The nose is an extension of the topline of the muzzle and should not protrude beyond nor recede behind the front plane of the muzzle. Severe Faults: Incomplete pigmentation of the nose. Muzzle: It is 1/3 the length of the whole head and is as broad as it is long. Viewed from the front, the muzzle is very deep with the outside borders parallel giving it a "squared" appearance. The top plane of the muzzle from stop to tip of nose is straight, but is ridged due to heavy folds of skin covering it. Severe Faults: Top plane of the muzzle curved upward or downward. Lips: Heavy, thick, and long, the upper lips join beneath the nostrils to form an inverted "V". The upper lips form the lower, outer borders of the muzzle, and the lowest part of these borders is made by the corners of the lips. The corners turn outward to reveal the flews, and are in line with the outside corners of the eyes. Bite: Scissors bite or pincer bite is standard; slight undershot is allowed. Dentition is complete. Faults: More than 1 missing premolar. Severe faults: Overshot jaw: pronounced undershot jaw which disrupts the outline of the front plane of the muzzle; more than 2 missing teeth.
Neck, Topline, And Body
Neck: Slightly arched, rather short, stocky and well-muscled. The voluminous and well-divided dewlap extends from the lower jaw to the lower neck. Disqualification: Absence of dewlap. Body: The length of the dog, measured from the point of the shoulder to the point of buttock is 10 - 15 percent greater than the height of the dog measured from the highest point of the shoulder to the ground. Depth of the ribcage is equal to half the total height of the dog. Ribs are long and well sprung. Chest: Broad and deep, well muscled. Underline and tuckup: The underline of the abdomen is practically horizontal. There is little or no tuckup. Back: Wide and strong. Highest part of shoulder blade barely rising above the strong, level topline of the back. Loin: well-muscled, and harmoniously joined to the back. Croup: Wide, strong, muscular and slightly sloped. The top of the croup rises slightly and is level with the highest point of the shoulder. Tail: Set on slightly lower than the topline, wide and thick at the root, tapering gradually toward the tip. It is docked by 1/3. At rest, the tail hangs straight or in slight "S" shape. When in action, it is raised to the horizontal or a little higher than the back. Severe Fault: Tail carried straight up or curved over the back. Kinked tail. Disqualification: Lack of tail or short tail, which is less than 1/3 the length from point of insertion of the tail to the hock - joint.
Heavily built, muscular, and in balance with the hindquarters. Shoulders: Long, well-muscled, sloping and powerful. Upper arms: Strongly muscled, powerful. In length, almost 1/3 the height of the dog. Elbows: Covered with abundant and loose skin; held parallel to the ribcage, neither tied in nor loose. Forelegs: Thick, straight, heavy bone, well muscled, exemplifying strength. About the same length as the upper arms. Set well apart. Pasterns: Thick and flattened from front to back, moderately sloping forward from the leg. Dewclaws: Front dewclaws are not removed. Feet: Round and noticeably large with arched, strong toes. Nails strong, curved and preferably dark-colored. Slight turn out of the front feet is characteristic.
As a whole, they must be powerful and strong, in harmony with the forequarters. Thighs: About the same length as the forearms, broad, muscular. Stifles: Moderate angle, strong. Legs: Heavy and thick boned, well-muscled. Slightly shorter than thigh bones. Hocks: Powerful and long. Rear pasterns: (metatarsus) Heavy thick bones. Viewed from the side, they are perpendicular to the ground. Viewed from, the rear, parallel to each other. Rear dewclaws: Any dewclaws must be removed. Hind feet: Same as the front feet but slightly smaller.
The coat is short, dense and of uniform length and smoothness all over the body. The hairs are straight and not longer than 1 inch. No fringe anywhere.
Solid coats of gray (blue), black, mahogany and tawny, and the lighter and darker shades of these colors. Some brindling allowable in all colors. When present, brindling must be tan (reverse brindle). There may be solid white markings on the chest, throat area from chin to chest, underside of the body, penis sheath, backs of the pasterns, and on the toes. There may be white hairs at the back of the wrists. Disqualifications: White markings on any part of the body not mentioned as allowed.
The Neapolitan Mastiff's movement is not flashy, but rather slow and lumbering. Normal gaits are the walk, trot, gallop, and pace. The strides are long and elastic, at the same time, powerful, characterized by a long push from the hindquarters and extension of the forelegs. Rolling motion and swaying of the body at all gaits is characteristic. Pacing in the show ring is not to be penalized. Slight paddling movement of the front feet is normal. The head is carried level with or slightly above the back.
The Neapolitan Mastiff is steady and loyal to his owner, not aggressive or apt to bite without reason. As a protector of his property and owners, he is always watchful and does not relish intrusion by strangers into his personal space. His attitude is calm yet wary. In the show ring he is majestic and powerful, but not showy.
The foregoing description is that of the ideal Neapolitan Mastiff. Any deviation from the above described dog must be penalized to the extent of the deviation.
Absence of wrinkles and folds
Absence of dewlap
Lack of tail or short tail, which is less than 1/3 the length from point of insertion of the tail to the hock.
White markings on any part of the body not mentioned.
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Sources: American Kennel Club