The Neapolitan Mastiff – the Ancient Defender

Mastino Napoletano, or the Neapolitan Mastiff dog breed is huge, standing at 24 to 31 inches and weighing in at a remarkable 110 to 150 pounds. If size were anything to go by, and at first glance, anyone who is not familiar with a mastiff is in for a mouth dropping look, at the very least. These gigantic bundles of loyalty come in hues of black, blue, mahogany, and tawny in color, or may also be brindled. Their life expectancy is 8 to 10 years and probably one of the quietest giant breeds around.

Neapolitan Mastiff History

The Greeks

The mastiff is a dog purposefully bred for its fearful looks to scare away intruders, however make no mistake with its immense strength: this breed can and will be a formidable opponent to anyone who dares to face it. Its huge head houses powerful vise-like jaws, and strong teeth that don’t let go. The breed is said to have descended from the now-extinct Molossus (from the ancient Greek tribal kingdom of Molossia who inhabited the region of Epirus). Other accounts trace the Neapolitan mastiff, back to the giant war dogs of the Middle East and Asia that were used to protect homes and livestock, and fight men, lions, and elephants in battle.

Another speculation revolves around the origin of the Molossus itself. It is speculated that around 330 BC Alexander the Great came upon these impressive, giant Macedonian war dogs during his conquests, and sent some back home. Alexander was the son of a Molossian princess Olympias and that is how they began to be associated with the region. Alexander supposedly cross bed the Molossus with a short hair Indian breed, bringing it closer to the Mastino we know today.

The Romans

Later Romans began to use the Molossus and its derived breeds as their combat and guard dogs. They also cross bred them, some produced by using even larger giant dogs leading us to the Mastiff.

The Neapolitans

Farmers in southern Italy selectively bred the Mastiff, developing a giant with loose, saggy jowls and hide and a smooth coat. In their selective breeding they choose gentler breeds so that the huge animal could be kept to protect home and hearth, and still be safe for the family. This was the Neapolitan mastiff, named after Naples, its city of origin.


Despite their formidable looks, hanging jowls and mournful eyes, a well-trained mastiff is a loving companion. However, socializing must begin when the animal is a pup. Since it was raised and used for centuries as a guard dog that fearless protectiveness remains inherently a part of its nature. It is a devoted animal, heroically loyal to its family and home and gently affectionate towards children. Although it makes sense not to leave a child unattended with even the gentlest of dogs, because of their sheer size and weight. The Neapolitan Mastiff is suspicious of strangers, and stays wary of infrequent visitors: which isn’t such a bad thing. They will not attack unprovoked.

Mastino Napoletano
Neapolitan Mastiff

Upkeep and Care


Though the Neo would rather lounge around the house, walking them twice a day is good for their joint health, especially considering their weight. Because they are so heavy, over-exerting them physically especially as pups may damage their joints. Pups are playful and eager, so must be carefully monitored while running or jumping, also stairs can be dangerous as a fall can harm and damage their bones. Also they get over-heated very easily, so keep them in cool areas of the house or yard. Any training for a mastiff, must begin in their pup days, as older dogs tend to be complacent, often stubborn and may not learn well. Socialize them by taking them to public spaces, to teach them how to interact with strangers without aggression.

Older Dogs

The Mastino drools. A lot. And when they shake their heads their drool flips on to floors and walls, and ceilings. Plus they are not neat eaters, and are likely to trail food around the house. So it helps to feed them in a designated outer space where they can pig out. Give them a weekly brushing to remove dead skin and shedding hair. Make sure their wrinkled folds are dry and sweat free and keep several rags in strategic places where your mastiff enjoys spending time, to wipe up the drool.

In return you will have a faithful loyal companion that would willingly be by your side till the end. The Neo is a great family dog, that requires space to live, and an apartment or cramped areas will not suit it. But if you have a little space in your home and a lot in your hart, the Mastino will make his home there. Forever.