Let's talk Neapolitan Mastiffs

“Massive” and “wrinkly” may be the adjectives that spring to mind when you first encounter a Neapolitan Mastiff but once you get to know this lovely breed, you’ll be adding “affectionate”, “gentle” and “good-natured” to the list. These huge, majestic-looking dogs come from southern Italy and date their origins back thousands of years. Nowadays, once trained they make placid family pets – not to mention loyal guard dogs as they’re naturally wary of strangers.

Official name: Neapolitan Mastiff

Other names: Mastino Napolitano, Italian Mastiff

Origins: 

Close-up of Neapolitan Mastiff looking at camera in black and white
 Drooling tendencies

Very high

Warm weather?
 Shedding level Medium
Suited to apartment living? 
 Energy Level (high, low, medium)* Medium Family Pet?* 
Very high
 Compatibility with other pets
Can stay alone?* Very low

 * We advise against leaving pets alone for long stretches. Companionship can prevent emotional distress and destructive behaviour. Speak to your veterinarian for recommendations.

Every pet is different, even within a breed; this snapshot of this breed specifics should be taken as an indication.
 
For a happy healthy and well-behaved pet, we recommend educating and socializing your pet as well as covering their basic welfare needs (and their social and behavioral needs).
 
Pets should never be left unsupervised with a child.
 
Contact your breeder or veterinarian for further advice.
 
All domestic pets are sociable and prefer company.  However, they can be taught to cope with solitude from an early age.  Seek the advice of your veterinarian or trainer to help you do this.

 
Inline Image 15
Illustration of Neapolitan Mastiff
Male
65 - 75 cm Height
60 - 70 kg Weight
Female
60 - 68 cm Height
50 - 60 kg Weight

 

 Baby age  Birth to 2 months
 Puppy age  2 to 8 months
 Adult age  8 months to 2 years
 Mature age  2 to 5 years
 Senior age  from 5 years

Neapolitan Mastiff standing in snow

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Get to know the Neapolitan Mastiff

All you need to know about the breed

Loyal, affectionate and placid Neapolitan Mastiffs – “Neos” to their friends – make a wonderful addition to any family. Well … any family that has space for these outsize dogs to spread out their huge limbs and that doesn’t mind a bit (okay, a lot) of drool on the soft furnishings.

That drooling may be the only real downside to owning one of these majestic dogs, which hail from southern Italy and are instantly recognisable, with their extravagantly wrinkly appearance and distinctive lumbering gait.

Despite their huge size, Neapolitan Mastiffs do not need a huge amount of exercise – as long as they have regular walks or a garden or yard to patrol, they are content to loll around inside, staying close to their human families.

Although fans of the Neapolitan Mastiff know that once trained, they are big softies, to the uninitiated their sheer size means they can look quite intimidating – that has led to the breed carving out quite the niche as guard dogs, a role they are well-suited to, with their reputation for being loyal to their own humans but wary of strangers.

Neapolitan Mastiff lying on grass

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2 facts about Neapolitan Mastiffs

1. Harry Potter and the Neapolitan Mastiff

After thousands of years of existence, the Neapolitan Mastiff breed’s moment of international fame, surprisingly, came in the early 2000s, when the breed was chosen to embody the imposing but timid-natured Fang, canine companion to half-giant, half-wizard Rubeus Hagrid in the Harry Potter films.

2. WHaM!

WHaM stands for Wrinkles, Head and Mass – the acronym coined to help dog show judges known what to look out for when the Neapolitan Mastiff was a newly recognised breed in the US. Yes, it’s also the name of the 1980s pop group behind such hits as Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go but there’s no connection (although the Neapolitan Mastiff’s reputation for drooling gives the hit single Careless Whisper something of a new resonance).

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History of the breed

Neapolitan Mastiffs are undoubtedly an ancient breed – their distant ancestors are thought to date back to around 3,000 BC. The forerunners of the breed as we know it today are thought to be the result of ancient crosses between giant dogs from Europe and short haired breeds from Asia–masterminded by Alexander the Great, according to some versions of the story. The Neapolitan Mastiff breed was present in Italy during the Roman Empire, where these noble canines were put to use as guard dogs, war dogs and even as part of gladiatorial combats. Thankfully, for these gentle canines, those fighting days are well and truly over.

The breed has evolved into a sturdy and reliable guardian of homes and a much-loved companion of families. Despite its ancient origins, the Neapolitan Mastiff breed only began to be bred in an organised way in Italy after the second world war, with a standard set out in 1948, recognition by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale in 1949 and recognition by the American Kennel Club, finally, in 2004.

Neapolitan Mastiff puppy sitting looking up in black and white

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From head to tail

Physical characteristics of Neapolitan Mastiffs

1. Head

Massive head, wrinkly skin folds and relatively small ears.

2. Coat

Short, smooth coat in grey, black, brown or red.

3. Body

Stately build with a long thick tail tapering to the end.

Side view close-up of black Neapolitan Mastiff puppy

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Things to look out for

From specific breed traits to a general health overview, here are some interesting facts about your Neapolitan Mastiff
Neapolitan Mastiff looking at camera

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Caring for your Neapolitan Mastiff

Grooming, training and exercise tips

Short-coated Neapolitan Mastiffs don’t need a huge amount of grooming. They do benefit from a bath from time to time (they may not agree with this statement … and the experience of manhandling as much as 70kg (154 lb) of wet dog may not be a dog-owning highlight for their human either). It’s also a good idea to regularly clean their skin folds and their ears with a damp cloth – but make sure you dry thoroughly afterwards to prevent inflammation. Although calm in adulthood, like any other breed, Neapolitan Mastiffs require regular exercise, even if they don’t need a huge amount of it. They have sensitive joints and can be prone to overheating, so they shouldn’t be allowed to overdo the running. Patient, consistent training is important to make sure these oversized canines fit in calmly and contentedly with their human families and in everyday situations. Neapolitan Mastiffs are known for their stubborn streak – which makes it all the more important to begin that training early.

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All about Neapolitan Mastiffs

Neapolitan Mastiffs are not known to be aggressive, and once trained get on well with their humans. However, without proper socialisation from a young age they can be wary of other dogs and strangers. All dogs need firm, consistent training from puppyhood, but with a breed of this size making sure your dog is well-behaved is even more important.

Yes! As long as you have space to accommodate these outsize canines, their placid and affectionate natures make them ideally suited to family life. Once trained, Neapolitan Mastiffs are known to be gentle with children, although like any other breed, especially big ones, they should not be left alone with them.

Other breeds that might interest you.

Sources

1 - Veterinary Centers of America https://vcahospitals.com/ 

2 - Royal Canin Dog Encyclopaedia. Ed 2010 and 2020

3 - Banfield Pet Hospital https://www.banfield.com/

4 - Royal Canin BHN Product Book

5 - American Kennel Club https://www.akc.org/