- Breed group — Working group (American Kennel Club)
- Height — 24-31 inches
- Weight — 110-200 pounds
- Coat length & texture — Short, shiny fur with characteristic loose skin folds
- Coat color — Solid gray, black, mahogany, or tawny, or with tan brindling, with occasional white markings on the chest, neck, underside of the body, and toes.
- Exercise needs — Moderate
- Intelligence — Moderate
- Barking — Rarely
- Life span — 7-9 years
- Temperament — Fearless, protective, stubborn, and aloof
- Hypoallergenic — No
- Origin — Naples, Italy
Neapolitan mastiff fun facts
- Neapolitan mastiffs are gigantic dogs that don’t know it. They’re generally clumsy and often have trouble navigating staircases, especially as puppies.
- The Neapolitan mastiff is one of the oldest breeds around. They were used as guard dogs by the Roman Empire, and similar-looking dogs appeared in ancient artworks dating back to 3000 B.C.
- They aren’t very tidy. Neapolitan mastiffs are notorious for displaying behaviors that some owners might find off-putting, including slobbering, drooling, wheezing, grunting, snorting, and passing gas.
Neapolitan mastiff temperament and characteristics
Also referred to as the Neo or Mastino, the Neapolitan mastiff is a huge, fearless dog concerned about protecting its family. Gentle giants at home, they’re affectionate towards their owners and love showering them with slobbery kisses. However, they’re wary of unfamiliar people and animals. Neos are naturally great guard dogs ready to defend at a moment’s notice, but they rarely get aggressive unless provoked first. Because Neapolitan mastiffs require early training and socialization lessons, they’re best for experienced owners who can ease them into new interactions.
While Neapolitan mastiff puppies have higher energy levels, they become much calmer as they enter adulthood. Mastinos like playtime in short spurts, but they’re sometimes compared to cats for their tendency to sleep throughout the day (minus an hour or two of physical activity). They’re loyal and loving towards all family members, but they may accidentally knock over or step on small children without meaning to hurt them. Neapolitan mastiffs are also notorious droolers, pretty much guaranteed to leave marks on your floors, walls, and furniture.
Common Neapolitan mastiff health problems
Despite their massive size and relatively short lifespan of 7 to 9 years, Neapolitan mastiffs are a robust and healthy breed. However, they are predisposed to a few orthopedic and genetic conditions common in many giant breeds. Look out for these conditions in your Neo:
- Hip dysplasia. This genetic condition causes the hip’s ball and socket joint to develop improperly, preventing the thigh bone from fitting snugly in place. Symptoms of hip dysplasia include pain, discomfort, and stiffness while walking, and in more severe cases, lameness of one or both hind legs.
- Elbow dysplasia. This genetic condition occurs when the three bones that make up a dog’s elbow grow at different rates, causing the surrounding joints to not align together correctly.Elbow dysplasia is especially common among larger dog breeds. Affected dogs will be lame after exercise and won’t recover fully with just rest.
- Arthritis. This condition is characterized by a breakdown of the cartilage in your dog’s joints, and it can develop at any age. Arthritis can be caused by abnormal joint development, joint trauma, infections, immune system irregularities, or genetic factors.
- Cherry eye. An especially common issue among Mastinos, cherry eye occurs when the gland located in a dog’s third eyelid (officially known as the nictitating membrane ) protrudes, resembling a red, inflamed mass at the inner corner of the eye. Treat cherry eye as quickly as possible to minimize the risk of permanent damage to the eye. The good news is that most cases heal within a few weeks of the surgery.
- Gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV or bloat). Bloat is a sudden, life-threatening condition that affects all deep-chested dogs. While the exact cause remains unknown, it’s thought that bloat occurs when gasses build up inside a dog’s stomach and cause it to twist. Torsion like this causes shock to a dog’s body and can result in death in just a matter of minutes. Symptoms include vomiting, drooling, panting, pacing, and a hard-feeling stomach.
- Demodicosis. If your Neo has a weakened or compromised immune system, they can contract demodectic mange (aka demodicosis) from the tiny demodex canis mites that live in their hair follicles. There are three forms of demodectic mange: localized, generalized, and pododermatitis. Each results in the appearance of red, scaly skin on different parts of the body.
- Cleft palate. A condition in which the tissues separating the nose and mouth don’t grow together properly. Affected dogs are usually born with them, though many puppies born with cleft palates are either euthanized or don’t survive. A cleft palate can also develop later in life as a result of an injury.
- Fold dermatitis. A skin infection that causes redness, sores, and odor. Fold dermatitis is especially common in the wrinkly-skinned Neapolitan mastiff, so make sure to keep their folds clean and dry.
👉 When considering a Neapolitan mastiff dog, make sure to find a reputable breeder who tests their dogs to make sure they’re free of genetic diseases.
Cost of caring for a Neapolitan mastiff
The medical costs that come with caring for a giant dog can add up quickly, especially if surgery is required to treat an orthopedic issue. Hip dysplasia treatment typically costs $1,200 to $2,500, while surgery for elbow dysplasia can run you $1,500 to $4,000 per elbow. Cherry eye surgery is a bit less expensive but still averages between $300 and $800 per eye. In the case of bloat, veterinarians often recommend that giant breeds undergo preventative surgery to tack the stomach down. This procedure costs $400 on average, though emergency treatment for dog bloat is far more expensive, running anywhere from $1,500 to $7,500.
At $5,000 to $10,000, cleft palate treatment is one of the most expensive conditions on this list to treat. Repairing a cleft palate requires multiple surgeries by specialized veterinary dentists and surgeons, as well as post-op hospitalization. Skin conditions like demodectic mange and fold dermatitis are treated with inexpensive ointments and medications, but chronic conditions like arthritis require a combination of medicines, physical therapy, and sometimes, surgery. This comes out to at least a couple hundred dollars per year, though pet owners with health insurance may be able to cut down their out-of-pocket expenses.
Alternatively, consider opening a pet savings account with your bank to start saving for any unexpected medical costs your pooch might need in the future.
History of the Neapolitan mastiff
The Neapolitan mastiff’s origins date back to 3000 B.C., with artifacts from several ancient civilizations depicting strikingly similar-looking dogs. The Romans valued the breed’s towering frame and intimidating appearance, employing Mastinos as war dogs, gladiators, and guardians. The modern-day Neo is thought to have originated in the southern Italian city of Naples, where breeders had been working to create a massive dog with loose, heavy skin that would protect them from potential attacks.
While some sources claim that Italian immigrants may have brought the Neo to America as early as the 1880s, journalist Piere Scanziana is generally credited with introducing the Neapolitan mastiff to the rest of the world in 1946, when he first spotted the breed at a Naples dog show. Scanziana recognized the Mastino as a living remnant of the Roman Empire and immediately began working to make them more well-known. The Neo was recognized by the Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI) international dog registry in 1949, and by the early 1970s, they had made their way across the pond to the United States. Finally, in 2004, the American Kennel Club officially recognized the Neapolitan mastiff.
Caring for your Neapolitan mastiff
Whether your dog’s gigantic, teeny-tiny, or any size in between, caring for a new puppy of any breed can be overwhelming. On top of tending to their day-to-day needs like exercise, grooming, and diet, you’ll need to make your first trip to the vet and schedule your dog’s vaccinations. Before you have a big, slobbering Mastino running your home, you’ll also want to puppy-proof your home and prepare for teething. And while no one likes to think about losing their new dog, FidoAlert provides a free Fido ID and tag so you can easily track them down if they go missing.
For such a big breed, the Neapolitan mastiff has surprisingly low exercise needs. Because they’re so big and heavily built, they tend to overheat easily, and their joints can be easily damaged from running and quick turning. Adult Neos should get a couple of short to moderate walks each day — just remember to go slow and bring lots of water in warm weather. Neos do best in homes with fenced backyards that they can patrol. They can do well with apartment or condo living when there’s enough room inside to stretch out, though homes with no outdoor space aren’t typically recommended.
Neo puppies have a lot more energy than adults, and there may be times when they want to play past their physical limitations. This makes it extremely important for owners to limit their dog’s exercise to short walks, free running, and play to protect their bones and joints from too much stress while they’re still developing. Stairs also pose a falling hazard to clumsy Mastino puppies.
Avoid roughhousing with your Neapolitan mastiff puppy. It’s cute and fun when they’re puppies, but a fully grown Neo can easily hurt you without meaning to.
The Neapolitan mastiff has a short, dense coat that’s easy to care for. In most cases, they’ll only need a bath now and then (which is good news for you, since you will be getting wet when it comes time to bathe your Mastino). Neos also shed an average amount, and they should be given a weekly brushing with a bristle brush or hound glove to get rid of any loose or dead hair. You can make this process more enjoyable for you and your dog by introducing them to brushing and grooming at an early age.
Since Neapolitan mastiffs are prone to skin infections , keep their folds clean and dry by wiping them down daily, starting with a damp cloth, then finishing with a dry one. Check your Neo’s eyes and ears during grooming and gently clean them with a damp cloth or paper towel when necessary. Brush your dog’s teeth 2 to 3 times a week (daily is better) to get rid of unwanted plaque and bacteria, and trim their nails once or twice a month to keep them short.
Diet and nutrition
Neapolitan mastiffs need ample amounts of fresh water and food to thrive. The recommended daily amount for an adult Neo is 4 to 6 cups of high-quality dog food formulated for large breeds with medium energy levels. Since Neos tend to gain weight, split their food into two daily meals. Experienced Mastino breeders recommend food that’s slightly higher in fat and lower in protein, especially for younger dogs that grow quickly. Each dog’s dietary needs will differ depending on its age, build, metabolism, and activity level, so make sure to consult a vet to get the best nutritional plan for your dog.
Training your Neapolitan mastiff
Neapolitan mastiffs are known to get more stubborn as they enter adolescence, so start training your Neo as early as possible (preferably while they’re still a puppy). It’s important to think past puppyhood when training your Mastino — or any other giant breed, for that matter. If you don’t want them on the furniture as a fully-grown, 100-plus pound adult, teach them to keep off it while they’re still small enough to manage.
Neos learn best under confident, assertive trainers, but they also need lots of positive reinforcement to help them learn. Offer praise, play, and treats when your Neo gets a behavior right, and refrain from being too stern when they get it wrong. Neapolitan mastiffs do not respond well to harsh training.
Breeds similar to the Neapolitan mastiff
Not quite sure that a Neapolitan mastiff is right for you? Even if you are, it’s worth taking the time to research and consider other similar breeds. Here are a few to get you started:
- Great Dane. Like the Neapolitan mastiff, the Great Dane is a massive breed that makes for an intimidating family guardian. They’re also pretty low maintenance when it comes to grooming.
- Cane Corso. This breed also comes from the ancient Italian molossus dogs. Cane Corsi are territorial dogs that are naturally averse to strangers, but they love spending time with their families. They’re also good with kids.
- English mastiff. Another member of the mastiff family, the English mastiff is even bigger than the Neo. They have far fewer rolls on their skin than their Italian counterparts, but their temperament is just as laid-back.
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Frequently asked questions
Is the Neapolitan mastiff aggressive?
While Neapolitan mastiffs are sweet and loving around their owners, they’re known to get protective around strangers. Your Neo may exhibit aggressive behavior towards people and animals outside your family if improperly trained and socialized from an early age.
Is a Neapolitan mastiff a Cane Corso?
No. Though Neapolitan mastiffs and Cane Corsi descend from the ancient Roman molossus dog, they’re two distinct breeds.
Do Neapolitan mastiffs bark a lot?
No. Despite their size and appearance, Neapolitan mastiffs are quiet dogs that won’t bark unless they’re stressed, startled, or bored.
How strong is a Neapolitan mastiff’s bite?
Very. Neapolitan mastiffs have one of the strongest bites across all dog breeds, with a recorded force of about 550 psi (pounds per square inch). For reference, the American pit bull terrier’s bite force is only 235 psi.
Are Neapolitan mastiffs good for first-time dog owners?
No. Due to their size and tendency to act aggressively towards strangers if not trained properly, Neapolitan mastiffs are best for experienced pet owners. Novice pet owners should look into different breeds.