A direct descendent of the Roman Molossus, the Neapolitan Mastiff has existed since antiquity. Originally used to guard person and property, the Neapolitan Mastiff established a concrete reputation for itself as a fearless guardian dog, capable of defending its master and itself, usually on the farmstead and battlefield. The Neapolitan Mastiff was also used in bull, bear and jaguar baiting, being highly prized for its game mentality, and was often observed in the gruesome Roman arena. Due to its strength, confidence and prowess, the Neapolitan was bred for use in war, helping to protect its master from the enemy as well as attacking independently. Today, the breed is still widely seen as a police and army dog in native Italy, also being owned by those with large estates who require a dependable guard dog to overlook livestock and property.
Solid and serious, the Neapolitan Mastiff boasts strong legs of moderate length, a deep chest for aiding stamina, a broad head with a deep, square-cut muzzle and medium-length pendant ears. Characteristically robust rather than tall, the Neapolitan Mastiff is impressive in size and stature. The short single coat is typically coloured black, grey, blue, tawny, brindle or mahogany, with chocolate-coloured Mastiffs being particularly rare. White markings are generally accepted on the feet and chest, although never on the face. Abundant, hanging skin further characterises the breed, especially on the head and muzzle. Neapolitan Mastiff puppies are typically born with blue eyes, although this colour darkens as the dog matures. The Neapolitan is typically lumbering, and does not require intense exercise.
Often described as a 'gentle giant' by Mastiff owners, the breed is deceptive in appearance, suggesting a fierce fighter dog, whilst being inherently quite the opposite. Responding fearlessly if danger threatens, acting to protect both its family and home, the Neapolitan Mastiff will otherwise remain docile, gentle and mannered, displaying a pleasant and easy-going temperament that makes it well suited to relaxed domestic living. Devoted to children, the Neapolitan makes a great breed choice for families. On average, a fully grown Neapolitan Mastiff will weigh up to 75 kg with large discrepancies across gender, with a life expectancy of 8-10 years. In order to discourage disobedient, stubborn or over-protective behaviours, a Neapolitan Mastiff benefits from firm but fair leadership, consistent training and early socialisation with people and other animals.
The Neapolitan Mastiff is susceptible to certain ailments, including hip dysplasia and associated orthopedic complaints, as well as several optical disorders. Additionally, the Neapolitan is prone to various cancers and mast-cell tumours, as well as cardiac diseases including pulmonic stenosis and mitral dysplasia. Skin allergies are well documented in the breed due to its deeply wrinkled skin that renders it unsuited to particularly warm climates. As with most large dog breeds, bloat and gastric tortion are very prevalent, two potentially fatal conditions if left untreated for any length of time.