Native to Italy, the Neapolitan Mastiff is most likely a descendant of the war and fighting dogs used by the Ancient Romans. Renowned internationally for its unique and ferocious appearance and strong protective instincts, the Neapolitan Mastiff is well-suited to life as a guard dog. The Neapolitan Mastiff was at one point in danger of becoming extinct, but has been saved by a number of dedicated fanciers. The Neapolitan Mastiff is also known as the Mastino Napoletano, Italian Mastiff, Mastino, or Neo. It is common to refer to multiple Neapolitan Mastiffs as Mastini.
The Neapolitan Mastiff is a member of a group of dogs commonly known as Molossers or Mastiff-type dogs. This group contains a large number of breeds from many countries, and is one of the most ancient breed types. However, there is no other group of breeds whose history is so disputed. All that is known for sure is that these dogs were spread throughout the Roman Empire either by the Romans themselves or an invading barbarian tribe. There are dozens of theories on the origin of Molossers, but they fall into five major groupings: Molossers are Middle Eastern in origin, Molossers are Central Asian in Origin, Molossers are Greek in origin, Molossers are British in origin, or Molossers originated with the Alans.
Many believe that the first Mastiff-type dogs originated in Mesopotamia and Egypt. These neighboring locations were among the first places where humans practiced agriculture and lived in settled villages. One problem that these first farmers encountered was protecting their herds of sheep, goats, and cattle from wolves, human raiders, and other predators. In response to this need they developed large guardian dogs to fulfill the role of protector while the owner was away. The constantly growing empires quickly realized that these powerful, loyal, and protective animals could also be put to other uses and so they became property guardians and war dogs as well. Artifacts and ruins from both Egypt and Mesopotamia depict war and guardian dogs that closely resemble modern-day Mastiffs. As agriculture and empires continued to spread across Europe and Asia, so did the early Mastiff. The descendants of these dogs gave rise to the modern Molossers.
It is known that the Phoenicians had large guard dogs thought to resemble Mastiffs, and it is commonly said that Phoenician traders were primarily responsible for spreading them across the Mediterranean. In recent years, this theory has been cast into doubt. Modern research suggests that there are actually two groups of giant guardian breeds, the Molossers which are the traditional Mastiff-type dogs and the Lupomolossoids which consists of breeds such as the Great Pyrenees, Akbash Dog, and Kuvasz. The Lupomolossoids were probably the more ancient of the two varieties, and are most likely the true descendants of the Egyptian and Mesopotamian dogs. Initially, Lupomolossoids were found over most of Europe, but were largely replaced in Roman times by true Molossers, surviving only in a few remote areas.
Most dog experts believe that the traditional-Mastiff type dog is a native of Central Asia. Most proponents of this theory believe that the Tibetan people developed Mastiffs, although some believe it was the many peoples of the Caucasus. The Tibetan Mastiff is certainly an ancient breed, with a written and pictorial history that goes back thousands of years. Recent genetic tests conducted both in China and the West have confirmed that the Tibetan Mastiff is one of the oldest of all dog breeds. Some say it was developed in Tibet, others that it was brought from the Caucasus Mountains. Many, perhaps most, dog researchers believe that the Tibetan Mastiff is the progenitor of all other Mastiff breeds, and that traders and conquerors along the silk road transported the breed or its descendants from China to the Roman Empire. The Romans quickly saw the value of this breed and used them as war dogs and guardians, spreading them across the empire. This theory has also been put to doubt recently. Some dog experts believe that the Tibetan Mastiff is not a Molosser at all, but is either in a group by itself or is an Eastern Lupomolossoid. There is also a lack of historical evidence connecting the Tibetan Mastiff with Europe. There is, however, better evidence connecting Caucasian dogs such as the many breeds of Owtcharka and the Armenian Gampr to Western Europe, but nothing which is anywhere near conclusive. This theory does not take into account the substantial written and pictorial evidence for Mastiff-type dogs from both Europe and the Near East from a very early date.
Traditionally, it was believed that the Mastiffs descend from a breed known as the Molossus, hence the term Molosser. The Molossus was famous throughout Rome. The Molossus was certainly the primary war dog of the Roman Army, a property and livestock guardian, a skilled hunter, and a participant in gladiatorial games. It is universally agreed that the Molossus was a native of Epirus, now Northwestern Greece and Southern Albania. The area was home to a number of tribes, of which the Molossi were the most famous and powerful. One of the reasons for the dominance of the Molossi tribe was their ferocious war and guardian dogs, animals that were feared throughout Greece. The breed was mentioned by both Aristophanes and Aristotle.
How the Molossi came by these dogs is disputed. Some claim that they developed them themselves, others that they were brought by Phoenician traders. The most widely-held theory is that Molossi soldiers serving with other Greeks in the Persian Wars took Persian war dogs as loot back home with them. The Molossi and other Epirean tribes chose to fight against Rome in a war. In retaliation, the Romans conquered Epirus and enslaved many of its people. The Romans were so impressed by the Molossus that their armies used the breed for the rest of the Empire’s history. Later, the Molossus was used as a livestock and property guardian throughout the Empire as well. The breed was perhaps most renowned for its success in the gladiatorial ring where they fought men, other dogs, bulls, bears, lions, tigers, leopards, and other beasts. For many years it was believed that the Molossus was the progenitor of all of the Molosser breeds.
Unfortunately, there is very little visual evidence of the Molossus, and written accounts are conflicting. Some authors described them as small, others as large and even light. Two of the most common descriptions were agile and fast, not Mastiff characteristics. Most Roman depictions show dogs which are considerably smaller than modern Molossers, and are also not of Mastiff-type. One statue known as the Jenning’s Dog is typically thought to be a Molossus and in some ways resembles a Mastiff. However, the size of the live dog cannot be determined from the statue. Due to this conflicting evidence, many dog experts believe that the Molossus was not a true Molosser at all, but rather a medium-sized multi-purpose breed, similar to either a Catahoula Leopard Dog or American Pit Bull Terrier. Some researchers even believe that the Molossus may have been a sighthound such as a Greyhound or Saluki. It is also very possible that the Molossus may have been a type of dog with many different breeds such as a Terrier or Hound, rather than an individual breed. It has also been postulated that the Molossus was one breed that was incredibly variable, much like the American Bull Dog, American Pit Bull Terrier, or Catahoula Leopard Dog.
Those who believe that the Molossus was not a Mastiff think that other breeds were the ancestor of modern Molossers. However, there are a few modern day breeds from the regions in the Balkan near Epirus which resemble Molossers and meet the description of a smaller lighter dog. These breeds are also nearly identical to the Jennings dog and may be the closest modern descendant’s of the ancient Molossus. The two best known of these Balkan breeds are the Illyrian Sheepdog or Sarplaninac and the Istrian Sheepdog. One point that must be made is that although most modern-day Mastiff breeds are gigantic in size and not particularly athletic, this may be the result of very recent breeding preferences. Some breeds which are indisputably Molossers are quite lithe and athletic and may be closer to the ancestral form, breeds such as the Great Dane, Cane Corso, Boxer, American Bulldog, and Dogo Argentino.
Those who doubt that the Molossus was a Mastiff most commonly believe that Mastiff-type dogs originated in Britain. These dogs were then either developed by the Celtic people or were brought by Phoenician traders. After the Romans conquered the southern part of Great Britain, they would have carried the Mastiff throughout the Empire. Many records show that one of the most important exports from Roman Britain was the island’s dogs. However, these records do not describe what these dogs were. There is tremendous debate over these British dogs among modern day researchers. Most believe that these British dogs were Mastiff-type war dogs. Some claim that the British used these fighting dogs against Roman forces, while others claim that this was not so.
Some sources say that Caesar himself lauded the British war dogs, and others doubt this claim. Some believe that the dogs exported from England fought successfully against the Molossus in the gladiatorial ring, while others say that authors were merely comparing the breeds. Most of the descriptions of the British dogs do say that they were hunting dogs, leading many writers to believe that these dogs were not Mastiffs at all, but were in fact either Terriers or Hounds similar to a modern English Foxhound or Harrier. It is very possible that the dogs exported from Britain were both hunters and war dogs. There is in fact a very ancient Celtic breed which has long been renowned as both a hunter and a war animal, although it is not a Mastiff. That breed is now commonly known as the Irish Wolfhound, and would certainly have greatly impressed the Romans upon first contact.
A growing number of dog researchers believe that the Mastiffs were not spread across Europe by the Romans at all, but rather by a barbarian people known as the Alans. The Alans were a nomadic tribe related to Persians who eventually settled into Eastern Europe. The Alans were known for their skilled horsemanship and ferocious war-dogs known as Alaunts. Alanian tribesmen fought alongside many of the other barbarian tribes who invaded Rome such as the Vandals. Many settled in the Roman Empire, primarily the Western Region. Wherever the Alans went, they brought Alaunts with them. Although not much is known about the original Alaunt, it is believed that the breed was similar to other livestock guardian breeds from the original homeland of the Alans, such as the Armenian Gampr and Caucasian Owtcharkas. In the Middle Ages, there were many different dog breeds and varieties known as Alaunts, found in several countries particularly Spain and France.
There is a breed of dog from Spain which is still known as an Alaunt, the Alano Espanol. The Alano Espanol is clearly a Molosser, although not a massive one. It is very possible that none of these breeds descended from the original Alaunt, and that the name Alaunt just came to be synonymous with any war dog. It is almost certain that not all Alaunts were related, as some were clearly Molossers and others were clearly not. For example, the early descriptions of some Alaunts are nearly identical to that of a sighthound. While there are currently fewer reasons to doubt the Alaunt’s connection to modern Molossers, there has also been less research done. This theory would not seem to take into account earlier depictions and descriptions of Mastiff-type dogs. However, it may explain the distribution of Molossers. There are a number of Molossers from the western regions of the Roman Empire where most Alans settled, particularly Spain, but there are almost no Molossers from the eastern part of the Roman Empire where there was little Alanian settlement, such as Greece.
All five of these theories are all currently held by a number of researchers, and all have good evidence which both supports and disproves them. Barring the discovery of new evidence or intensive genetic studies, the whole truth will probably never be known. In the humble opinion of this writer, the truth is probably some mixture of all of them. One possibly scenario would be as follows. Guardian and war dogs were developed in the Middle East many thousands of years ago. These dogs eventually arrived in both Central Asia and Epirus, either through trade or conquest. The Molossi tribe developed them carefully until they became a breed very similar to the modern day Illyrian Sheepdog. This breed became known as the Molossus and would become favored by the Roman Army, who then transported it throughout the Empire.
The Molossus most likely had a large head and short, broad muzzle, but not nearly to the extent of most modern Molossers. Eventually, several similar breeds were developed from the Molossus and used for different purposes. After the Romans conquered Britain, they used the Irish Wolfhound to increase the size and quality of some Molossus breeds. The Tibetan Mastiff or a related dog may have entered the empire via trade and been bred with the Molossus as well, although this is somewhat unlikely. The Alan tribe developed a brachycephalic war dog from Central Asian or Caucasian dogs which became the Alaunt. When the Alans invaded Rome, their dogs were bred with existing Roman dogs, with breeders favoring the brachycephalic traits as it made their animals look more ferocious. This would explain the connection that Molossers seem to share with the Middle East, Central Asia, Greece, Britain, and the Alan people.
Although the ancient origins of Mastiffs may be forever lost, by the end of the Roman Empire Mastiff-type dogs could be found throughout the Italian Peninsula. During the entirety of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, these dogs were used as property guardians and livestock workers. Known for their loyalty and ferocity, these Mastiffs were renowned for their protection ability. While long bred for type and ability, there was no organized breeding of these dogs of the sort which is conducted by modern day kennel clubs. After many centuries of being separated from the breeding lines of other nations, the Italian dogs became a separate variety. It is very likely that Mastiffs from England, Spain, and especially France were added to Italian lines on occasion. Some Italian lines became primarily working dogs and others became devoted almost entirely to property protection. Those working lines eventually developed into the Cane Corso and the protection lines developed into the Neapolitan Mastiff, although those names were not used until the 20th Century and dogs from both lines were most likely frequently interbred. Although popular with the upper class, the Neapolitan Mastiff has likely been a numerically common breed. As a result of this, as well as a desire to select for hyper exaggerated characteristics, the Neapolitan Mastiff has been heavily inbred for centuries.
The property protection Mastiffs were used by the upper class of Italy for centuries, and became known as either, “The Big Dog of the Small Man,” or, “The Extraordinary Dog of the Ordinary Man.” Robbers and thieves stood little chance against one of these imposing animals. Known for being kind with and protective of its own family, the breed acquired a reputation for being ferociously protective and even vicious with strangers. Breeders in the south of Italy in the region around Naples always particularly favored the breed. It is said that they bred a dog that was not only large and powerful but deliberately and shockingly ugly. These breeders felt that intruders would be so shocked by the dogs appearance that they would be scared off before even attempting to break in. Southern Italy remained dominated by an aristocracy which did not exist in the many republics and city states of the north. This nobility was able to afford the care and maintenance of these massive dogs.
By the start of the 20th Century, Italian society was changing. The wealth and power of the Southern Italian aristocracy was weakening and fewer fanciers could afford or had reason to keep giant guard dogs. However, the breed remained in relatively good shape until World War II, despite the fact that there were no written standards, organized breeding programs, or pedigrees. The breed was benefitted by the fact that the fighting of World War I remained primarily in Northern Italy. World War II, however, was a different story, the fighting between the Axis and Allies devastated Southern Italy, resulting in the death of many of these dogs. Additionally, food scarcity made things difficult on these large animals as their owners could no longer feed them; of the Mastiffs which survived during the war years very few of them were bred. However, even with the lack of active breeding, the Neapolitan Mastiff did not reach the critical population numbers experienced by some other European breeds.
Luckily for the Neapolitan Mastiff, a number of fanciers existed who were dedicated to preserving these dogs which had so faithfully protected their families for centuries. These fanciers, led by Dr. Piero Scanziani, decided to organize breeding programs, create a standard, and get their dogs officially recognized as a unique breed. These fanciers decided to call their dogs Neapolitan Mastiffs after the breed’s long association with the city of Naples and its surrounding areas. (Neapolitan is the English adjective form of Naples, and comes from the Latin and early English name for the city, Neapolis.) The newly named Neapolitan Mastiff was first exhibited at a dog show in Italy in 1946. The first formal written standard was created in 1948 by Dr. Scanziani, and the breed was formally recognized by the Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI) the following year.
Until the latter part of the 20th Century, the Neapolitan Mastiff remained almost entirely unknown outside of its homeland. However, by the late 1970’s a few members of the breed could be found in most Western European nations and there were also very small, but established populations in Germany and the United States. Fanciers were primarily drawn to the unique appearance of the Neapolitan Mastiff, as well as its size and power. These numbers continued to grow as more people discovered the breed. However, the temperament and care requirements of the breed mean that it is definitely not the right dog for most families, and the breed has only slowly increased in population. In 1996, the United Kennel Club (UKC) formally recognized the Neapolitan Mastiff. The American Kennel Club (AKC) was slower to do so and did not grant full recognition until 2004. The United States Neapolitan Mastiff Club (USNMC), founded in 1991 is the official breed club of the AKC and was founded to protect, promote, and improve the Neapolitan Mastiff.
Because the breed is a recent arrival on the international scene, it has yet to make many appearances in popular media. However, the breed’s unique appearance and ancient ancestry are beginning to make it a popular choice in canine casting. Neapolitan Mastiffs have appeared in Babe: Pig in the City, DragonHeart, American Gangster, and Belly. Fans of the Harry Potter series will undoubtedly recognize the breed, as Hagrid’s pet Fang is portrayed by a Neapolitan Mastiff, even though the books describe Fang as a Boarhound (an archaic term for either the Great Dane or Great Pyrenees). Neapolitan Mastiffs have also made appearances in novels written by Andrew Vachss and Robert K. Tanenbaum.
Although steadily growing in popularity, the Neapolitan Mastiff remains an uncommon breed in the United States. In 2010, the Neapolitan Mastiff ranked 113th out of 167 breeds in terms of AKC registrations. While most Neapolitan Mastiffs in the United States are probably companion animals or show dogs, a surprisingly large number are primarily used for protection animals. Although the Neapolitan Mastiff’s temperament has been softened in recent decades, the breed remains an excellent protection animal. The Neapolitan Mastiff has a reputation for being significantly more capable of protection than most other modern Mastiff breeds, especially those dogs from Italian lines.
The Neapolitan Mastiff is one of the most easily recognizable of all dog breeds. Italian breeders deliberately over exaggerated every possible feature, in an attempt to create the ugliest and most intimidating dog possible. It can be said that the Neapolitan Mastiff takes all of the typical Molosser characteristics and emphasizes them to the furthest extreme. The breed was designed to be intimidating, and it is very imposing.
The Neapolitan Mastiff is a truly massive breed. Males of the breed are typically between 25½ and 29½ inches tall at the shoulders and weigh between 132 and 154 pounds. The smaller females are typically between 23½ and 26¾ inches tall at the shoulder and weigh between 110 and 132 pounds. The Neapolitan Mastiff is one of the bulkiest of all dog breeds, and should appear thick at virtually every point on the body, from the massive head and neck to the wide tail. The breed appears even larger than it really is because most of the body is covered in massive wrinkles of skin which hang loose all over the dog’s body. Everything about the Neapolitan Mastiff’s size and build should suggest the great power which the dog has.
What first strikes most viewers about the Neapolitan Mastiff is the breed’s face. As is the case with many Molossers, the Neapolitan Mastiff has a number of wrinkles on its face and jowls on its lips. This breed takes this trait to the extreme. There is perhaps no other breed with as wrinkly a face as the Neapolitan Mastiff. The wrinkles on this breed are particularly pronounced, as the skin hangs down from the wrinkles. There is a particularly pronounced wrinkle from the corner of the eye to the bottom of the face. Some Neapolitan Mastiffs are so wrinkly that their eyes are largely obscured. Underneath the wrinkles is a very wide and deep face, even larger than those of most other giant Molossers. The eyes and nose of the Neapolitan Mastiff should correlate with coat color, but slightly darker. The Neapolitan Mastiff traditionally has its ears pricked into an upright triangular shape, but some owners choose to leave the ears low. Ears left low are small, triangular, and held close to the head.
The Neapolitan Mastiff has a very short, smooth coat. Breed standards require the coat to be uniform in length and texture over the entire body, reaching a maximum length of 5/8 of an inch. The Neapolitan Mastiff is known as a grey dog, and most examples in the show ring are grey. However, this breed can actually come in several different colors such as lead, black, mahogany, tawny, and tawny stag. Brown, pale gray, and cream dogs are also acceptable, although they are not preferred. Any of the Neapolitan Mastiffs colors may be brindled. Many Neapolitan Mastiffs have white patches on the chest and tips of the toes.
The Neapolitan Mastiff has a wide, thick tail which tapers slightly towards the end. Traditionally, the breed’s tail is docked to roughly two-thirds length, but some owners choose not to do so. The Neapolitan Mastiff will carry its tail even with its body or slightly higher when in motion.
The Neapolitan Mastiff has been bred as a protection animal since Ancient Roman times. As a result the breed has a temperament befitting a guardian. A Neapolitan Mastiff is typically calm and confident, but able to turn into a fierce protector at a moment’s notice. These dogs love their owners and are surprisingly affectionate with those who they trust. Neapolitan Mastiff puppies are usually friendly and trusting, but grow into a more reserved animal. Neapolitan Mastiffs are typically distrusting of strangers, and are not dogs that will warmly greet someone on first meeting.
Proper socialization is key with a Neapolitan Mastiff. Neapolitan Mastiffs who have not been properly socialized very often turn either aggressive or fearful of people, and either way the dog is somewhat more likely to bite than most other breeds. The immense power and strength of the breed makes any potential bite considerably more serious. Remember that even the best socialization will not eliminate thousands of years of instinct. Even the most well-socialized Neapolitan Mastiff will most likely react with aggression if its home is being invaded and its owners are not present.
Neapolitan Mastiffs can be properly socialized with children. However, most dog experts do not recommend the breed for households with children. These massive dogs can accidentally harm children during rough play. Additionally, they may see other children playing with a family’s children as a threat and react accordingly. Finally, very few children would be able to become the dominant pack leader that a Neapolitan Mastiff requires. If you are looking for a personal or property protection animal, there may be no dog breed in the world better suited to those purposes. If you are looking for a dog to take to neighborhood social gatherings, you should almost certainly consider a different breed. If you have never owned a dog before, it is almost certainly a mistake to acquire a Neapolitan Mastiff, as these dogs require a firm and stable hand.
Neapolitan Mastiffs are not great candidates to live with other dogs. Most Neapolitan Mastiffs will not tolerate the presence of another dog of the same gender, and many will not tolerate another dog of the opposite gender. Some Neapolitan Mastiffs will accept other dogs which they have been raised with from a very young age, but others may no longer accept this company when they become adults. It is very challenging to introduce adult Neapolitan Mastiffs to other dogs. This breed is not likely to make the first aggressive move towards other dogs, but they will not tolerate an invasion of their personal space or their territory by other dogs. Any dog on dog confrontation between a Neapolitan Mastiff and another dog is likely to be serious, as these dogs are immensely powerful and are apt to finish what they start. Very few dogs stand a chance versus an adult Neapolitan Mastiff. Proper socialization and training will help, but cannot eliminate a Neapolitan Mastiff’s nature.
Neapolitan Mastiff’s can be socialized and trained to accept the presence of other animals such as cats or rabbits. This breed does not have a particularly high prey drive. However, it is important to start early in a dogs life. Neapolitan Mastiffs do have a very high protection instinct and will see intrusions by strange animals as a threat. This dog is likely to pursue creatures which have invaded its territory, and occasionally attack them. Remember that a Neapolitan Mastiff which is completely accepting of a family cat that it has known its entire life will still pursue and potentially kill a neighbor’s cat which has entered your yard.
Neapolitan Mastiffs are very intelligent dogs which are sensitive to their owner’s commands. These dogs are capable of becoming very well-trained by someone they respect. Calm, assertive owners who are in command of their dogs are likely to be quite pleased with training results. Just know that the Neapolitan Mastiff is not a breed who necessarily enjoys doing something because it is told, it is a breed that does something because it respects its master. That respect must be earned. This breed does tend to be dominant, and will take charge of a person or even an entire family if they are allowed. Owners must make it clear on a regular basis that it is they who are in charge. Neapolitan Mastiffs that believe that they are the Alpha of the pack are likely to be willful and out-of-control. Always remember that the Neapolitan Mastiff has ingrained instincts that training cannot eliminate, only soften. Obedience training classes are highly recommended for young Neapolitan Mastiffs.
The Neapolitan Mastiff is a surprisingly calm and relaxed dog when it does not feel the need to protect. These dogs are happy to relax on the sofa, and require considerably less exercise than high energy breeds. Neapolitan Mastiffs would probably prefer to not have strenuous exercise. However, the breed is not necessarily a couch potato, and does require more exercise than most giant Molossers. The Neapolitan Mastiff needs regular, moderate exercise. Breed members who do not get the exercise that they need are likely to become bored. A bored Neapolitan Mastiff will frequently become very destructive and sometimes overly aggressive as well. Caution must be taken when exercising Neapolitan Mastiffs. Puppies can develop lifelong skeletal problems if they are exercised too hard at too young an age. Additionally, adult dogs should not be allowed to exercise at all for a period of time after eating to avoid the risk of bloat.
Although not technically temperament related, there are a few other aspects of the Neapolitan Mastiff that potential owners need to be aware of. One is the breed’s penchant for drooling. There is possibly no other breed of dog in the world which drools as much as an adult Neapolitan Mastiff. These dogs often have long strands of drool hanging from their mouths which will get all over a home. Sometimes these dogs will shake their heads and send wads of drool flying in all directions. Many owners keep rags present at all times to wipe drool. As is the case with many brachycephalic dogs, Neapolitan Mastiffs also tend to be very gassy dogs that are prone to flatulence. It can be very unpleasant to be in a room with a dog of this size that is flatulent. Natural food diets will usually help with this problem but not eliminate it. If drool and gassiness disgust you or a family member, the Neapolitan Mastiff is probably not the right breed for you.
The short hair of a Neapolitan Mastiff is easy to groom. These dogs do not typically require professional grooming; a regular brushing is all that they require. The Neapolitan Mastiff is regarded as an average shedder. However, the massive size of these animals means that they will shed a significant amount of hair.
The Neapolitan Mastiff does require special care. Owners must regularly and carefully clean the wrinkles over the dog’s entire body, but particularly those around the head and face. Neapolitan Mastiffs regularly get dirt, debris, slobber, water, and food stuck in their wrinkles. If these jowls are left dirty or wet for long periods of time, they can become irritated or infected.
The Neapolitan Mastiff is known for having a large number of health problems. The breed has one of the shortest life-expectancies of any breed at between 7 and 9 years. The Neapolitan Mastiff has been highly inbred for centuries and has a considerably smaller gene pool than most other breeds. Additionally, in recent years the dog has been subjected to breeding by disreputably breeders who only care about the perceived toughness of their animals or the money they can make by selling them. Almost every problem common to large dog breeds is present in high numbers among Neapolitan Mastiffs, including bloat, skeletal development issues, and hip dysplasia. Neapolitan Mastiffs are one of the most expensive of all breeds to own because they require so many trips to the vet, and all vet bills are more expensive because of the size of the dog. If you do not want to pay or cannot afford high vet bills, you may not want to consider a Neapolitan Mastiff.
The most common health problem found in Neapolitan Mastiffs is Cherry Eye. The problem is almost ubiquitous in the breed and nearly every breed member will be affected by the condition at some point. Cherry Eye is caused when the third eyelid known as the nictitating membrane prolapses and becomes visible. The membrane usually swells and becomes infected. This makes it appear as though the dog as an inflamed tumor by its eye. As this membrane produces a high amount of a dogs tears, this condition can lead to eye dryness and other problems. Surgery is the most common cure, and many Neapolitan Mastiff fanciers insist it is the only way to solve the problem.
It is always advisable to get your pets tested by either the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals and/or the Canine Eye Registration Foundation, particularly if you intend to breed. The OFA and CERF test for various genetically inherited disorders such as blindness and hip dysplasia that may impact either your dog or its descendants.
The Neapolitan Mastiff is also known for being very sensitive to heat. These dogs have been known to overheat and die in temperatures that most breeds will tolerate. Neapolitan Mastiffs should never be left outside for long period of time in hot weather. If you want to keep a dog in a warm climate, you should certainly look into breeds which are more adapted to the heat.
Other health problems that have been reported in Neapolitan Mastiffs include: