Neapolitan Mastiff: Roman Legionary Dog as a Good Family Friend

The Neapolitan Mastiff clearly shows its close relationship to the war dogs of the Romans. Nowadays, the wrinkled giants are also rare in Italy. Cane Corsos, which are directly descended from Mastinos, are more often used as guard dogs. In order to support the preservation and healthy breeding of the breed, you should find out more about the Mastino and the current difficulties in keeping and rearing it before you buy it.

Characteristics of the Neapolitan Mastiff

Molossians and their close relatives are impressive figures. The huge Neapolitan Mastiff is also intimidating just by its appearance. Although it is significantly more wrinkled and less agile than the battle and war Molossers of the Romans, it resembles the dogs from ancient depictions in many respects. Size and weight are impressive: Males measure between 65 and 75 cm at the withers, bitches are slightly smaller at 60 to 68 cm. The situation is similar when it comes to weight: males weigh an impressive 60 to 70 kg, and females are significantly lighter at 50 to 60 kg.

Breed standard

  • The massive, broad head, which is very flat between the ears, is distinctive for the breed. The zygomatic arches are prominent and the frontal bone is prominent, as is the stop. The forehead furrow is clearly visible between the deep head creases.
  • The length of the short muzzle corresponds to about 1/3 of the head length, it is also about as wide as it is high. Viewed from the front, the muzzle is almost square, but the drooping lips and sagging throat skin make it appear elongated. When viewed from above, the fleshy lips form a V-shape.
  • The color of the nose does not stand out from the monochromatic fur and can be black, gray, or brown. It does not exceed the outline of the lips and is massive when viewed from the front, with well opened nostrils.
  • According to the breed standard, the eyes should not be covered by wrinkles and should not be set too low in the skull. The reality is often different: In many Mastinos, the actually round eye shape is hardly recognizable and the eyelids droop.
  • The hanging ears are relatively small and lie close to the cheeks. Ears used to be cropped, but this cruelty to animals is forbidden in Germany and is no longer part of the breed standard.
  • The neck is rather short and frustoconical. A fleshy double dewlap forms on the lower jaw, which should not go beyond the middle of the neck.
  • The body is about 15% longer than the height at the withers. Viewed from the side, it appears almost rectangular, with folds of skin hanging down on the loins and abdomen. The length of the broad back corresponds to about 1/3 of the height at the withers. The loins are broad and well-muscled, and the chest is spacious and deep. Wrinkles form behind the shoulders in most dogs.
  • According to the breed standard, the forelegs should be perpendicular. They are very well muscled and have strong bones, with elbows turning neither in nor out. The angling of the hind legs is precisely specified in the breed standard: The length of the thigh should be about 1/3 of the height at the withers and be at an angle of 90 degrees to the hip bone, with an inclination of about 60 degrees. The lower leg is slightly shorter than the thigh and inclined at about 50 to 55 degrees. The angle between the shin and the tarsus is also important, which should be 140 to 145 degrees.
  • The round and strong paws are slightly larger in front than behind.
  • The tail is remarkably thick at the base and tapers slightly towards the tip. It reaches to the ankle.

Fur and colors

The breed comes in many different colors, but there are no spotting or tan markings. The solid color coat is short, smooth, and very dense, the hair should not grow longer than 1.5 cm. The following colors are allowed:

  • Gray (pure or lead grey, dove gray is also tolerated)
  • Black
  • Brown (dark brown to hazel)
  • fawn (light brown to Isabell)
  • Brindle comes in all combinations
  • Purebred Neapolitan Mastiffs do not have a black mask-like many other Mastiffs and Molossers!

The History of the Molossians – as Old as Modern Culture

The origins of the Neapolitan Mastiffs are said to go back to the Romans, but the powerful war dogs were once imported into Rome as well. In Rome, monochromatic Molossians were used for bloody amusement in amphitheaters, where they hunted down (or were hunted down) large wild animals and gladiators. They were often used in show fights as they were easier to breed and keep than lions, bears, or wolves. During the war, they were also carried by enemy troops for psychological demoralization, and even during colonization times, they were still used effectively to intimidate indigenous tribes.

The timeline

  • The first depictions of Molossians can be found on ceramic objects from the Assyrian and ancient Greek cultures. Probably, the troops of Alexander the Great brought wrinkled large dogs to Greece from Asia.
  • The powerful dogs spread across the seas as far north as Britain in the 6th century BC, where the Celts developed what we know today: a dog with extremely powerful jaws that can hold and kill large mammals.
  • About 2000 years ago the Romans encountered the war dogs of the Celts and were deeply impressed as they were larger, broader, and more dangerous than their own dogs. After conquering Britain, they spread throughout the Roman Empire.
  • In the Middle Ages, sow packers were used to hunt big game and hold livestock for slaughter. Today’s News developed at Neapolitan courts and was mainly used as protection and guard dogs.
  • Like many large breeds, the Neo nearly died out during World War II. It was not until 1946 that the first specimens were issued again and sold to breeders from Switzerland and Rome, including a dog named Guaglione, who is considered the ancestor of the breed and served as a model for the first breed standard.
  • The breed’s popularity peaked in the 1990s, as did the breed’s massive overbreeding. Many breeding lines were ill and the extremely pronounced breed-typical characteristics increasingly restricted the health of the animals.
  • Today the Mastino Napoletano has become rare, also because it is considered a potentially dangerous breed in some countries and may only be kept and bred under strict conditions.

The essence: dangerous or comfortable?

If you ask Halter about her experiences with the Neo, one topic immediately comes up: the quiet companion really drools a lot. In the house, you can only counter it with a small towel, especially after drinking a lot of water splashes out of the hanging mouth. Hygienic sloppiness aside, the wrinkled-headed giant is a gentle fellow who bravely protects his family. It is not recommended for inexperienced owners due to its size alone – a four-legged friend that weighs as much as an adult human needs to be led by a confident and calm owner who can hold him back on a leash.

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