The Neapolitan Mastiff, Mastino Napoletano, or “Neo” as it is commonly referred, is one of the most ancient of the mastiff breeds. More recently, the breed has gained awareness as Hagrid’s four-legged companion, “Fang”, in Harry Potter. Derived directly from the ancient molossars, Neos were renowned for fighting in Roman wars and the Colloseum. These mastiffs are fiercely loyal, and not for the first-time owner or the faint of heart.
The Neo is a large mastiff breed, which should appear longer than he is tall. Males are commonly between 130-155lbs but it is by no means uncommon to see a male near or over the 200lbs mark. Females range from 110-130lbs. The most common colour is Grey, also called Blue. Black is less common but not unseen, and occasionally Neos are a clay-grey called Tawny. Mahogany is very rare but has been growing in popularity. A “typey” Neo with has A LOT of heavy wrinkles, very loose skin, and immense, lumbering size, but we see them more commonly still with plenty of wrinkles but a more streamline, less cumbersome physic.
Lifespan and Health
The Neapolitan has an average lifespan for a large breed canine of about 8-10 years. This can be greatly influenced by diet and exercise, and many Neo enthusiasts often promote raw feeding (for more information on raw feeding please see our Nutrition page in the Education section). Neos should be kept lean as pups to reduce risk of damaging the joint during their growing phase. Similarly, as adults care needs to be taken not to overfeed them as added weight can increase the likelihood of ligament injury, and aggravate any genetic conditions such as hip or elbow dysplasia, and osteoarthritis. Like the Dogue de Bordeaux, the Neo was almost wiped out after the Second World War and as a result suffers from a limited genepool and abundant health problems as a result. Neos suffer from the common ailments of large breeds, gastric torsion (bloat), joint disease, dysplasia, and torn ligaments. Because of their droopy eyes, Cherry Eye and Entropion eyelids are also common in these dogs.
Of the mastiff breeds the Neo is one of the least changed since the ancient Mollossars, both in appearance and temperament. Developed in Italy, these giant dogs were guardians of family and property. So highly prized that they were rarely traded or marketed. In Rome they were fearsome war dogs, and fighters in the Colloseum, often pitted again lions, bulls, or other handlers and Mastinos. After World War II, the breed was almost lost and it took the careful work of proud breeders to reconstruct the breed to what we see today. Our North American Neos are smaller and a little more refined than their Italian ancestors, but still remain an imposing breed in both size and strength.
Temperament and Training
Not to sound like a broken record, but it is VERY important to understand that the Neapolitan has retained much of its guardian instinct. Anyone considering a Neo should have considerable understanding of dominant dogs and a natural ability for recognizing and handling them. Rarely will you see a more loyal breed than the Neapolitan. They want to be with their master at all times, and will wait patiently for their return. They will vigilantly guard their home and property, and will not hesitate to protect their owner. For this reason, a Neo should NEVER be permitted to guard home or human when it is not ABSOLUTELY necessary. This protective instinct may seem an appealing characteristic, but be aware that this behavior can manifest as guarding your children from their friends, you from your other dog, or your house from the delivery boy. A Neo handler must be firm and confident, but never abusive. Your Neo has to trust you, and trust that you are in control of every situation, from introductions to new people to introductions to new dogs. You should have a set of ground rules that is unwavering, it should be discussed and decided upon before you bring your Neo home and it needs to be applied the minute your new Neo walk through the door. Although their stubbornness is often confused with stupidity, Neos are very smart and will learn rules quickly as long as you are consistent with them. Basic obedience training is recommended for all new canine relationships even if your new rescue already knows “sit” and “down”. The bond you will develop will help you greatly in handling your Neo in public situations and in-home.
We recommend if you have read this and still want a Neapolitan Mastiff to continue your research, as well as discuss this with your immediate family, and anyone that would be dealing with your Mastino on a regular basis. Then keep an eye on our foster and adoption pages for any available or upcoming Neos!