Neapolitan Mastiffs (F.A.Q.)


Dr. Barry S. Reder
Gopher Canyon Kennels
836 Grove View Rd.
Oceanside, CA 92057

last revised:08/03/08

Note: This is a dynamic document and will be updated as pertinent information is obtained.

Table of Contents


Though related to the other mastiff breeds ( the French, English, Tibetan, etc.,), the Neapolitan Mastiff has a unique history. Originally bred to fight in Roman wars and in the Colosseum, in modern times these dogs have guarded the estates of their Italian owners. As the name implies, the Neo lived for many centuries around Naples and in Vesuvian hamlets. Once on the brink of extinction, the Neapolitan Mastiff was "reconstructed" in the 1940's by Piero Scanziani and other lovers of the Mastini. The breed was introduced into America by nameless Italian immigrants and by the late Mr. Michael Sotille, Sr.. For a more in-depth discussion, see Dr. Semencic's introduction on this Home Page.

Is the "Neo" A.K.C. registered?

Yes- with the A.K.C. Foundation Stud Service. The Neo is considered a "rare breed" in this country and as such can be registered with any one ( or multiple) recognized registries in America. Though the Neapolitan Mastiff Club Of America was, perhaps, the earliest- today roughly as many Neapolitans are registered with the other small dog clubs. The A.K.C. has "granted" the Neo Foundation Stud Service and is now the registrar of choice. However not all owners feel this is in the best interest of the breed. The motives of some pro-A.K.C. individuals have been called into question. For whom would A.K.C. recognition of the Neapolitan Mastiff be beneficial- the dog or the dog breeders' wallets? A.K.C. judges, as a whole, are ignorant of the unique breed standard and idiosyncrasies of a "proper" Neapolitan Mastiff. The extreme wrinkle and lumbering mass are not the norm for A.K.C. breeds. To judge these animals by the "dog is a dog" method, would lead to the loss of both the volume and movement charactistic of this breed. The author of this F.A.Q. would like you to say no to the A.K.C.


The Neapolitan is a very large, bulky dog. When first seen, the dog's great volume and large heavily wrinkled head should be striking. The fearsome expression should be sufficient to ward off unwelcome visitors to the master's home or property. A typical male stands 26 to 30 inches at the withers and weighs 132 to 155 pounds. The ears are usually severely cropped and the tail length is reduced by 1/3. Body length should be no more than 110% of the height at the withers. Extreme ugliness and sadness characterize the physiognomy of the breed.


The Neo is a guard dog by breeding and is protective by nature. Early socialization is a must! These dogs are generally not hyperactive as, perhaps one might characterize a boxer, and are usually content to lie at the master's feet . Do not, however, think of the Neo as a slow moving dullard. When it or it's master is threatened, this dog can move with alarming speed and energy! Whereas another breed of dog might bite the arm of a perceived assailant, the Neo might leave with the arm.

Due to its power and mass, many question the advisability of having this dog in a house with small children. Though the family dog would not purposely injure a child, the Neapolitan Mastiff could easily knock one down. Just the weight of the paws on a sensitve body part could permanently injure a youngster.

Health Issues:

The health problems of the Neapolitan Mastiff are due to two main factors. Firstly the Neo shares the problems of all large breeds- hips, hearts, and heat. Secondly todays Neos are decendants of a small gene pool used in their "reconstruction".

Hypothyroidism does occur in this and many other breed of dogs. Some feel that this defect is "part and parcel" of the Neo body type. This may be their way of excusing a genetic defect in their lines of Neapolitan Mastiffs. Many of the most "typey" Neos alive in the U.S.A. today have healthy thyroid function and have no need of thyroxine supplimentation.

Mastiffs are not terriers and their hips tend to be looser in general. An excellent OFA rating is uncommon. Prospective puppy buyers should insist that the stud dog and bitch have had their hips evaluated by the O.F.A. Mild to moderate hip dysplasia is an unwelcome but all too common reality in the Neapolitan Mastiff. Excess exercise, at any age, is to be avoided. HOWEVER- buyer beware! Do not construe the above statements to excuse those breeders that knowingly breed dysplastic or hypothyroid dogs! Many Neos across the United states are very typey yet have very good hips and normal thyroid function! Buyers should ask the breeders if the puppies' parents have been tested and demand to see the written results.

Rough housing with a pup, either by children or older dogs, can lead to permanent injury to the hips and elbows. If you think that your dog should go on long runs with you, get a different breed. Most breeders will even recommend against frequent trips up and down the home stair case.

Panosteitis can occur in these rapidly growing pups. With a good diet (pref. that of Dr. Billinghurst's B.A.R.F. diet), rest, and tincture of time, many pups cease to show symptoms of this "wandering lameness" by their 15th month.

Overexertion, before or after a meal, can lead to torsion, bloat, and death. Owners are advised to feed the dogs presoaked kibble thereby limiting the swelling of the pellets inside the stomach. Separation from other dogs during feedings is recommended to reduce the Neo's desire to consume the entire bowlful at once.

The Neapolitan Mastiff does not tolerate hot weather as well as one might imagine in that it originates from a Mediterranean country. Each summer some of the best "typey" specimens in America are lost to heat stroke. Many American breeders reverse the pattern of care for their dogs during hot weather- keeping them inside the house during the day and allowing them to spend the cooler nights outside.

Prolapse of the gland of the third eyelid "cherry eye" is as common in the Neo as bad breath. Those with experience insist that removal of this tear gland is the only proper treatment. The proceedure is best done under general anesthesia by a Vet using Isoflurane gas rather than the less costly but poorly tolerated Halothane gas. Many Vets, totally unfamiliar with this breed, will insist upon "tacking" the gland back inside the lower eyelid. In general, this does not last long and another surgery to remove the gland must be done. Removal of the gland frequently costs less than $100 and the post operative recovery is usually uneventful.

Skin problems are relatively rare in the Neapolitan Mastiff. When they do occur, they are often related to a low thyroid function. Prospective puppy buyers should know if the stud dog and bitch have passed their O.F.A. thyroid panel.

How much do they cost?

This depends on the age,quality, breeding, and color of the pup under consideration. A pup of "pet" quality can cost $800-$1000. Perhaps an unwanted spot of color, a poorly altered tail, or some other minor fault prevents this dog from official competition. This doesn't mean it can't win your heart and that of your family! A show quality pup can cost $1500. and up (and I do mean UP!) A pup of show quality and of a rare color -i.e. mahogony can start at $3000. Expect to pay somewhat more for a full grown dog than for a pup. Afterall the previous owner has absorbed the risk of the unknown pup and growing any large dog is an expensive proposition...

What are the colors of the Neo?

Grey (also known as blue) is the most common color. It can vary from a charcoal to a very light hue. Black is less common. Tawny is the term applied to a light clay-grey color. Mahogony is rare but is growing in popularity. Isabelle is a term applied to a light fawn color but is hardly ever seen in this country

Do They drool?

Does a bear....? The Neo has the well deserved reputation of being the King of droolers! However lovers of the breed have been heard to refer to this as Neo Nectar rather than drool. The problem arises mostly at feeding time and after exercise. When shown in the ring, most handlers carry a cloth in the rear pocket with which to mop up .

What is the life expectancy?

Eight to ten years is considered an average life expectancy.

Is there a Neapolitan Rescue Organization?

Some question the wisdom of even bringing an unknown dog of this size and power into your home or yard. However no one would argue that the need does exist and is growing. If you are interested in obtaining a rescue Neo, you might contact the Neo Rescue committee.

Where can I learn more?

See the reading list given in the Neapolitan Home Page, or call:
American Rare Breed Association (202)722-1232 in Washington, D.C.
American Neapolitan Mastiff Association (903) 356-4789
Neapolitan Mastiff Club Of America (813) 638-7488 in Florida

Neapolitan Mastiff FAQ
Dr. Barry Reder,