The Neapolitan Mastiff is a breed of dog that has been around for thousands of years, first appearing in the writings of a Latin author from the 1st Century A.D. However, its lineage can be traced back as far as 5000 years ago in Asia. From the writings and statues of that time, it has changed very little from those ancestors. With the domestication of livestock came the need for something to herd and guard them, and the Neapolitan Mastiff filled that need. The lands these dogs lived in were re-conquered by many nations, and the dogs were spread far and wide and were known by many names. However, the Neapolitan Mastiff is a direct decedent of the Roman Molossus, the Roman version of which was held in great regard by the people of Italy and was a guard dog in the homes of many.
For many years the Neapolitan was used as the other large dogs, as a war dog and guard dog. After the fall of the Roman empire, the dog was used as a working farm dog in the Italian countryside. It was bred for many years as a good herding and guard dog in Italy. These dog were seen as rare and special dogs and were not traded or sold to the outside. It was not untill 1946 at a dog show that a journalist recognized it as a decedent of the original dogs brought to Rome by the conquering Romans. The publicity from this journalist spread the word of this breed all across Italy, and its popularity began to soar as more and more breeders took an interest in them. Soon Europe also took an interest in the breed, but it was not until the 1980s that it was being shipped to other countries in large numbers. Today the breed is all over Europe, but still a little rare in the U.S.
As a companion, the Neapolitan popularity is increasing, as it is a very loyal, loving, affectionate, gentle giant.
By: Linda Eastabrooks
Former AKC Breeder