The Neapolitan Mastiff, also called the Italian Mastiff, the Italian Bull, the Molosso Italiano, the Mastino Napoletano, the Mastino or simply the “Neo,” is known as the “giant guard dog of Italy.” While its ancestors were used in battle and arena combat, today’s Neapolitan Mastiff has evolved to protect person and property and to serve as a loyal family companion. The most notable feature of this breed is its remarkable appearance; it has been described as perhaps the most terrifying of all dogs, with a face so ugly that it is strangely appealing. Although physically smaller than the English Mastiff, the Neapolitan Mastiff seems larger and more imposing because of its heavy bone, thick body, tremendously loose skin and extraordinary head. At first glance, it looks something like a cross between a Great Dane and a Shar Pei.
The breed standard describes the Neapolitan Mastiff’s head as being large in proportion to the rest of the dog, covered with wrinkles and deep folds, with penetrating deep-set eyes hidden under heavy upper lids, drooping haws (lower eyelids), pendulous lips and an pronounced dewlap (loose skin under the neck and chin that creates a multi-chin appearance). Neo’s are called the “king of droolers,” although breed fanciers affectionately refer to their slobber as “Neo Nectar.” The breed is also known for its ponderous, lumbering gait and its propensity to snore. The Neapolitan Mastiff was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 2004, as a member of the Working Group.
Mature males should stand from 26 to 31 inches at the withers and weigh on average 150 pounds. Adult females should stand 24 to 29 inches at the withers and weigh on average 110 pounds. Greater weight is usual and highly preferred. The Neapolitan Mastiff has a short, dense coat that comes in solid shades of gray (blue), black, mahogany and tawny. Reverse brindling is permissible on all coat colors. The Neo’s ears are typically cropped into tiny triangles, and its tail may be docked by one-third of its normal length.