by Kathy Dannel Vitcak 1 min read

A Bit of Neapolitan Mastiff History

Beneath that gentle exterior beats the heart of a genuine canine gladiator! As you probably know, the Neapolitan Mastiff has been around for thousands of years and most of that time was fighting, guarding or protecting. Some say they have been around for over 5000 years, with origins in Tibet, and are the basis for all giant, mastiff-type breeds. Others say the breed originated in ancient Egypt. Who knows!

The ancestors of the Neo had many names: Macedonian Dog, Assyrian Dog, Sumerian Molossians, Bandogs, Dogues, and the Roman Molossus

The names were different, but they were all heavy bodied, big-heads, short muzzled dog with pendulous dewlaps, overly wrinkled foreheads, cropped ears to the point of amputation, and massively, heavy legs.

Can you imagine how intimidating these dogs were to foot soldiers as they faced them in battle. All I can think of is that Monty Python bit where they ran from battle screaming, "Run away! Run away!"

A Few Quick Neapolitan Mastiff History Factoids

  • Though they are an ancient breed with roots back to the Roman armies, the Neo wasn't accepted into AKC until 2004
  • The word "mastiff" has its roots in the Latin word “masssivus,” meaning massive
  • Like many other European dog breeds, especially the giant ones, the Neo was almost lost after WW II. Luckily, a devoted band of fanciers pulled this living history lesson back from extinction.

Below are a few images of dogs thought to be ancestors of the Neapolitan Mastiff. No matter who their descendants are...these dogs are intimidating.

neapolitan mastiff history

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