Neapolitan Mastiff

"Hagrid's Dog"

Photo of Neapolitan Mastiff


Massive Roman Molussus dogs and fierce British Mastiffs combined around 55 B.C. to create an unsurpassed strain of fighting dog known as “mastini” (Italian for Mastiffs). Over the next centuries, these dogs were perfected in the Neapolitan region of Italy as home and estate guardians. Some breed historians claim that the dog's alarming appearance was purposefully created to scare off intruders before the dog even had to act. The breed remained virtually unknown until a chance sighting at an Italian dog show in 1946. The breed then came to the attention of dog fanciers and was recognized by the Italian Kennel Club as the Mastino Napoletano. The first documented imports to America were in the 1970s, when they aroused such interest that a breed club was formed. In 2004 they entered the AKC Working group. As a breed not suited to everyone, they are actually surprisingly popular even at 112th out of 155 breeds.


True to his heritage and looks, the Neo can be a tough character. He's suspicious of strangers, aloof with acquaintances, but fiercely loyal to family. Although tolerant of children, his sheer size can be a problem when around small children. He may not get along with other dogs, especially any dog foolish enough to challenge him. He's generally laid-back at home, and he doesn't bark a lot. Of course, when he does, you'll hear it.


The Neo's massive size and abundant wrinkles combine to make him one of the most intimidating dogs there is. His head is huge, with short, powerful jaws, excessive wrinkling, pendulous lips, and ample dewlap (fold of skin hanging from the throat). His eyes are almost hidden beneath the drooping upper lids, and the lower lid also droops, exposing the haws. His bone is massive. In America, his ears may be cropped or uncropped, and his tail is customarily docked by one third. His short coat comes in gray, black, mahogany, and tawny, with or without brindle markings.


Because Neos tend to be wary of strangers, early socialization is essential with this breed--especially considering that you may not be able to control a full grown Neo. In addition, early training is vital to establish your control over him while you still can. This doesn't mean you have to enter into a show of force; simple but daily reward-based training, with an assertive and in-control attitude, is most effective.

Grooming & Care

This is not a dog for neat-nicks. He can flood the floor with run-off after drinking, and he also drools. Coat care is minimal, but you must keep the skin within the wrinkles clean and dry, nails clipped, and teeth clean. The Neo doesn't need a lot of exercise, and in fact, can't tolerate hot weather very well. He needs a chance to trot around the yard at his leisure, or stroll around the block with you. Your control over him may determine whether you can safely walk him around the neighborhood; can you control him if he decides to put a yappy loose dog in its place?

Health Concerns

The Neo's major health concerns are hip dysplasia, cardiomyopathy (a serious heart problem) and demodicosis (demodectic mange). Cherry eye and elbow dysplasia are also seen at a higher rate than in most other breeds. Ask your breeder and your veterinarian about these issues – and expect to pay more for veterinary care than your neighbor pays for her Chihuahua.

Famous Neapolitan Mastiff

Fang, the dog "Harry Potter"movies, who was actually played by four Neapolitan Mastiffs named Hugo, Vito, Bella, and Bully.

Ideal Owner
Activity Level 2
Schedule 5
Home 44
Children 48
Experience 51
Quick Facts
Grooming 59
Exercise 62
Challenges Needs an experienced, confident owner to control this guard dog; size; expensive to buy and maintain.
Height 23 to 30 inches
Weight 110 to 170 pounds
Life 8 to 9 years
Home Alone 20
With Kids 114
With Strangers 106
Availability 95

This client information sheet is based on material written by: LifeLearn

© Copyright 2014 LifeLearn Inc. Used and/or modified with permission under license.

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