Neapolitan Mastiff
(AKC Working Group)
Neapolitan Mastiff

The Neapolitan Mastiff is an imposing, loose-skinned, muscular dog with a rather rectangular, heavy-boned body, massive head, and heavily wrinkled face. The largest males may be nearly 200 lbs. and 31 in. tall, with the more massive dogs preferred as long as good proportions are maintained. The facial wrinkles continue under the chin and down the neck to form a prominent dewlap. The skull is broad and flat on top, and forms a line parallel to the muzzle. The muzzle should be about a third the length of the entire head and should be just as wide as it is long. The nose is large, and should be the same color as the coat. The ears are traditionally cropped into small equilateral triangles, but may be kept natural. The teeth meet in a scissors, level, or slightly undershot bite. The underline of this massive dog is almost horizontal, with little or no tuck-up. The very thick tapering tail is set a little lower than the topline, and is generally docked by one-third.

The short coat is dense and smooth. The most common coat color is solid blue, black is the next most common color, and mahogany and tawny are also permitted. Some tan (reverse) brindling is allowable in all colors. The dark colors and brindles help the dog blend into the night shadows as he waits for the unsuspecting prowler. A little white is permitted on the chest, the underside of the throat and body, on the back of the pasterns, and on the toes. White on any other area can be a disqualification for dogs that compete in AKC conformation, so check the standard carefully. Puppies begin life with blue eyes, which later darken. Rear dewclaws should be removed, but the front ones should be left natural. The Neapolitan Mastiff has a slow, rolling, lumbering gait that is often described as lion- or bear-like.


Ancestors of the Neapolitan Mastiff were bred for use in war and in bloody Roman arena spectacles. Dogs like these may even have accompanied Alexander the Great on his conquests as early as 356 BC. Today, this powerful breed has a well-deserved reputation as a formidable guard dog for the family and estate. Though the Neapolitan Mastiff was first shown in Italy in 1946, and has been documented as being in the U.S. since the 1970s, well-bred specimens of the breed are still relatively rare in the United States. The Neapolitan Mastiff was admitted to the AKC Working Group in 2004.

While many commonly abbreviate the name of the breed to Neo, note that the correct spelling of the name is Neapolitan Mastiff, not Neopolitan. True fanciers prefer the name Mastino, which is Italian for Mastiff and is used all over the world. The plural is Mastini.



Highly protective and fearless, yet peaceful and steady, and not aggressive unless there's a reason. Somewhat intelligent and somewhat willful. Does not tolerate repetitious training. Very attuned to his master's wishes. Serious, calm, and quiet unless provoked. The Neapolitan Mastiff was developed to look and act fearsome when needed, but is affectionate with his family and the family's friends. Males can be much more dominant than females. Females are usually smaller, and are often more submissive to the master and better with children. Breeders should ideally evaluate the home situation carefully before placing any Mastino puppy. Two adults of the same gender cannot be expected to always get along, but the Mastino can get along well with non-canine pets if raised with them from puppyhood.

The Neapolitan Mastiff must have a dominant owner capable of controlling him properly. With thorough training and an experienced owner, the Neapolitan Mastiff can be a good family dog. Mastini are generally good with children in their family, but because of the dog's massive size, they should be closely supervised at all times around small children. Children should be taught to respect these dogs. Neapolitan Mastiffs should be well-socialized at an early age to avoid overprotectiveness; they will be quite protective even with extensive socialization. Additional protection training is absolutely not recommended for this breed, as these dogs’ natural protective temperament is ideally suited for their size and strength and must not have any exaggeration. Thorough obedience training is highly recommended.