The Neapolitan Mastiff is an ancient dog breed that boasts a history that traces all the way back to Alexander the Great. Tale has it that Alexander the Great inherited a pair of dogs from the defeated Asian King Porus and those dogs happened to be the ancestral form of the Neapolitan Mastiff of today as well as becoming Alexander’s favorite dog breed. It is believed that Alexander sent that original pair of dogs back to Greece where they then became the foundation stock for the molossian fighting dogs.
Those early molossian dogs eventually passed on from the ancient Greeks to the Romans when the Romans conquered Greece. Further Roman expansion introduced the Romans as far north as Britain and wherever their conquests led, right by their sides were their loya, ever faithul and ferocious molossian fighting dogs. Huge and powerful as the Roman molossian dogs were, the massive English Mastiff trumped them in physique and power if not ferocity.
The Romans were duly impressed and took it upon themselves to cross their breed of dog with the massive, powerful English mastiff dog breed. The results were outstanding! The cross produced a dog unsurpassed by any in ferocity and power. These dogs, which were referred to as “mastini” (mastini in Italian means mastiff), took on anything, anyone, went to war wearing armor and guarded everything and anything asked of them.
The Mastini were so ferocious and formidable they even took on lions in the coliseum as well as the occasional Christian! In time as weaponry became more sophisticated the role of the Neapolitan Mastiff diminished and resultingly their numbers began to dwindle rapidly with time.
However not all was lost for this ferocious and formidable dog breed. Just because the rules of engagement in warfare had radically changed and somewhat eclipsed the Neapolitan Mastiff that didn’t mean the dog breed couldn’t find a new vocation. Thus in the southern Neapolitan region of Italy covering the span of several centuries the Neapolitan Mastiff was genetically refined to become the dog of choice to guard and oversee security for large estates, properties and country homes.
Until the Italian artist Piero Scanziani, who is largely regarded as the patron of the modern Neapolitan Mastiff dog breed, took it upon himself to stabilize and conform the breed standard, the Neapolitan Mastiff lacked uniformity of type. This in itself wasn’t particularly surprising considering that prior to that time the Neapolitan Mastiff had been bred fore mostly for fighting prowess and little else.
In fact it is that fighting heritage that gave rise to the Neapolitan Mastiff dog breed’s fearsome appearance and size. The loose skin, multiple folds and ample dewlap proved highly advantageous during fights and protected the dog from injuries that would otherwise have been devastating if not fatal!