The Neapolitan Mastiff
By: Joe Attaway
The Neapolitan Mastiff is a very confusing breed for many who do not own one. The purpose of this article is to document some of what a true fancier of the breed and owner feels towards their Mastini. I would like to start first with a owner quote that is of my sister Karen.
"For those who own this magnificent breed they understand what you put in them is what you get. They command respect and love. To own a dog like this takes dedication beyond many other working breeds. To love a Mastino is one thing but to be loved by one is a whole new world. The love and loyalty is unmatchable in the dog world. The emotions you share with your Mastino is very close to a child and parent. The love you give is returned to you 5 fold. They will run through a fire for you and never back down to protect you and your family. Once one has touched your heart you will be forever changed and you will never again want to without at least one."
The Mastino is intelligent. He is sensitive to his owner. He needs to be close to his master as much as possible. He is a very stubborn animal who typically hates to be shown in a ring. Feeding and cleaning even the cleanest specimen is not for the faint of heart. Drool is to be seen ad nauseam. Expect to get dirty. His coat is short but he blows his coat and cleanup especially in the drain after a bath is time consuming. If you are a small person expect him to be bigger than you are. Understand that he is not a show pony. He was never intended to be as such. He should not move like a dog but more like a Big Cat. He needs lots of socialization and please take him through obedience but do not typically expect him to like it all that much. Yes, He is not for a first time dog owner nor is he the first large or giant breed dog you should have owned. He also does not like the heat all too much but thrives in cold. Your love is his most precious possession and he will never tire of it nor does he take it lightly. He is beautiful and reminds one of a beast. He is not a dog he is Mastino. He is not for everyone but the die hard lovers of this breed not only understand that but embrace it.
I have been in love with this Italian dog over 10 years now and they never stop amazing me. There is a standard that is very detailed. However the nature of this breed allows for many flavors and line types. We have a very detailed head description in our breed standards but it does not affect the painters brush for a great Mastino is truly a work of art and beauty. For many looking from the outside it is hard to explain one singular thing that makes a good Mastino and what makes a great one. It is hard mainly due to the variance in tastes and type. If you love this breed you know when you see a great specimen. To own one borders on an unhealthy obsession with its majesty and undying love for you.
Then there is the legend. This rich history of interesting and amazing dogs like Caligola Di Ponzano and Carnera Della Grotta Azzura. The breeders of old and its traditions are also fascinating. There are both hard truths and elaborate romantic fantasies that a Mastino person can delve into. It moves beyond the dogs into a beautiful and amazing culture. How and why this breed was resurrected from extinction by Scanziani and his friends. How it has evolved from a Cane Corso type dog to freaks back to a balanced dog. There are even interesting and rich stories of how this breed of ancient blood migrated to the world dog of today. If you love to meet interesting people with so many stories/ Do you love art?/ How about genetics or lions?/ The Mastino and what is all Mastino is the place to be.
Here is the catch. This is being honest about the breed that I love. Over the years especially right after when "Fang" appeared on the big stage the Mastino has gained in popularity. This interest increased demand and thus breeding. Unscrupulous breeding practices hurt the skin, eyes, and overall ancient expression of the Mastino. When breeding to meet demand the market commands certain things. Unknowing puppy buyers want to see pups with too many wrinkles too fast. That is what sells so production of such a dog increased. Honestly I believe some fell into the trap without looking for the bigger picture. It still goes on today. I for one want a Mastino that would make the legends say "Now that is a dog". People who do breed today that are doing it for their own personal selfish non monetary reasons want a long lived healthy dog that can protect but all the same be fully Mastino in all ways. He should be able to see and not trip over his dewlap. He should be massive but not fat. His entire being should make him fully capable of protecting his owner without fault or struggle. A dog of immense strength and power. His mere presence can be felt even when you are not looking at him. His gaze a little frightening at times and warm in other situations. A dog that is a Lion! A King! That is a Mastino! Accept no substitutes.
In closing I challenge all who love this breed especially myself to move it into the future by both understanding our triumphs and mistakes. Remain true to what He is and put the breed first. Like many other dog breeds the Mastino has groups of people that do not like to intermingle with one another. I challenge a debate and further enjoyment of our breed. We need to have honest open discussion about how we can make the Mastino the dog not in legend but the reality of it. If you want to own this breed you must not cut corners. If you cannot provide the love, time, and care for Him then do not buy or attempt to breed him. Then again He is worth every penny. Every 50 bag of dog food and every chewed cushion. So remember the Mastino community invites you to join the group with open arms but in the end your personal relationship with your dog is what matters. That goes from the largest breeder to the pet owner. Yes they are very cool dogs. But so so much more than wrinkles and size.
Joseph Attaway, MBA