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01 Neapolitan Mastiff History


This article is from the Neapolitan Mastiffs Breed FAQ, by breder@neapolitan.com (Barry Reder).

01 Neapolitan Mastiff History

The Neapolitan Mastiff is a living antique that can be traced back
over 5,000 years. By viewing bits and pieces of sculptures, etchings,
and writings scattered across the lands it is evident that the
Neapolitan Mastiff of today has changed only slightly from the dog of
ancient times.

After the domestication of livestock, dogs of heavy body and powerful
grip were bred by farmers and used as guardians of their flock and
various other functions. These dogs were kept pure in their breeding
in contrast to other breeds that were mixed with the swift, lighter
boned breeds.

In the lands that were conquered and reconquered by different peoples
we find the ancestors of the Neapolitan Mastiff. They were called by
many names: Macedonian Dog, Assyrian Dog, Sumerian Molossan, and the
Roman Molossus. The names were different, but all were of the same
basic type: heavy bodied, enormous heads, short muzzles, dewlaps,
wrinkled foreheads, cropped ears, and heavy legs. Of the many Mastiff
type dogs now extinct some were saved such as the Old English Mastiff
and Saint Bernard.

It is thought by many that Alexander The Great seeded this large body
molossous dog to the lands of his conquest. These dogs were then
carried off to war by the Romans and pitted against wild animals such
as lions and elephants. To trace the footsteps from this time to 20th
century Italy is a bit sketchy and unclear. This ancient dog seemed
to adapt well to the farmers of Italy and were said to be bred in the
countryside for many years. The chores of guardian whether it be
flock, home or person was no stranger to this noble dog. It seems
there was a certain secrecy to the early breeding of this dog that may
have led to its near extinction. Or possibly man no longer needed the
faithful work that this ancient breed performed.

Although quite obscure at the time the Neapolitan Mastiff was
immediately recognized by Piere Scanziani, a well known writer and
journalist, at a 1946 dog show in Naples, Italy. He wrote, "I
recognized it instantly, it was one of the hundred that Paolo Emilio,
the Macedonian, had brought to Rome in his triumph. It was the great
dog of Epirus from the height of his centuries, he stared at me
imperturbable; his eyes were not hostile, yet not kind. It was a gaze
that does not give, yet does not ask anything, it simply
contemplates". Piere Scanziani became Known as "The farther of the
breed" and along with other fanciers of the breed worked hard to
rescue this breed and cause its current resurgence. A standard to
which the dog should be bred was drafted and the dog became officially
recognized by the Italian kennel club, the ENCI (Ente Nazionale della
Cinofilia Italiana) and adopted by the FCI (Federation Cynologique
Internationale) which is the international organization that the ENCI
is a member. The official name became the Mastino Napoletano and just
referred to as the Mastino in Italy and nicknamed the "Neo" in the
United states. Piere Scanziani purchased a few specimens of this
profound breed and Guaglione1 went on to become the first Italian
Champion Neapolitan Mastiff.


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