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About Neapolitan Mastiff DogsAbout Neapolitan Mastiff Dogs

Experts of this particular breed more or less agree on its origin in Asian regions, mainly in Tibet highlands from where it later spread all over the world, in Europe mostly, following various directions. The history of the ancient molossian, to which it is connected the one of the Neapolitan Mastiff, follows the history and the most important phases of the human adventure.

Since long time man and dog have lived in symbiosis sharing emotions, discoveries, conquests, victories; together in wars, battles and hunting. Centuries ago on Himalaya highlands lived a large sized molossian, applied as a watchdog to the monasteries, with a long twisted tail on the back: it was the legendary Tibetan Mastiff reared by the Buddhist Monks. Those who had been lucky to see it, had described it as a really enormous dog looking more like a lion than a dog. Marco Polo himself, on seeing these dogs a few centuries afterwards, was really baffled.

Some experts think that the famous legend of the Jeti, the snow man, may have been born from this animal. This was a dog, disappeared in the past, that left his genetic imprint, as it was considered the real ancestor of all big mountain dogs; furthermore, it is the direct ascendant of the Assyrian Babylonian molossian, which is represented in ancient drawings and documents, like the famous Nabeth Situla. This was the ancestor of the most powerful war dog in the world, the Macedonian molossians that were applied as sheer war machines in the big and devastating wars of those times in that area. These marvellous animals were lead to Rome where they were trained to combat in circuses, where numerous exhibitions and dreadful fightings were taken, usually against wild beasts or men. During the centuries in Rome dogs mixed with either Celtic dogs from the North, that had spread in Rome thanks to the victories of Caesar in the Gallic wars or with the great molossian of Epirus that trade exchanges with Phoenician ships in the Mediterranean had favoured.

In the following centuries these molossians were mainly reared in the south of Italy, as it was in that area, in the region Campania actually, that the famous Gladiator schools, like the one in Capua, were held. Afterwards the various rules in the south of Italy played a considerable role for the breed: for instance, the kings of Spain introduced the dogs of the ‘conquistadores’ with big head and short legs. They were called ‘perro da presa’, that is ‘lurcher’, modified into the present Neapolitan slang ‘ cane e presa’. This breed was later given the name of ‘Mastiff’ from ‘massatinus’, the guardian of the ‘masseria’. At the beginning of the 20th century this breed was applied just to watch the Neapolitan farm hinterland; during the 1st World War it was drastically cut down and only few examples survived. Only in 1946, however, Mr Piero Scanziani, an important Italian expert in this field, and a writer by profession, discovered this ancient molossian in Naples.

This is what Scanziani wrote after he first saw a Neapolitan Mastiff: “I recognized it immediately: 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, the offspring of the Assyrians, the Tibetan nephew, It was the Molossus. From the height of his centuries he, the lad, was staring at me imperturbable, his eyes were not hostile, yet not kind – a gaze that does not give and does not ask: it just contemplates. He was gazing at my Arno on the lead. I stepped back remembering D’Annunzio – a molossian ready to bite without a howl. He became a patriarch.” Thus Scanziani was able to regenerate the breed of the Neapolitan Mastiff. The first steps towards the recognition for this breed was the first appearance at the exposition in Naples in 1946 where eight Mastiffs were presented, unsuccessfully, though, because of a lack of homogeneity. Then this breed spreads outside the region, mainly in Tuscany, precisely in the city of Prato, where Mario Querci, the breeder of Ponzano, was to become a real legend among the canine associations all over the world. In short this is the incredible story of the Italian Molossian, nowadays considered one of the most ancient breeds in the world. That’s why I think it should be protected at the best as it is a real living monument belonging to the Italian culture.

Neapolitan Mastiffs arevery large dogs, with a very impressive statuesque built which shows fierceness, strength, and power.

Neapolitan Mastiffs are a watchdog that is highly reliable for the care of any property: it sure that he will never go beyond the property he is guarding, so that anyone will never get inside his zone. This dog could be called ‘an armed guard’.

At the same time he is an affectionate dog, very fond of the people he loves, of the family and the master that takes care of him. The Mastiff should not be trained to attack or to defend because its true temperament would be confused. Therefore all the tales about  this breed are not true: if its natural instinct is respected, its character would not be unreasonably aggressive. Content and Photo Source: Agraria.org.

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