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
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 Yeti,
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 fighting 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 favored.
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 are very 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
Content and Photo Source: Agraria.org.