The Neapolitan Mastiff's Origins and History Source: Wikipedia. Country/Region of Origin: Italy (modern breed); Middle East (originally) Original purpose: war, dogfights, guard Name: rediscovered in modern times near Naples; also known as Italian Mastiff, Mastino, and Mastino Napoletano; nicknamed "Neo." Historical notes: The Neapolitan Mastiff breed can be traced back to around 100 BC. The breed is descended from the Molossus, very large Middle Eastern war dogs. The Romans would pit Neapolitan Mastiffs against lions, bears, and gladiators in the arena. The Roman legions spread the breed throughout Europe as they used them as "dogs of war." The breed is ancestor of the English Mastiff (also simply called the Mastiff), the Dogue de Bordeaux, Spanish Mastiff, St. Bernard, and Rottweiler. The breed was mostly lost to the world in modern times until being rediscovered near Naples in the 1940s.