It was relentless in its presentation of historical documentation; relentless in promoting ethical breeding; relentless in speaking out against abuses, even when it represented political suicide to do so; in short, MM was a publication unquestionably dedicated to the preservation and welfare of the molosser breeds. This article was written originally in German and appeared in Issue 6, now obviously is a little of an old-fashioned view in 2008, but remains an important and relevant insight and part of Mastino history.

Christofer Habig, and Don Carlo Simeoli, Naples Italy

Don Carlo Simeoli and Christofer Habig, Naples Italy.

By Christofer Habig

In a recent travel report the port of Mombasa in Kenya was called the town of "traders, heroes and rascals". Would that not be a suitable description of Naples, too? Their cultures might be different but they are both ancient trading centers with long-established traditions and customs peculiar only to themselves. Unlike Naples, Mombasa does not have an Island like Capri to look across to, steeped in legend and now overrun with tourists, but its sunsets are equally appealing to courting couples - as far as I was told!

Both ports also have long histories of being at the center of power struggles and 'adventure' is still on offer today as I should imagine the sort of busy nightlife I found in Naples resembles African cities, though I have unfortunately never been.

Most Europeans are a bit familiar with some "dimensions" of Naples, as there are occasional reports about life in the city. These are usually concerned with the 'Camorra' who are partly responsible for the fact that Naples has become the most violent city in Europe with 300 deaths a year. Then we hear about the traffic chaos, the masses of unemployed people without equal in Europe, and child labor. Or, not to forget, the romantic aura of Naples springs to our minds, which for some of us is enough to make our hearts beat faster. If you ever go there you will find some truth in all of this and probably leave with the feeling that nowhere in the world is there quite so much vitality", as another magazine, STERN put it in April this year.

What about the Mastini? Is it right to say Naples has little to do with them? No, it is not! The Mastino belongs to Naples and all 'dimensions' of it. It is rightly called "Mastino Napoletano". Yet, a lot of Mastino fanciers and breeders no longer learn to associate Napoli with their Mastini. But what is the reason?

There are several good ones. For instance, you can only get a Mastino in Naples if you have connections to insiders, unless you are willing to pay extortionate prices, Sometimes it is even the other way round: without excellent Connection, you will never have the privilege to buy the expensive dogs as these are the superb ones you just get the poor ones for a normal price.

The kennel conditions are not always what they should be and we must not forget that Southern Italy is a good deal poorer than the North which can often have a detrimental impact.

At present, there are only two breeders in Germany and only a few in America and France who know the ropes there and without local help, it is virtually impossible as I found out. In other words, it is easier and safer to get hold of a sound Mastino pup elsewhere. Naples nevertheless remains the "Mastino Capital" and a visit there, of more than one or two days of course, is a question of honor for Mastino friends! You cannot understand a Mastino unless you understand the culture and social scene he originated in, hence Naples!

In April I went to Naples again for a few busy Mastino days. On this occasion, I was lucky enough to see Masaniello, who Jurgen Didion also writes about. He was sitting in the garden kennels overlooking the street at the back of a house in the upper part of Ottaviano, near Naples. Ottaviano is of course "sacred Mastino country", where the Mastini survived at Vesuvius. This is also where CH FALCO lived, who we have often written about and whose picture you can find in our calendar for 1984.


But do not ask me how to get there! Although I have now been there twice and have wandered for hours through the pretty little alleyways that are literally bubbling with vitality, I could not promise that I could find my own way there.

Raffaele Scognamielog Neapolitan Mastiff

Three blond puppies were Torca, Zaccarella, Maddalena, and a grey male at Raffaele Scognamiglio's home.

The same applies to Raffaele Scognamiglio's kennels in San Anastasia which has been breeding for 30 years, like his father and father's father before him, generations of living with this tremendous breed' Pedigrees and family trees are quite new to this area. Mastino chaps like Raffaele will think: "Is there much point in them here anyway?" A Mastino is a Mastino and that is obvious whether you have a piece of paper, which you cannot trust anyway, to prove it or not. A genuine Mastino expresses its breed in type and character: not hectic but alert when needed, as shown by these two males in the pictures. They only attacked when I was "impolite" enough to get too close. Otherwise, they were completely relaxed. Indeed, there was no reason to panic and dogs can often tell that. And qualities like self-confidence and emotional security must not be bred "out" of a breed.

A young Raffaele Scognamiglio, San Anastasia, Naples.

Raffaele has specialized in "mogano" colored dogs. Just prior to my visit his young bitch had won at an exhibition in Naples, which, incidentally, is probably why he wanted DM 60.000 for this fifteen-month-old dog. Prices there are not what they used to be!

"Mogano" or Tawny as known in the USA. Gualione by Raffaele Scognamiglio, Naples, Italy. Photo could be after this article was written.

Just take a look at the powerful bone structure of the adult dogs I showed you. Despite frequently unfavourable breeding and kennel conditions a genetic potential and type have been maintained that is excellent. This is how they should be! Some critics and especially judges take heed here, too: you should appreciate the fact that you still get bone structure and substance in the ring! The Functionality that is not so easy to find particularly in older Italian imports still has to be improved in future breeding. It is hard work but possible!

Raffaele Scognamiglio with Masaniello.

Once a feature has completely vanished, once a type has completely been lost there is no renaissance! That is a point that some of our judges in particular, but also in Italy do not realize.

Umberto Miranda showed me his TORNESINA, a very heavy bitch, still of good lines, although pregnant in the photo. She is an Italian Championess.

Umberto Miranda with Tornesina

Without Don Carlo Simeoli, the world of the Neapolitan Mastiff would be unimaginable. He is the principal figure, at least in the scene of the Mastino from its roots in Napoli and all aspects that are associated with it. Don Carlo represents the prototype, a 'rock'.

Don Carlo Simeoli, with his Champion Siento II. Photo from the 1950's (color enhanced by Ronny Anderson).

In his book from 1975, "Il Molosso," Felice Cesarino has dedicated the first chapter to Don Carlo, who he describes as his master and teacher who introduced him to the world of Mastino around Vesuvius. He says that it is the case in the scene of Mastino, to learn about the people, to experience, discuss and observe them. Otherwise one can never discover the magic of this Neapolitan breed. And if one looks at the photo of Don Carlo in Cesarino's book, one sees the same Italian world of 'strong men'.

Liliana Denger has provided this picture of Don Carlo, with a Mastino of slender construction and angular structure of the head. In the 50's when this was taken, this is how it was with Mastino at that time.

Di Palma

I met with Don Carlo in Marano, Napoli. One of the famous areas for Mastino and also the world of poor rural people, of small, sometimes great dealers and smugglers. The world of simple living conditions for humans and their dogs, but also the world of respect and love towards this ancient breed of the Mastino Napoletano.

Another Neapolitan character is known as the 'scamp with the big dog' Just as Don Carlo, another prototype and living example of a long-established Mastinaro. Giachettella and Masaniello are exactly as described above, simple inhabitants of Napoli, only one is a dog, Masaniello.

The famous Giacchetella with a very young Masaniello. Photo Antonio Di Girolamo, Mastino Napoletano -ricerca storica-.

Nicola Imbimbo relates something of this pair in his book 'Il Mastino Napoletano', that Giachettella is a typical Neapolitan figure, with the basic body structure, cunning eyes, original personality and living colorful face which is shaped equally by joy and sorrow. Giachettella is of such stately appearance and powerful bone structure that his companion could be nothing other than a Mastino, because undoubtedly similar blood flows through both Master and Mastino and are related somehow in their descendants.

Giachettella and his Masaniello were together a very special team. Although they were of opposite personality characteristics, they drew themselves together like magnets. This Mastino followed his Master everywhere and without anger. If Giachettella were absent for a long time and then, on his reappearance was asked where he had been, he would laugh and murmur about foreign business, the hands crossed over each other!

On page 711 of the book, Imbimbo relates some more tales and amusing anecdotes. All will know this one. Giacchettella had his Masaniello pull a wheelbarrow out of the mud, which on a rainy day, together with its handler, were stuck in the sludge. Another story about Masaniello tells of a successful escape from a shed in which, far away from his Master, the dog had been chained. Days later, Masaniello was discovered waiting on the steps in front of Giacchettella's house.

When Imbimbo reports on the Neapolitan scrap dealers and their dogs, then I can confirm such spectacles. I have observed them. Typically these dogs are not in the greatest of condition, but are Mastini without problems of health! Their ferocity is terrifying, the rage directed at strangers is richly stamped in the character. They sit under small huts, in troughs of earth, and enjoy the life of chained dogs, which is known among other things as not 'rosy'. But this is not only in Napoli.

Masaniello, living in described conditions in 1960's. Photo Mastino Napoletano -ricerca storica-.

The Mastini which we show in the photographs have been made in diverse kennels around Napoli. They show the average type, which is to be found in the homeland of the breed. Many are standard and not especially good. Neither are these dogs for export nor improvement of the breed. But they do their work, fulfill their function, and are guard dogs. In Napoli, in the first place is the Mastino as a guard dog, and in the second, in the sense of 'hobby breeding' which will bring forth splendid examples of the breed.

From this, you can establish how difficult it is to find a typical and beautiful dog, let alone buy one! You must have long-time established good contacts and insider knowledge, because as shown in the last edition of Molosser Magazine, there are in Napoli, always splendid dogs.


In Germany at present, with Oro and Masaniello from Jurgen Didion, Romana, and Attilla from Frau Denger, and Van Dasens Argo, we have some super examples of the breed which are envied worldwide.

In this article, it is important to show good and bad, the amusing and saddening aspects are all part of fascinating Napoli, where the Mastino has been embedded for years and years. The Mastino is admired there by all as the ultimate guard and not so much as a pedigree dog or show dog. This is the life in Napoli. Napoli Lives!

Christofer Habig, Molosser Magazine 1983.