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Neopolitan Mastiff History

{Note: This article appeared in MM6 starting on page 158 and written by Cristofer Habig}

Viva Napoli

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 familar 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 labour. 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 in fact 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 knows 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 honour for Mastino friends! You cannot understand a Mastino unless you understand its culture and social scene he originated in, hence Naples!

In April I went to Naples again for 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 rind my own way there.

The same applies to Raffaele Scognamieglo's kennels in San Anastasia who 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 need to, 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.

Raffaele has specialized in mogano coloured dogs. Just prior to my visit his young bitch had won at an exhibitions 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!

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 has 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!

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 on the photo. She is an Italian Championess.


Mr. Scanziani (right pictured below) is called the "father of the Mastino Napoletano".

He managed the registratrion of the breed in 1946. Dr. Guido Vandoni (left) is an international Molosser-judge and our Italian correspondent. Christofer Habig is in the middle. Dr. Vandoni is holding Maga del Principe.

Apologies in advance for the poor translation (below) if anyone can send me in a proper "human-edited" version I would be most grateful!

It documents historical Neopolitan Mastiffs by Piero Scanziani, Morbio the breed in Neapel already in Presepi out of the 7th century, a sculpture out of the 8th century in Caserta and also a painting in Capodimonte. Demonstrable it gives represented the race in Rome already at present Pinellis (1781 - 1835). that it in drawings and sculptures already in detail.

Until there unnoticed of the official Italian Kynologie, that has its seat in Milan, the Mastino owes its "entrance into the story" finally the dog-display in the Castel Dell' Ovo on that 12th and 13 October 1946. There eight in the type were shown yet little "cani uniform there presa". Under them, an entirely lovely copy with the name GUAGLIONE 1 was, grey in the color, ungefahr around 1944 born otherwise however unknown origin. I was in love myself guest of this display and same in this beautiful Molosser. In vain tried I to buy it.

Thereupon I have more over three years out of the total zone around the Vesuv until down after Neapel or less purely-gezüchtete puppy. Young dogs and grown-up dogs bought and brought in the zoo of Rome. Finally I brought some in my Zwinger, that since 1933 officially under the name villa novelties is acknowledged. Previously I had Bulldogs, boxer and Griffons gezüchtet. After many vain attempts, I was able to buy finally 1949 yet Guaglione I and then also to the champion. Lead title and as the first Mastino Napoletano (Neopolitan Mastiff)