The country well known for its excellent fashion, history and even better food has something else to be proud of. Move over French Bulldogs and Chinese Crescents, Italy actually boasts a few breeds of their own!
According to AKC’s registration statistics, the Cane Corso is the most popular Italian dog breed. The Cane Corso, also known as the Italian Mastiff, was developed as a guard dog as the name suggests (cane meaning ‘dog’, and corso meaning ‘guard’). A descendent of Roman war dogs, the Cane Corso is more recently used as a companion and guard dog. It has also been used as a hunting dog to catch boar and other large game.
The Maltese is one of the several Bichon breeds native to areas surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. This breed is believed to be about 2,000 years old. It was prized for its beauty and companionship, especially by royal women, and is considered a gentle, affectionate dog that is also very playful. The Maltese is of spaniel origin, descending from the same stock that produced the Portuguese Water Dog and the Poodle.
The Bolognese is another Bichon-type dog from Italy. It was bred to be a companion dog among the royal and wealthy Italians. Although it’s exact history isn’t fully known, there are records of Bolognese dogs as far back as the 17th century. They were frequently given as a gift to noblemen and leaders.
Sometimes called an Italian Pointer, is the most popular hunting dog in Italy. Dogs of this type are found in paintings and writings from as far back as the 4th and 5th centuries BC and were popular hunting dogs for nobility during the Renaissance.
We’re not talking an Italian dessert here. The Italian Spinone is another breed of Pointer traditionally used for hunting, pointing, and retrieving game (HPR). Their versatility lies in their keen sense of smell and their ability to run fast in a diagonal manner, keeping them in close proximity to the hunter.
The Lagotto Romagnolo is a water dog and can trace its origins back to at least the 16th century, if not earlier. Its name literally means “Romagna lake dog” and it originates from this south eastern part of present day Emilia Romagna, a region in the north of Italy above Tuscany. Developed as a water retrieving hunting dog, the breed can be considered especially valuable to those who love to cook – or eat! It specialized in truffle-hunting on any kind of ground and could find the elusive, valuable scented fungus anywhere. Apparently, it is the only breed of dog that has been specifically developed with this amazing and useful characteristic.
Also known as the Italian wolfdog, the Lupo Italiano is a modern breed which was created in the 1960s, and is a cross between a wild wolf from the Northern Lazio region of Italy with a German Shepherd. Today, the dogs are used by Alpine rescue teams to search for avalanche victims and as rescue dogs to locate people trapped under the debris caused by natural disasters.
If you’ve seen any of the Harry Potter films then you’ll know that Harry’s giant chum Hagrid has a dog called Fang. In the books Fang is a boarhound, but in the films he is a Neapolitan mastiff. Anyway, the point is, Neapolitan mastiffs are big and fierce-looking enough to play a giant’s dog!
As is clear from their name, the dogs originate from the area around Naples in southern Italy and have long been used as guard dogs. They were originally fighting dogs used in the Roman wars. They also fought lions in the Colosseum. Let’s face it, a growl from one of these would probably send even the most determined intruder running. As they are notorious for sneaking up on their prey from behind, the hapless burglar may not get the chance to run though!
Bergamasco The Bergamasco is recognized by its unique, corded coat that resembles dread locks. It hits the ground around 6 years of age, giving it that famous mop-like appearance. Shepherds from Iran developed the Bergamasco as a herding dog used for guiding and guarding herds in the Alps during the summer and valley regions during winter.
This small sighthound descends from those of ancient Egypt where they were part of the Pharaohs’ court. The Romans further developed the breed after bringing it to Italy around the 5th century BC. Its strong popularity during Italy’s Middle Ages and Renaissance gave the breed its current name. Nobility throughout history greatly prized it. Though it may have been used to hunt small game (reaching speeds up to 37 miles per hour over short distances), primarily the Italian Greyhound served as a loving companion, as it does today.