The Bracco Italiano.
This Holidays4Dogs breed article will look at another rare breed in the UK – the Bracco Italiano. As their name suggests, these handsome dogs originated in Italy and are reputed to be one of the oldest hunting dogs in Europe.
Not surprisingly, these noble looking hounds were popular with the Italian aristocracy during the 14th Century. However, there is evidence these dogs were in existence long before – in the fourth and fifth centuries. Experts believe there were once two distinct strains of Bracco originating from two different regions of Italy.
Lombardia bred many heavy boned Braccos, known as ‘Bracco commune’. Piedmont was the region which produced a lighter framed dog, similar to the French short haired pointer.
The Piedmontese pointer, or ‘bracco nobile’, as he was known, was more able to work the mountainous region of Piedmont.
The pointing dog history begins around the 16th and 17th Centuries when hunting dogs were used to flush birds for falconers. It is reputed that the Bracco was developed from these hunting dogs along with, the Segugio Italian hound and the Spinone.
The most distinct characteristic of the Bracco Italiano is his unique gait – often referred to as the ‘Bracco trot’, because of his extended stride. The Italians refer to this movement as, ‘trotto spinto’, which literally translates to, ‘thrusting trot’.
These dogs belong to the HPR group – (Hunt, Point and Retrieve). As such, they are used to hunt birds such as pheasant and grouse where their unique gait comes to the fore. As they work away from their handler, they quarter the ground with their long-ranging, extended trot; moving quickly and quietly.
At some points, all four paws of the Bracco are off the ground at once. The movement is highly impressive to watch and was greatly valued by many European hunters. However, the current trend in working Bracco’s on the continent, is for dogs that gallop – thereby covering more ground.
It wasn’t until 1989 that the Bracco Italiano came to the UK. The first dog named ‘Zerbo’, was imported by a Mr and Mrs Shaw after they saw the dogs at a field trial in Italy. Both were highly impressed with the Bracco’s looks and performance.
The Bracco Italiano is indeed a special breed, regarded highly as a working gundog in its native Italy. Many owners participate in some sort of activity such as field trials, tracking, or falconry. Although there are not many people who work Bracco’s in the UK, they are eligible to compete in various hunting disciplines throughout the season under Kennel Club rules.
Impressive tracking abilities.
While Bracco’s make lovely pets and companions, these dogs are born to work. They are enthusiastic hunters, with superb tracking abilities and keen noses. These dogs are typical air scenters and hunt with their heads raised, rather than with their noses to the ground. Once a bird is detected the dog will ‘point’ in typical stance, indicating to the hander the location of the bird. On the handlers command, the dog will then flush the bird and mark where it falls. The dog will then be sent to retrieve the quarry.
As pets, the Bracco Italiano is generally a placid dog to have around. However, they are deceptively energetic and need plenty of off-lead exercise as adults. Often mistaken for bloodhounds, these are very large and substantial dogs. Therefore, they need plenty of living space, a large garden and nearby open spaces where they can exercise and explore safely.
Character and temperament.
They are trainable dogs as their heritage demands, but they are not necessarily easy to train, particularly for the novice. They require substantial commitment from owners who have existing training skills and confidence handling large breeds.
It is essential Braccos have a good recall, because of their innate desire to hunt. They can be somewhat aloof, especially with other dogs they don’t know. However, they are generally not regarded as being aggressive.
They can be a little sensitive in nature, but they are usually good with people and other pets, especially if well socialised from an early age.
Unfortunately, like many pedigree dogs, Bracco’s suffer from a few genetic disorders. Puppies should always be purchased from health tested stock. Hip dysplasia is one of the main concerns in this breed. They are susceptible to joint issues because of their size and, as puppies, they should never be over exercised, or allowed to jump, or twist.
Ear problems are also common due heavy ears which can become infected readily if not checked daily. Puppies do not come cheap and are rarely available in the UK. If you think a Bracco is for you, it is advisable to contact breeders early and expect a long wait for a litter to arrive.
All in all, the Bracco Italiano is a stunningly handsome hunting dog with extraordinary and almost amusing characteristics. If you love gun-dog breeds, Bracco Italianos are exceptionally unusual companions with heaps of personality and stature to match.