Rare Breed Spotlight: The Lagotto Romagnolo

Discover the Italian retriever that works alongside hunters, sniffs out truffles and wins fins worldwide.

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Click here to view a slideshow of Lagotti Romagnolo hunting truffles.

From retrieving water birds to finding edible fungi, the Lagotto Romagnolo underwent a dramatic career conversion over  time. The Lagotto started as a waterfowl retriever for hunters in Romagna, a massive marshland in northeastern Italy, and the lagoons of the city of Ravenna in the south.

From the 16th century on, many books mentioned diminutive, curly-coated dogs utilized as retrievers. However, there are hints that the Lagotto’s predecessors resided in Italy through Roman and medieval times, and perhaps as far back as the Etruscan civilization of the 7th century B.C. The most notable historical depiction is a fresco, created in 1456 in the Palazzo Ducale dei Gonzaga di Mantova, which depicts a Lagotto at the feet of the Marquis Ludovico III Gonzaga (1412 to 1478), the ruler of Mantua.

The Lagotto Romagnolo’s name translates to "water dog of Romagna,” (lago is the Italian word for "lake”). As a retriever, the Lagotto was prized for its ability to withstand the most frigid water, protected by its dense, curly coat and thick undercoat. As the 19th century drew to a close, marshlands were drained for use as farmland, and the resident waterfowl, mostly medium-sized black birds called coots, moved to more hospitable locales.

That’s when these dogs turned their talents to hunting truffles, one of the world’s most expensive foods.

 


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