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The Lagotto Romagnolo

By Amy Fernandez

The Lagotto Romagnolo entered AKC Miscellaneous on January 1. Also known as the Romagna Water Dog or Lagotto, its name translates as “lake dog from Romagna.” It’s a sturdy, rustic looking, water retriever with a dense, curly, double coat. For centuries, it’s been prized for its stamina, versatility, good nose, and strong hunting drive. Moderately sized, compact and squarely built, it moves at an energetic trot. Dogs measure 17-19 inches and weigh 28 to 35 pounds. Bitches measure 16 -18 inches and weigh 24 to 31 pounds. Tractable, affectionate, and alert, it’s also an excellent watchdog.

Lagottos trace their heritage to sixteenth-century Northern Italy. By the 1550s, hunters perfected the familiar method of stalking waterfowl on lakes and rivers using natural or artificial cover and good retrievers. The region’s vast Po Delta wetlands attracted huge flocks of migratory waterfowl in winter. Three quarters of the local population worked the land in summer and hunted waterfowl in winter with their Lagottos.

Many European waterfowl retrievers disappeared as wetlands were repurposed for agricultural use in the nineteenth century. After Comacchio and Romagna’s marshes were drained, the Lagotto was reinvented as a truffle hunter. By the 1930’s it was the established breed for this job. It’s now the only recognized truffle hunting breed.

Lagottos possesses strong, natural hunting instincts, but require training to find, dig, and retrieve truffles. The breed’s light coloring, and protective coat proved ideal for a job that’s done at night during fall and winter. Acceptable colors include solid off white, white with brown or orange patches, brown roan, shades of brown with or without white, and orange with or without white. A brown mask, tan markings or faded or diluted colors are permissible.

The coat is approximately 1.5 inches long, with looser curls over the head forming abundant eyebrows, whiskers, and beard. The head is moderately broad; with flat cheeks, and a skull slightly longer than the broad, wedge shaped muzzle. The nose is large, fully pigmented, ranging from flesh colored to dark brown. Reverse scissor, scissor, or level bites are acceptable. The large, rounded eyes are wide set, in shades of ochre, hazel, or dark brown, with dark brown or flesh colored eye rims. Its triangular, dropped ears are medium-sized, and covered with wavy hair. They may be slightly raised when attentive, giving the Lagotto a lively expression.

The short, muscular, slightly arched neck blends into a level topline to a slightly sloping croup. The tapered tail is covered with woolly hair, set slightly below the backline, and nearly reaches the hock. It may be carried scimitar style, straight; or raised, but never curled or straight up. The rounded feet are compact, with fully pigmented pads, and arched toes with well-developed webbing between them.

For almost 200 years Lagottos have been used primarily as truffle hunters. However, the gene pool was gradually diluted through crossbreeding and the breed neared extinction. In the mid 1970’s a group of Romagna-based dog lovers headed by Quintino Toschi, Dr. Antonio Morsiani, Lodovico Babini, and Prof. Francesco Ballotta organized an effort to salvage purebred Lagottos. It was officially recognized by E.N.C.I. in 1992, and received provisional international recognition from F.C.I. in 1995.

Since then, it has enjoyed renewed popularity at home and gained a strong following in Europe, Australia, and North America. It entered the AKC Foundation Stock Service in 2001. For more information visit the parent club website at….

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Posted by on Feb 16 2013. Filed under Current Articles, Featured. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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