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Bracco Italiano: Brief Historical Summary

Bracco Italiano in the field.

This article was originally published in Showsight Magazine, November 2021 issue.


Bracco Italiano: Brief Historical Summary

The Bracco Italiano has been called the oldest European Pointer, and its history reaches back to the fourth or fifth century BC. While the exact ancestral origins are unknown, it is generally accepted that the Bracco Italiano has both Segugio Italiano and the Asiatic Mastiff in its ancestry. The breed was developed in Northern Italy, with two distinct varieties known to Piedmont and Lombardy, respectively.

By the medieval period, the breed was well established and the Italian aristocracy exported the Bracco across the Old World. This dissemination of dogs throughout the fifteenth century gave rise to new sporting breeds as the Italian Pointers cross-bred with local dogs, especially in France where similar breeds did not yet exist. The English Pointer, Brittany, German Shorthaired Pointer, and Portuguese Pointer have all been speculated to be descendants of the Bracco Italiano.

Bracco Italiano History

The breed’s popularity peaked during the Renaissance, when they were bred by the Medici family of Florence and the Gonzaga family in Mantua. During this time, they were known as “bracchi of the net,” for the practice of hunters throwing a large net over a covey of birds. Historically, two variations of the breed existed—the Piedmontese Pointer and the Lombard Pointer. The Bracco remained at healthy numbers until the turn of the twentieth century, when they faced a sharp decline.

By the end of the 1800s, the Bracco Italiano faced extinction. Over the years, crossings with hounds and poor breeding practices resulted in dogs that were too heavily built to perform their work, and the breed suffered from various health problems. At this time, Ferdinando Delor de Ferrabouc (who was also important in the history of the Spinone Italiano) rose to prominence by reconstituting the Italian Pointer through diligent breeding, selection, and care.

In the 1920s, it was decided to unify the two variations of the breed in order to preserve genetic diversity. This decision did not come without criticism. In order to fully understand the history of the breed, and to be able to appreciate the Bracco Italiano’s conformation and hunting ability, one must understand the two varieties that contributed to its ultimate composition.

Bracco Italiano History

In order to fully understand the history of the breed, and to be able to appreciate the Bracco Italiano’s conformation and hunting ability, one must understand the two varieties that contributed to its ultimate composition

First, the Piedmontese Pointer was a dog of lighter construction and color. It originated in the Piedmont region of Italy, as its name suggests. This dog was used for work in the mountains, which its conformation and temperament reflected. The Piedmontese dog was slighter than its counterpart in Lombardy, and its hunting style was reminiscent of some Western European Pointers, as it traveled with a jaunty gallop. One notable breeder of the Bracco Piedmontese was the Aschieri family. This dog was primarily white, with or without orange markings.

On the other hand, the Lombard Pointer was a rich brown roan and had a heavier body type. This dog was used for hunting in the marshy lowlands, and it was a trotting breed. These big dogs were bred for both their eye appeal and their natural hunting ability. The Ranza family from Piacenza, whose dogs exhibited a most elegant and efficient trot in the field, were marked breeders of the Bracco Lombardo in the early 1900s.

Let it be noted, however, that the breeding of two “light” Bracchi could produce “heavy” bodied dogs, and vice versa. Also, “light” and “heavy” refer strictly to the dogs’ morphological characteristics, and not to height, as it was not uncommon for Piedmontese dogs to be as tall as those bred from Lombardic stock. Therefore, when the types were merged, the height chosen in the new standard spanned from the minimum height of the “light” Bracco to the maximum height of the “heavy” Bracco.

In 1923, the conformation standard was drafted by a committee with the aid of Guisseppe Solaro (who has written extensive commentary on the breed’s conformation). The Bracco’s conformation standard had existed in oral history for over a century prior to this undertaking. In 1949, the Societa Amatori Bracco Italiano was founded. When the Italian conformation standard was published in 1949, it incorporated aspects of both breed types, resulting in noted variability within the standard.

The Bracco Italiano was brought to the United Kingdom in the late 1980s. However, the United States did not experience the Italian Pointer until approximately 1994. In 2001, the Bracco was accepted into the AKC Foundation Stock Service. In 2005, the first national “Gathering” was held, and the Bracco Italiano Club of America was founded in 2007. The breed entered the AKC Miscellaneous Group in 2019 and the AKC Sporting Group in 2022.