Let’s Talk Breed Education!
BRACCO ITALIANO BRIEF HISTORICAL SUMMARY BY BRACCO ITALIANO CLUB OF AMERICA T he 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 Asi- atic Mastiff in its ancestry. The breed was developed in Northern Italy, with two distinct varieties known to Pied- mont 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 fif- teenth century gave rise to new sporting breeds as the Ital- ian 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.
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BRACCO ITALIANO: BRIEF HISTORICAL SUMMARY
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 cen- tury, 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 [prac- tices] 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 recon- stituting 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 confor- mation and hunting ability, one must understand the two varieties that contributed to its ultimate composition. First, the Piedmontese Pointer was a dog of lighter construc- tion 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 Piedmon- tese dog was slighter than its counterpart in Lombardy, and its hunting style was reminiscent of some Western European Point- ers, as it traveled with a jaunty gallop. One notable breeder of the Bracco Piedmontese was the Aschieri family. This dog was primar- ily 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 abil- ity. 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 char- acteristics, and not to height, as it was not uncommon for Pied- montese 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 commit- tee with the aid of Guisseppe Solaro (who has written extensive commentary on the breed’s conformation). The Bracco’s confor- mation 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 pub- lished in 1949, it incorporated aspects of both breed types, result- ing 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 into the AKC Miscellaneous Group in 2019 and will join the AKC Sporting Group in 2022.
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.
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by MARILYN VINSON
W hen first asked to write on the Bracco Italiano I thought about relating some of the issues that most “new” breeds have. We have had the conflict within a club, second club forming, and so on. The Bracco was first registered in 2001 but no real efforts to move forward until 2014-15. The main reason was fear. Fear that we would become a divided breed- show and field. Little by little, as breeders and owners became more learned some started to realize these great dogs can be both and that WE control this—not AKC, and we
started to move forward. So, I thought instead I’d relate a little about the dog and the people involved with the breed. The Bracco is a glorious, sweet, silly, intelligent stubborn animal! First, and most important, it is a dual breed. When you see 6 and 8 week old pup- pies on point you know it’s a trait that has to be acknowledged. They are truly born to hunt! Known for their strong, fluid, effortless appearing trot, they can take your breath away in the field and the ring. Structured hunt tests do not always show the trot to the best as, while a Bracco is looking down their
Roman nose and doing their elegant trot, the other pointing breeds will blow right by them with a grin on their face. So they blast off with the best of the other breeds. However, when they have used a lot of energy or are bringing the bird back on retrieve; you will see that trot! They are great bird dogs and we are getting more dogs competing in AKC hunt tests all the time. Showing is “new” to many Bracco owners and, although the breed is will- ing, unless you are young and/or fit, they not easy to keep up with. Three steps and I become a land anchor and
“THE BRACCO IS A GLORIOUS, SWEET, SILLY, INTELLIGENT STUBBORN ANIMAL!”
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“THEY MUST HAVE A JOB OR THEY, AND THEIR OWNERS, WILL NOT BE HAPPY!”
get a really disgusted look from my dogs. Most people want to stretch them out but they are to be stacked square. We have had a National Specialty each year for a while—even when two clubs were doing one. The Spinone Club of America has been incredible and included us in their Nationals each year. April Burchfield, who bred Black and Tan Hounds for years has her first Bracco and commented: “Before getting my first Bracco, I did a lot of research on the breed. When I saw a video of a Bracco hunting in the bird field exhib- iting the incredible “trotto,” it actually gave me chill bumps! They are beauty in motion. I’ve now had that first dog for almost two years and am amazed at how true to the standard he is: noble, gentle, serious
sometimes, comical others, loyal, driv- en, and exceptionally smart and bid- dable. The drive is a huge part of their temperament and should not be under- estimated. They must have a job or they, and their owners, will not be happy!” Long time breeders and hunt train- ers in other sporting breeds, Tony and Kristi Libertore stated: “We have been involved with the Bracco Italiano breed for the past seven years. We are excited to see that this very old breed which is recognized in so many other countries is finally moving towards full AKC rec- ognition, but we need the support of the entire dog community. This is an ancient, beautiful Sporting breed that deserves recognition, but hasn't gotten the full push here in the US. We think that the move to MISC is a great step
and look forward to introducing this breed to others.” Most breeders and exhibitors and hunters are excited about moving up to Miscellaneous July 2019. Still have many hoops to jump and hope fanciers will look us up, give us a boost, and meet this ancient breed.
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