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.
290 | SHOWSIGHT MAGAZINE, NOVEMBER 2021
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