Bracco Italiano

Gemma Gaitskell
Dr Gemma Gaitskell (BVetMed MSc MRCVS, Royal Veterinary College, London)
 
Photo of adult Bracco Italiano

The Bracco Italiano is a large breed of gundog, also known as the Italian Pointer, which was developed in Italy for hunting. It is renowned as an excellent pointer and retriever. It was once popular with the Italian aristocracy, but in more recent years, has been at risk of extinction. The breed is highly trainable and eager to please. The Bracco Italiano is an extremely energetic breed and needs a lot of exercise to properly tire it out.

The Bracco Italiano is extremely good with children and has a docile, gentle character. It is sociable and usually gets on well with other dogs but should be well socialised from puppyhood if it is expected to live alongside other small animals, as its hunting instincts are strong. The breed has a short, easy-to-care-for coat that sheds but does not require any specialist grooming. The Bracco Italiano can suffer from some hereditary health problems so careful selection of a health line is important when choosing a puppy.

About & History

The Bracco Italiano is a large breed of dog that belongs to the gundog group in the UK Kennel Club. The breed is also known as the Italian Pointer and was originally formed by crossing hounds and gundogs, and possibly the introduction of some mastiff blood. Although it has some physical characteristics in common with the Italian Spinone it has a completely different type of coat. There were originally two variations of the breed from different regions in Italy; Lombardy and Piedmont, but these are now encompassed under the same breed standard. The Bracco Italiano was popular during the Renaissance with well-known Italian aristocratic families and it appears in frescoes from as far back as the 14th century, renowned as a talented pointer and retriever.

At the beginning of the 1900’s, the breed was in danger of extinction, but a small group of dedicated Italian breeders managed to maintain the breed’s existence. Today, the Bracco Italiano still makes an excellent hunting dog and is more common in its native Italy but is also kept in other parts of the world as a pet and for showing.

Appearance

Bracco Italiano Large Photo

The Bracco Italiano has several colours that are accepted for registration with the UK Kennel Club, which include:

  • Brown Roan
  • Chestnut
  • Chestnut Roan
  • Orange
  • Orange & White
  • Orange Roan
  • White
  • White & Amber
  • White & Chestnut
  • White & Orange

The Bracco Italiano is a large breed of dog that should measure between 55 and 67 cm at the withers and weigh between 25 and 40 kg. Female dogs should be slightly shorter than males and weight should be proportional to height. A small dewlap should be present on the neck that is fairly short, but powerful, leading to well-angled, wide, muscular shoulders. The front legs should be strong and straight. The body should have an overall square appearance with a wide, deep chest and a topline, which slopes slightly and then rises again towards the back end. The back legs should be muscular and straight, but have well-angled stifles. In working dogs, the tail is typically docked but when undocked should be carried almost level with the body.

The breed has a distinctive head that is fairly long and of good width. The length of the muzzle should be similar to that of the skull and the nose should be large. The overall length of the head should be just under half of the height to the withers. Jaws should be strong with a perfect scissor bite and cheeks should be reasonably flat. The eyes are large and oval shaped and should have a gentle expression to them. Ears are long and low set at the level of the eyes. They should widen from the base and their length should be approximately the same as that to the nose.

The Bracco Italiano should have a powerful gait with plenty of drive. Dogs should be able to maintain a fast trot with their head held high for long periods of time.

Character & Temperament

The Bracco Italiano has a reliable, docile and intelligent character. It is affectionate and dignified and known to be good with children. The breed does not typically suffer from separation anxiety. Although it does come from a hunting background, the Bracco Italiano’s docile nature means that it can happily live alongside other animals, especially if it is accustomed to them from puppyhood. The breed is not typically kept as a guard dog but its large size means that it can be perceived as imposing.

Trainability

Photo of Bracco Italiano puppy
Rei Momo / Wikipedia.org

The Bracco Italiano is intelligent and eager to please its owner, which makes training relatively easy. The breed is quick to understand what is being asked of it and has exceptional scenting abilities, which continue to make it a very good working dog. Its willing character means that it is usually quick to learn recall, and that house training is not usually a problem. However, the breed’s origins must not be forgotten and it can be prone to picking up scents and being tempted to follow them if not properly trained.

Health

The Bracco Italiano has an average life expectancy of around 10 years of age. The breed is classed as a Category 1 breed by the UK Kennel Club, but it is strongly recommended that dogs are tested under several schemes, as they can be affected by the following diseases:

  • Hip Dysplasia (HD) – This condition occurs when there is an abnormal development of the hips, which can include several different developmental problems and abnormalities that lead to the development of joint problems and pain later in life. Dogs of at least a year old have radiographs of their hips scored by experts. The maximum score is 106 and the lower the score the fewer the signs of dysplasia are present. Hip dysplasia is transmitted genetically but its development can also be influenced by environment.
  • Elbow Dysplasia – This condition is an abnormal development of the elbows, which eventually leads to osteoarthritis. There is a large genetic component to the condition. Ideally only dogs given a score of 0 with no signs of the condition present should be used for breeding.

In addition the breed can also suffer from the following eye problems:

  • Entropion/Ectropion – These conditions cause the eyelids to turn either inwards (entropion) or outwards (ectropion). This can mean the eye becomes irritated by the eyelashes in the case of entropion, or overly dry in the case of ectropion. Ultimately, both conditions cause damage to the surface of the eye and may need treatment either in the form of medical management or corrective surgery.
  • Cherry Eye – Cherry eye is caused by the protrusion of the third eyelid, which has a cherry like appearance, caused by over sized eyes.

Exercise and Activity Levels

The Bracco Italiano is a very energetic breed that requires around two-hours of walking or exercise a day. As much of this time as possible should be spent off the lead to allow dogs to properly tire themselves out. The breed’s hunting roots and reputation for having good stamina mean that it is not suited to city life and is happiest as part of an active household. It is important that the Bracco Italiano is kept mentally stimulated and it enjoys having a purpose in life.

Grooming

The Bracco Italiano has a short coat that does shed, especially during seasonal coat changes, but does not require much attention other than the occasional brushing. Its long ears mean that it can be prone to ear problems and ears should be checked regularly and cleaned if necessary under guidance from a veterinarian. Although the breed should not have excessive skin folds, any areas where skin is folded can prevent air reaching the skin and this can predispose to skin problems and infection and irritation. These areas should be checked regularly and kept clean.

Famous Bracchi

The Bracco Italiano is said to have been a favorite of the well-known aristocratic Medici and Gonzaga families in Italy. Despite this, there are no well-known famous examples of the breed in modern popular culture.

Cross-Breeds

There are currently no popular Bracco Italiano cross-breeds.

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