Istrian Coarse-Haired Hound

Linda Simon
Dr Linda Simon (MVB MRCVS, University College Dublin)
Photo of adult Istrian Coarse-Haired Hound
Linda Pellegrini /

Istria is a Croatian peninsula in the Adriatic Sea and is the place of origin of both the Istrian Coarse-Haired Hound and its predecessor, the Istrian Shorthaired Hound. These dogs have been bred for purpose and have traditionally been used to hunt game, such as hare and rabbits, on a variety of terrains in a mix of weather conditions. The rough coat of the Istrian Coarse-Haired Hound is white and ‘lemon-orange’ and of a medium-length. They are a moderately sized though muscular dogs, with a serious expression that belies their affectionate nature.

The Istrian Coarse-Haired Hound is a high energy breed best known for its endurance and tenacity when working. At the same time, this well-rounded hound can make a loving and peaceful family pet and behaves well when inside the home once sufficiently exercised. Their natural suspicion of new people means that owners have to work hard to ensure this breed become sociable adult dogs.

About & History

The Istrian Coarse-Haired Hound is a direct descendant of the Istrian Shorthaired Hound and the French Griffon Vendeen scent hound, who were bred together in the middle of the nineteenth century, to create a longer haired hunting hound. The Istrian Shorthaired Hound is known to be one of the oldest Balkan hounds and has certainly been in existence for many centuries, having been developed from a variety of both scent and sight hounds through the years.

As is true for their ancestors, the Istrian Coarse-Haired Hound is a dedicated hunting dog who has been bred to work hard. Both their physical appearance and their personality reflect this, as they have the temperament of a hunter and an appearance that has not been historically important to breeders and can vary somewhat between individuals. This dog uses its well-developed sense of smell to track down a variety of small game, including rabbits and foxes. They are renowned for their courage and grit when on the hunt.

It is widely stated that the first documented sighting of the Istrian Coarse-Haired Hound was in a dog show in Vienna in 1886. They did not set the crowd alight and have never been a very popular dog. Breed numbers dwindled during the world wars, as is true for many other breeds of dog, and nowadays, the breed is not well known internationally.

Historically, both Slovenia and Croatia have laid claim to this breed, but it is currently recognised by the FCI and the UKC as a Croatian dog. The Istrian Coarse-Haired Hound is classified as a Scent Hound and gained acceptance into the UKC as recently as 2006. Nowadays, the Istrian Coarse-Haired Hound is considered a rare breed and is not commonly kept as a companion animal.


Istrian Coarse-Haired Hound Large Photo
Mirta12 /

The stand-out feature of this breed has to be their coat, which is what truly distinguishes it from the more popular Istrian Shorthaired Hound, from whom they descend. Their coat should be straight, wiry and dull with a dense undercoat. The predominant fur colour should be a ‘snow white’ with lemon-orange markings that appear on their body and ears. No other coat colour is accepted.

The moderately round head of the Istrian Coarse-Haired Hound houses a wide, dark nose, large brown eyes and a solid muzzle with a moustache of fur over the bridge. The thin ears have shorter fur than the rest of the body and hang close to the face. The rectangular body of this breed comprises a wide chest and well-sprung ribs. While their croup slopes marginally, their back is straight. Their well-muscled limbs end in compact ‘cat feet’. The Istrian Coarse-Haired Hound has the typical hound tail that tapers to the end and is carried low.

When measured to the withers, most males will reach heights of 52cm, while the more petite females measure up to 49.5cm. Most breed members weigh around 20kg (range of 16kg to 26kg).

Character & Temperament

Primarily a working dog, there is limited information regarding the overall personality of the Istrian Coarse-Haired Hound. What is known, is that they are a tenacious hunter with a strong work ethic. While they are undoubtedly hunting dogs, they do anecdotally adapt well to life in the home. Owners should be aware of their hunting tendencies and should not expect them to act like lap dogs.

Docile and well-mannered when inside, most Istrian Coarse-Haired Hounds are very pleasant companions within the home. They form strong attachments with their primary carers and rely heavily on them. Though affectionate with people they have bonded with, they tend to be wary of strangers and will not greet them warmly.

At times stubborn, the Istrian Coarse-Haired Hound requires an experienced owner who is able to dedicate time to their socialisation, exercise requirements and training. Good manners and obedience do not come as naturally for them as they to do other breeds. Owners must also accept that they will always have strong hunting instincts. This means that off-lead walks and mixing with small animals are ill-advised.


A sensible head on their shoulders coupled with a desire to please their master means that the Istrian Coarse-Haired Hound can be quite pleasant to train. Recall training is critical, particularly if an owner wishes to avoid their dog chasing an attractive scent for miles and miles.

Trainers must assert their dominance in a firm manner as the Istrian Coarse-Haired Hound has the potential to be pig-headed. Boundaries need to be established from puppyhood to give this breed the best chance at developing into a pleasant pet.


The Istrian Coarse-Haired Hound enjoys good health on the whole, probably due to the fact that they have always been bred for function rather than form. As pressure was not put on them to look a certain way, inbreeding would have been less common over the years, resulting in fewer genetic health issues. As with any breed, there are some health conditions to which the Istrian Coarse-Haired Hound may be more predisposed to than the average canine. These are:

Hip Dysplasia

The coxofemoral joint is prone to developing abnormally in many breeds of dog, including the Istrian Coarse-Haired Hound. An odd gait, lameness of the hind limbs and reluctance to exercise are all early signs of the disease.

Hip dysplasia is relatively easy to diagnose and can be picked up on X-ray. There are various surgical and medical treatment options available, and the option an owner chooses will often depend on several factors, including their dog’s age and lifestyle.

Ear Infections

It is frustrating that practically any dog breed with pendulous, non-erect ears is prone to developing ear infections throughout their life, even if a good cleaning regime is in place. The conformation of the ear is such that the airflow is poor and moisture tends to get trapped inside. The warm, humid environment created is perfect for microorganisms to proliferate and cause infection.

Owners will usually pick up on their dog shaking their head and scratching at their ear. They may also notice reddened skin and a bad smell. Veterinary treatment is warranted to ensure the infection clears up quickly.

Exercise and Activity Levels

Not suited to a sedentary lifestyle, the Istrian Coarse-Haired Hound requires a minimum of 60-minutes of daily, vigorous exercise. Not only do they benefit from jogs and hikes, they should also be provided with a variety of mentally stimulating tasks to keep them occupied. A smart dog, they appreciate the opportunity to use their brain. In an ideal world, they would be provided with a regular opportunity to scent, track and hunt.

Attempting to confine this breed to a small home with a small garden is ill-advised as they will likely rebel against these conditions and develop unwelcome behaviours as a coping mechanism. Any garden they have access to needs to be securely fenced, as they will attempt to break out if they catch scent of something that takes their fancy.


While the coarse coat of the Istrian Coarse-Haired Hound does need brushing at least weekly, it is not prone to matting. On top of coat brushing, owners should also brush their teeth several times a week to reduce the calculus buildup. The ears of the Istrian Coarse-Haired Hound can be prone to infections, so should be cleaned weekly or fortnightly.

Famous Istrian Coarse-Haired Hounds

While a celebrated hunter in Croatia, this is a rare breed and not one that is known internationally, hence there are no famous Istrian Coarse-Haired Hounds.


Though the Istrian Coarse-Haired Hound is itself a mix of the French Griffon Vendéen and the Istrian Shorthaired Hound, there are no well recognised Istrian Coarse-Haired Hound mixes.

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