Istrian Shorthaired Hound

Peter Richards
Peter Richards (BVSc, MRCVS, University of Bristol)
Photo of adult Istrian Shorthaired Hound

The Istrian Shorthaired Hounds are renowned in their native Istria, a peninsula mainly occupied by Croatia, for their hunting ability and eager attitude. They are one of the oldest hound breeds from the Balkans with an extensive, though largely undocumented, history in the region. Istrian Shorthaired Hounds were used for many centuries to hunt foxes and rabbits. Their hunting technique is more melodious – some might say noisy – than other breeds. They are known for rushing eagerly after their quarry while barking constantly to let the hunter know where they are.

Most Istrian Shorthaired Hounds are still working dogs, and those who have moved to a more domestic setting are not far removed from their working relatives. As such, they do not adapt to apartment living and their barking will not make you popular with the neighbours. The ideal setting for an Istrian Shorthaired Hound would be a house with plenty of outdoor access and exercise. Although they can be trained to share their space with other species, their hunting instinct makes chasing cats very tempting. For those that can keep the Istrian Shorthaired Hound in the manner to which they’re accustomed, they can be rewarding pets and workers. Obedient, devoted, affectionate and even-tempered, an Istrian Shorthaired Hound will play enthusiastically with children or curl up by the fire after a long day of running around.

About & History

Istria is the largest peninsula in the Adriatic Sea, shared between three countries: Croatia, Slovenia and Italy. The lion’s share of the peninsula is in Croatia, so the Istrian Shorthaired Hound is considered a Croatian breed. Ancient records of dog breeds are in short supply, so it’s hard to determine exactly when the Istrian Shorthaired Hound appeared as a distinct breed. Other Croatian hunting dogs, like the famous Dalmatian, emerged as separate breeds in the 17th century. It’s possible that the Istrian Shorthaired Hound is older even than that as a fresco painted in 1497 depicts a dog with a similar appearance. Further literary mentions have been found spanning the intervening centuries to support the theory that the Istrian Hound is the oldest hound breed from the Balkans.

The Istrian Shorthaired Hound is a hunting dog who used primarily for hunting foxes and rabbits, although they were at times used to hunt wild boar and birds, such as quail and pheasant. An Austro-Hungarian Colonel, F. B. Laska, described them as animals with “boundless tenacity and a great passion for hunting”. They were highly obedient and loyal making them excellent hunting dogs.

In 1924, a stud book was established which contained the lineages of dogs considered to be Istrian Shorthaired Hounds. This was used to maintain the breed until the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) recognised the breed in 1949. With the publication of the first breed standard in 1973, the Istrian Shorthaired Hound achieved recognition in countries outside of Croatia. Although the breed is still a rare sight abroad, the Istrian Shorthaired Hound is still kept widely in Croatia for hunting.


Istrian Shorthaired Hound Large Photo

The Istrian Shorthaired Hound is a medium sized dog, standing 50cm tall at the withers and weighing about 18kg. Their appearance is typical of other hunting hounds. The head is broad and flat on top with triangular ears that hang down to just below the jawline. They are a well-muscled breed, with powerful legs. Their coat is short and formed of hard hairs rather than downy fur. Their coat is mostly white with orange patches. The extent of the orange patches varies between individuals with some dogs only having patches on their ears and cheeks while others will have extensive patches along the body and hindquarters.

Character & Temperament

The Istrian Shorthaired Hound is, first and foremost, a working breed. Most are still used as working dogs, hunting in their native Croatia. This means that any examples outside of Croatia will not be far removed from their working cousins. As a result, they tend not to adapt well as house pets. They tend to be wary of strangers and have a tendency to chase cats and other smaller animals. While early socialisation can alleviate these problems, they may not solve them entirely. They are extremely active dogs who would like to spend as much time as possible outside, exploring and working with their owners.

For those who can give them the environment they require, Istrian Shorthaired Hounds can be rewarding companions. Their intelligence makes them easier to train and obedient. They tend to be calm dogs when they’re given enough exercise. They are an exceptionally loyal breed who will follow their owner wherever they go. They tend to be noisy dogs when out and about in the field. They will happily run around with their nose to the ground, telling you enthusiastically about what they can smell with their booming barks. However, once they’re back from the walk or hunt, they will revert to their calm and docile selves. They are energetic and can play boisterously with children


Istrian Shorthaired Hounds are intelligent animals. Coupled with their eagerness to please this breed is easily trained. Obedience training will be especially important since you will want to be able to control your dog whilst they are out for a walk. Without good recall, an Istrian Hound might get caught up in the moment and decide to ignore their owner. Socialisation is another essential aspect of this breed’s development. Make sure that they are exposed to plenty of new people and dogs to overcome their natural wariness of strangers. Ensuring that boundaries are established, such as not chasing cats, early on with pave the way for a smooth relationship with your dog.


Istrian Shorthaired Hounds have an average lifespan of between 12 and 15 years. They are a generally healthy breed there are some genetic conditions that owners should be aware of:


Istrian Shorthaired Hounds are predisposed to a type of epilepsy, known as idiopathic epilepsy. This diagnosis is reached after other causes, like poisoning or tumours, are excluded since idiopathic means “of an unknown cause”. Affected dogs will have periodic, generalised seizures, starting between 6 months and 3 years old.

Although the condition can be managed with medication, the frequency and severity of the seizures will increase until a decision for euthanasia becomes reasonable. Affected dogs can live happy lives when the condition is correctly managed.


This condition occurs when the thyroid gland doesn’t make enough thyroid hormone. Thyroid hormone is usually associated with metabolism, but has various other functions within the body. Common signs of hypothyroidism include poor coat quality, hair loss (especially on the tail), weight gain and susceptibility to skin conditions. Although the condition can be tricky to diagnose, once a diagnosis is made, it can be managed with oral medication.

Hip Dysplasia

Hip Dysplasia refers to a condition in which the components of the hip joint don’t fit together properly. This incongruence will eventually lead to degenerative changes within the joint, such as arthritis. Some dogs are only mildly affected and will develop arthritis in late middle-age. However, more severely affected individuals may develop arthritis much earlier causing severe pain and mobility issues.

Although these can be managed with medication or surgery, it’s best not to choose puppies from affected dogs. Since the condition has a genetic element, a screening program is used in the UK and the USA to determine whether an animal is suitable for breeding programs. Ask your breeder if the parents of your puppy have been screened.

Exercise and Activity Levels

Istrian Shorthaired Hounds are hunting dogs built for stamina. They require a long walk every day and should have access to an outdoor area when at home. Physical exercise should be coupled with mental stimulation so be aware that the same walk around the block every day will probably end up boring them. Try to make exercise as varied and interesting an activity as possible to keep them entertained.


Although their exercise schedule will keep you on your toes, their grooming requirements are more relaxed. They shed moderately so a weekly groom to remove loose hairs should be enough to keep things in check. Since this breed has drooping ears, special attention to their ears might be required. Check them once a week for signs of inflammation or infection.

Famous Istrian Shorthaired Hounds

Although well known in Croatia, the Istrian Shorthaired Hound hasn’t found fame in the wider world.


There are no recognised cross-breeds that use the Istrian Shorthaired Hound.

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