History of the Lagotto Romagnolo


The name Lagotto derives from the breed’s original “career” as a water dog. In the local dialect of the Romagna “Càn Lagòt” is synonymous with “water dog” or “wetland hunting dog with crimped, curly coat”. A sharp aptitude for searching, a steep learning curve and an unbeatable sense of smell, would, in time, make the Lagotto a very efficient truffle-finder.

Over the decades, land reclamation steadily shrunk the immense wetlands of Comacchio and other parts of the Romagna. The “Vallaroli“ practically disappeared and the Lagotto gradually lost it’s function as a water dog and specialized more and more in truffle finding. The transition took place between 1840 and 1890. Between the two world wars, almost all truffle dogs in the Romagna and surrounding areas were Lagotti.

Even as far back as 1920 the Lagotto was well known in the valleys of the Romagnolo Apennines, in the Valle del Senio, Valle del Lamone and especially in the Valle di Santerno. Back then no-one was interested in the Lagotto as a pure breed – the existing breeds were considered to be more than sufficient and the cross-breeds were often even more appreciated on account of their robustness, character and resistance to disease. Truffle hunters have always bred their dogs on an entirely empirical basis (outside of any genetic rules), taking into account only the immediate, practical outcome – a brilliant truffling dog, whether Lagotto or not.

The continued in-breeding of the Lagotto by the Valleroli of Comacchio, resulted in an ‘exhausted’ Lagotto in the Romagna valley. At the same time, repeated and ungrounded crosses with other breeds introduced much foreign blood into the breed.

However, credit must be given where credit is due. The truffle hunters of that period did not let our Lagotto fall by the wayside. It has survived to this day – almost by a miracle – in a near-perfect phenotypic and genotypic form.

Towards the mid 1970s a group of Romagna-based dog lovers decided to save the breed, which risked extinction as a result of the incompetence, ignorance and negligence of owners. The group was led by the gentlemanly Quintino Toschi, President of the local dog society and the E.N.C.I. breeder and judge Prof. Francesco Ballotta (who still remembered the Lagotti of his youth perfectly). They were supported by the dog expert, judge and world-famous breeder, Dr. Antonio Morsiani and Lodovico Babini, a Romagna-born dog lover with extensive experience. They were to set a genetic reconstruction program in motion that would save the Lagotto from the one-way path to extinction. The reunification of the two parallel histories of the Lagotto – the one that took place in the wetlands and the one that took place on the Apennine hills – were to lay the basis for the renewed purity of the breed.

With the founding of the Club Italiano Lagotto (C.I.L. – Italian Lagotto Club) in Imola in 1988, which now has 300 members all over the world, a firm foundation for official acknowledgement of the breed by E.N.C.I. and F.C.I. was created.

Official recognition by E.N.C.I., with approval of the morphological Standard drawn up by Dr. Antonio Morsiani (following years of biometric measurements on hundreds of subjects), was achieved in 1992. In 1995, thanks to the constant dedication of the Club and its technical committees, provisional international recognition by F.C.I. was won.

In the meantime the breed has enjoyed European and worldwide success and the number of puppies registered at the various F.C.I., British and American Kennel Clubs is constantly growing. For example, in Italy, 545 pups were registered in 1994 and nearly 900 in 2002 – a near-doubling of births in just 9 years. In countries such as Switzerland, Belgium, Germany, France, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Great Britain, USA and Australia the number of registered puppies has increased tenfold – and in some cases a hundredfold.

In order to safeguard and coordinate proper morpho-functional selection at the international level, 1997 saw the establishment of U.M.LAG (World Union of Lagotto Clubs – Unione Mondiale dei Club Lagotto Romagnolo), the president of which is Dr. Giovanni Morsiani. Lagotto Clubs in the above-mentioned countries are members of this association and there is a constant stream of affiliation applications from new clubs all over the world.

The main goal of U.M.LAG. is to ensure the pure breeding of the Lagotto outside the borders of its homeland. The various national clubs should be informed about changes in the breed standard and working standard and about any breed specific diseases or other problems. This information exchange takes place mainly at a technical seminar which is organized during the yearly C.I.L. RADUNO. Ever more often, national Lagotto clubs take the initiative to communicate breed specific information over their borders. Special mention deserves to go to the world-wide Lagotto data bank, created and maintained by Laura Tanos of the Hungarian Lagotto Club (www.lagotto.hu).

An July 6, 2005, the Lagotto Romagnolo was officially recognized by the F.C.I. as the thirteenth breed of Italian origin.

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