Dog breeds have their origins all around the world. And many breeds can claim their roots in Italy. These Italian dog breeds are quite diverse, consisting of working dogs used to herd and protect livestock, hunting dogs, guard dogs, and simply just companion dogs. They widely range in size, appearance, and temperament, with some being better suited for a quiet life while others appreciating activity and space to roam.
Here are 10 Italian dog breeds that could live la dolce vita with you.
Certain Italian dog breeds are very large while others are rather small. Dogs at either size extreme require some specialized care, especially in terms of their training, diet, and health. Make sure you know the specifics of the breed you're interested in before bringing a new dog home.
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Originally used for herding and protecting livestock in the mountainous alpine territory near Bergamo in Northern Italy, the Bergamasco sheepdog's unique coat kept it well-insulated against freezing temperatures. The dog's incredibly long eyelashes also kept the snow out of its eyes. Bergamascos are now incredibly rare. They can be very affectionate and loving family dogs. But they're highly intelligent, active, and independent thinkers, so they'll need lots of exercise and training.
Height: 22 to 23.5 inches
Weight: 57 to 84 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Heavy-boned, muscular breed; three unique coat textures that form loose mats, or "flocks," that come in shades of gray to black
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The modern-day Bolognese can be traced as far back as 11th century Italy around the Bologna area, where these dogs were beloved by the nobility of the time. The breed almost died out over the years, but an Italian breeder in the 1980s helped to restore their popularity. These beautiful little dogs are known for being calm, affectionate, and amiable, and they also appeal to some because they're low shedders. Bolos can develop strong attachments to their families and prefer company for most of the day to prevent separation anxiety.
Height: 10 to 12 inches
Weight: 5.5 to 9 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Small, square dog; long, cotton-like coat that's sometimes cut short to reduce grooming needs; all white
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The Bracco Italiano is thought to be one of the oldest pointing breeds in Europe, with its roots going as far back as the 4th or 5th century BCE in Northern Italy. These dogs nearly became extinct in the 18th century, but a group of breed enthusiasts helped to grow their numbers again. These dogs are large, athletic, intelligent, and driven. But if they get enough exercise and stimulation, they're usually calm, loving, and loyal in the home.
Height: 21 to 27 inches
Weight: 55 to 90 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Large, athletic dog; long, hanging ears; short, dense, glossy coat that comes in solid white, white with orange or chestnut patches, orange or chestnut roan
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The cane corso is a muscular, large, mastiff-type dog that's been around in Italy for hundreds of years. Originally developed for their guarding capabilities, these dogs were also used for hunting big game and herding. They're incredibly loyal and known for being very affectionate and gentle with their families. However, their size and strength do mean they need a home where they'll have enough space and get good exercise and training.
Height: 23.5 to 27.5 inches
Weight: 80 to 120 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Very muscular, square body; large head; short, coarse coat; colors are black, gray, fawn, and red; brindle is possible in all colors; may have black or gray mask or small patches of whiteContinue to 5 of 10 below.
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Although dogs resembling the modern-day Italian greyhound were thought to have originated from the Mediterranean, around Greece and Turkey, they came to prominence in Renaissance Italy. They're known for being affectionate, easygoing, and playful. Despite being full of energy when out on walks, they don't have as demanding exercise requirements as some breeds, and they often love nothing more than to curl up for a nap of the sofa. They can be rather stubborn when it comes to training, so lots of positive reinforcement is a must.
Height: 13 to 15 inches
Weight: 7 to 14 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Small, slender, elegant body; short, smooth coat that comes in gray, black, fawn, chocolate, tan, cream, red, sable, or a combination
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Thought to be one of the oldest water dogs, the Lagotto Romagnolo was developed in the Romagna region of Northeast Italy. In the local dialect, Lagotto translates as "duck dog." Lagottos are known for being affectionate, eager to please, and trainable. They're also more laid back than some working dogs. But you'll need to be prepared to put in the work with their curly coat, which is prone to matting. And Lagottos can be rather vocal and often enjoy digging.
Height: 16 to 19 inches
Weight: 24 to 35 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Woolly, curly, water-resistant double coat; colors include solid off-white, white with orange or brown patches, brown, brown roan, brown or orange with white patches; occasionally has tan markings
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The Maremma sheepdog was, and still is, used to guard sheep against wolves in the Abruzzo region of Southern Italy and, as its name suggests, the Maremma area of Tuscany and Lazio. The breed is known for being loyal, calm, and courageous. These big dogs are also intelligent, independent thinkers that can become very protective of their people and territory. Because of this, they aren't necessarily a good choice for novice dog owners.
Height: 24 to 29 inches
Weight: 65 to 100 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Muscular body; long, thick, rough coat; mane around the neck; solid white in color
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The Neapolitan mastiff's origins go all the way back to the Roman Empire when big dogs like them were used to fight as gladiators and in battle. They were also ferocious guardians. In more recent centuries, in Southern Italy, these mastiffs were more specifically developed to resemble the large, loose-skinned, wrinkled dogs we know today. While they still prove to be very capable guard dogs, their temperaments are gentler and more family-friendly. Their wrinkled skin needs to be properly cleaned to prevent infections and other problems. Also, be prepared for a lot of drool.
Height: 24 to 31 inches
Weight: 110 to 150 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Large, muscular body; lots of wrinkles, especially around the face; short, dense coat that can appear black, blue, mahogany, and tawny in colorContinue to 9 of 10 below.
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The Spinone Italiano's name is thought to be derived from the spiny undergrowth they have to negotiate when hunting in their home region of Piedmont. These coarse-haired pointing dogs have very ancient origins. The modern-day variety became popular due to its versatility and ability to retrieve on land and in water. These dogs are known for being gentler and more mild-mannered than some of their pointing relatives. But they can have a stubborn streak, and the strong attachments they form with their people can result in separation anxiety.
Height: 22.5 to 27.5 inches
Weight: 65 to 90 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Muscular, powerful, square-built, large body; coarse, dense, flat single coat; bushy eyebrows and beard; comes in solid white, white and orange, and white with brown markings; markings can be roan or solid colors
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Of all the dogs on this list, the small, spitz-like Volpino is probably the rarest. The breed's history is thought to go as far back as the 15th century when these dogs were developed as companions for ladies of the court and also by the working class as first-rate watchdogs and vermin catchers. It's believed that the painter Michelangelo owned a Volpino. Despite their petite size, these dogs are full of energy. They're playful, alert, and friendly, but they can also be willful and vocal. Plenty of positive training will ensure that they don't become too stubborn or noisy.
Height: 12 to 16 inches
Weight: 9 to 12 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Small, spitz-type body; dense, straight, long coat; most commonly comes in white but also red, black, fawn, honey, and champagne