10 Italian Dog Breeds

Neapolitan Mastiff lying on porch steps

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We're going to introduce you to ten of the most popular Italian dog breeds. The list is a diverse one, with dogs that come in a wide range of sizes, varying temperaments and different drives.

Do you think you could offer the right type of home and 'La Dolce Vita' to any of the breeds on this list? Check out these breeds below.

  • 01 of 10

    Bergamasco Sheepdog

    Bergamasco Sheepdog standing on a lawn

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    Originally used for herding and protecting livestock in the mountainous alpine territory near Bergamo in Northern Italy, the Bergamasco Sheepdogs unique flocked hair kept them well-insulated against the freezing winter temperatures. Their incredibly long eyelashes also kept the snow out their eyes and protected them from developing snow blindness.

    The Bergamasco is now incredibly rare, even though they can be very affectionate and loving family dogs. They're highly intelligent, active and independent thinkers, so they'll need lots of exercise, and you'll need to keep them on their toes with training.

    After the initial process of forming the flocks, when they reach maturity, the Bergamascos coat requires surprisingly little maintenance.

    Breed Overview

    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” and they come in shades of gray to black

  • 02 of 10

    Bolognese

    Bolognese sitting in autumn leaves

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    Descendants of the modern-day Bolo can be traced as far back as 11th century Italy, around the Bologna area, when they were beloved by the nobility of the time. The breed almost died out as classes and cultures changed, but an Italian breeder in the 1980s has 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. Their long coat does, however, need significant attention in the grooming department.

    Bolos can develop strong attachments to their families, and they would be best suited to a household where they'll have company for most of the day to prevent separation anxiety from developing.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 10 to 12 inches

    Weight: 5.5 to 9 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Small, square dog with a long, cotton-like coat, sometimes cut short to reduce grooming needs; all white

  • 03 of 10

    Bracco Italiano

    Bracco Italiano standing on a rock in a pond

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    The Bracco Italiano is thought to be one of the oldest pointing breeds in Europe, with their roots going as far back as the 4th or 5th century BC in Northern Italy. Bracco's nearly became extinct in the 18th century, but a group of conscientious breed enthusiasts help to grow their numbers again.

    These dogs are large, athletic, intelligent and driven. If they get enough exercise and stimulation, however, they're usually calm, loving and loyal in the home.

    If you want a dog to train in nose work, field trials or tracking, the Bracco could be your perfect match. Just be prepared for their high prey drive, a fair amount of drooling and a propensity towards being vocal.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 21 to 27 inches

    Weight: 55 to 90 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Large athletic dog with pendulous ears; short, dense and glossy coat that comes in solid white, white with orange or chestnut patches, orange or chestnut roan

  • 04 of 10

    Cane Corso

    Black Cane Corso standig in long grass

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    The Cane Corso is a muscular, large, mastiff-type, from a category often referred to as molossus dogs.

    These dogs have been around in Italy for hundreds of years. Originally developed for their guarding capabilities, they were also used for hunting big game and herding. The Cane Corso was popular amongst Italies farming community for being dedicated protectors of livestock and farm properties.

    The breeds numbers severely declined during the World Wars, but, since the 1970s their numbers have steadily grown, and they're now the most popular Italian breed in the United States.

    They're incredibly loyal and known for being very affectionate and gentle with family children. Their size and strength, however, do mean they need a home where they'll have enough space and get the right type of exercise and training.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 23.5 to 27.5 inches

    Weight: 80 to 120 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Cane Corsos are large very muscular, square dogs with large heads; coat is short and coarse; colors are black, gray, fawn, and red; brindle is possible in all colors; may have black or gray mask; may have small patches of white

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Italian Greyhound

    Italian Greyhound standing on pier with lake in background

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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. This lead to them becoming popular across Europe more widely, especially with royals and nobility.

    Iggys (as they're sometimes referred to), like many other breeds, were almost wiped out during the World Wars. Enthusiastic breeders in North America were largely responsible for reviving their numbers.

    They're known for being affectionate, easy-going 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 you should come armed with lots of patience and yummy food rewards. They're also known for having a high prey drive and may not suit living alongside small furries.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 13 to 15 inches

    Weight: 7 to 14 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Small, slender, elegant dog; short, smooth coat that comes in gray, black, fawn, chocolate, tan, cream, red, sable, or a combination

  • 06 of 10

    Lagotto Romagnolo

    Lagotto Romagnolo lying in grass beside a ball

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    Thought to be one of the oldest water dogs, the Lagotto Romagnolo was developed in the Romagna region of North-East Italy. Lagotto, in the local dialect, translates as 'Duck Dog'.

    The large-scale draining of the marshlands they hunted on in the 19th century could have seen the breed become extinct. Their working versatility, keen sense of smell and drive meant they have since, however, become popular as truffle hunting dogs.

    Lagos are known for being affectionate, eager to please and trainable. They're also more laid back than some working dogs. 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.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 16 to 19 inches

    Weight: 24 to 35 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: A medium-sized dog with teddy bear looks; woolly, curly water-resistant double coat that comes in solid off-white, white with orange or brown patches, brown, brown roan, brown or orange with white patches, occasionally tan markings also feature

  • 07 of 10

    Maremma Sheepdog

    Maremma Sheepdog sitting in grass in field

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    The Maremma Sheepdog was, and still is, used to guard sheep against wolves in the Abruzzo region and, as the name suggests, the Maremma area of Tuscany and Lazio.

    Their strong protective instincts mean they're now also used for this purpose in other areas across the globe, particularly Australia and North America.

    The breed is known for being loyal, calm and courageous. These big dogs are also intelligent, independent thinkers who can become very protective of their people and territory. They aren't necessarily a good choice for novice dog owners.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 24 to 29 inches

    Weight: 65 to 100 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: This large, solid and muscular dog has a long, thick, rough coat, with a mane around the neck; solid white in color

  • 08 of 10

    Neapolitan Mastiff

    Neapolitan Mastiff standing in the snow

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    The Neapolitan Mastiff's origins go all the way back to the Roman Empire when big molossus 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 and wrinkled dogs that we know today. While they still proved to be very capable guard dogs, their temperaments were gentler and more family-friendly.

    In Italy today, they're widely regarded as a national treasure and much beloved.

    While they're known for being incredibly loyal, laid back and gentle with their families, these big dogs aren't for the faint-hearted. They're very powerful, can be stubborn, and their wrinkled skin needs to be properly cleaned to prevent infections or other problems from developing. Be prepared for a heck of a lot of slobber too!

    Breed Overview

    Height: 24 to 31 inches

    Weight: 110 to 150 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Neapolitan mastiffs are large, powerful, muscular dogs; they have lots of wrinkles, especially around the face; short, dense coat can appear black, blue, mahogany, and tawny in color

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Spinone Italiano

    Spinone Italiano covered in snow

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    The Spinone Italiano's name is thought to have derived from the thorny 'Spino' 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 as a result of their versatility and ability to retrieve on land and in water. Although they almost faced extinction after the World Wars, their numbers are steadily growing, especially in their home country.

    They're known for being gentle and more mild-mannered than some of their pointing relatives. They can have a stubborn streak, though, and the strong attachments Spinis form with their people can result in them developing separation anxiety,

    Breed Overview

    Height: 22.5 to 27.5 inches

    Weight: 65 to 90 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Muscular, powerful, square-built, large dog; harsh, coarse, dense, flat single coat with a distinct set of bushy eyebrows and beard; come in solid white, white and orange and white with brown markings; markings can be roan or solid colors

  • 10 of 10

    Volpino

    Black Volpino lying against a white background

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    Of all the dogs on this list, the small, spitz-like Volpino is probably the rarest.

    Their history is thought to go as far back as the 15th century when they 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 size, this breed is full of energy - they're certainly not going to be a lapdog! They're playful, alert and friendly, but they can also be willful and vocal. Plenty of positive training will be required to ensure that they don't become too stubborn or noisy.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 12 to 16 inches

    Weight: 9 to 12 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Small, spitz-type dog with a dense, straight, long coat; most commonly come in white and red is also accepted, but they can also come in black, fawn, honey and champagne

There are a great assortment of breeds that have their origins in Italy.

If you're drawn to one of the dogs on our list above, make sure that you do further research on whether you can offer the right home and lifestyle to fit with their drives, temperament and size.

It's also important to seek out a reputable breeder or rescue organization.