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Often referred to as the Italian Pointer, the Bracco Italiano is a large gundog which is native to Italy. It's an ancient breed with references to the dog appearing in works from the 4th and 5th Centuries.
Although they are not common in the UK - there are less than 500 dogs registered here, they do make excellent pets and are generally quiet and obedient providing they are given plenty of exercise and mental stimulation.
Bracco Italianos are thought to be descended from ancient breeds including the Molossus and the Egyptian Hound. The dogs are thought to be one of the foundation breeds of today's modern gundogs.
The breed was developed centuries ago to drive game into the nets of waiting hunters, however the advent of the gun meant the Bracco's job changed to that of a hunt, point and retrieve animal. Despite changes in its work, the dog has remained true to type and has not changed much over the years.
Because of its proud heritage, the Bracco is highly respected in Italy both as a working gundog and as a field trials specialist. Its popularity has exceeded even that of the Italian favourite the Spinone.
The breed made its first appearance in the UK in 1989 after British enthusiasts visited field trials in Italy to see the Spinone at work and encountered the Bracco. Between 1989 and 1999 only seven litters were bred in the UK and this quality over quantity approach means the UK bloodlines are strong and have not been diluted.
Average height to withers: 22 ¾" - 26 ¼" (dogs) 21 ¾"- 24 ¼" (bitches)
Average weight: 25 - 40kg
A large dog, the Bracco resembles a bloodhound or basset facially and many people do say the breed looks like a cross between a pointer and a bloodhound; however its well-muscled body and deep chest means it's a powerful and strong animal that's built for work.
Its drooping lips and long ears give the Bracco a serious yet wistful, slightly wise look. The dog should be 'square', in other words as long as it is high although true 'squareness' must be avoided as it would compromise its natural grace.
The tail of the Bracco is usually docked as it is a working animal, although opinions on this are beginning to change and even in Italy, hunters are beginning to work the dogs with a full tail.
With a short dense coat, accepted colourways include white and orange (Bianco-Arancio) or Roano Brown (Roano-Marrone). The Bracco Italiano is an elegant mover with a long gallop that slows to a fluid trot once a scent is identified. This trot becomes a creep, which then becomes a halt and a full point when the target is located.
A loyal dog, the Bracco is brave yet gentle. They are very definitely 'people' dogs and thrive when with their family. They are a particularly good family dog and show a great affection for children. They co-habit quite happily with other dogs and pets, but owners must be careful to show them what to chase and what not to chase - they are, after all, a hunting dog.
They can be slightly opinionated, but with obedience training will quickly come around to your way of thinking. In fact, training a Bracco Italiano is a necessity - they are intelligent animals and do best when their minds are occupied. Discipline should be used only when necessary and when the dog needs reminding who's in charge. This is not an aggressive breed, but a Bracco will growl if there is a good reason.
This Bracco lives to hunt and will not be happy unless it is in work of some kind. In fact, experts do say that the Bracco needs mental stimulation more than it needs physical exercise! That said, regular walks with plenty of free running are a must.
As a large dog the Bracchi are prone to musculo-skeletal and joint problems so it is important to avoid over exercising them in the first year. Walks need to be kept short - just enough for the dog to socialise and get used to being on a lead. No jumping distances, stairs or jaunts across fields. All of this should be saved for when he's strong enough to keep up.
The Bracco does display a condition called 'Bendy Legs' in which the front legs of puppies bow slightly. It is thought that this is a trait of the breed rather than being a hereditary condition and it appears to affect about 10% of puppies. The syndrome is often self-correcting but highlights the need to keep exercise to a minimum in the first year of life.
Hip dysplasia is also a problem for Bracchi. This condition presents itself as hip dislocations or joint abnormalities and occurs in a number of larger dogs. It's important to ensure your dog is hip scored and that both parents are free of dysplasia. Elbow dysplasia has also been reported in the breed.
Ear cleaning is essential for all dogs, but especially those with large droopy ears. Establishing a routine early in life will get him used to the practise and will ensure he stays free of infection.
Allergies have also been reported in the breed, although the Bracco is no more susceptible than any other dog and incidences of allergies appear to be increasing in all dogs, not just the Bracco Italiano. However an itchy, allergic dog is an unhappy dog, so treatment must be sought if an allergy is suspected.
Bracco Italiano are large dogs that prefer open spaces where they can work or run, therefore the breed is not particularly suited to apartment or city living. That said, it wouldn't be impossible if the owner was happy to provide enough exercise.
Safety should also be a priority - like most dogs, the Bracco is not the most intelligent when young and would happily dart across the road if he caught a scent. Therefore basic obedience training is a must and whistle training is also useful. Microchipping or tattooing is essential and he should only be allowed off lead where there is no chance he can get near a road. Insurance should also be purchased to cover vets fees and public liability.