Setting your heart on a BraccoItaliano can sometimes lead you to disappointment. There are so few Braccos (the plural is also called ‘Bracchi’) in the UK, and most breeders are quite discerning as to who they sell to, going as far as doing ‘home inspection’ visits, almost like an adoption process. If you can be patient, then you will be able to enjoy one of the most lovable and countryside ‘savvy’ dogs on the planet but be prepared that these dogs can take a while to acquire. You also need to be prepared for a considerable amount of regular exercise, as the Bracco loves nothing more than being outdoors, usually in the company of other like-minded dogs.
The Bracco or Italian pointer or Italian pointing dog has more prominence in Italy, with the breed still popular for hunting purposes. They are also found in other European countries, such as Croatia and Eastern Europe, where there is a huge demand for hunting dogs.
A Bracco is a wonderful family dog, perfect with children and extremely loving, but their desire to get out in the wild will overcome their desire to put their paws up by a roaring fire or radiator. Even though they love a good sleep, they are looking forward to the next country pursuit that you take them on. Once out in the wild with the sound of guns in their extremely large ears, the Bracco becomes much more of a free spirit, full of determination to hunt and retrieve. It is almost as if they have split personalities, one for home and one for the outdoors. When it comes to hunting, or even simple rough terrain work, your Bracco will not fail to delight.
There is no doubt that these dogs are all weather creatures, and their ultra large paws make easy work of any terrain, the muddier and thicker undergrowth is what really makes them tick. Their ears and nose are highly sensitised – some say they can hear and smell for up to 100 metres away. You have to be aware of one problem though – a Bracco when prepared for the day, may suddenly become ‘deaf’ to your commands, such is their strong will to hunt at any and every opportunity.
If you do want to hunt or point with your dog, be aware that they do take a while to train for this purpose. This breed is still growing up to the age of 4, so it is best not to start them too young for any country pursuits. A Bracco can reach up to 40kg when fully grown and potentially more when covered in mud!
The most certain characteristic in this wonderful breed is their ability to cover huge distances, so be aware that a day out really is an expedition of stamina for you. In full flight, these amazing dogs are a sight to behold with their ears almost acting like stabilisers as they run. For such a large dog, they are incredibly agile. The Bracco will make friends with other dogs very easily, but the second the sniff of the chase occurs, it becomes a serious competition, which generally they will win. They are totally focussed on hunting down ‘runners’, and only stop to re-evaluate the situation and pick up a sense of direction.
There are numerous opportunities for showing your dog up and down the country. For information such as this, your best point of call is the Italian Bracco club website, who not only list activities, but also provide a wealth of help and tips on the care of this breed. Small county shows would be an ideal starter for your dog to be shown for his ‘regal’ appearance, stance and gait that conforms with the known standards and characteristics. These types of shows, both indoor and outdoor, are perfect for you to meet and chat with other Bracco owners and breeders. In 2015, the Bracco won ‘Best of Breed’ at Crufts, so don’t think you couldn’t do it yourself.
Your dog must be well trained in all aspects, as judges are very precise when it comes to gun dogs. They will look for a head held high (nose slightly in the air), tail erect (at least slightly above the body) and a beautiful smooth trotting gait, known as the ‘trotto spinto’ in Italian. Quite often during this movement, all four legs of the dog will leave the ground. Whilst Braccos can get into a full racing action, judges do look for the natural characteristics in movement, quartering, pointing and retrieve. It really is not easy to get your dog to the level required, but extremely rewarding when they achieve that initial prize in the competition.
Some compare the English pointer as an equal breed, but Bracco owners will inevitably disagree! Whilst they have certain similarities in looks, they differ in technique.
Most common comparison is with the Italian Spinone (though not in looks or coat) and if you could own two-gun dog breeds, this would be an ideal situation. One factor to consider – the Spinone is much more comfortable at water work, whereas the Bracco prefers ground. A perfect scenario for the keen hunter.