In contemporary Cynology (canine study), the Lagotto Romagnolo is also called the Italian truffle dog or lake dog from Romagna and is known for its great ability to find truffles. Although the Lagotto is the only breed which specializes in truffle hunting, it is not alone in its ability to find this underground fruit. The Lagotto however was not originally bred for the truffle hunt but for fetching waterfowl.
The Lagotto is related to the Barbet (fresh waterdog), the Portuguese Water Dog and Spanish Water Dog. Although these four breeds are counted among each other’s equivalent, the Barbet may be the foundation of all the water dogs. It is thought that both the Barbet and the Lagotto descended from African dogs, which were taken from the Middle East by crusaders. The Etruscans, living among the Italian rivers Arno and Tiber, were known for their maritime trade and piracy. Archeology and written records have shown that from the beginning of the Etruscan period the presence of curly coat dogs, used to retrieve waterfowl were used.
In renaissance art, Andrea Mantegna (1456) portrays a suite of Palazzo Ducale in Mantova (Lombardy). In this painting you can see a dog with great resemblance to todays Lagotto. The Lagotto is also present in a painting by Giovanni Fransesco Barbieri baroque work (1600). In 1591 Erasmo di Valvasone wrote a poem called “La Caccia” (the hunting) in which he describes a hunting dog with “curly fur, not afraid of the sun, water and ice, climber of mountains, wading of rivers, he who know how to overcome thorns bushes and that the waterfowl proudly and happily brings to the handler “.
Todays Lagotto originates from Romagna, a region in Northeast Italy. The original inhabitants of the swamps between Ravenna and Ferrara used the Lagotto mainly to retrieve waterfowl. These people were also known as the Vallaroli (Lagotti) people. As a result of expanding populations and the need to make land more productive, some marshlands were drained and some slowly came to dryness. Here the lagotto faced a crisis which was resolved by turning to the lagottos nose which was used to search for truffles. With that, Lagotto the retriever was no longer used, but the excellent nose was put to good use in Lagotto the truffle dog. Throughout this time, the Lagotto was always used to guard the property of the Vallaroli.
The Second World War was terribly hard on the forestlands of southern Europe and the truffle became a scarce commodity. This combined with a trend towards urbanization and the Lagotto faced its next crisis. It was not until enthusiasts in 1975 committed to preserving and retaining the Lagotto as truffle hunter. In 1977 Quintino Toschi (president of the Cynology association of Imola, south of Bologna) expressed concern for the vanishing Lagotto and set about ensuring the preservation of the original type Lagotto. In collaboration with Gilberto Grandi he invited and registered all the Lagotti in Italy. At this point, Lagotti breeding took a turn with much more emphasis on the breeding of specific breed characteristics, both in character and conformation. The Italian Lagotto Club was formed in June 1988, after which a group of enthusiasts worked for recognition, which was followed by the recognition by the ENCI (Italian kennel club) in 1991. The FCI came with the provisional recognition in 1995. Final recognition followed only 10 years later. The first Italian breed standard dates from 1992 and was adopted on 13 October 2010 when it was first published in English. It was last modified on 6 January 2016.
In the meantime the Lagotto can be found all over the world and is becoming increasingly popular.