Sardinia’s Only Dog Breed?

The Sardinian Sheepdog, also known as the Fonnese dog or Fonni’s Dog, is found only on the island of Sardinia, the second largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. There, these dogs are livestock herders and protectors, but they were also loyal companions to Sardinian bandits hiding in the woods.

The breed takes its name from the town of Fonni in Sardinia where it is called in “Limba” as “‘ane’ e acàpiu” (chain or guard dog). The dogs are handed down from father to son, and are rarely given as a gift unless the recipient is a brotherly friend.  According to local tradition, today’s sheepdogs are the descendants of dogs chosen by the Loddo and Coccollone families as a consequence of the removal of a litter from the jealous owners of the breed.

Some regard the breed as a landrace bred without a formal registry, and indeed, scientists felt they had discovered one of the last pure landrace dog breeds which was reported in the October 11, 2016 issue of the journal Genetics. The study reported that these dogs travelled the same ancient migration routes as the Sardinian people, and like their people, the dog’s genetic signature remains distinctly isolated. The study also revealed that the sheepdog originated from sight hounds developed in the near and middle east as well as large mastiff-like sheep guarding dogs from an area around Hungary.

Who knew.

That it has ancient roots is further verified by archaeological objects that attest to the presence of similar dogs that date to the Bronze Age. Additional documentation was provided by one of the few known direct references to ‘Fonni’s Dog’ that came from a writer named Cetti who in 1885 described a particular ‘Sardinian dog’ common to the island. Writings from the mid-1800’s by de Saint-Severin, Goffredo Casalis, and Antonio Bresciani further supported the presence of the dogs.

Landrace or not, the Sardinian Sheepdog was recognized by the Italian Kennel Club in 2013, and though we couldn’t find the breed listed among accepted breeds, several sources indicate that the Federation Cynologique Internationale classified the Sardinian breed and assigned it to Group 2.

Looking into this breed proved to be confusing since there are those who argue that there are actually two breeds in Sardinia, the other one called the Dogo Sardo known locally as Pertiatzu Cani. The confusion comes from the name Fonnese Mastino having been wrongly applied to the Fonnese dog. Hopefully, we haven’t made things worse!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *