Though our post title sounds like the names of a couple of train lines, Piedmont and Lombardy actually refers to two Bracco Italiano variations that existed as recently as hundred years ago, which, in the storied history of this breed, is the blink of an eye.
Regarded by some as one of Europe’s oldest European pointers (if not the oldest), the Bracco Italiano dates back to the fourth or fifth century. It’s difficult to wrap our heads around a time that happened so long ago, so consider something more tangible: Both the Medici and Gonzaga families (think Renaissance) bred the dogs which were popular with falconers who used them to flush the falcon’s quarry. Before that, the dogs accompanied hunters of the Middle Ages to serve as net dogs to locate partridges and francolins, then capture them in nets.
But we’ve digressed. Piedmont is a part of Italy bordering France and Switzerland. It sits at the foot of the Alps, and consequently, has a hilly, mountainous terrain. The variety of Bracco that originated in the area was smaller, lighter, and lighter colored, and hunted in a style reminiscent of some western European pointers in that it moved with a jaunty gallop. When people referred to these orange and white dogs, they sometimes called them Piedmontese Pointers.
Lombardo, Italy in Northern Italy has mountains, but it also has alpine forests and plains crossed and dotted by dozens of rivers and lakes. The Bracco variety bred here was taller, heavier, thick set, and more robust. The roan-and-brown dog was hunted over in marshy lowlands, but unlike the Piedmont, this version was was a trotting breed. Like the Piedmont, however, locals referred to the dogs using the name of their “neighborhood,” – the Lombard Pointer.
Regardless of variety, the breed would come to encounter struggles. By the end of the 1800s, the Bracco Italiano faced extinction as a result of poor breeding decisions and cross-breeding with other breeds. The dogs became too heavy to perform their job, and the breed suffered. Happily, the Bracco Italiano was resurrected through diligent breeding, and in the 1920s, the two variations of the breed were united to preserve genetic diversity. Shortly after the breed was officially unified, the Working or ‘Pastrone’ Standard was drawn up in 1937 that described the physical and mental working style of the Bracco, and aspects of both breed types were incorporated. The breed standard had existed for over a century prior to being compiled into this one single document.
Image: Male Bracco Italiano/Deposit Photos