The domesticated dogs you see walking around your neighborhood have origins from every corner of this globe. From the rocky terrain of the Himalayas to the snowy tundras of Siberia, there are tons of colorful dog breeds out there. However, some of the most loved hail from Bel Paese, also known as Italy.
Italian dog breeds are wildly popular among casual dog owners and breeders alike. The country has a rich history of dog ownership, and historians have evidence of domestication ranging from Ancient Rome to the Celt-occupied regions of Lombardy. While these canines have evolved since ancient times, many hold onto their Italian roots!
There’s no shortage of Italian breeds worth adopting. These dogs come in various sizes, colors, and temperaments, but each has something unique to make it stand out.
Ready to see the dogs?
Here are some of the most well-known Italian dog breeds.
1. Bracco Italiano
The Bracco Italiano is a gorgeous pointer hound with a long and illustrious history. Early records show that it existed as far back as the fourth century! They almost went extinct at one point, but breeders stabilized their numbers for modern dog owners to enjoy.
These dogs have a pretty foreboding stature. Males can weigh as much as 90 pounds. But that doesn’t stop them from being active. Bracco Italiano dogs are intelligent, full of energy, and surprisingly active. They need a good amount of exercise to stay healthy and plenty of mental stimulation to fulfill their pointing instincts.
That’s right! There’s an Italian dog called the Bolognese!
Surprisingly, it has no connection to the tasty meat sauce. This dog helms from the Bologna area. During the 11th century, it was the dog of choice for noble Italians and royalty.
Bolognese dogs are small. They usually have crisp white fur with a somewhat wavy texture. As you can imagine, their coat needs regular grooming. Bolognese dogs are also sometimes known as the Bichon Bolognese.
While small dogs are usually known for being feisty, the Bolognese is generally calm and affectionate. As a result, they make fantastic family dogs.
If you’re an owner who finds it difficult to say no to your dog, you might find yourself being ruled by the Bolognese! While they’re adorable, they also love getting their own way and you’ll have to enforce rules early on in their life to keep them under control and to remove these instincts.
3. Cane Corso
The Cane Corso is a popular mastiff-type breed. It has a reputation for being aggressive and territorial. That’s because they were initially bred to be guard dogs and mighty hunters. Even today, many people use them for protection and home security.
The Cane Corso is recognized as a “Molossus” dog breed. This breed appeared constantly throughout Ancient Greek history in old sculptures and paintings. Molosser dog breeds are made up of both Bully dog and Mastiff dog breeds.
The dogs are loyal to family and can create strong bonds with owners. They might be scary to others, but Cane Corsos are loving and affectionate dogs to family. Thanks to their muscular build, regular exercise and strict training are a must.
4. Spinone Italiano
It is large and rugged with a long head, hanging ears and human looking eyes. It has a very pronounced occipital protuberance.
They have thick coats of coarse and wiry hair. It requires some upkeep to prevent tangles and mats. These dogs can get into messy territory, so keeping up with grooming is crucial.
This sporting breed has a square and muscular build which indicates great strength and stamina. The tail is carried low and in countries where permitted, the tail is docked to a length of 6 to 10 inches. Spinoni Italiani (plural) have rough, thick, slightly wavy and wire-haired coats that lay flat and fairly close to the body.
The dogs are relatively mild-mannered. They can exhibit stubborn streaks, but that’s not something that solid training can’t fix. The same goes for their penchant for separation anxiety. Like any other dog, this breed needs attention and training to live happy lives.
5. Bergamasco Shepherd
You might have seen the Bergamasco Sheepdog in photos before. It has an instantly recognizable look. The dog’s coat is long and naturally mats, creating lengthy flocks of hair. At first, the coat looks poorly maintained, but that’s by design. The flocks provide insulation against the freezing temperatures of their domain in Northern Italy.
The Bergamasco Sheepdog is on the rarer side. But if you’re lucky enough to adopt one, you’ll get to be witness to the breed’s impressive intelligence. They’re smart animals that also love to show their affection.
6. Saint Bernard
Saint Bernards are one of the most widespread Italian dog breeds. They originally came from the French Alps. Eventually, they served as rescue dogs for monks at Great St. Bernard Pass, hence their name.
The Saint’s wide head has a short and deep muzzle, large black nose, dark brown eyes, medium-sized ears that droop forward, and a long thick tail carried low and raised when the dog is active. The St Bernard’s coat comes in two varieties.
Long haired Saints have a medium length, dense, flat coat that is fuller around the neck and slightly wavy on the back with a bushy tail. Short-haired Saints have a close, hound like coat with some feathering on the legs and tail.
These canines are massive. The biggest adults can weigh almost 200 pounds. Thankfully, their size isn’t indicative of their personality. Saint Bernards are natural caregivers. They’re affectionate, loyal to a fault, and super lovable. They even do well with children.
7. Neapolitan Mastiff
The Neapolitan Mastiff has one of the more colorful histories. Experts believe they hail from ancient Rome, where they fought alongside gladiators in the heat of war! Given their sheer size and power, it’s not hard to imagine that reality.
The Neopolitan Mastiff or Neapolitan Mastiff is sometimes called the Mastino or Neo and is one of the gentle giant dog breeds.
Today, the dogs are often utilized as guard animals. But, they also have good temperaments to act as family dogs. Naturally affectionate and loyal, they do well in most environments.
Male Mastinos stand 26 to 30 inches tall and females 24 to 28 inches tall at shoulder height. Male dogs weigh from 140 to 170 pounds and females from 110 to 140 pounds. Neos have a short and shiny coat that is usually blue-grey in color.
Other Mastino colors include grey, black, brown, fawn or brindle.
8. Cirneco dell’ Etna
The Cirneco dell’ Etna is an affectionate dog from the island of Sicily. The exact origins of this breed are unknown, but a similar-looking dog does appear on ancient Sicilian coins.
This breed is a type of hound dog. It’s athletic and does well working the fields to hunt for prey. These creatures can run fast, and their lean bodies are agile enough to chase after most small animals.
They do well in family homes, but the Cirneco dell’ Etna does need early socialization and training.
9. Maremma Sheepdog
Here’s a gorgeous Italian breed with a unique personality. The Maremma Sheepdog weighs almost 100 pounds fully grown, so it can be a handful to raise. Pair that with the thick coat of fur that needs regular grooming, and they’re not for novice dog owners.
Another challenge of the Maremma Sheepdog is its attitude towards humans. They are not aggressive and choose to show affection in many ways. But, they don’t view themselves as pets. Above all else, these animals think they’re responsible for herding livestock. That could result in some stubborn behavior!
10. Segugio Italiano
The Segugio Italiano is another breed created for hunting purposes. It belongs to the scenthound family of dogs, giving it an impeccable sense of smell. In ancient times, massive groups of Segugio Italiano would roam the lands to hunt prey. They targeted wild boar so much that the target’s numbers started to decline.
The hunting instincts remain today. They can get into trouble when small animals come around. But outside of those instances, Segugio Italianos are lovely family pets. They watch your home, keep you safe, and provide plenty of amusement.
11. Lagotta Romagnolo
This furry goofball is a joy to raise! The Lagotta Romagnolo started as a waterfowl retriever. However, they later learned how to become truffle hunters. Because of that varied history, modern Lagotta Romagnolo dogs are surprisingly intelligent.
At first glance, their small size and curly hair make people believe they’re nothing more than a lap dogs. But this breed is a dedicated worker. Even if you’re not training it to do anything in particular, the Lagotta Romagnolo will do its best to keep you happy.
The Volpino is a spitz breed with a unique heritage. Experts believe it’s an ancestor of a spitz dog from more than 5,000 years ago. The species is small and looks similar to an Italian Pomeranian because of its beautiful white fur. Temperaments are nearly identical, too.
Volpino dogs are wildly territorial and protective of family. Despite their small size, they make excellent watchdogs. When a stranger approaches, these dogs bark their heads off to let you know.
13. Italian Greyhound
Italian Greyhounds are another well-known breed. They look similar to traditional Greyhounds, sporting the same lean body. These dogs also have great athletic ability, reaching speeds of up to 25 miles per hour.
The biggest difference with the Italian variety is the size. Most only stand around 15 inches tall, making them a pint-sized version of their larger cousins. Italian Greyhounds are attentive. They act like lapdogs and can sometimes be shy or fearful. Once again, training and socialization make a big difference.
14. Dogo Sardo
Finally, we have the Dogo Sardo. This Italian breed is rare, coming from the island of Sardinia. They assisted farmers in various tasks, helping with everything from livestock protection to herding.
Today, the Dogo Sardo is an intelligent dog with a somewhat intimidating temperament. They can be aggressive towards strangers. They always remain alert, and you can’t get by a Dogo Sardo without it spotting you! Fortunately, they can be more loving and loyal to family.
Those are just some of the most well-known Italian dog breeds. There are plenty more. Many canines come from the Mediterranean country. The region’s rich history has led to the creation of many unique breeds. Many were lost to the war, but those that remain continue to captivate dog enthusiasts. If you’re looking for a new companion to adopt, each dog has something special to bring to the table.