The Spinone Italiano, also known as the Bracco Spinone (in its country of origin), the Italian Spinone (in Great Britain), the Italian Coarsehaired Pointer, the Italian Pointer, the Italia Wire-Haired Pointing Dog, the Italian Griffon and simply the Spinone, is a versatile dog that was developed to hunt game in the Piedmont region of Italy long ago. It got its name from the phrase Bracco Spinoso, which means "prickly pointer." Some speculate that the term refers to the thorny brush into which only a Spinone would enter fearlessly during a hunt. Others are certain that the name refers to the "prickly" harsh nature of the Spinone's coat.
Either way, this dog is known for being one of the most talented of all the hunting dogs with a big, rowdy disposition and well-rounded skills. It is also known for its distinctive shaggy and somewhat rough appearance, with sprouting eyebrows, a beard and a mustache that according to some give it a "comical" look, but according to others a somewhat "grouchy" look. Its eyes, however, have been described as almost humanlike, and impossible to resist. The Spinone Italiano can be funny, friendly and frustratingly stubborn. They are especially vocal with their family and "talk" in a wide range of sounds. The Spinone Italiano was accepted for full registration into the Sporting Group of the American Kennel Club in 2000.
The mature male of this breed should stand 23 to 27 inches at the withers; the adult female should be 22 to 25 inches in height. Weight should be in proportion to size and structure – typically ranging between 60 and 80 pounds. The Spinone Italiano's dense coat can be white, white with orange patches or white with brown patches and is resistant to both water and extreme temperature variations. Its tail is typically docked and not carried above the horizontal.
The Spinone Italiano is an ancient all-purpose hunting dog from Italy and is one of the oldest of the griffon varieties still in existence. Its exact ancestry is uncertain. Some think that early French hounds, such as Griffons and Barbets, were crossed to create the Spinone Italiano. Others believe that the Spinone was the foundation of those and other breeds and that it dates to the ancient Italian Segugio Italiano and perhaps even to hunting dogs from Greece and ancient Rome. Regardless, historians trace its ancestry back to approximately 500 B.C., when Senofonte described "a rough, bristly-haired dog, with great physical endurance and exceptional ability for pointing game." Other historical references include frescos and many other works of art in palaces and elsewhere during the Middle Ages and throughout the subsequent centuries. Literary works also described this breed (or very similar breeds) in the 13th through 15th centuries, and beyond. According to a publication of the American Kennel Club, modern history of the Spinone Italiano can be divided into to basic parts: that from the early 1800s through World War II; and that from the end of World War II to the present.
At the beginning of the 19th century, several types of dogs shared similar traits in terms of coat color (orange-and-white, and brown roan), although coat type was less consistent. A "soft-coated pointer" was described in the literature as early as 1828, representing one of these dogs. In 1897, the first breed standard was written for what today we know as the Spinone Italiano. This evolved from the standard first written by the Societa Braccofila, to the Signor Angelo Vecchio (in 1904), to the Societa Braccofila (again in 1923), to the Italian Kennel Club (in 1928), to the Societa Amicidello Spinone (the breed club of the period in 1936), to Giuseppe Solario (in 1939), and finally to the Ente Nazionale della Cinofilia Italiana (in 1944). Despite the number and variation in these standards, they each describe the true characteristics of the breed: head, topline, coat and skin. However, by the start of the 20th century, the breed suffered from haphazard breeding and lack of attention to type.
The breed suffered further, like many others, during the war. Some cross-breeding took place, probably with the Wire-haired Pointing Griffon, the Bracco Italiano and the German Wirehaired Pointer. Fortunately, serious breed fanciers bred very carefully to maintain the key traits of the Spinone both during and after the war. In the 1950s, the La Famiglis dello Spinone was formed and recognized as the national breed club of Italy, and the Spinone Italiano was on its way to a healthy recovery.
The first known pair of Spinone Italianos – Bella and Tris - were brought to America in 1931 by Dr. Nicola Gigante. The Miscellaneous Class at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in 1932 and 1933 contained a member of this breed each year, but it was not officially recognized as competitive in that class until March of 1955. The Spinone Club of America was founded in 1987, and the American Kennel Club accepted the Spinone Italiano with full registration as a member of the Sporting Group in 2000. The Kennel Club (England) gave this breed full registration in 1994.
Today's Spinone retains its hunting instincts and abilities and is increasing in popularity. It can work in all weather and over any terrain if asked to do so. It has stamina more than speed but is efficient in tracking and good at pointing. It also can retrieve with equal skill and has the softest of mouth whether in or out of water and is said to be "equally at home in field, swamp or forest." This is a docile, gentle dog that makes a calm companion while at the same time excelling in hunting, therapy, agility, conformation obedience, tracking and/or other performance fields. He is said to be happiest when an integral part of the family.
The average life span of the Spinone Italiano is 12 to 14 years. Breed health concerns may include cerebellar ataxia and hip dysplasia.
As puppies, Spinone Italianos are rowdy, rambunctious and full of energy. As adults, they mature into quiet, dignified companions who generally make themselves seen and not heard. They are reserved around strangers, but come to life in the outdoors. Spinones are sturdy hunting companions and make excellent hiking and jogging buddies. They get alone well with children, when raised alongside the little ones and don't mind other family dogs. For families who have experience with dogs and love the outdoors, Spinone Italianos make excellent pets.
Spinone Italianos need a lot of vigorous exercise to remain healthy, happy and even-tempered. They are built for hunting and can withstand harsh terrain, hours in the sun and sopping wet conditions. Couch potatoes should not consider this breed, as they are much better suited for hunters and people who enjoy the outdoors. In the hunting field Spinones are versatile, tracking pointing and retrieving on land and water. When not hunting, Spinones enjoy walking, jogging and long hikes.
Spinones are far to large and need too much exercise to be cooped up in an apartment. These are country dogs who need plenty of room to run, roam, romp and whenever possible, to swim.
For experienced trainers, Spinones are fairly easy to train. They are not dominant or overbearing, but can be quite stubborn. Novice trainers may grow frustrated or be inclined to resort to harsh treatment or discipline – which is the wrong approach to training this breed. Spinones need strong, consistent leadership but should never be punished or physically corrected, as this will cause them to shut down and become even more resistant to training and boundaries.
Spinones are reserved dogs who need extensive socialization as puppies to help them come out of their shells. If not properly introduced to new people, new situations and other animals, a Spinone can be very difficult to live with. When properly socialized, he may still be cautious around strangers, but will always be polite and dignified.
Spinones were designed to be hunting companions and they enjoy working alongside their master in the field. This desire to bond makes them incredibly attached to people, especially those who exercise with him. Separation anxiety can develop if a Spinone is left alone for long periods of time, and they express this anxiety through excessive barking and destructive chewing. Exercising your Spinone before you leave the house can help, but these dogs are best suited for families with a stay at home parent, or with someone who works a flexible work schedule.
Spinones mellow out as adults, but puppies can be difficult to handle. They are rowdy and tend to bound and bounce about the house with little regard for furniture, knick knacks, drinks, or people who may be in his path. Proper exercise is important in limiting their bounciness, but it takes 2-3 years for a Spinone to be well behaved indoors.
This breed gets along fine with other dogs, but they are hunters who have a strong desire to chase cats, squirrels, rabbits and birds. When not in the hunting field, Spinones should be kept on a leash or in a securely fenced area.
Muscular dog with powerful bone. Vigorous and robust, his purpose as hardworking gun dog is evident. Naturally sociable, the docile and patient Spinone is resistant to fatigue and is an experienced hunter on any terrain. His hard textured coat is weather resistant. His wiry, dense coat and thick skin enable the Spinone to negotiate underbrush and endure cold water that would severely punish any dog not so naturally armored. He has a remarkable tendency for an extended and fast trotting gait. The Spinone is an excellent retriever by nature.
Size, Proportion, Substance:
Height: The height at the withers is 23 to 27 inches for males and 22 to 25 inches for females. Weight: In direct proportion to size and structure of dog. Proportion: His build tends to fit into a square. The length of the body, measured from sternum to point of buttocks, is approximately equal to the height at the withers with tolerance of no more than 1 inch in length compared to height. Substance: The Spinone is a solidly built dog, robust with powerful bone.
Long. The profile of the Spinone is unique to this breed. Expression is of paramount importance to the breed. It should denote intelligence and gentleness. Skull of oval shape, with sides gently sloping. With occipital protuberance well developed, medial-frontal furrow is very pronounced. Muzzle: Square when viewed from the front. Muzzle length is equal to that of backskull. The planes of the skull and muzzle are diverging, downfaced. Its width measured at its midpoint is a third of its length. Stop is barely perceptible. Bridge of the muzzle is preferably slightly Roman, however, straight is not to be faulted. Lips fitting tightly to the jawline. Convergence of planes of the skull and muzzle or a dish-faced muzzle is to be faulted so severely as to eliminate from further competition. Eyes: Must have a soft sweet expression. Ochre (yellowish brown) in color, darker eyes with darker colored dogs, lighter eyes with lighter colored dogs. Large, well opened, set well apart, the eye is almost round, the lids closely fitting the eye, to protect the eye from gathering debris while the dog is hunting, loose eye lids must be faulted. Which is neither protruding nor deep set. Eye rim clearly visible, color will vary with coat color from flesh colored to brown.Disqualification: Walleye. Nose: Bulbous and spongy in appearance with upper edge rounded. Nostrils are large and well opened. In profile, the nose protrudes past the forward line of the lips. (Pigment is flesh colored in white dogs, darker in white and orange dogs, brown in brown or brown roan dogs.) Disqualification: Any pigment other than described or incomplete pigment of the nose is to be disqualified. Teeth: Jaw is powerful. Teeth are positioned in a scissors or level bite. Disqualification: Overshot or undershot bite. Ears: Practically triangular shape. Set on a level just below the eye, carried low, with little erectile power. The leather is fine, covered with short, thick hair mixed with a longer sparser hair, which becomes thicker along edges. Length, if measured along the head would extend to tip of nose and no more than 1 inch beyond the tip. The forward edge is adherent to the cheek, not folded, but turned outward; the tip of the ear is slightly rounded.
Neck, Topline, Body:
Neck: Strong, thick, and muscular. Clearly defined from the nape, blending in to the shoulders in a harmonious line. The throat is moderate in skin with a double dewlap. Chest: Broad, deep, well muscled and well rounded; extending at least to the elbow. The ribs are well sprung. The distance from ground to the elbow is equal to 1/2 the height at the withers. Back: The topline consists of two segments. The first slopes slightly downward in a nearly straight line from the withers to the 11th thoracic vertebrae, approximately 6 inches behind the withers. The second rises gradually and continues into a solid and well-arched loin. The underline is solid and should have minimal tuck up. Croup: Well muscled, long. The hipbones fall away from the spinal column at an angle of about 30 degrees, producing a lightly rounded, well filled-out croup. Tail: Follows the line of the croup, thick at the base, carried horizontally or down; flicking from side to side while moving is preferred. The tail should lack fringes. It is docked to a length of 5 1/2 to 8 inches. Tail habitually carried above the level of the back or straight up when working is to be penalized.
Shoulders: Powerful and long, withers not too prominent; forming an angle with the upper arm of approximately angle 105. With well-developed muscles, the points of the shoulder blades are not close together. The ideal distance between the shoulder blades is approximately two inches or more. Angulation of shoulder is in balance with angulation in the rear. Forelegs: The forelegs are straight when viewed from the front angle with strong bone and well-developed muscles; elbows set under the withers and close to the body. Pasterns are long, lean and flexible following the vertical line of the forearm. In profile, they are slightly slanted. Feet: Large compact, rounded with well-arched toes, which are close together, covered with short, dense hair, including between the toes. Pads are lean and hard with strong nails curving toward the ground, well pigmented, but never black. Dewclaws may be removed.
Thighs are strong and well muscled, stifles show good function angulation, lower thigh to be well developed and muscled with good breadth. The hock, with proportion of 1/3 the distance from the hip joint to foot being ideal, is strong, lean and perpendicular to the ground. Fault: Cowhocks. Feet: Slightly more oval than the forefoot with the same characteristics. Dewclaws may be removed.
The skin must be very thick, closely fitting the body. The skin is thinner on the head, throat, groin, under the legs and in the folds of the elbows is soft to the touch. Pigmentation is dependent upon the color or markings of the coat. Disqualification: Any black pigmentation.
A Spinone must have a correct coat to be of correct type. The ideal coat length is 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 inches on the body, with a tolerance of 1/2 inch over or under the ideal length. Head, ears, muzzle and front sides of legs and feet are covered by shorter hair. The hair on the backsides of the legs forms a rough brush, but there are never any fringes. The eyes and lips are framed by stiff hair forming eyebrows, mustache and tufted beard, which combine to save fore face from laceration by briar and bush. The coat is dense, stiff and flat or slightly crimped, but not curly, with an absence of undercoat. The Spinone is exhibited in a natural state. The appearance of the Spinone may not be altered. The dog must present the natural appearance of a functional field dog. Dogs with a long, soft or silky coat, the presence of undercoat, or any deviation of the coat is defined in this as well as excessive grooming, i.e., scissoring, clipping, or setting of pattern shall be severely penalized as to eliminate them from further competition.
The accepted colors are: Solid white, white and orange; orange roan with or without orange markings; white with brown markings, brown roan with or without brown markings. The most desired color of brown is chestnut brown, "monks habit", however, varying colors of brown are acceptable. Disqualification: Any black in the coat, tan, tri-color, in any combination, or any color other than accepted colors.
The Spinone is first and foremost a functional working gun dog. Its purpose as a versatile hunting dog must be given the utmost consideration. Easy and loose trot geared for endurance. Maximum ground is covered with least amount of effort, which his purpose as a versatile working gun dog demands. Profile of the topline kept throughout the trotting gait, light body roll in mature bitches is characteristic of the breed. While hunting, an extended fast trot with intermittent paces of a gallop allows the Spinone to cover ground quickly and thoroughly. Any characteristics that interfere with the accomplishment of the function of the Spinone shall be considered as a serious fault.
Any departure from the foregoing points constitutes a fault which when judging must be penalized according to its seriousness and extension.
Any pigment other than described or incomplete pigment of the nose.
Overshot or undershot bite.
Any black pigmentation.
Any black in the coat; tan, tri-color markings in any combination, or any color other than accepted colors.
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Sources: American Kennel Club