The Lagotto Romagnolo has the restrained character of the true country dog, the typical appearance of
a dog which has its roots in history and the gentle, attentive expression common to all dogs of Italian
A first glance gives an impression of something historic and archaic that has miraculously survived to
the present day - a living challenge to time and history.
Many centuries ago the people of Italy developed a thriving trade with the Orient. This system of
commerce involved continuous contact at every level, thus allowing the different populations to learn
much about each others' cultures and customs - and a knowledge of dogs was no exception to that
rule. This explains why so many archaeological sites, especially in north-west Italy, have revealed the
presence of various canine breeds, especially a small water dog with a bristly, crimped coat.
Images illustrating hunting and fishing activities have been found in the Etruscan necropolis of Spina
(near Ferrara): they regularly depict a dog that is extremely similar to our Lagotto.
While it is true that the expansionism of many eastern populations was responsible for introducing
these breeds as far a field as the and the British Isles, it should be noted that this happened centuries
after the initial contact with Italian populations.
When water dogs reached Spain via North Africa at the time of the Moorish conquests, giving rise to the
present-day Perro de Agua Espanol, they had already been on the Italian peninsula for centuries,
especially in the wetlands and marshes of the Romagna.
It is thus quite probable that the Canis acquaticus of which Linneo spoke, defining it as having "been
around for some time" in the Mediterranean Basin, is none other than our Lagotto. In its morphology,
the drawing made by Linneo bears a striking resemblance to the curl-coated dog of the Romagna.
Following the disappearance of the Etruscan civilization water dogs continued to flourish, remaining a
common sight throughout Roman and medieval times, especially along the tract of coast that runs from
Ravenna, through the Comacchio and Veneto lowlands to Friuli and the Istrian peninsula.
In the frescoes of the Bridal Suite of Palazzo Ducale dei Gonzaga di Mantova, created by Andrea Mantegna
in 1456 there is, in the scene representing the "meeting", at the feet of the marquis Ludovico III Gonzaga, a
dog which is apparently the same as today's Lagotto.
From the 16th century onwards books on folklore, local culture, customs and hunting are full of citations
that mention the utilisation of a small curly-coated dog used to retrieve water game.
These dogs carried out a number of activities, providing support for the vallaroli (or "lagotti"),
picturesque folk who, prior to the sweeping land reclamation of the late 19th century, were the real soul
of those game-rich lagoons. The vallaroli, who were granted use of the famous "tinelle" or "botti"
(marshland hides made from barrels) for lowland hunting, generally accompanied the local gentry in the
fascinating, yet difficult practice of hunting.
The vallaroli were also trained to find truffles: back then far less was known about truffles and they were
far more abundant. The inseparable companions of the vallaroli were the small Lagottos, guardians of
boat and house, and excellent retrievers (especially of coots) way back when hundreds of small boats
would "beat" the hunting ground and surround and kill flocks numbering thousands. The Lagotto
would, often for hours on end, dive into the water whatever the season, even breaking through ice to
swim under it and drag the fallen birds back onto the shore (an activity made possible by the animal's
compactly crimped coat and thick undercoat which forms a water-repellent layer that keeps the water off
The name Lagotto derives, then, from its original "career" as a water dog. In the local dialect of the
Romagna "Càn Lagòt" is synonymous with "water dog" or "wetland hunting dog with crimped, curly
A sharp aptitude for searching, a steep learning curve and an unbeatable sense of smell, would, in time,
make the Lagotto an efficient truffle-finder.Land reclamation has, over the decades, steadily shrunk the
immense wetlands of Comacchio and other parts of the Romagna.
In subsequent decades the use of concrete pylons to support grapevines and the steady disappearance
of woodland have made the truffle a somewhat rarer find, especially on the plain. The Lagotto then
turned out to be the perfect choice for searching in hilly woodland and thorny scrub during the
autumn-winter period on account of its tightly-knit coat.
Even as far back as 1920 the Lagotto was well known in the valleys of the Romagnolo Apennines, in the
Valle del Senio, Valle del Lamone and especially in the Valle di Santerno.
It should be born in mind that back then no-one was interested in the Lagotto as a pure breed: the
existing breeds were considered to be more than sufficient and the cross-breeds were often even more
appreciated on account of their robustness, character and resistance to disease. Truffle hunters have
always bred their dogs on an entirely empirical basis (outside of any genetic rules), taking into account
only the immediate, practical outcome: a brilliant truffling dog, whether Lagotto or not.
However, merit where merit is due: the truffle hunters of that period did not let our Lagotto fall by the
wayside, allowing it to survive - almost by miracle - to the present day in near-perfect phenotype and
Towards the mid 1970s a group of Romagna-based dog lovers decided to save the breed, which was
risking extinction as a result of the incompetence, ignorance and negligence of owners: The group was
led by the gentlemanly Quintino Toschi, President of the local dog society and the E.N.C.I. breeder and
judge Prof. Francesco Ballotta (who still remembered the Lagotti of his youth perfectly). They were
supported by dog expert, judge and world-famous breeder Dr. Antonio Morsiani and Lodovico Babini, a
Romagna-born dog lover with extensive experience. They were to set a genetic reconstruction
programme in motion that would save the Lagotto from the one-way tunnel to extinction.
The reunification of the two parallel stories of the Lagotto - the one that took place in the wetlands and
the one that took place on the Apennine hills - were to lay the basis for the renewed purity of the breed.
With the founding of the Club Italiano Lagotto (C.I.L. - Italian Lagotto Club) in Imola in 1988, which now
has members all over the world, a firm foundation for official acknowledgement of the breed on the part
of E.N.C.I. and F.C.I. was created.
Official recognition by E.N.C.I., with approval of the morphological Standard drawn up by Dr. Antonio
Morsiani (following years of biometric measurements on hundreds of subjects) was achieved in 1992. In
1995, thanks to the constant dedication of the Club and its technical bodies, provisional international
recognition by F.C.I. was won and in 2005 the breed finally got recognized completely.
Welcome to Terra Incognita, the # 1 show kennel in the
We have acomplished 30 championships in 11
different countries in less than four years (including 4
italian champions and 7 italian youth champions).
We also are the breeders of the Eukanuba BOB
WINNER and number one dog in the US in 2013.
Our Ferrero is the father of the 2014 Eukanuba BOB
WINNER and we are the
breeders of the first Eukanuba agility qualifier in the
The Lagotto Romagnolo
is a dog that has been specially bred to find truffles on all kinds of terrain; it is the only breed in the
world specialized in tracking down this precious tuber.
A typical water dog of small-medium size, it is light mesomorph with a rather stocky trunk. Its general
appearance is rustic, strong and well-proportioned and its utility as a working dog is immediately
The expression is one of attentiveness, intelligence and vivacity. The Lagotto works enthusiastically
and efficiently, making the most of its inherent search-and-find skills and excellent sense of smell.
The hunting instinct has been suppressed so that it is not distracted by game. An affectionate animal,
it forms a close bond with its owner and also makes a fine, easy-to-train companion.