Benvenuto al Bracco Italiano!

By Jessica Freni

When you first see a Bracco Italiano the eye catching, jovial dog elicits a lot of questions. Growing up surrounded by bloodhounds I was obviously intrigued by the breed when I first encountered them at a UKC show. The breed has been UKC recognized in the Gun Dog Group since 2006. Despite a head bearing some resemblance to the bloodhound, this is not a Hound at all and just recently the Bracco was voted from FSS to Sporting Group designation in the AKC starting June 29th, 2022 (The Stud Book will remain open until July 1, 2026).

What is a Bracco Italiano? Known for its large,”flying” ground covering trot and stamina to “work effortlessly all day,” the Bracco Italiano is a hunting dog through and through. A dog happy in the field across various terrains(though some are less enthusiastic about water than others), the Bracco, while not a dog for novices and sometimes aloof with strangers, is often described as a generally happy, easy going dog.

Exhibitor and co-owner r Kelly Schur, spoke about the breed, “they’re generally a close working dog in the field, and their flying trot allows them to work effortlessly all day. Hunting behind a good one is incredible. Although they are considered a versatile hunting breed, they are not known for their love of water.

They tend to be more sensitive than many other versatile gun dog breeds and are not likely to do well with a heavy hand. They tend to want to work most for those they are bonded with. I’ve found them to generally be pretty easy going with both other dogs and most people. That said, I’ve found some to be less outgoing than I like. Some seem to pick their people and be pretty dismissive of everyone else.

The standard is incredibly nuanced and specific. It was really interesting listening to the Italian judge evaluate them at the National few years ago. Anyone with the breed should be prepared for a lot of “what kind of hound is that” questions or to be chastised for what an ugly shorthair you have.

Health testing is somewhat controversial given a relatively small gene pool, especially here in the states, and you’ll find breeders running the spectrum from no testing whatsoever to extensive testing and strict standards for what they feel should be bred from. I personally would fall somewhere in the middle (health testing to know what you have, but not necessarily throwing dogs out of the gene pool for abnormalities). Fatal kidney disease is rampant in the breed, and there currently is no test for it. The OFA test is **NOT** accurate for Bracchi so finding a breeder who is checking kidney values at least annually (if not every 6 months) is important. I’d run screaming from any breeder who is using the OFA test to say their dogs are clear…

“I’m absolutely head over heels in love with the breed, but I do fear for their popularity when they become fully accepted into AKC because they’re a big, impressive unique breed. I really truly hope breeders and owners keep the breed dual. I’m very, very, very nervous that people are quickly going to turn them into spectacular show dogs and lose the field which would be a horrible shame for such an ancient and storied breed.”

Fellow Bracco Italiano owner Siobhan Casey McCann spoke candidly about her experience with the breed and echoed some of these sentiments,

“I have two- we got our male in January of 2014 and our female in November of 2014. I chose to import mine from Hungary because I preferred the type I was seeing and the cost was equivalent to what US breeders were charging. They are hilarious, talkative, sweet, and silly. My husband wanted a bloodhound and I said ‘how about a sporting dog that looks like one?’. I had known about the breed for years but saw one at the Eukanuba show in Orlando in 2013 and began researching from there. At one point I was a member of the board and the health committee for one of the breed clubs before they merged. I’m excited that the breed has advanced but also fear their increased popularity.

Now for the not so good. Their small gene pool has led to them being prone to several health issues and overseas breeders are not as stringent with health testing and/or things are lost in translation. Hips/elbows, Kidney amyloidosis, and allergies are fairly common…They are very sensitive but very stubborn, which can be challenging. They are also the messiest dogs I have ever owned- they shed a lot, seem to attract dirt, drool a lot and are prone to ear and skin issues given their loose skin and long ears. I don’t know how to describe their cleanliness or lack thereof- they’re just not clean keepers. Their personalities are wonderful and I especially adore my boy- but these qualities, their size, and my experience with some US breeders/ the split between them will likely prevent me from owning another.”

Look for the Bracco Italiano in a field (hopefully!) and in the show ring and welcome them and their dedicated enthusiasts to the AKC Sporting Group!