In contemporary canine world, the Lagotto Romagnolo is known by many as the Italian truffle dog. It owes its name and reputation due to its great performance in the truffle hunt. The Lagotto is the only breed worldwide, specialized in finding the truffle but definitely not the only breed used for truffle hunting. The search for truffles, however, is not the basic fundament of the breed: retrieving water game indeed is.
The Lagotto has always been held familiar to the Barbet, Portugues Water Dog (Cao di Aqua Portugues) and Spanish Water Dog (Perro de Agua Espanol). Although these four breeds have been taken into account being each other’s equivalents, the Barbet having the status of being the ancestor of all waterdogs, The Lagotto differs mainly in compactness of body and excellent sense of smell. In past and present people have been stated that both the Barbet and the Lagotto Romagnolo descend from African dogs, brought home by crusaders, sailing on the Middle-East. The Etruscans, living between the rivers Arno and Tiber, were known for their maritime trade and piracy. From the beginning of the Etruscan period, the presence of wired dogs in Italy, used to retrieve small waterfowl, has been known.
The original inhabitants of the marshlands between Ravenna and Ferrara bred and used the Lagotti to protect belongings and boats and ultimately to retrieve game birds. These residents were called Vallaroli (also known as Lagotti). Lagotto is literally synonymous to “waterdog”. While the Lagotto got his name due to his original function, the breed has not been called Lagotto Romagnolo from the very first beginning. For a long time the Italians used the name “curly haired dogs” to indicate the breed.
When the marshlands went dry, in between 1840 and 1890, the waterfowls took refuge to other areas and the Lagotto couldn’t be used as a retriever of game anymore. However, the superb sense of smell stayed intact. Since the 19th century, the Vallaroli people committed the life of their Lagotti to the hunt for truffles. From the Second World War on, the truffle became rare because of the enormous expansion of the agriculture in the North of Italy. The Lagotto almost lost its second functionality after retrieving waterfowl. Yet, the breed is up till now still used as truffle hunter, thanks to the efforts of devotees the last quarter of the previous century.