The Lagotto Romagnolo is an ancient breed of water dog that originally came from the marshlands of Emilia-Romagna, Italy. Over many years, as the wetlands disappeared, Italian farmers and peasants found a new use for this special breed — that of the truffle hunter. Today, the Lagotto Romagnolo is the official breed for truffle and mushroom hunting in Italy.
It is believed that the name Lagotto Romagnolo comes from the Italian, Cane Lago di Romagnolo, translated to “lake dog from Romagna.” And, we often hear the breed referred to as Italian Water Dogs.
The Lagotto, with its remarkable nose and strong desire to please the truffle hunter, has always been a valuable dog and guarded closely for centuries. Even today truffle hunters keep close guard over their dogs, some of which are worth tens of thousands of dollars, to insure they are happy and safe.
This ancient breed has changed little over the years because, despite cross-breeding, there were still enough pure-bloods left to ensure that the breed would stabilize in the 20th century, and in the 1970s, a group of Romagnesi breeders, veterinarians, and dog lovers decided to rescue Romagna’s only indigenous breed.
Because of their efforts, the breed has been returned to its traditional form, with an emphasis on their new role as truffle hunters and excellent water retrievers.
In 1991 the Lagotto received Italian Kennel Club official recognition, and FCI recognition shortly afterwards. In the 1990s the breed expanded into other countries such as Sweden, the UK, France, Germany, and Switzerland, and are gaining popularity in North America.
At Twisted Willow Farm, we reinforce the heritage of truffle hunting in our orchard of 600 hazelnut trees.
- The Lagotto appearance should be reminiscent of a rugged, working dog — one that it is ready to forage through the underbrush and come up powdered with soil.
- Their water-proof coat appears rough and forms thick, tight curls that cover the entire body with more loose curls at the head. Traditional colors are white, off-white, brown, and orange and almost every combination thereof.
- Lagotto Romagnolos have large round expressive eyes ranging in color from golds to dark brown. Adult males typically weigh 30 to 40 lbs and measure 17–19 inches at the shoulder. Adult females typically weigh 25 to 30 lbs and measure 16–18 inches at the shoulder. Lagotto live roughly 16 years.
- Lagottos are loyal, keen, affectionate, easy to train and not very demanding. They become very attached to their owners and make good companions, watch dogs and excellent family members.
- The Lagotto are members of the working dog group. They generally have sharp senses, though their eyesight is more sensitive to motion than detail. Their highly developed nose make them excellent search dogs.
- Although individual dogs vary in their need for exercise, they generally love activity and are better suited for the family or individuals that will provide plenty of exercise for them. Many Lagotto love to retrieve and go swimming. They need the physical exercise as well as mental exercise to be happy, contented pets.
- Games of tracking, looking for people in the woods or searching for mushrooms are suggested exercises for maintaining healthy Lagotto brain activity.
- Beware of your garden — Lagottos love to dig; many owners give them a sandbox, or have a designated place to allow them to satisfy their digging urges.
Our Lagotto Family
“Roman” (Rico del Tiglio)
Roman was born on August 25, 2009 at Blackberry Farm — a luxury resort situated on a pastoral 4,200-acre estate in the Great Smoky Mountains. He was raised and trained as a truffle hunter by Blackberry Farm’s noted handler, Jim Sanford. We arranged to acquire Roman in October 2011 and picked him up in January 2012 from Jim while at the Oregon Truffle Festival where Roman’s father, Tom, was demonstrating the art of the truffle hunt.
Roman is a white Lagotto with large spots of brown including a handsome mask that provides camouflage to his big expressive eyes. Roman is a serious dog with pensive eyes and a dancing gait. He takes clues from our lead and approaches everyone appropriately — whether that be cautiously, friendly or with great excitement. He seldom speaks but is quick to bark when he senses a problem. Roman is a strong dog weighing 39 pounds. He loves the outdoors and is an avid swimmer. He is very obedient, always careful and watches out over his girls, Ambra and Kessa, with gentle authority.
Ambra comes from the village of Monastero Bormida, Italy and was born on June 3, 2011. She is cream white with a blending of very light amber (orange) coloring around her head. She enjoyed her flight from Milano to New York and was appreciative that she got to spend a half of day in New York before making her way to San Francisco and then Napa Valley. Ambra is now 29 pounds and loves to play ball, tug-of-war and hunt for treasures — as much as she enjoys teasing Roman and Kessa.
“Kessa” (Duchessa di Monastero Bormida)
We enjoyed Ambra so much that when we decided to acquire another female, we made arrangements with our breeder in Monastero Bormida and brought Kessa (Ambra’s 14-month younger, full sister) home with us in October 2012. She too is a lover and a sweetheart. Kessa is slightly larger than Ambra and weighs 31 pounds. She loves to play ball with Ambra and smell camillia bushes in the garden.
“Donna” (Marchesa DonnaElla di Monastero Bormida)
Donna is a cousin to Ambra and Kessa and a litter-mate of Ani (pictured below). We picked them up in Alba, Italy in May 2015 when they were just 8-weeks old. Donna has grown into a beautiful girl with beautiful soft loose curls. In the sunlight, her silver highlights are pronounced especially against her dark chocolate ears and paws.
“Ani” (Contessa Anastasia di Monestero Bormida)
Always together — Ani and her sister, Donna, love to play tug and won’t give up the chew toy to the other. So they run around a lot joined by play. Ani is 2″ taller than Donna. Both are super sweet and fit right in to our Lagotto family.