As the American Kennel Club’s 200th fully recognized breed, the Bracco Italiano became the Sporting Group‘s latest member in 2022. Its AKC recognition was a huge milestone for the organization’s mission in the preservation of purebred dogs. After all, it’s been a long time since America’s oldest dog registry recognized its first breed, the Pointer, in 1878.
But if we’re talking history, the Bracco Italiano will make its Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show debut in 2023. It first competed at the AKC National Championship Presented by Royal Canin in December 2022. Plus, the Bracco has been called the oldest European pointer. Its lineage reaches back to the fourth or fifth centuries B.C., when it was believed to be a cross between Segugio Italiano and an ancient Molosser, such as the Asiatic Mastiff.
But the United States did not see the Italian Pointer until about 1994. Seven years later, it was accepted into the AKC Foundation Stock Service (FSS). In 2007, the Bracco Italiano Club of America (which has 124 members today) was founded. Its goals from the outset have been to preserve the health and hunting ability of the breed. Now, years later, the Bracco is fully recognized and able to compete in AKC Conformation, alongside other events.
There are an estimated 700 to 800 Bracchi in the U.S. today, says Amanda Inman, Bracco Italiano Club of America (BICA) president, with the population spread evenly across the states. The solidly built breed weighs between 55 and 90 pounds depending on the height.
A Hunting Dog at Heart
Inman, Ericka Dennis, and John Kavalier, all longtime Bracco owners and active in the parent club since its inception, emphasize that this is not a breed for everyone.
“This is a hunting dog and will always do best with a person or family who will hunt with them,” says Dennis. “They need regular exercise and mental stimulation, or they will find other outlets for their energy that are not always positive. Their happy times are when they’re in the field running after birds.”
Kavalier, of Tama, Iowa, who resides on a 60-acre recreational farm, says the breed will adapt to city life as long as it is exercised daily. “Because of their high intelligence, it is good to give them opportunities to entertain themselves like giving them toys and playing games like fetch.”
But make no mistake about it, this breed is born for the field and hunting.
“I am a hunter, so I have had several hunting breeds, including the Labrador Retriever, Vizsla, English Setter, and German Shorthair Pointer,” says Kavalier. “Of all the breeds I have encountered, I find the Bracco to be the most intelligent.”
Inman, who is also a veterinarian at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, previously owned Dachshunds and a Vizsla. But this breed sold itself to her with its “kind, thoughtful demeanor as well as its unique appearance. They have a more solid build than any other pointing breeds and the orange/white and brown/white colors are very striking.”
Though the exuberant Bracco is not appropriate for a first-time dog owner, according to Inman. She says they can make a great family dog, but they are a hunting dog first, meaning they will do best with an experienced handler. “They require a firm, but gentle hand in training, and will run amok if not trained in basic obedience and recall from an early age,” Inman says.
Each Bracco does have its own individual personality, meaning some may be softer than others. “The minute you put too much pressure on them, they will shut down,” Dennis says. “So best come with lots of treats and praise and lots of birds.” And be prepared for shedding and drooling.
When it comes to dog sports, club members chiefly focus on hunt tests and Conformation. A few have tried their hand at Agility.
Gaining Public Recognition
On the street, Inman and Dennis have received a wide gamut of quizzical reactions from the public.
“I have been approached many times by well-meaning folks that tell me they ‘had a dog just like that when I was a kid,” Inman says. In reality, their dog was likely just a mixed breed.
Inman says she generally can’t take her Bracco, Loki, anywhere without getting questions. The most common questions are “So that’s a Bloodhound mixed with what?” and “I’ve never seen a Bloodhound that color before.”
“Usually, I say Italian Pointer because if you say ‘Bracco Italiano,’ they usually just stand there with their jaw slack for a minute before walking off,” she says.
Dennis says they often get the questions “What kind of dog is that?” and ‘What mix of breed is that?’ “When I say Bracco Italiano, the most frequent reaction is ‘broccoli,’ she says. “At that point, I usually just say ‘Italian Pointer.’”
The Bracco comes in three distinct colors: white, white and orange, and white and chestnut. Known for being reliable, intelligent, docile, and easy to train, it has a life expectancy ranging anywhere from 10 to 14 years.
Intrigued by the Breed?
Now that the 15-year journey for full recognition is over, club members are cautious.
“While I have supported AKC recognition for the Bracco, there is concern about how this will affect the breed,” Inman says.
Fanciers are questioning if the breed will spike in popularity and how it will that affect the breed. Mostly, those in the club want to ensure the dog will remain in the field “We hope that those who are eager to show will also want to get involved in hunt testing,” she adds.
“This breed has been refined by the Italians for hundreds of years with a distinctive trot,” Dennis says. “If we move too far away from the standard that we worked so hard to maintain, we will find it very difficult to get back to where we are today.”
With all these caveats, be prepared to wait for a puppy since there are currently only about six longtime, dedicated breeders in the U.S. And plan on spending $2,500 to $3,000 for the new member of the household.
Also, get ready for people to ask you what kind of dog it is.