Bracco Italiano and Italian Spinone

Italian SpinoneItalian Spinone

These two Italian breeds are ancient, they are recent additions to our Utility Gundog breeds. Today, the size and strength of the Spinone makes him a useful rough shooters dog to work in countryside where there are thorns and thick brambles. But the showy extended trot plus the high head carriage of the Bracco also makes him a flashy showdog which earns him great accolades against other breeds.

History of the Bracco Italiano

Usually considered as similar breeds that come in rough and smooth varieties, the Bracco Italiano and Italian Spinone are descended from smooth and rough coated Italian Hounds respectively.

Italian HoundsItalian Hounds

A group of smooth haired Italian Hounds or "Segugio Italiano A Pelo Raso" are pictured here. Descendants of the primitive hounds of ancient Egypt, these dogs were used to hunt game. They landed in Italy when they were spread along the Mediterranean coast by Phoenician merchants. Numerous drawings of Egyptian Hounds resemble present day Italian Hounds. Dogs of the this type and stature are featured as ancient sculptures and paintings up to 1600 AD, proving they are obvious ancestors of the modern Bracco[4].

History of the Italian Spinone

Italian Spinone c 1934Italian Spinone c 1934

The rough haired variety of the Italian Hound was originally called the "Segugio Italiano A Pelo Forte", the name 'Spinone' being derived from the Italian word meaning 'prickly'.

"It is not easy to fix the (exact) place of origin of the Spinone Italiano, although the official Standard of the Italian Kennel Club has it that the breed is of Italian origin. There are those who would assign to it the same origin as that of the Bracco Italiano, but it would be more logical and more natural to presume that the Spinone has originated from the rough-coated Segugio, a dog which existed in the Middle Ages. Others assert that the Spinone originated in the Alps of Piedmont, just as did the Griffon and the Barbet".[1] 

Spinone StampSpinone Stamp

Paintings of Italian Pointers with wire coats back to the 1500's[2]. But by the mid-1800's two separate breeds had emerged in the Piedmont the area bordering France and Switzerland and Lombardy which is an adjacent area further south (around Milan). When one considers the Italian Hounds pictured above, it is easy to connect the relationship between the old Italian Hounds and Italian Pointers. As with the previous Utility Gundogs we have considered, these two Italian Pointing breeds were first used in conjunction with the net in the art of fowling. However, once guns were invented, they were developed into hunt, point and retrieve Gundogs.

The Bracco Italiano and Italian Spinone become Pure Breeds

Bracco wins Best in ShowBracco wins Best in Show

Usually considered as an Italian Hound that comes in rough and smooth varieties, both the Bracco Italiano and Italian Spinone were carefully resurrected after World War Two from the first standards written in 1897. Recent additions to the western world, the Spinone was introduced into Britain in the 1980's and the Bracco a decade later. The first Italian Spinone Show Champion was 'Gallowdyke Eric of Sundeala' qualifying in 1994. 'Eric' also won the first Crufts CC on offer after a successful puppy career. His parents were also big winners before CC's were granted[3]. In the year 2000 the Bracco pictured had won Best Exhibit in Show at the World Dog Show held in Italy, its country of development.

Comparison between the Bracco Italiano and the Italian Spinone

The obvious difference between these two breeds is their coat. But there are more subtle differences. Although these have been highlighted in bold, this entire chart gives a more complete comparison.

The Bracco Italiano The Italian Spinone

The coat is short, dense and glossy However, the skin should be tough and elastic and of a corresponding colour with the coat, but never show black spots.

The coat is close fitting, thick and slightly wiry and just under 4 cms long except for the eyebrows, moustache and beard. The skin should be thick and leathery.
Colour White or white with orange or chestnut either speckled or in patches, preferably with a symmetrical face mask. White, white and orange, orange roan, white and brown and brown roan

Between 55 and 67 cms (21.5 - 26 ins)

Between 58 - 69 (23 - 27.5 ins)

General Appearance

The Bracco is of strong and harmonious construction, with a body length the same or a little longer than its height at withers.

The Spinone is a solid, squarely built, strong boned dog that is hardy and adaptable to working in any terrain including brambles and water.

Bracco ItalianoBracco Italiano Spinone (brown roan)Spinone (brown roan)
Head The head narrow, angular head has a skull and muzzle of equal length but with diverging head planes. The width of the skull should be less than half the length of the head. The lean skull and muzzle are of equal length but with diverging head planes. The width of skull should be less than half the length of the head.

The skull is in the shape of an elongated oval with a pronounced occiput, clean cheeks and a median furrow that ends mid-length up the skull.

The skull should be oval in shape with a pronounced occiput and a well defined median furrow.
Stop Not pronounced Gently sloping

The length of the wide muzzle is equal to half of the length of the head. The flews are well developed, thin and floppy, covering the jaw forming an inverted "V" below the nose. The nose is large with well opened nostrils and protrudes slightly. It is pink to flesh-colour or browned, depending on the coat colour.

The muzzle should be strong, long and broad with the nasal bridge showing a slight rise above a straight line. The flews should be thick and close fitting. The nose and thin lips should be well pigmented, the colour corresponding with the coat. The nostrils should be well open.

Mouth Teeth in a normal scissors bite but a level bite is acceptable. The powerful jaws close in a normal scissors bite.

Bracco ItalianoBracco Italiano

Italian SpinoneItalian Spinone

The eyes should be fairly large, neither deep set nor prominent with close filling eyelids showing no haw. They should be dark ochre or brown, depending on the coat colour.

The eyes should be large and fairly round with close filling eyelids. They should be deep yellow in white or orange and white coloured dogs, but ochre in those whose colour is brown or brown roan.

The ears are narrow at the base but be at least equal to half their length. They should hang close to the cheek with their rounded tip reaching the tip of the nose. A supple ear with a front rim well turned inwards is ideal.

The dropped ears are triangular in shape, slightly rounded at the tip, set on level with corner of eye, pliable and fine in texture and carried low with their forward edge touching the cheek but not more than 5 cms below throat line. They are covered with dense hair.

The neck should be powerful with a soft double dewlap.

The neck should be strong and muscular, fairly short with a slight dewlap.


The withers should be well defined with their points well separated. The elbow should is on a perpendicular line from the rear of the shoulder blade to the ground. The pasterns are of good length and slightly sloping.

The withers are not too defined and set well apart. The shoulders strong and muscular and well laid back. The upper arm should be well angulated, muscular and of equal length to shoulder blade. The forelegs should have straight, oval bone with slightly sloping pasterns.
Feet Both the fore and hind feet should be slightly oval in shape, with well-arched, tight toes and with strong white, yellow or brown nails, according to the coat colour. The hind feet may have dewclaws. The front feet should be compact and round but the hind feet are slightly oval. The nails are strong, the pads pigmented, and the arched toes covered with short thick hair. There should be dewclaws present on all four feet.

Bracco ItalianoBracco Italiano

Italian SpinoneItalian Spinone

The chest should be broad with its depth reaching the elbows without forming a keel. The ribs are well sprung, particularly the back ribs making in the underline appear almost horizontal. The topline slopes down from the withers and then arches slightly up again over the wide loin and then down towards the long, broad well muscled croup.

The chest should be broad and deep, reaching at least to the level of the elbows, with a prominent breastbone (keel). The ribs are well sprung and the tuck up of the underline minimal. The topline slopes gently downwards from withers and then rises to a slightly arched, broad, strong and well muscled loin and down again sloping gently over the croup.


The tail should be thick at the base with a slight tendency to taper. In action it is carried horizontally.

The tail should be thick at the root, set on as a continuation of croup and carried horizontal or down.


Both the upper and lower muscular thighs should be long, parallel and muscular with the hocks wide and straight.

The thighs should be long, broad, muscular and strong with the tendons clearly visible and the vertical hocks well let down.


The Bracco can move at an extended trot with powerful drive from his hindquarters. Combined with a high head carriage gives him a 'showy' gait.

The Spinone moves with a free, relaxed gait but is capable of a fast (but not extended) trot.

References and Further Reading

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[1] G. Horowitz, Hutchinson's Dog Encyclopedia - Dogs of Italy, Published by Hutchinson & Co (Publishers) Ltd Published by Hutchinson & Co. (Publishers) LTD., 34 - 36 Paternoster Row, London, E.C.4 1933 Page 1010.

[2] Carolyn Fry, 'The Italian Spinone', Published by Kingdom Books, PO7 6BQ, England, Chapter One 'Origins of the Italian Spinone Page 6

[3] Ferelith Somerfield, Editor 'Eric Wins First Spinone Crown' 'Dog World' Published by Dog World Ltd ISSN 0012-4885 Vol 79 No 24 Page 2

[4] FCI Breed Standard Number 337 Italian Short-Haired Segugio Brief Historical Summary