Truffles refer to edible fungi that grow underground and are considered a delicacy for their unique and sweet characteristic aromas. As they mature, truffles develop odors and send off pheromones that signal something tasty hidden under the soil. However, for the delicacy they are, truffles tend to be pretty expensive; hence most people cannot afford them.
Another reason why truffles are expensive is that they cannot grow anywhere. They require a particular type of soil and grow inside trees which makes finding them relatively challenging. Nonetheless, you have a chance of finding some truffles in the nearby forest with the help of your four-legged dog friend. Here is an exclusive look at everything you need to know about truffle hunting.
What Is A Truffle?It is an ectomycorrhizal fungi that grow in close association with tree roots. The truffles grow naturally in woodland areas; hence anyone can find them, including casual workers out in the countryside. The fungi create a fiber network under the ground in association with the tree's roots establishing a symbiotic relationship. It feeds on carbohydrates from the trees and mostly like beech, oak, and hazel trees. Truffles look like a rough-skinned, knobby potato and usually grow not too deep in the soil.
Truffles have a delicious smell with a character of fresh porcini mushroom, almond, and heavy summertime humidity all combined into one. Also, truffles come with a unique taste, slightly musky, garlicky, and are predominantly served uncooked or as a meal supplement. They enhance existing flavors in the food. One exciting aspect about the truffles is that they only release the sweet earthy fragrance only when they are ready to be eaten, which is one of nature's miracles. You can walk over a buried truffle multiple times, but the dog will be able to smell them out once they are ready to be eaten. The once broadly available tuber delicacy throughout France is now a rare delicacy because of the countryside's shelling during World War II, where most truffle forests were damaged. As of now, they go for a hefty price.
Truffles Hunting In Italy
Among the typical Italian cuisine products, the precious black and white truffles have a place of honor. Truffle hunting has become predominant in Italy, along the rolling hills of Emilia Romagna south of Bologna in the small city of Savigno. The landscape is beautiful and characteristic of green pastures and woodland, with the significant activity around here being farming. Truffle hunting has recently become the dominant activity, with the demand for this kitchen delicacy increases in restaurants in Los Angeles, New York, Sydney, and shanghai. They compete to get the best truffles to use in preparing a wide range of recipes.
With the truffles going for thousands of euros per kilo, Savigno is lying on a gold mine. Umbria, Tuscany, and Piedmont, Italy, are also very famous for truffles. There are many truffle varieties globally, with the most popular being the black and white truffles. However, Italy’s white truffle is considered the most delicious, elusive, and expensive. Whereas black truffles can be propagated in plantations, white truffles are extremely rare and require optimum conditions to thrive.
In the past, female pigs were used for hunting for truffles as they did it very naturally. Unfortunately, the pigs developed a preference for eating the spicy and aromatic truffles, making it more difficult for the hunters to snatch these culinary delicacies from the pigs' jaws. However, dogs are nowadays used more frequently as they are easier to control and don't eat truffles they find. Once the dog picks up the truffle aroma and starts digging lightly, you can easily signal the dog to move aside and dig the rest of the truffle yourself.
What is the ideal time for truffle hunting?
Depending on the truffle hunting location, you can find the truffles at different times of the year. Truffles are hard to find and require a lot of patience. First, you need to train your dog while still a puppy to enhance its sense of smell and find the treasurable underground delicacy found a few centimeters below the ground close to certain types of trees. The main trees that truffles love include; maple, oak, ash, hornbeam, hazel, larch, beech, chestnut, pine, poplar, and walnut. The type of soil, however, differs depending on the type of truffle.
During the summer, the appropriate hours for truffle hunting are at dawn as the sun is usually too hot during the day and might exhaust the dogs. On the other side, during the winter, it is best to go truffle hunting in the warmest hours of the day. Higher temperature heats the soil enabling the aroma of truffles to transpire, making it easier for the dog to locate this delicious fungus. Based on a seasonal perspective, black truffles are mostly available during the winter, while white truffles are adequate during the summer.
Best dogs for truffle hunting
Perhaps you want to get into professional truffle hunting or want to do it for fun to give you a chance of enjoying the delicacy without going beyond your means. Unfortunately, you will have a minimal chance of locating these delicacies without a dog's help. Previously, hunting truffles was done with pigs due to their incredible sense of smell, but dogs took over the role because they are pretty greedy and tend to eat the truffle once it is in their mouth.
But can all dogs find this edible delicacy? Generally yes! All dogs have excellent olfactory senses hence can quickly discover truffles. The question, therefore, is not if all dogs can find truffles but instead whether all canines want to search for them. Some dogs are not interested, and irrespective of how much you try training them, they will not learn how to look for these spicy fungi. The main breed's ideal for truffle hunting is the Lagotto Romagnolo. Apart from this, other dog breeds used to hunt truffles include; Cocker Spaniels, Beagle, Labrador, Setter, etc. Some of the dog breeds that will be excited to accompany you in truffle searching escapade include;
Although other dogs can be taught to pursue these treasurable fungus, the Lagotto Romagnolo is particularly successful in truffle hunting and is the customary Italian truffle-hunting dog. This is a true wizard of searching truffles obedient and ideal for less expert truffle hunters. The breed originates from the Romagna region in Italy. ‘Lago’ is an Italian name meaning lake, so Lagotto Romagnolo translates as a lake dog from Romagna.
This cute pup has been used to help in hunting waterfowl in the lake. The fact that the lagotto have great sniffing ability and easy to train them got a new role as the best and most popular breed for truffle hunting and officially been classified as the specialist in this field. The curly-haired, medium-sized dog is friendly and makes a good family pet. Lagotto Romagnolo is a highly amenable and intelligent dog.
When it comes to training, the dog is attentive and enjoys pleasing its owner. They also love being challenged and stimulated for their wonderfully attentive brains. They can solve doggy puzzles for treats very quickly and are fantastic to watch. They sometimes display an almost human level of emotion and intelligence.
This intelligent and adorable dog can be a good truffle hunter, athlete, guide dog, therapy dog, among others. Due to their loyalty and intelligence to humans, they can be trained very fast. Nevertheless, Goldens are fold of food, so you need to be careful that they don’t eat their findings.
This dog breed is a traditional retrieving and flushing dog. Also, the dog features a sharp sense of smell; hence, it can be used as a sniffer dog as it is a calm and faithful dog that will promote his learning of the role. This makes it an excellent dog for truffle hunting.
The German Shepherd
This breed is famous for its athletic and sniffing abilities, especially in tracing thieves, drugs, and bombs in security services. The German shepherd is also a robust, gentle, and docile breed that makes it an excellent truffle dog that you can rely on.
Who would have thought of this little pup as a truffle hunter? In the past, the beagle was a hunting dog that specialized in hunting hare. The dog is a scent hound meaning it depends on smell instead of vision when looking for something. Because of their fantastic sense of smell, they are good truffle hunters.
Malinois are superbly hard-working and intelligent dogs that bond excellently with humans. A Belgian Malinois dog is excellent in performing any task, so they are eccentric in searching for truffles.
Popular for its compliance, the Labrador adapts easily to the role of finding truffles. He is amiable and compliant with his owner’s demands; this breed of dog is a great truffle hunter when appropriately trained.
You Don’t Require a Pure Dog Breed to Hunt TrufflesThe list of the best truffle hunters above does not in any way mean that it is where the list finishes as plenty of other dogs can learn to search for this delicacy. In reality, there is a higher chance for your mixed breed puppy to be up for the job. Additionally, it is not a must for your dog to have been introduced to the truffle scent to be a successful truffle hunter at an early age. Dogs that flourish in truffle hunting typically need to possess these characteristics;
- A great sniffing ability. A lot of pups have an excellent scent tracing ability. However, not all canines have an excellent sniffing nose for truffle hunting. Pups that have smashed noses, such as bulldogs or pugs, will find it hard to sniff out truffles.
- Trainability. Dogs will require to go through a bit of training to understand how to trace truffles. Your pup hence requires to be easy to train and eager to delight you. The tenacious puppies that choose to do as they wish cannot succeed in hunting truffles.
- Ability to ignore distractions. This is an additional aspect of easy to train, but it is essential mentioning that truffle hunting dogs require to have the ability to disregard disruptions. If the pup gets distracted by each rat or squirrel crossing its trail, it may have a difficult period ignoring the plentiful wildlife wandering in the woodlands where the truffles exist in.
- Working dogs. While it is not necessary, dogs with a working history tend to advance well in truffle hunting compared to others. Dog breeds with an instinct of working and have a role tend to be keener to train and study. Pups with a preceding skill of smelling out bombs or drugs easily cross over into truffle hunting.
- Good manners. For your dog to perfect truffle –hunting, it requires to have basic manors. For example, you don’t want the dog to gobble up the precious truffle out of your hand.
The above traits can be found in various breeds or mixed breed dogs. However, regardless of mentioning that hard-working characterized pups fit well for the role of truffle hunting, a pup’s job can sometimes function against it. Canines that have been trained for another occupation might find it harder to get excited about truffle hunting. The good news is that most canines have a relative likelihood of training to hunt truffles.
Training a Dog for Truffle Hunting
No dog perfects to be a truffle hunter overnight. It needs learning the role and excellent training and involvement between the dog and its owner. Similarly, it is crucial to begin training the dog to hunt truffles at a young age. Rigor and training will make the dog a remarkable truffle hunter. Although some dogs are more suitable in the role than others, all dogs, regardless of breed, can do this job with proper training.
Training your dog to hunt truffles is comparable to how drug-sniffer dogs are taught. The pups need to be trained to link the specific aroma with somewhat good such as a preferred treat or toy. Pups comprehend that they will be given a good delicacy after finding a truffle, depending on the reward that motivates the pup. This is sufficient to persuade the canine that the aroma is worth tracing. In the subsequent step, coaches will put up difficulties to up the concentration slowly. For instance, a training process may look include;
• Cover something with truffle oil and have the pup look for it.
• Apply something with truffle oil and place it under foliage, then reward the pup after finding it.
• Apply the thing with truffle oil and place it underneath the rocks.
• Cover the thing in truffle oil and dig it in the soil.
• After it discovers the truffle-oil-covered thing, don’t allow it to eat it. Alternatively, take the item away and offer the dog a different delicacy as a prize.
A number of dog trainers suggest beginning off the training with a gorgonzola cheese piece that is believed to have a comparable smell to a truffle but costs much less than truffle oil. However, you should still ensure that you immediately spend on the truffle once your dog understands the find and reward game.
Among the vital things the dog requires to understand is communication skills. The snout's sniff ability is natural, but the dog must know how to indicate they have discovered the truffle. Pups can make signals by digging, barking, etc. Immediately the dog signals a possible find; you will use a narrow spade to dig up the truffle, taking care not to damage it, and then return the soil to the hole so that truffles can regrow.
Most dogs require to be taught the signaling behavior, which sometimes necessitates a professional trainer's need. As the dog gain experience in truffle hunting, more distractions are incorporated to mimic what the truffle hunters experience when searching in the forests, such as gunshots, distracting scents, and other animals.
Once you are persuaded that your dog is a truffle-hunting machine, you can go outside to the forest or get him into the Truffle festival, where dogs are given truffle challenges. Ruffle hunting comes with a sense of excitement and awe, and while some might find it wearying and a bit frantic to keep up with the dog, overall, it is a whole fascinating experience. Of course, the activity requires a lot of patience.
What to wear during truffle hunting?
It is always advisable to look at the weather forecast the day before going for a hunt. You should ensure you wear accordingly with comfortable walking boots and a waterproof jacket in case it rains. You should also wear long trousers to protect your legs from being scratched by the forest vegetation during your truffle hunt. Although the dogs might help dig up the truffles with their paw and claws, ensure carrying a tool to dig the soil. Truffle hunting is appropriate for anyone, although some fitness level is essential as you may be sometimes be forced to walk up steep trails, and the hiking can last for up to three hours.
Although the Lagotto Romagnolo, otherwise known as the Italian truffle dog, is highly and incredibly skilled for finding truffles, many other dog breeds can be successfully trained to do the job pretty well. So, while you might not be an Italian truffle dog puppy owner, truffle hunting can be comprehended by about any other dog. With a bit of training, your four-legged friend might help you find the delicious delicacies on your next truffle hunting expedition.