History Of The Italian Water Dog

Understanding your canine companion's history is crucial as it helps you appreciate the work done to perfect and completely tone everything you see in him today. If you own an Italian water dog, here is a brief post of its history, origin and development.

The Italian water dog, also known as the Lagotto Romagnolo, is known to be the oldest water retriever and one of the few dogs that have maintained the pristine characteristics of its medieval species variety. The Lagotto dates back to the 7th century BC and as its name suggests, it is native of the Lagotto marshlands of north-eastern Italy. ‘Lagotto’ in the local dialect of this region means ‘Duck dog’.

Early history

As early as the 7th century BC, the Lagotto was discovered in Northern Italy and was viewed as a little breed of the ‘Duck Dog’. Ancient Italian water dogs owners primarily used them to navigate the Marshlands of Romagna and Comacchio in Italy.

Thanks to its retriever role, the Italian water dog was distributed to other parts of Italy and eventually in far distant regions. The dog was introduced into the Northern Adriatic region and many Eastern countries in the 6th and 5th century. The Italian water dog was among the first lot of water dogs that were introduced in Spain.

The first known picture of the Italian water dog in an Italian Fresco was painted by Andrea Mantegna and dates back to 1456. Another epic painting where the Lagotto was the main subject was done in the 1600s by Giovanni Francesco Barbieri.


Nothing much was recorded in the mid-history of the Italian water dog. From the 16th century moving forward, the ‘Lagotto’ was a common mention and a citation in many historical books. In most mentions, the dog was depicted as a small-curly coated dog with a very impressive water retrieval characteristic.

From the time the first species of the Italian water dog was discovered and recorded in the 7th century BC, it has all through the centuries been used as a water retriever helping owners to hunt waterfowls specifically. The reclamation of the marshlands in Italy happened in this section of history and the Italian water dog's retrieval role started to fade out. It came even a time when the Italian water dog owners could not engage in water retrieval games with this dog. This definitely pressured the need to designate another similar role that the dog could perform.

It was not until the end of the 19th century when its role changed, as explained in this next section.

Modern-day history & Recognitions

The special happening in the Italian water dog's modern history happened in the 1970s when this dog was saved from extinction by a small group of Lagotto enthusiasts and hobbyists in the 1970s. The group was later developed into The Club Lagotto Italiano in 1988.

Any breed of the Lagotto developed from the end of the 19th century can be referred to as a modern species. The first major recognition of the Lagotto happened in 1993 where the Italian kennel club recognized this dog under its new role- truffle searcher. Most breeding works done on the dog in the 20 century was to improve this new role. The Lagotto was recognized by an international body in 1995 by the FCI, a body that regulates pedigree dogs globally except in the US and the UK. It was in this recognition that the word Lagotto was added to its name to sensitive on the area of origin.

The distribution of the modern Lagotto Romagnolo globally was quite rapid in the 21 century and thanks to the discovery of its new role, it is now a common dog in many pet stores globally. The American Kennel Club recognized the Lagotto Romagnolo in 2015. Today the Lagotto Romagnolo is recognized as the only pure bred dog with very precise truffle searching characteristics.


Hopefully, now you understand how the origin and distribution of the Italian water dog was like. From this brief history, one thing is clear about the Italian water dog- it has been the greatest water retriever of all time. A first glance at the archaic Italian water dog would make you wonder how the dog survived the challenging historic times, as, in terms of appearance, nothing much has changed. This dog's future is also bright and you should expect nothing but better breeds with top-notch retrieval characteristics.