The Spinone Italiano is a large, squarely built, muscular dog with floppy ears, a docked tail, and distinctive wavy, wiry hair. The head is long, with a barely perceptible stop, a square, slightly Roman-nosed muzzle, and floppy pendant ears. The dog's dense coat and thick skin allow him to withstand cold air and water, and to scramble through dense brush without getting hurt—very convenient for a hunting dog. The ideal coat is between 1.5 and 2.5 in. on the body, and shorter on the head, ears, muzzle, and fronts of the legs and feet. The hair on the backs of the legs is like a rough brush, but never forms fringes. The bushy eyebrows, mustache, and beard protect the face from branches and briars and lend the Spinone a rather gruff look. This is lightened by the animal's soft, kindly eyes and generally sweet expression. The eyes are ochre colored (yellow-brown); dogs with darker coat colors have darker eyes. Typical coat colors include white, white or brown with orange or brown patches, and orange or brown roan; the most desirable color is a deep chocolate brown called "Capuchin Friar's Frock." Black is not permitted at all. The tail is typically docked about 5 to 8 in. from the base. History:
Also known as the Spinone, Italian Spinone, or Italian Griffon, the Spinone Italiano's heritage is a bit uncertain. Some fanciers trace the current breed's roots to at least 500 BC, when Senofonte mentioned a pointing dog with strong, wiry hair and great powers of endurance in his "Gynegiticon." Over the next 1,000 years, several other writers discussed hunting dogs with long, bristly hair. Around 1450, the painter Andrea Mantegna included what looks like a Spinone in his "The Return of Cardinal Gonzago," a mural he painted in a castle in Mantua, Italy. Numerous mentions of a "rough-coated" or "bristled" hound also appear in literature from the Middle Ages, always with accolades for the dog's love of hunting, attention to his master, and powers of endurance. Though still used as a versatile hunting dog, the Spinone's gentleness, affectionate disposition, and desire to please also make him an outstanding family companion. The AKC admitted the breed to the Sporting Group in 2000.