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A Volpino Italiano is a white, spitz-type breed of dog originally from Italy. Spitz-type dogs were found throughout the ancient world. Specimens from this group have been found preserved in European peat bogs which anthropologists trace to 4000 BC. The remains—with curly tails, foxy heads, and small erect ears—have been found dating back over 5,000 years. These little pets wore decorative ivory bracelets and collars. Engravings of similar dogs were found in Greece, and these have been determined to date to about 400 BC.
The Volpino has been known and loved by Italian royalty for centuries, being a special favorite of the ladies. Although bearing a strong resemblance to the Pomeranian, the breed is much older and thus has a different background. The northern dogs found their way south very early in the history of domesticated dogs. The Italian word for wolf is lupo, and the Keeshond is called both Lupino and Volpino in Italian. Volpe is Italian for “fox”, hence volpino means little fox in Italian. Despite his long history, the Volpino is unknown outside of Italy and is now quite rare even in his homeland.
Despite its small size, this dog was originally kept as a guard dog. Its job was to alert the large mastiffs to an intruder. However, due to their lovely temperament and intelligence they also became popular as pets. For unknown reasons the breed’s popularity dropped and in 1965 the last dogs were registered.
In 1984 an attempt was made to revive the breed. The dogs still living as guard dogs on farms became the new breeding stock. Volpinos remain rare with about 2000 dogs world wide. Most are in Italy but some people are now breeding them in Scandinavia, the UK and the USA. A 2006 survey of kennel clubs found an average of 120 puppies registered each year in Italy (with ENCI) and a total of 200-300 registered each in Sweden, Norway and Finland. Fewer than one dozen were registered in the USA with UKC and CKC.
What is the Volpino Italiano? This dog is a type of Spitz in its morphology and character, maximum height 30 cm (11 to 12 inches), unicolor white or red. Its coat has long, straight, glassy, raised hair which wraps around the dog like a muff. It broke away from the common stock of the other European Spitz dogs and has spread throughout Italy since ancient times. It was taken into lordly houses, The Volpino was loved by palace lords as well as farms and plebeian quarters, especially in Tuscany and Lazio. For unexplainable reasons, the numbers of this population declined continuously until it came near extinction.
In 1965 the last five subjects were registered in the Breed Book. Then it disappeared until 1984 when the ENCI launched a recovery project for Italian breeds. Then, precisely those dogs that had survived on rural farms, being used to rouse the more powerful watchdogs, were the new progenitors of the modern day selective lines.
Today the situation is continuously improving, even though the red variety seems be very rare. It has a reactive temperament, morbidly attached to the family, wary of strangers, it has a strong watchdog instinct. Robust and lively, this dog is long-lived.
The exact origin of the Volpino Italiano is not known, although this breed resembles the Italian Pomeranian which it is impossible for this breed to have descended from the Pomeranian because it is a much older breed. This breed in Italy was the choice pet of the women of Italy. The Volpino Italiano was adorned with bracelets and collars, made of ivory as a symbol of the owner’s love.
The Volpino Italiano was the most popular breed for Italian royalty centuries. Specimens from this group have been found preserved in European peat bogs which anthropologists trace to 4000 BC. The remains with curly tails, foxy heads and small erect ears have been found, dating back over 5,000 years. Despite the Volpino Italiano’s popularity in the past, today the breed is not known outside of Italy and even there it remains in small numbers. Engravings of similar dogs were found in Greece, and these have been determined to date about 400 BC.
BRIEF HISTORICAL SUMMARY – He is one of the descendants of the European Spitz which already existed in the central region of our continent since the bronze age and of which skeleton fossils have been discovered around the foundation piles of the lake dwellings. So the Volpino goes back to the same ancestors as the German Spitz of which he is not a descendant, but a relative. He has been bred in Italy since immemorial times and has been idolized in the palaces of the noblemen as well as in the hovels of the common people, where he was especially appreciated because of his instinct of guarding and vigilance.
He was the dog of Michelangelo, and, in the 18th century, the tireless companion of the carters of Tuscany and Latium, always ready to announce noisily any strange persons met on the roads. The Italian word for wolf is lupo, and the Keeshond is called both Lupino and Volpino in Italian, so Volpino may be an old term for wolfdog or wolf spitz, (small fox).
GENERAL APPEARANCE – Small size Spitz, very compact, harmonious, with a long stand-off coat.
IMPORTANT PROPORTIONS – Built into a square, length of head reaches nearly the 4/10th of that of the body.
BEHAVIOUR AND TEMPERAMENT – Very attached to his environment and his family, of a very distinct temperament, lively, happy and playful.
HEAD – Pyramid shape, length reaching almost 1/4 the height at the withers.
SKULL REGION – Longer than the muzzle (6,5:5), its biogenetic width is more than half the length of the head (7,3:11,5); is slightly ovoid (egg-shaped) as much in longitudinal as transversal direction; medio-frontal furrow very slightly marked; occipital protuberance slightly marked. The superior axes of the skull and muzzle are slightly convergent. The bony protuberance of the forehead, well developed, come down almost perpendicular onto the onset of the muzzle.
Stop – Rather accentuated.
FACIAL REGION – Nose – Wet, cool, with well opened nostrils. Set in the same line as the top line of the foreface and does not protrude beyond the front line of the lips. Its color is always black, as well in subjects with white coats as in those with red coats. Muzzle – Of inferior length to that of the skull with lateral surfaces convergent, is pointed. The foreface is straight. The lower edge of the muzzle is determined by the lower jaw. Lips – From the front, the upper lips, by their lower edge, draw a straight line. The mucous of the labial commissar is not visible, so the lips are very short. The edges of the lips are black. Jaws – Apparently not very strong, normally developed and meeting perfectly level on front.
The branches of the lower jaw are straight. Teeth – White, regular in alignment, complete and perfectly developed. Scissor bite, pincer bite tolerated. Eyes – Well opened and of normal size, denoting vigilance and vivaciousness. Roundish eye aperture, set in plans forming a very open angle towards the rear; eyelids fitting perfectly the shape of the eyeball. Color of the iris is dark ochre, the rims of the lids are black. Ears – Short, triangular shape, pricked, with a rigid cartilage and the inner surface of the lobe showing forward. High set, close together. The length of the ears reaches almost half the length of the head.
NECK – Its length is almost equal to that of the head. Always carried upright. Skin closely fitting.
BODY – Square built, its length measured from the point of the shoulder to that of the buttock is equal to the height at the withers. Top line – Dorsal line straight. Over the loins slightly convex. Withers – Slightly raised from dorsal line. Chest – Descending to level of elbows; ribs well sprung. Sternal region is long. Rump – Extends the line of the loin. Obliqueness from the hip to base of the tail is of 10ƒ below the horizontal. Underline – From sternum to belly rising only slightly. The hollow of the flanks is slightly accentuated. Tail – Set in the prolongation of the rump, carried permanently curled over the back. Its length is a little less than the height at the withers.
FOREQUARTERS – Considered on the whole parallel to each other and, in relation to the median plane of the body, perfectly straight. Shoulders – Their length is equal to 1/4 of the height at the withers and their obliqueness below the horizontal is of 60ƒ. Upper arm – Longer than the shoulder and its obliqueness below the horizontal is of 60ƒ. Is approximately parallel to the median plane of the body. Forearm – Continuing the vertical line, finely boned. Its length, from ground to elbow, is slightly more than half the height at the withers. Elbows – Parallel to the median plane of the body. Carpus and metacarpus – Seen from the front, they continue the vertical line of the forearm. Seen in profile, the pasterns are sloping. Forefoot – Oval shaped with closely-knit toes. The pads and the nails are black.
HINDQUARTERS – Seen on the whole and from behind, they must follow a perfectly vertical line from the point of the buttock to the ground. They are parallel to each other. Thigh – Its length is equal to 1/3 of the height at withers. Perfectly parallel to the median plane of the body. Leg – Its length is a little less than that of the thigh. Of a light bone structure and its obliqueness below the horizontal is of 55ƒ to 60ƒ. Hock join – Distance between the point of the hock and the ground is slightly more than 1/4 of the height at the withers. Metatarsal – Vertical and perfectly straight seen as much in profile as from behind. Hind foot – Oval like the forefoot with all the same characteristics as this latter.
GAIT AND MOVEMENT – Must not be jumpy either at the trot or gallop. At all gaits, the strides are free.
SKIN – Well applied and taut, without looseness in any region.
COAT – Nature of the hair – Hair bushy, very long and exceptionally standing-off. Of harsh texture with straight stiff hairs; must never be falling; must be upstanding even when there is not a lot of coat. The body gives the impression of being wrapped up in a muffle, particularly on the neck where the coat forms an abundant collar. The skull is covered with semi-long hairs which hide the base of the ears. Hairs are short on the muzzle. On the ears, the hair is very fine and smooth. The tail is covered with very long hair. On the edges of the hindquarters, the coat forms fringes. Color of coat – a) all-white b) all-red c) champagne, color accepted but not desirable. Pale orange shades on the ears are tolerated, but in any case constitute an imperfection.
SIZE AND WEIGHT – Size at the withers – 11 to 12″ for males, 9 to 10″ for females. Females 9 to 10 lbs. Males 10 to 12 lbs.
FAULTS – Any departure from the foregoing points constitutes a fault which when judging must be penalized according to its seriousness and extension.
ELIMINATING FAULTS – Color of nose other than black; wall eye; convex top line of the muzzle; tail tucked in between hind legs; size over, by 3 cm, the limits indicated by the standard, floppy ears.
COLORS – White, Fawn or Honey, Black, Red, Champagne
OTHER NAMES – Cane de Quirinale
DISQUALIFYING FAULTS – Overshot mouth; divergence of cranial-facial axes; total de-pigmentation of nose or eyelid rims; ears completely drooping; lack of tail whether congenital or acquired; all colors other than white, not desirable red on champagne; red markings on white background, white or black markings on red background.