Originally pigs were used to find truffles, pigs have a very good sense of smell and can easily locate the underground mushrooms. But the pigs have a disadvantage: they are greedy and eat the truffle which they find immediately. Nevertheless, they were of great importance for their efficiency and sense of smell in the search for truffles.
Pigs were first replaced by dogs on the noble farms: man’s faithful and tame friend was considered much more elegant and refined in his search. The aristocrats also used dogs to entertain their distinguished guests. The use of the dog spread quickly and so the pig was used less and less.
Today the law forbids the use of pigs, because the animal causes a lot of damage to the ecosystem during its excavation work. The use of dogs is obligatory, as this is the only animal that can find the exact location of the truffle without digging around unnecessarily, thus not damaging the soil.
In Italy, the law stipulates that the dog must be specially trained for truffle hunting. A trained truffle sniffing dog is therefore indispensable and the training is not cheap, a well-trained dog can quickly cost up to 5000 Euros. However, it is not compulsory to buy an already trained dog or to contact a professional dog handler. With a lot of care and patience it is possible to train a dog yourself, if the dog is a puppy you start with simple games which slowly become more complex exercises.
Generally speaking, any dog with a good nose is suitable for truffle hunting, but also qualities such as intelligence, concentration, endurance and devotion are of great importance. Because a dog needs all of this to be able to master his training and to prove himself a good truffle sniffer dog.
However, tradition sees some breeds as the best when it comes to finding truffles, these are as follows:
- The Bracco Italiano
- The Pointer
- The Spinone Italiano
- The Cocker
- The Jack Russel
- The Griffon
- The Lagotto Romagnolo
Depending on the nature of the environment in which they are searching, truffle collectors use one specific breed instead of another. In the Tuscan and Markesan Apennines, the Bracco and Pointer are preferred. In Emilia, between Ferrara and Ravenna, the Lagotto is widespread, with its short nimble steps and always ready to be recalled by its owners. Very often you can also meet dogs of mixed breeds from small to medium size. These dogs are very impressive with their sense of smell and high resistance to fatigue and disease. The Lagotto Romagnolo, the only breed that is considered to be specialized in truffle hunting, is worthy of special mention.