Volpino Italiano (Italian little fox) is a spitz-type dog breed from Italy. An alternative breed name for the Volpino is Cane de Quirinale or “Dog of Quirinal”. Quirinal is one of the “Seven Hills of Rome” and is the site of the Quirinal Palace. The palace, built by Pope Gregory VIII in 1573, has served as the home and official office of Popes, Kings, and now the Presidents of the Republic of Italy. “Quirinale” has become synonymous with government bureaucracy in Italy (similar to “The White House” in the USA). This alternative breed name indicates how closely the Volpino has been seen as related to the aristocracy and powerful in Rome over the centuries. The plaza in front of the palace is now a favorite place for Romans to walk their dogs, no doubt including several Cani de Quirinale. The other common alternate breed name Florentine Spitz is probably of English/British origin, since Queen Victoria of England “discovered” Volpinos while on vacation in Florence, Italy, in 1888 (read more below), or because Volpinos were once very common in Florence. The Volpino descended from the European Spitz in ancient times, and was a very popular breed with Italian nobility, especially the ladies, and common folk since the time of the Roman Empire.
The Volpino Italiano makes a good watchdog.
They were bred primarily as watch dogs and companions. Favored colors of Volpinos were pure white and pure red, as almost all Volpinos are of these two colors, or a mix. Some pure blacks were bred in Italy, though the darker colors were more popular in central Europe, resulting in the German Spitz and its descendents. 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.
The Volpino makes a good watchdog, and some can even be used as gun-dogs (bird dogs) if trained properly. They will make extremely active, affectionate pets. Italian shepherds and goatherds also used Volpinos as watch and guard dogs for their flocks.
One legend that circulates amongst Italian goatherds praises the Volpino Italiano’s qualities. For some reason, probably due to nearby fighting during a war, some goatherds decided to take their flock of over 200 goats into the wooded mountains for protection. The flock was guarded and hearded by Maremmas, large Italian herd-guard dogs, and two Volpinos. The forest was full of wolves, and the little Volpinos spotted the killers and barked the alarm. Reportedly they attempted to “help” the Maremmas fight off the wolves, probably providing more of a distraction than any physical threat. When all was safe, the flock and its guardians returned to their pastures without loss of one goat.
The Volpino Italiano can live as long as 16 years with relatively few health problems; however, some can develop heart problems and cataracts. Grooming the Volpino is easy, but it does need consistent attention. Brush its thick coat regularly to prevent over-shedding, keep its teeth clean and bathe it every few months. Though protective, the Volpino is not especially clingy with family members. Intelligent, busy and curious, it has a lovable sense of independence. But it truly craves your attention and affection. Start the training and socialization early, and your Volpino will provide years of upbeat companionship.
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