The Volpino Italiano has existed for more than a thousand years. This breed has been kept by upper classes as well as by the common man. This little dog has been the favorite and has rendered valuable service to royalty, to peasants, to artists, to merchants and just about any type of people. The Volpino Italiano wearing bejeweled collars were the spoiled pets of princesses and ladies. In the 18th century, the very same breed of pampered dogs is commonly seen in Tuscany and Latium tied to the carts of travelling merchants, guarding the merchandise and alerting the master to potential thieves. Despite the small size, these dogs have earned the name Il Picoli Guardiani (the little guardian) as its duty is to awaken the large sleeping mastiffs that guard the livestock and the property of Italian farmers. The Volpino Italiano was also used by Italian shepherds and goatherds to guard the flock. Sitting on a pillow, a Volpino Italiano had kept Michelangelo company while the famed artist painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
The Volpino Italiano is a unicolored spitz type breed of dog. In Italy where the breed originated, the breed name is translated as little fox. The word for wolf is lupo and volpe is for fox. The Keesehond is known as Lupino and Volpino in Italy. Measuring between 10 to 12 inches in height and with a maximum weight of nine pounds, this small white or red profusely coated dog has a bushy tail, round dark colored eyes that reflect an alert and a lively expression. A Volpino Italiano has an elegant and beautiful appearance. But this is not the only reason why this small breed is highly valued. This small dog is noted for its big personality. These are fearless dogs but their gentleness, affection and loyalty to the family can never be doubted. A Volpino Italiano is gregarious, curious, playful and extremely protective of its human family. No wonder this breed was highly esteemed not only by the common man but also by royalty.
The Volpino Italiano is a small spitz type breed. The compact body is made bigger than its normal size by the dense very long upstanding coarse textured hair. This hair type gives the dog an attractive and very noticeable appearance. Hair on the neck forms an abundant collar. Straight hair that covers the body gives the impression that the dog is wrapped up by a furry muff. Semi-long hair on the skull hides the base of the ears. Hair on the ears and muzzle is fine and smooth. The hindquarters are fringed with long hair. The tail is well covered with hair as well. White coated Volpinos are more common although sable or red coated ones are also accepted.
This breed has a pyramid shaped head, a short muzzle and an always black moist nose with well opened nostrils. Round black rimmed eyes have dark ochre irises and give the impression that the dog has an alert and vivacious nature. Pricked triangular shaped short ears are set on high. Neck that is closely fitted with skin is always carried upright. The square shaped body has a straight topline, a slightly raised withers and a deep chest that descends to the level of the elbows. Ribs are well sprung. Belly is slightly tucked up. A Volpino Italiano always carries its tail curled over the back.
A Volpino is a very energetic, lively and playful breed. This dog would be a suitable choice for a home with children. This dog makes a wonderful playmate of the children. This dog is devoted to the family and known to have strong protective instincts. Despite the small size, the dog can be a reliable watch dog as it has an inherent distrust of strangers. The dog is territorial as well. Socialization and obedience training is imperative for this breed. A well socialized Volpino will tolerate other dogs and smaller pets.
A Volpiono Italiano was once considered as ladies’ dog. The dog was usually kept in boudoirs as well as in palaces. Present day Volpinos would do well in apartments or in small houses in the city. Active inside the home, this dog would not really need a large yard for its exercise requirements.
The Volpino’s profuse longish hair is quite easy to maintain. The glassy coat naturally repels dirt and running a brush through the coat once or twice a week will already maintain its good condition and avoid mat formation especially on the tail. However, this breed goes through a shedding period. Males usually molt every 18 months and bitches every 4 to 12 months. During the shedding period, the dog would need to be thoroughly brushed daily to remove dead hair. Frequent bathing is not necessary for this breed as it could cause excessive shedding. Bathing the dog every two months would suffice. Teeth cleaning must be made a part of the grooming regimen
Spitz type dogs have a long history. This breed is believed to have existed in the cold northern lands during the Stone Age. These dogs were domesticated and were utilized as sled dogs, watch dogs, guard dogs and companions. Because of human migration, these spitz type dogs have spread to Europe, to Siberian and to North America. These ancient spitz type dogs became the base for the development of the German Spitz, the Dutch Keeshond and the Volpino Italiano. How the Volpino Italiano originated was not known however, the breed’s ancient existence was validated by the well preserved fossils found in the foundation piles of European lake dwellings. Anthropologists have traced the specimens to 4000 BC. The specimens found dating back more than 5,000 years have foxy head, curly tails and erect ears. Engravings found in Greece dating about 400 BC and 470 BC potteries and artwork portrayed these spitz type dogs.
During the ancient times, the Volpino Italiano has spread throughout Italy and became the favorite of the royalty. These dogs were commonly seen in palaces and in lordly houses. These dogs that became the companions of ladies during the Roman Empire were made to wear ivory bracelets and jeweled collars. Cane de Quirinale is one of the alternative names of this breed. This indicates how the Volpino Italiano is valued by the aristocracy and by the powerful people of Italy. Quirinal, one of the notable Seven Hills of Rome is the location of the Quirinal Palace, the home and office of popes and kings and now being used by the president of the Republic of Italy. In 1888, while Queen Victoria of England was on vacation in Florence, Italy she was captivated by the beauty of the breed thus it was named Florentine Spitz.
The Volpino was never recognized as a breed in the US although the breed was brought to the new world in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This was because the Volpino was crossed with other breeds. It was speculated that the American Eskimo has descended from this native Italian breed. The Volpino Italiano was a highly valued breed. But in spite of the popularity the breed was not spared from the population ups and downs suffered by other breeds. In mid 20th century population drastically fell. In 1965, only a handful of Volpinos were registered with the Italian Kennel Club (ENCI). After ten years it was thought that the breed had already gone extinct as no dogs were registered. The decline in population was attributed to the country’s political situation. When monarchy was abolished, the Italians lose interest in the dogs given that it was noted to be the King’s palace dogs. Another reason is the fact that when this bred was brought to England it was crossed with German Spitz resulting to a refinement and downsizing of the breed. The new breed that was developed was called Toy Pomeranians was more favored.
In 1984 the ENCI has initiated programs that will promote and revive Italian breeds. Remaining specimens that conform to the standard were obtained from Italian farmers. These specimens became the foundation of the recovery program. The Volpino Italiano is unknown outside its homeland. The breed is still rare in Italy but the dogs are now being shown not only in Italy but in other European countries. The Volpino Italiano is definitely making a comeback!