You know, a dog is a man’s best buddy. If you haven’t already, I recommend digging deeper into our collection of articles on the origins of Italian dogs. You can learn more about the Italian Bracco, the Lagotto Romagnolo, and the Neapolitan Mastiff by clicking on the links in the sidebar!
During my time as a veterinary student in Italy, I had the opportunity to interact with various canine breeds, each of which was distinct and special. Given my background, I may be biased and nonobjective, but everyone had their unique charm that I can’t convey in words.
Several Italian breeds have specialized in specific tasks over the years, obtaining truly distinctive and distinct features. In these anecdotes about Italian dogs, you can learn more about Italian culture by seeing how these animals have changed alongside our fathers over time.
Today I’d like to tell you a bit more about the Pastore Maremmano Abruzzese (Maremmano-Abruzzese Sheepdog), mixing folklore, reality, and a little curiosity. Enjoy your reading!
The Pastore Maremmano Abruzzese’s history
Make yourself at ease if you’ve never heard of this breed, which is one of the most iconic of the lovely country and one of the most stunning dogs you’ll ever meet. Unquestionably, It’s an interesting story.
Its imposing look and white mantle will be the protagonists of many stories set in the first and second centuries B.C. It belongs to the strain of the huge white dogs of Central Europe. I’m mostly referring to two famous Roman-era writers and intellectuals, Lucio Giunio Moderato Columella and Marco Terenzio Varrone. The first one describes how the Romans admired him for his thick white sheep’s mantle. This trait enabled shepherds to identify it from wolves during nighttime attacks on livestock.
Varrone, on the other hand, claims that the dog, when viewed at night, resembled a lion due to its pointed ears and enormous size.
His key strengths are quickly identified: suspicion of strangers, loyalty to the master, and intrinsic power.
According to legend, this dog breed replied to the description below.
“It was a large dog, but not a giant or a heavy dog, with a large head that was very harmonious and proportionate, strong bones and muscles, and a slightly elongated trunk.” Powerful but nimble and fast, black eyes, great opening of jaws, strong jaws and teeth, white coat, thick hair to protect it from cold climates and weather, especially willing to dwell among the sheep rather than near the shepherd.”
The description appears to be extremely contemporary and fits perfectly with today’s specimens.
A clarification is required at this time. The breed’s name is made up of three words:
- Pastore (Sheperd);
- Maremmano (the Maremma is a region between present-day Tuscany and Lazio, the breed’s native location);
- Abruzzese (from the Abruzzo region).
Continuing with our story…
Some portrayals of the Pastore Maremmano Abruzzese appear to be found in paintings dating back to the ‘300s in the Rieti and Siena districts. It can still be found in Puglian frescoes from the 1600s.
According to this historical research, the dogs in question ruled flocks from Apulia, Lazio, and Tuscany, likely spending the coldest winters in southern Italy and summers in the Apennines highlands.
The breed is extremely adaptable, which is why it has been widely employed throughout history.
The Vreccale and the Pastore Maremmano Abruzzese: an old bond
The vreccale, also known as an anti-harassment collar nowadays, was used to protect dogs used to guard valuable things for shepherds, such as animals or livestock. Even though it is an outdated custom, it is still possible to see dogs wearing vreccali in some Italian campaigns.
The collar served a specific purpose: it protected dogs from predator attacks to the throat, such as wolves or bears.
Although there are no obvious morphological changes in these canines, they have undergone their own evolution.
Keeping the flock is a challenging chore, and not all canines can tolerate the work during the transhumant phase.
In brief, the shepherds abandoned the weak subjects, who died mostly of starvation or were hunted by predators. Natural selection, in conjunction with human selection, has resulted in the evolution of a strong and resistant race capable of surviving the long and painful voyages of transhumant.
The specimens we admire now are the offspring of this evolution. As a result, the basic attitudes for which we must thank Italian pastors to a considerable part are:
How are things going today?
Today, the majority of his work may be seen in the Abruzzo region. Here, pastoral economic activity is still prominent. On the other hand, it is now also employed for territorial defense, house custody, and private property custody. His traditional dedication to the flock has allowed him to acquire strong autonomy, independence, pride, and courage over the generations.
If you are an animal enthusiast like me, don’t miss Life in Italy’s insights on other Italian breeds!
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