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Group Hounds (KC)
History The Segugio Italiano, also called the Italian Hound, is an old breed of the scenthound family. Its origins are unknown, but similar-looking dogs have been found in artworks from the Italian Renaissance. Many believe it came from an interbreeding between the Celtic hounds from Western Europe (then called Gaul) and the ancient Phoenician sight-hounds, with a bit of Mastiff blood added to the mix. The resulting dog was smaller than the average hound, but with a lot more substance and able to hunt by smell and sight.
The first Segugios mostly hunted wild boar and other large game. But although the catch was valuable, the great hunts were nearing their end. Demand for hunting dogs declined, and the breed almost reached extinction. It was only in the early 20th century that Italian breeders took steps to revive them, carefully choosing their stock and building up the purebred population. Segugios are now a popular hunting companion and house dog in Italy, although they yet to be recognized outside their native land.
Appearance The Segugio is a medium-sized dog with a square outline and somewhat slim built. Its head is small in proportion to its body, slightly elongated and punctuated by a strong, powerful jaw. The ears are relatively large and low-set, drooping prominently on either side. The eyes should be dark and oval-shaped with tight lids.
This breed comes in two varieties, shorthaired and coarse-haired. The shorthaired kind should have a smooth, thick coat with a slight sheen; coarse-haired ones have coarse, wiry hair up to two inches long.
Colours Black and tan is the most common color combination, but any shade from wheaten to deep red is acceptable. There may also be white markings on the feet, chest, head, and the tip of the tail.
Temperament Segugios are generally calm and even-tempered, but being hunters by nature, they will often go after other animals. They can be particularly aggressive with cats. However, they are very affectionate with their families and get along well with most people. Most dogs prefer older children who handle them gently.
Weight Males should stand 20 ½ to 23 inches at withers and females should be 19 to 22 inches.
Problems Although generally a tough breed, the Segugio has a few known hereditary problems such as hip dysplasia, eye disorders, luxating patella (displaced kneecap), and weak teeth and bones. Some lines are also prone to Legg-Perthes disease, a rare disorder in which the hip bones are deprived of blood and eventually die. To be safe, owners should ask for health certificates to avoid breeding defective stock.
Living Conditions Segugios will do well in an apartment provided they have ample room to roam and stretch. However, their hunting instincts can be strong and they can get restless if kept indoors for too long. They will be happiest in a house with a large yard for playing and running off the leash. The yard should be well-fenced, though, as these dogs will easily get lost in search of prey.
Requirements This breed is very energetic and needs its fair share of exercise. Long walks or jogs every day, regardless of the weather, are highly recommended. Owners should be prepared to walk long distances as this dog can be pretty tireless. Segugios also love the water; occasional trips to a lake or beach will make them happy.
Training Requirements Obedience training should start at a young age and continue up to age 2-3. Segugios are intelligent; they learn very fast and can easily remember commands. However, they can get bored with long, repetitive sessions, so training is best done in short bursts and alternated with games.
Life Expectancy Segugios live an average of 11 to 13 years.
Grooming The coarse-haired variety is harder to groom than the shorthaired, but both are fairly low-maintenance. Weekly brushing with a firm brush should be enough. The feathering on the neck, mouth and legs may need frequent cleaning if the dog spends a lot of time outdoors. Baths should be given only when necessary.
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