The Lupo Italiano is a wolf-dog hybrid resulting from the cross between a German Shepherd dog and a she-wolf. The breed is protected by presidential decreet stipulating that this 'State' dog can not be commercialized nor bred outside the officially recognized agency, the Etli, Ente Tutela del Lupo Italiano (Agency for the protection of the Lupo Italiano).
The Lupo Italiano is a wolf-dog hybrid stemming from a strict, genetically controlled, breeding program started by the Italian banker and cinophile Dr. Messi in 1966. The original foundation dog was a puppy, named Zorro, born from a cross between a German Shepherd dog and a wild she-wolf, one of the last ones living in the wild in the Appennine Mountains of High Lazio. This now extinct wolf type is substantially different from the other European wolves.
The aim of the breeding program has always been to produce a wolf-dog that would not just feature physical characteristics from both the wolf and the dog, but above all to obtain a reliable working dog compatible with living with humans. The breed now counts about 600 specimens.
For the last 15 years Lupi Italiani have been employed by Italian disaster and emergency services. The Lupo Italiano has proven particularly helpful in avalanche and earthquake rescue situations and as search dogs for the detection of drugs and explosives.
The Lupo Italiano is a sturdy and resistant dog, with a remarkable olfactive sharpness. His general appearance and gait must confine a sense of noble, graceful and untamed elegance. The abdomen is strong and tucked in. The spine is straight, and very well built. The rump is slightly lower set than the shoulders. The legs should be straight, lean and robust, but without excessive bone.
The head and expression, with a snout that resembles that of a wolf, are typical features of this breed. Nose and lips should be black. Eyes not to dark with a golden undertone. Medium-sized ears are set high and held perfectly parallel when the dog is alert, but very mobile according to the dog's mood or movement. The tail hangs low up to the hackles when at rest and is raised up when alert, though should never show any excessive curve.
Its coat is of medium length and hardness, shorter and finer on the thighs, head and limbs. The color ranges from gray, with various markings, to red, cream, with a dark saddleback. Also admitted is solid black. A white mark on the chest is accepted in each coat color. Seasonal color variations are frequent and coat color also changes with age. Dogs that live outdoors develop a tick undercoat.
Height ranges between 60 to 70 centimetres (24-28 in) for dogs, and 58 to 65 centimetres (23-26 in) for bitches.
Temperament-wise the Lupo Italiano is extremely lively, with fierce and independent character. Training methods based on flattery or punishment will be ineffective with this breed; the Lupo Italiano only obeys if he is convinced that it is the right thing to do. It is very aloof and distrustful of strangers, though very affectionate with his human family or handler with whom it will develop a very exclusive relationship. He will be very protective of the persons and objects he has under his custody.
In italy, the Lupo Italiano has gained the status of a protected breed. Its commercialization and reproduction outside the control of the Agency for the protection of the Lupo Italiano are strictly prohibited.
The value of a Lupo Italiano is estimated at 50 thousand euro.
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