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Truffle Dog

When going through old children’s books and magazines, I never know what I might come across. When it comes to natural history texts and information about animals, sometimes the author misidentifies animals, provides inaccurate information or introduces an animal that would appear to be extinct.

It makes sense that mistakes were made; particularly with exotic animals and birds being newly discovered in far away locales. After all, the intrepid naturalist of 100-300 years ago would sketch and write notes about what they saw. (This was long before video cameras and even still photography.) More often than not, their rough sketches and notes were used by someone else to illustrate and describe the animals and placed into books bearing the name of the naturalist. Limited information and species with similar characteristics created a number of instructional materials that contained inaccuracies.

While those mistakes can be fun, it is the animals that seem lost to history that often have me wondering if the animal identified ever existed or has since been given another name. Sadly, some of the animals are simply no longer sharing this great planet with us.

I would like to introduce you to the Truffle dog.

The Truffle Dog, as you might guess, was a dog used for hunting truffles. I was introduced to this charming little dog by Thomas E. Hill, an author of several comprehensive/encyclopedic books for children. He claimed the Truffle Dog is an English breed that was originally brought to England by the Spanish in the 1600s. These dogs weighed about 15 pounds and were either white, black or a combination of the two. Their mouth and underlip were black.

Looking for more information on a breed of dog referred to as a “Truffle Dog” primarily led to stories of different breeds of dogs being used today to hunt truffles. I did find a few brief mentions of a Truffle Dog breed.

Hill listed them as “a small poodle, of nearly pure blood.”

The AKC website states that these dogs were a cross between a poodle and a terrier. A site about truffle hunting stated that while no dog instinctively hunts truffles, Poodles, Fox Terriers, German shepherds, and the Dachshund are breeds more easily trained for the task.

If you look at this drawing of a trio of fox terriers, you might notice the resemblance to the Truffle Dog, particularly the head, ears and shape of the legs.

But, these three dogs are not just any fox terriers. These dogs are known as Old Jock, Trap and Tartar, who are the ancestors of most modern strains of white terrier. I found this vintage fox terrier drawing in “A History and Description, with Reminiscences, of the Fox Terrier” written by Rawdon Lee and illustrated by Arthur Wardle (1860–1949) which was published late in the 19th Century.

As the 18th century was coming to a close, fox hunts were getting more popular and faster. Fox terriers were being bred to have longer legs in order to keep up with the faster pace. Based on what little information I could find, it’s my guess that the Truffle Dogs were a cross between poodles and the original fox terriers before they were bred to have longer legs.

Well, whatever their pedigree, the Truffle Dog, as depicted by Hill appears to either be now known by another name or fell out of favor and stopped being bred. I think it’s quite a cute little dog and I would think a cross between a poodle and a terrier would make a very smart and charming pet. And, I guess there’s plenty of folks who agree as a quick search for a poodle terrier mix led to numerous hits for terripoos. So, it would appear that yesterday’s Truffle Dog is just an earlier version of today’s terripoo.

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2 Responses to "Truffle Dog"

  1. john says:

    I own a Lagotto Romangolo – which is definitely known as the truffle dog. Lagottos are probably an older breed than poodles and may be their ancestor stock. They are also probably the root breed of the portugese water dog whom they resemble strongly except in coloration; the lagotto is never black or black flecked, but has a variety of appealing colourations from white to orange to grey-brown. Lagottos are moderately sized in stature, but giant sized in warmth and friendliness. Have a look!

    1. Michele says:

      Hi John,

      Legattos look like a wonderful dog from what I read. We had a neighbor for a while who had a Portuguese Water dog – that dog was so darn cute, it charmed you almost immediately.

      Both breeds you mention seem to have a similar coat to the one from Hill’s book though the legs and snout don’t seem to match to me. I would guess the breed Hill mentioned fell out of favor in lieu of the two you mentioned. I’m thinking the sturdier nature of the more modern breeds made them preferable. Hill’s truffle dog seems like it has more delicate legs.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. And, introducing me to the Legatto. They do appear to be today’s “truffle dog.”


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