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Breed History

The Italian Bolognese:  A History

(Summarized from Bolognese  by Wolfgang Knorr)

  “Three black buttons in the middle of a cloud of white” is an apt description of the rare and beautiful Italian Bolognese.  These playful, rare breeds have a somewhat obscure history.  They were already known in ancient Egypt and Phoenicia and were probably brought to Italy by travelers during the 13th century.  In the ancient Italian city of Bologna, these small, white dogs became a favorite of the aristocracy.  Traders sometimes received the equivalent of the dog’s weight in gold as payment, so they were quite valuable.  The Bolognese were favorites of well-born Italian women and became mandatory fashion accessories.  They were pampered, perfumed, and adorned.  The Gonzagas, a noble family that ruled parts of Italy between 1328 and 1708, bred Bolognese in their estates.  Cosimo de Medici (1389-1464), an influential Florentine citizen and an important patron of the Italian Renaissance, gifted at least eight pups to various nobles throughout Europe.  Many historical personalities were proud owners of the little Italian Bolognese beauty:  Madame Pompadour (1721-1764), Catherine the Great of Russia (1729-1796), and Maria Therese, Empress of Austria (1717-1780).  Their popularity continued during the time of Kings Louis XIV and XV, well into the 19th century.  Master artists Gozzoli and Durer immortalized them in paintings.  Ordinary citizens had no chance to own one of these small dogs, so after the downfall of Europe’s aristocracy, the revered dog also fell from favor.  By the end of WWII, they had almost become extinct.  The first modern Bolognese were registered by the kennel of Sna. Maristella Ogno in the late 1950’s.