The apple doesn't fall far from the tree

Last year, in a bookstall in a street in Florence, I came across a large three volume set called “Enciclopedia Caccia”, published in the late 1960's. Whilst being bereft of much Italian, I managed to find the pointer page, and was greeted with a beautiful colour photo of an orange and white bitch, called Clastidium Cora. What a pleasant coincidence, considering the day after I was due to visit the current Clastidium dogs...

Ch. Clastidium Islo - a fountainhead of the pointer in Europe

That an encyclopedia chose to use an image of a Clastidium dog in the entry under Pointer, however, is not coincidence. Little known by name outside of Europe, the original owner of the prefix, Francesco Ravetta, is considered one of the masters of pointer breeding in Italy. There is no pointer of Italian blood today that does not have some Clastidium behind it - in fact many kennels’ foundations are based on it, usually through the great sire and European championship winner of ’73 and ’74, Clastidium Islo - one of Europe’s greatest in the latter half of the last century. Starting in the late 1950’s with ‘Lucaniae’ bred bitches, Ravetta continued Phillipo Rautis’ of the Lucaniae Kennels example by importing dogs from Denmark, at a time when the Danish pointer breeding was at its zenith. This culminated with the importation of the Danish champion “Ferreos Tom” one of the Danes’ great sires (whose owner sold him because of his crooked tail!), and which Ravetta bred intensively into his kennel - in fact there is no greater concentration of Toms’ genes today than in the current pure Clastidium dogs.

Ch. Ferreos Tom - photo courtesy of www.aaens.dk

Friend of Francesco Ravetta, and current keeper of the last Clastidium dogs is Giulio Gumelli, a passionate pointer man and hunter. Giulio and his shooting friends take the current crop of Clastidium dogs, and use them on all types of gamebirds and in varying terrain, both forest, highland and lowland, all over Europe. This involves an annual pilgrimage with a van full of dogs as far as Lithuania for woodcock, and Finland for Grouse, Ptarmigan and Capercaillie. Both my wife and I enjoyed a day of Giulio’s good humour and extensive knowledge of the pointer, and his wife's fine hospitality and cooking – the language barrier notwithstanding. As the keeper of the purest Clastidium bred dogs, he plans to keep the high conformational and performance standards set by his predecessor. Giulio informs me that the Clastidium pointers, as far as I could understand with my terrible Italian, are the only kennel of pointers or setters to win the European championship at least once per decade for three decades, and the only kennel to have champions in the Grande Quete for four decades. Most of the many champions in the Grande Quete trials produced by the kennel were the result of outcrossing to a well-bred sire, using the pure Clastidium female line. Ravetta didn’t always bred on the progeny of these outcrosses, regardless of their success. Very strict in his selection criteria, only a few were bred back into the Clastidium line.

Clastidium Olaf at 12 months old - pure Clastidium

I saw a few dogs in Europe, but none as complete as these, not only their performance record, or their usage, but their conformation as well. I would go as far as to say, that the Europeans are not far off the Americans – where their trials-bred dogs are so far removed from a hunting dog as to be useless to a hunter for a day of top class sport. Sadly a lot of the Europeans don’t see it that way, and I feel the pointer as a whole will continue on this path in Europe. Indeed some of their trials select for traits detrimental to shooting as a whole. Thankfully there are still strains of useful, beautiful pointers available. Good luck to Giulio and his endeavours for the complete pointer.

Giulio Giumelli with Clastidium Icaro and Clastidium Seabreeze in Lithuania

As a side note, one of the photos of ‘Ch. Ferreos Tom’ Giulio showed me, showed his bent tail. When out in the kennel, Giulio presented to me an exceptional black and white bitch, with the same crooked tail. Grinning, he pointed to the tail and shrugged. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree - Ferreos Tom lives!

The master, Fransesco Ravetta

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