Truffle News

The Dog That Hunts Truffles Alone

by 07/06/2022

Even though Betty, our German Wirehaired Pointer, has been hunting truffles for a couple of years now, I still get excited every time I see this dog in action.

It’s not just that she is a great truffle dog capable of finding a couple of kilos of black truffle in an afternoon – the amazing thing is that she hunts these truffles by herself. It’s more or less a one-dog operation. In fact, if Betty had pockets, then she would have no use for us at all.

When we are hunting tuber aestivum, we will usually go out with three dogs. Two of them are short-range dogs. They work close by, searching slightly ahead as you walk through the forest. The third dog in the team is Betty and she is a lot more athletic than the other two mixed-breed hounds. Betty doesn’t want to wait around, she prefers to run off alone and hunt further afield.

So the human hunters are following the activity of the short-range hunting dogs and unearthing any truffles they sniff out. Meanwhile, Betty, who is no fan of the slower pace, has learnt to work by herself. As well as having extremely high energy levels, Wirehaired Pointers tend to want to do their own thing. They can be quite stubborn and while they are gentle, friendly, sociable dogs, they are also very independent creatures. It seems that Betty’s independent nature combined with her retrieving instinct and her exuberance have lead to her developing her own particular style of truffle hunting.

She will locate a truffle, unearth it carefully by herself and then very gently carry it back to you in her mouth. She will then usually drop it at your feet or in your lap. She has not been taught to hunt in this way, it was something that she developed very quickly on her own . Part of me thinks that it came about because she was too impatient to wait for us to catch up with her. This dog always needs to be on the go. When she’s found one truffle she wants to move straight on to the next one. She’s not even really that concerned about the reward, it doesn’t seem to be her main motivation anyway.

Occasionally if she finds a truffle which she can’t dig up by herself, one that’s too firmly planted in the earth, then she will come and tell us and show us where it is.

This does sound like the perfect way to get hold of truffles and there was an acquaintance of ours who took this style of hunting one stage further. He was rumoured to hunt by sitting under a tree drinking red wine and chomping sandwiches while his dogs would fetch all the truffles and drop them on his picnic blanket.

However there are a couple of problems that are worth mentioning.

  • Truffles often grow in families and so when you find one you will tend to search close by for its relatives. If the dog is responsible for the unearthing process, chances are that truffles are left behind.
  • It’s important that you properly fill in and cover up any holes you make when you remove a truffle from the ground. Obviously the dog doesn’t know about this.

Although we always try to identify the place where the dog found the truffle, unfortunately it is not always possible to do so.

Another issue we have with Betty is that she doesn’t just bring us truffles. If there are no more truffles around, then she will find something else she thinks we might like. This is usually tortoises.

We have been trying to stop this behaviour for the last two years but with no success – as I mentioned, the dog has a stubborn streak – she just loves fetching tortoises and that is what she is going to do! Thankfully, she is very gentle with them.

Betty is the most wonderfully good-natured dog and as a hunter she is masterful and tireless, even in the height of summer. She’ll have a drink of water and then she’s off again, bringing us truffles and tortoises until it’s time to go home.

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