“A truffle is the fruiting body of a subterranean Ascomycete fungus, predominantly one of the many species of the genus Tuber. Truffles are ectomycorrhizal fungi and are therefore usually found in close association with tree roots. Spore dispersal is accomplished through fungivores, animals that eat fungi”
Today we met Pippo – a truffle dog who has served his master well the last 13 years. He was a champion white truffle hunter but is getting a bit white himself around the snout and beginning to slow down. Not quite ready to retire, his owner has farmed him out as a black truffle hunter, a challenging job but not quite as physically exhausting as hunting the rarer white truffle. Pippo makes a great black truffle hunter. For Pippo hunting for truffles is an adventure, a job you can see that he enjoys. Its pretty simple, go for a walk with your master. Keep your nose to the ground constantly sniffing, searching for the scent of a truffle that is released when the truffle is ripe. Dig up the ground – gently but diligently. Dig deep until you find the truffle and then wait patiently for your reward – not the truffle but a treat from your master. For Pippo the truffle the hunt is a game.
In hunting for truffles the hunter is important but the dog is key. Without the dog you simply cannot find truffles. Truffles grow underground and while they sometimes leave clues as to their whereabouts above ground, they can’t reliably be spotted. Although they’re called tubers, they aren’t like a potato where you can see the plant above them. Truffles truly have to be sniffed out. Which is where Pippo comes in.
Returning to the home of our hosts for the day, the Bianconis, we meet their other dog – Eddie. Eddie is a high energy dog who as a puppy was always getting into trouble. A loveable naughty dog with needle-like teeth and a disposition to nip. How many times in a day can you say “Eddie, No.” Watching Eddie while enjoying our truffle feast, Gavin, sitting next to me points out that Eddie is having all of the fun while Pippo got to do all the work.
While work is fun for Pippo it still is work. He has been working his entire life and is now one step away from retiring. He gets well taken care of and he gets to eat, or at least smell truffles everyday. He is one happy dog.
Eddie has never worked a day in his life. He could have been trained as a truffle dog – but he wasn’t focused and pretty much not interested. His reward? He gets well taken care of and gets to eats truffles every day. He is one happy dog.
We had a very successful day today – we found about €600 worth of black truffles. Or should we say Pippo found about €600 worth of truffles and we sat back and enjoyed them.
Its a Dog’s Life.