It's the first-ever Crufts Best in Show for the Italian truffle-hunting breed.
Brown and white Lagotto Romagnolo dog sits in front of the Crufts Best in Show trophy
Credit: BeatMedia / The Kennel Club

A 4-year-old Lagotto Romagnolo from Croatia took home Best in Show honors at Crufts 2023, "the world's greatest dog show," Sunday in Birmingham, England. 

Orca—registered name Am GCh Kan Trace Very Cheeky Chic—is the first of the Italian hunting breed to win at Crufts. The "once in a lifetime dog" bested more than 19,000 other dogs entered the international conformation show held over the weekend.

"We never expected anything like this!" one of Ocra's owners, Ante Lucin, said after the show.

Orca won the Gundog Group—a rough equivalent to the Sporting Group in the United States—on Thursday before entering the Best in Show ring with the other six group winners Sunday. 

Archie the Doberman (Working Group), Blondie the Old English sheepdog (Pastoral), Blanca the wire fox terrier (Terrier), Paris the Irish wolfhound (Hound), Jake the standard poodle (Utility), and Dublin the Cavalier King Charles spaniel rounded out the final group. Judge Stuart Mallard awarded Blondie Reserve Best in Show, the second place equivalent.   

Javier Gonzalez Mendikote served as Orca's handler, and Sabina Zdunić Šinković is an owner alongside Lucin. This wasn't the dog's first appearance at Crufts—she finished second in her group in 2020—and her team drove 25 hours to Birmingham for this year's competition. 

"We know she is a little superstar but this is beyond all expectations. I was crying too much watching from the seats, it was very emotional!" Lucin said in a Crufts news release. "Orca is everything you could ever want in a dog, she is happy and healthy—and as everybody saw, her tail never stops wagging!"

Crufts—named for founder Charles Cruft—began in 1891 and awarded its first Best in Show in 1928 to a greyhound named Primley Sceptre. Orca's was the first victory for the Lagotto Romagnolo

She's the second consecutive winner from the Gundog Group, following Baxer the flat-coated retriever in 2022.   

"[Orca and Gonzalez Mendikote] are very deserving winners and it was clear to see their strong relationship together in the ring," Crufts Show Manager Vanessa McAlpine said.

About the Lagotto Romagnolo

The Lagotto is still a rare breed here in the states, but they're gaining popularity thanks to their teddy-bear looks and infrequent shedding. (Remember, no dog is completely hypoallergenic, but these pups can ease some sneezing and itching.) 

They're medium-sized (up to 60 pounds), but they do need plenty of activity. The Italian breed has a history as a waterfowl retriever and, later, a truffle hunter. They still use their exceptional sniffers to hunt truffles to this day. 

If this sounds like the dog for you, make sure you're up for plenty of activity and exercise. And invest in a good brush, too.