How are truffles hunted
If you ever wondered how are truffles hunted, we give you a quick insight into the matter.
While in the past female pigs were mostly used in truffle hunting, today dogs are widely considered as best in business. Pigs have an excellent scent and are therefore perfect for smelling a truffle, mostly because they contain androstenol, a sex hormone found in the saliva of male pigs. However, there are numerous downsides in using a pig as a truffle hunter.
First on that list is the fact that pigs like to eat truffles and they often take it in their mouth upon finding, decreasing that way the value of the truffle itself. Secondly, they do a lot of damage to the terrain and are therefore forbidden for truffle hunting in some countries. Also, if you walk around a forest with a pig beside you everyone will know that you are in the hunt for truffles. If we add a transportation issue for a ponderous pig with few hundred kilos in weight, we come to the conclusion that pig truffle hunting simply isn’t the best choice.
It is here that the man’s best friend comes into the scene. Yes, we are searching truffles with dogs and they need to be very well trained if we want to find truffles. So we completely depend on our dogs, because truffles are underground and for us humans it is impossible to spot them by ourselves. Today, dogs are considered the best choice for truffle hunting and are definitely the most popular.
There are many advantages of the dogs as truffle hunters. Firstly, they can smell only ripe truffles. Further, practically every dog can be trained to search for truffles. They are trained practically from their birth, while still puppies, by putting a bit of truffle oil on their mom’s belly. When they are a bit older they are encouraged to search for boxes with truffles in it, hidden in the ground near trees.
When dogs search for truffles, they know that upon finding there will be a reward. A reward is usually paired with a positive reinforcement clicker. The dog knows that after a finding, which is acknowledged by a click, a reward is coming next. When a dog finds a spot with truffles, it is usually trained to show the spot with the paw or just sit and bark.
However, in order to be able to hunt truffles, the hunter first needs to locate the area where the truffles thrive. The places in the world where truffles are present the most are countries in western and central Europe and in the U.S. states in the Pacific Northwest. Truffles love moist soil and for best results they need to search for areas where had been a lot of rainy weather recently, advisably 10-15 days after heavy rainfalls.
Here in Istria, the richest place for truffles is the Motovun forest located in the center of Istria, near the towns of Motovun, Buzet and Oprtalj.
When hunting, search must be focused near the bases of trees, since truffles form relationships with trees by attaching to their roots. Most common types of trees that truffles make a connection with are oak, fir and beech. So the hunter needs to search for those kind of trees first.
If truffles are present, a darker ground forms in the base of that tree, which is the indication which should be focus on when searching for truffles. This tip will spare the hunters time and effort, especially if hunting without a dog.
Truffles usually grow few centimeters up to 15 centimeters underground. However, some of them can be found 30 centimeters underground or even show up above the ground. A typical size for a truffle is between the size of a marble and a size of a ping-pong ball, although it can be even bigger.