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Pointing Dog Blog

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Breed of the Week: The Large Munsterlander

Craig Koshyk

The low-lying, sparsely populated regions of northwestern Europe have been the birthplace of several of the gundog breeds that we know today. Most are long-haired pointing dogs that developed from a common rootstock of so-called chiens d’oysel. One breed, a handsome black and white gundog, is named for the area in which it was developed—the marshy plains surrounding the city of Münster, Germany. It is the Grosser Münsterländer, known to the English-speaking world as the Large Munsterlander, and often referred to as the LM.

Noting that many French breeds were divided along the lines of coat color, Jean Castaing wrote: Outside of our country they don’t understand our obsession with restricting the selection of hunting dogs based on color. But it seems that Castaing’s German neighbors could not resist the urge to split at least one of their breeds based on nothing more than 
coat color. In 1909, the German Longhaired Pointer Club decided to remove black* from
 their breed standard. Ten years later, hunters who had continued to breed black and white dogs despite the ban formed a new club specifically for the “pure breeding of the long-haired, large, black-and-white Munsterlander”. *Details of how and why the decision was made to remove black from the standard are given in the German Longhaired Pointer chapter. 

In 1922, the club began holding breed-specific shows and performance tests. However, independence for the new club did not last long. In 1933, with Germany under Nazi rule, it was forcibly amalgamated with the club for the German Longhaired Pointer. Studbooks were, however, kept separately.

The cohabitation of the two clubs came to an end immediately after the Second World War. The Large Munsterlander regained its independence but enthusiasts soon split into two competing factions.  In an excellent book published by the Large Munsterlander Club of North America, club president Joe Schmutz writes that:
Out of disagreements, a second club was formed and two Large Munsterlander clubs existed side-by-side until 1969. This two-track organization was a disadvantage for the breed. For example, an exceptional performer "Kapp vom Langenshof" took second place in a demanding national test for all breeds where only 13 of 19 dogs passed. Kapp's brother "Keck" was also much praised. However, because of strife among club members these two dogs were only rarely used for breeding.
Finally, in the early 1970s, the two Large Munsterlander clubs agreed to join forces. With renewed vigor, they succeeded in expanding the breed’s population in Germany and beyond. The first Large Munsterlanders were exported to the U.S. in the mid '60s and to the UK in the early '70s.  Today the Large Munsterlander is well known in many parts of the world and enjoys an excellent reputation as an eye-pleasing, easy to handle, hard hunting all-around gundog.

Looking back on all the years I have spent traveling to hunt with and photograph various breeds of gundog, a handful of events really stand out in my memory. Two of them occurred on the same day on the vast prairies of Saskatchewan where I had travelled to hunt with Joe Schmutz and his small herd of Large Munsterlanders.

The first memorable event starts out like the opening line of a joke: A Canadian, a German and a Frenchman walk into a bar... The bar—more of a restaurant, really—was on the main street of Gravelbourg, Saskatchewan. I was there with my friend, Yannick Molès, who had just arrived the day before from France. We had agreed to meet up with Joe Schmutz, then president of the Large Munsterlander Club of North America, so we could all go chasing huns and sharptails.

Since Yannick and I had arrived a bit early for our meeting, we decided to see some of the sights of the small prairie town. As we wandered along Main Street, we discussed the upcoming hunt—in French. Entering a small shop, the owner greeted us by saying: Bonjour Messieurs, puis-je vous aider? (“Hello gentlemen, may I help you?”). We were stunned. There we were, in the middle of Saskatchewan, thousands of miles west of Québec and an ocean away from France, yet somehow the shopkeeper spoke...French? It felt like we were in an episode of The Twilight Zone, especially when we realized that everyone else in the shop was also speaking French.

But there was a logical explanation. You see, the folks in Gravelbourg have been speaking en français ever since 1906, when French priests founded the town. And I am sure that Yannick and I were not the first visitors to stand slack-jawed upon hearing la belle langue way out there on the bald prairies.

Once we had regained our composure, we met Joe for lunch, then headed out of town with a unique assortment of dogs: two Weimaraners, two Pont-Audemer Spaniels and four Large Munsterlanders. The action in the field was exceptional. We found huns, sharptails, pheasants and ducks. The dog-work was outstanding. I was particularly impressed by Joe’s LMs. They showed a thorough, steady search, charging into even the nastiest thorn bushes and thickest grass. They were strong pointers and natural backers. And it was the natural backing of Joe’s dogs that eventually led to the second memorable event.

It required two 'shots' to get this photo. Joe
shot the rooster with his shotgun and I shot
it with my camera as Joe's fine LM made the
It was near the end of the day. The sky glowed with the rich red tones of what was sure to be a spectacular sunset as we enjoyed some homemade deer sausage and dark rye bread on the tailgate of my truck. As he packed up to leave, Joe decided to let all four of his dogs out to have one last chance to do their business before the long ride home. As Yannick and I gathered up our gear and readied the truck, the Munsterlanders ran through the stubble with Joe following along with his gun, just in case.

Suddenly, Joe shouted, “Hey, guys!” Turning, we were greeted with a sight that has remained with me to this day. As the ripe orange prairie sun set over a stubble field stretching to the horizon, four Large Munsterlanders—one pointing, three backing— stood like statues as their proud owner moved in to flush. And where were my cameras? Packed away with all the rest of the gear, of course!

I had managed to get some great shots of the dogs earlier on (one of them actually made the cover of Gundog Magazine) but when the perfect one-in-a-million shot basically lined itself up right in front of me, my trusty Canon and Leica were at the bottom of a camera bag.

So, instead of taking photos of the event, Yannick and I just soaked it all in. We watched Joe move in for the flush. A single grey partridge burst from the cover. Joe fired. The bird flew on. Joe fired again. The bird flew on. Joe fired a third time. And the bird flew on, not a feather out of place.

Throughout it all, the dogs remained rock-steady. And from what I could tell, the fact that Joe missed all three shots didn’t really bother them. I could only conclude that, in addition to being excellent all-around hunting dogs, Large Munsterlanders are also quite forgiving.

Read more about the breed, and all the other pointing breeds from Continental Europe, in my book Pointing Dogs, Volume One: The Continentals