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Through words and images, we are on a mission to share our passion for pointing dogs, upland hunting and sporting dog photography. 

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Pointing Dog Blog

Filtering by Tag: German

VGP, the Master Test

Craig Koshyk


VGP is the tongue-friendly abbreviation for Verbands-Gebrauchsprüfung (say that quickly three times!). Translated, Verbands-Gebrauchsprüfung means "Association utility test" and refers to the extremely difficult master test for pointing dogs in Germany. 

One of my dogs, the Amazing Maisey, ran the VGP a couple of years ago and achieved a prize one despite almost losing an eye earlier in the summer while training. You can read about the drama here. I've also posted some video clips from a special VGP (equivalent) test in Austria that Lisa and I attended in 1999. You can see them here

Recently, I came across a video (in German) that features a young woman and her Drahthaar Laika participating in a VGP test in Germany. The video is featured on the Youtube channel of the German sporting magazine "Deutsche Jagd Zeitung" and is an excellent overview of the test. Even if you don't speak German, it is well worth the viewing.

Enjoy!




Enjoy my blog posts? Check out my book Pointing Dogs, Volume One: The Continentals
http://www.dogwilling.ca/index.cfm

Breed of the Week: The Württemberger

Craig Koshyk

The Württemberger, known in Germany as the Dreifarbige Württemberger or Dreifarbige Württembergische Vorstehhund, was a short-haired, tricolored pointing dog that disappeared just after World War I. Exactly where, when and how it came to be is the subject of speculation.


The most common assumption is that the breed was developed in the Württemberg region of southwest Germany in the 1870s. Some sources claim that Gypsies traveling from Russia brought it to the  Kingdom of Württemberg in the early 1800s, but others insist that it was an ancient breed, known in southern Germany for centuries. Whatever their origin, heavy, tricolored pointing dogs were present in large enough numbers in the 1880s and ’90s to catch the attention of Germany’s Delegate Commission which, for a time, recognized them as a breed. But no separate stud book was ever created for Württembergers and they, along with Weimaraners, were registered in the German Shorthaired Pointer stud book. 


Apparently a Tricolored Shorthair Club (Dreifarbige Kurzhaar Klub) was formed in Germany, but its efforts to gain official recognition for the breed failed. It is not clear exactly why, but it may have been due to the fact that many of the leading dog experts of the time believed that any tricolored coat had to be the result of crossbreeding to either Gordon Setters or some kind of hound, such as the Large Blue Gascony and therefore the breed could not be considered 'pure'.

Physically, Württemburgers were fairly large dogs, up to 70 centimeters at the shoulder with a large head, heavy flews and loose skin. They probably looked like a tricolored Bracco Italiano or Burgos Pointer. A fairly detailed description of the breed was written by J.B. Samat and appears in the book Les Chiens de Chasse, published by the Manufrance company in the 1930s. 
The Württemberger has not yet undergone the same transformation as the real German Shorthaired Pointer which, nowadays, looks nothing like its ancestors. The Württemberger is a fairly tall dog with a heavy appearance, but it is rare to see a well-built and absolutely correct example, for the hunters in Württemberg are not very fussy and have no particular interested in a carefully thoughtout breeding system. However, there are two or three large kennels where the breed is carefully raised and where they have probably been improved in the same way as the other German breeds. The coat is tricolor marked with brown and tan spots and streaks on a blueish background, white with brown ticking with yellow markings above the eyes, on the cheeks, the edges of the ears, the lips, the chest, the inside of the legs and the underside of the tail. 
Other descriptions and images appeared in the late 1800s and early 1900s in sporting journals such as Le Chenil in France. In the book Die deutschen Vorstehhunde, author Manfred Hözel states that the last litter of Württemberger pups was whelped near the city of Nanz, Germany in 1910 and that two pups were “exported to America”. Other authors, however, have written that the breed managed to survive until just before the Second World War.



Read more about the breed, and all the other pointing breeds from Continental Europe, in my book Pointing Dogs, Volume One: The Continentals
http://www.dogwilling.ca/index.cfm

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.

MY VIEW
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
delivery. 
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
http://www.dogwilling.ca/index.cfm

Breed of the Week: German Longhaired Pointer

Craig Koshyk

If you tell the average North American hunter that you have a German Shorthaired Pointer or German Wirehaired Pointer, he or she will probably know exactly what kind of dog you are talking about. But tell that same hunter you have a German Longhaired pointer, and the response you are most likely to get is a blank stare follow by: “say what?” Yet, the German Longhaired Pointer is actually older than its Shorthaired and Wirehaired compatriots. It also has a strong and well-regarded club in its homeland, a growing population in North America and even a small but active following on the field trial circuit in the Netherlands, France and Spain.




HISTORY
During the late middle Ages, long-haired hunting dogs could be found throughout most of the low-lying, marshy regions of northern France, Holland and western Germany, where they went by a variety of names—Chiens d’oysel, Épagneuls, Spionnen, Stöberhunde, or Wachtelhunde.

Originally they were used mainly to flush game for hawks and falcons or into nests but, with the development of guns light enough to shoot birds on the wing, hunters began to select them for a more pronounced pointing instinct. The French developed chiens couchants (setting dogs) they called épagneuls
 and, from them, the English developed Setters. In Germany, the transformation of flushing breeds into pointing breeds happened somewhat later, and it wasn’t really until the mid-1800s that the idea of a national breed of long-haired pointing dog caught the imagination of German sportsmen. Like the national short-haired and wire-haired breeds that would be developed somewhat later, the German Longhair was created by blending local types of hunting dogs with breeds from other countries. It is likely that French épagneul breeds, English Setters and Pointers contributed to the mix and, according to some sources, even Newfoundland Dogs and Collies may have been added.

Naturally, with all the mixing and matching going on, a variety of types emerged. The most common color was brown and white, but black and white and even tricolored coats were also seen. There was also a lot of variation in size and overall look. It soon became clear that if breeders wanted to establish a national breed of long-haired dog, something had to be done to standardize it. 

So, in 1879 a number of influential personalities met in Hanover during an exhibition hosted by the Vereins zur Veredelung der Hunderassen (Association for the Refinement of Dog Breeds) to come up with a standard. When the meeting concluded, a dog named “Mylord 1”, born in 1875 and owned by a Mr. Gustav Borcher from Brunswick, was declared the model for the German Longhaired Pointer, and a breed standard based on him was written.

Despite the fact that there were some excellent black and white dogs in the breed (and even some tricolored dogs owned by none other than Prince Albrecht of Solms-Braunfels), the official standard only allowed brown and white coats. To understand why black and tricolor were rejected, we have to consider the political situation at the time and the traditions of the region. First of all, for many breeders, brown was simply the most attractive color for long-haired dogs and the one they were most accustomed to seeing. Others may have believed that brown dogs were less visible in the forest, and therefore better equipped to stalk big game or to lie in wait for poachers. But it is also very likely that black and tricolored coats were just
 too “English” for some of the more patriotic breeders. Like their French counterparts, 19th century German hunters had a sort of love-hate relationship with all things English. Some liked the idea of using English blood even if it meant black coats. Others vehemently disagreed.

In 1893, Club Langhaar was formed by Freiherr (Baron) Friedrich von Schorlemer-Alst, and others. They established the first field tests for the breed and, since they encouraged their members to select their breeding stock based on performance, not just appearance, they allowed black in the coat. But Club Langhaar was centered mainly in the Westphalia and Rhineland regions of Germany; it lacked the support of breeders in other parts of the country who eventually formed another club in 1897: the Verein Deutsch-Langhaar.

The two clubs coexisted for a number of years and followed the same standard, with one large exception. Verein Deutsch-Langhaar rejected black in the coat while Club Langhaar allowed it, at least for a while. In 1908, Club Langhaar reversed its position and decided to no longer accept black dogs. In 1926, the two clubs merged to form the Deutsch Langhaar Verband.

Throughout the early part of the 20th century, breeders in Germany continued to refine the German Longhaired Pointer. The breed soon gained a reputation as a tough-as-nails “forester’s dog”, an excellent water worker and a calm steady tracker of big game. But it never man- aged to gain the same level of popularity among German hunters as its Shorthaired and Wirehaired cousins. Like the Weimaraner, the German Longhaired Pointer was more of a niche breed valued for a slower, steadier style, strong protective instinct and “sharpness” on predators. But unlike the Weimaraner, it did not capture the attention of sportsmen outside of Germany until the 1970s, which was probably a blessing in disguise. Today, the breed is still mainly in the hands of hunters. It is thriving in its homeland and is gaining converts in many other counties, including the US and UK.

MY VIEW
Compared To German Shorthaired and Wirehaired pointers, German Longhaired Pointers are relatively rare, but I have actually come across a good number of them in my travels. I’ve seen some in Germany, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Austria, France, Spain and the US. And while I did see some variation among them in terms of look and working style, i found no difference at all where it counts the most—in their desire to hunt. I first saw GLPs in Germany when I was there hunting rabbits and pheasants with a group of Weimaraner owners. There were a few GLPs in the group and they were quite impressive to watch. They hunted hard, pointed well and retrieved everything shot for them.

On another visit to Europe, Lisa and I saw GLPs at field trials in the Netherlands and France. Overall, the quality of their performance was excellent. They ran fast, with a high head and pointed staunchly. What I saw confirmed what I had heard about Dutch GLPs. They were faster and wider ranging than the ones I’d seen in Germany. Despite these and other encounters with the breed in Europe, I could only guess at how they would adapt to conditions in North America. After all, I’d watched them hunting rabbits in the heather-covered sand dunes of an island off the coast of Germany—hardly woodcock cover. And, in the Netherlands, I saw them crisscross spring wheat fields bordered by busy freeways—not exactly Saskatchewan sharptail country. So, in 2009, when I got an offer to chase South Dakota roosters with a couple of GLPs, I hopped in the truck and headed south.

I met up with Cortney Schaefer, her husband Scott, and father, Alan in the south central part of the state. For two days I followed along and photographed their GLPs in waist-high grass, along tangled tree lines and into cattail sloughs with knee-deep water.

The dogs covered the ground at a good clip, not field trial speed, but a strong, medium gallop. They ranged out to about 100 yards, sometimes a bit more. Points were solid and productive. Their desire was obvious. The older dog—a five-year-old female—was like the Energizer bunny, never letting up 
no matter how long she was on the ground. Her ten-month-old pup had a nasty run-in with some barbed wire on the first day and, despite receiving more than a dozen stitches, spent the rest of the weekend trying to convince Cortney to let her off leash to get back into the hunt.

As I drove home to Canada, I thought about the remarkable thing I had just witnessed. I’d seen German-bred GLPs help their American owners limit out on South Dakota roosters, in late November, on hard-hit public land! I guess my first impressions of the breed were confirmed in South Dakota: GLPs can be damn good hunting dogs.





Read more about the breed, and all the other pointing breeds from Continental Europe, in my book Pointing Dogs, Volume One: The Continentals
http://www.dogwilling.ca/index.cfm

Breed of the Week: The Small Munsterlander

Craig Koshyk



Among the most memorable conversations I’ve had with breeders were with the men and women who had dedicated much of their lives to the revival of a breed of gundog. And while the twists and turns are unique to each, there are certain elements common to them all: an extinct breed, a search to find any remaining stock, a declaration of rediscovery, initial resistance by the establishment and, eventually, acceptance of a re-established breed.

When I first began my research, I thought that all the various breed revivals had taken place fairly recently, in the last half of the 20th century. However, it turns out that there was a man who revived a breed nearly a century ago. His name was Edmund Löns and the breed he rediscovered was a small, long-haired hunting dog that used to be common in much of northwestern Europe. Löns named it the Heidewachtel (Heath Quail Dog). Today, it is known as the Small Munsterlander. It is among the most popular gundog breeds in Germany and is quickly gaining popularity around the world.

HISTORY
The story of The Small Munsterlander begins, as it does for most of the long-haired pointing breeds, with hunting dogs that had been in northwestern Europe for centuries. They went by a variety of names and came in a variety of sizes and colors. They were generally used to track, flush and retrieve small game. On the moors and in the marshes of the region known as Münsterland, they were called a Spion, Spannjer or Wachtelhund* (*There is a breed known officially as the Deutsch Wachtelhund. It is not a pointing dog but has a common ancestry with the long-haired pointing breeds, and some may actually point from time to time. However, it has been selectively bred to track, flush and retrieve and is also known for giving voice on trail.)

According to Edmund Löns, who wrote a book about the breed in 1912, they were owned by local farmers and peat diggers, men who saw hunting as a way of putting meat on the table and money in their pockets. To them, the real value of a dog was in the work after the shot, since any game not recovered was one less dish on the table or, worse, less money in their pocket.

This kind of hunting survived until the early 1800s. By mid-century, an emerging middle class, and a shift in the attitude and practises of hunters, had all but wiped out the commercial hunter. New breeds of dogs and styles of hunting emerged. Setter and Pointers were imported from England and various épagneul breeds from France.

As hunters mixed these breeds with local dogs, new varieties began to emerge. Eventually, the larger ones evolved into what would form the basis of the German Longhaired Pointer and the Large Munsterlander breeds in Germany, and the Drentsche Patrijshond and Stabyhoun breeds in the Netherlands. The smaller varieties, on the other hand, never really caught on.  By the end of the 19th century, very few of the little Spionnen remained. In fact, most people considered them extinct. Then, in 1906, in what can only be described as a one in a million chance, they were rediscovered.

Well-known poet Hermann Löns was an avid sportsman with a keen interest in dogs. Sometime around 1900, he developed an interest
 in a tracking breed known as the Roten Hannoverschen Heidebracke (Red Hanoverian Heath Hound), which was also thought to be near extinction. Hermann wanted to find out if there were any still alive in Germany, so he published an appeal in a popular sporting magazine asking for anyone with information on the breed to contact him. The appeal must have produced a few leads, for it is said that Hermann and his brother Edmund traveled throughout Lower Saxony (northwestern Germany) in their search. What they found, however, was not the Roten Hannoverschen Heidebracke. It was something else altogether. It was the Spion; the small long-haired pointing dog considered by many to have gone extinct many years before.

It turns out that the Spion had somehow managed to survive on a few isolated farms in the Westphalia region, where they were kept as tightly line-bred families. One of the breeders was a man by the name of Heitmann. According to Edmund Löns, Heitmann had been breeding his line of Spions since 1877 and had even used German Longhaired Pointers from time to time, keeping only those pups that had Spion traits. In 1911, Löns found another line of dogs with the same characteristics in the area of Dorsten, a town in Westphalia. The Dorsten dogs actually traced back to the same sources as the Heitmann dogs, but had not been crossed with them for many years. So Löns and Heitmann used them to strengthen the Heitmann line, and vise versa.

Although there were differences in the two lines—the Dorsten dogs tended to be somewhat larger—both lines produced dogs with white coats and brown patches or plates. The roan color seen in the breed today came somewhat later. It was the result of early crosses to German Longhaired Pointers and, as we shall see, Brittanies.

SELECTION AND BREEDING
Some sources claim that the Small Munsterlander has been a pure breed for over 500 years. The evidence clearly indicates otherwise; it has only been recognized since the early 1900s, and has, until fairly recently, received infusions of blood from other breeds.

As early as 1904, there was speculation that the Small Munsterlander was actually a local variety of the Brittany or, at the very least, a descendant of French dogs brought to Westphalia in the early 1800s by the soldiers of Napoleon’s army. Since Edmund Löns had served in the German army in France during the First World War, it was also suspected that he had bred French dogs into his lines. But Löns always maintained that the Small Munsterlander was a pure breed and that it had been around for centuries. However, in a recently revised and expanded edition of Der Heidewachtel, kleiner Munsterlander Vorstehhund oder Spion, a book that Löns wrote in 1922, Elizabeth Brand-Böhmer, a close friend of Löns, describes his attempts to develop the brown roan coat in the Small Munsterlander.

It seems that Löns had tried crossing to German Longhaired Pointers, reasoning that they were from the same basic root stock. But he was never really satisfied with the cross which he found produced dogs that were too large and slow. Then one day in 1918, he saw a small, brown roan dog on a ragpicker’s cart near his home. Löns immediately recognized it as a Brittany and offered to purchase it on the spot. The owner refused, but Löns persisted. He even went so far as to secretly observe the ragpicker and his dog on the local heath. He saw that the dog would sit on the cart and then jump off to go hunting. Its quick pace, high nose and solid point impressed Löns enormously.

Somehow Löns eventually purchased the dog and even had it registered in the Small Munsterlander stud book. When he used it for breeding and produced brown roan pups, Löns told club members that the coat was due to a genetic mutation. Later he changed his story and claimed that it came from a cross to German Longhaired Pointers. Inevitably, Löns was criticized for his breeding practises, and there-after remained silent on the issue. He did however confess to at least one person, Elizabeth Brand-Böhmer. He told her the story of the ragpicker’s Brittany, but asked that she not reveal it until after his death—which she did in 2006, having kept the secret for nearly 40 years.

WHAT'S IN A NAME
Prior to the establishment of a unified breed club in the 1960s, the breed went by two names. To the club led by Löns, it was the Heidewachtel, literally “Heath-land Quail Dog”. To members of the other club it was the Kleiner Munsterländer Vorstehhund, the Small Munsterlander Pointing Dog. Other names sometimes used were Spion or Spannjer.

In Germany today, the official name of the breed is Kleiner Münsterländer. In English speaking countries, the breed is called the Small Munsterander, often abbreviated to SM. Interestingly, the breed is still called Heidewachtel in the Netherlands.



Read more about the breed, and all the other pointing breeds from Continental Europe, in my book Pointing Dogs, Volume One: The Continentals
http://www.dogwilling.ca/index.cfm
.


Breed of the Week: The Weimaraner Part 3

Craig Koshyk


SELECTION AND BREEDING


Approximately 550 Weimaraner pups are whelped in Germany each year, almost all of them bred by and for hunters. There are probably close to twenty thousand Weim pups born every year in the rest of the world. Unfortunately, 90% of them are from non-hunting lines.

Field-oriented breeders in North America tend to put more emphasis on speed, range and point than their German counterparts. Retrieving and water work are also very important for North Americans, but blood tracking and predator sharpness are generally not given much consideration. US and Canadian “field-bred” Weimaraners are often slightly smaller, faster and may be wider ranging than their relatives from Germany. In terms of appearance, they usually lack the extreme angulation of Weimaraners from show lines.

Aline Curran, an American Weimaraner breeder with US-bred and German-bred dogs, describes the differences between them:
My German dogs have more drive, more focus. They are bolder, more hard-headed, WAY more intelligent, and did I mention DRIVE? My American dogs from field lines have more style. They are faster and wider ranging, more eager to please, softer, more hyper, and did I mention STYLE? I find the German dogs easier to train, but harder to keep trained. They are very strong-willed and scary-smart. If you don’t stay on top of them, they will find very creative ways of getting away with murder. The Americans, on the other hand, are very eager to please, but don’t catch on as quickly. They are soft, so you can’t rush their training or you will lose the style, which is their best asset. Once they are trained, they stay trained with only gentle reminders. 

While it is reasonable to assume that over the last 100 years the Weimaraner has been bred to fairly high levels of purity, rumors persist that crosses to other breeds have occurred. Only one story can be confirmed. During the 1960s, there was a short-lived, and rather divisive program in Germany where a few Weimaraners did in fact receive “outside blood”.

According to a former president of the Weimaraner club, Dr. Werner Petri, a small group of breeders crossed English Pointers and Weimaraners in the early ’60s in an effort to establish a new breed called the Deutsch Halbblut. But the program never really got off the ground, and no dogs from it entered established Weimaraner lines. 

Several years later, a member of the German Weimaraner club bred one of his Weimaraners to a well-known Pointer bitch. He then bred the offspring to each other. All this was done without the knowledge or permission of the club. When word finally reached the board of directors, they decided, reluctantly, to allow the program to continue under the guise of research into the phenomenon of hybrid vigor. If the offspring were capable of passing all the required tests, then further steps would be taken to blend the crossbred dogs into established Weimaraner lines. In the end, the experiment was declared a failure. The Pointer bitch threw pups with extremely bad bites. That was enough justification for the breed warden to terminate the program. When I asked club members in Germany about those years, one of them said, “That is a chapter in the history of the Weimaraner that is now closed, thank goodness!”

Elsewhere, rumors of crossbreeding continue to make the rounds. In the US, claims and denials of crosses to Pointers and GSPs have been around for years. In France, knowing winks are exchanged in some circles. The French are rumored to have crossed everything from Pointers to GSPs to Salukis into some lines. However, nothing in either country has ever been proven
or publicly declared. What we do know is that in both the US and in France there are still very few Weimaraners capable of winning all-breed field trials. If crosses have been made, they have not had 
a huge effect overall. Perhaps they were done so long ago that they don’t really matter anymore, or they were not done widely or often enough to change the breed to the same degree as the GSP or Vizsla have been changed.

Clubs
The parent club for the breed in Germany is the Weimaraner Klub. There are also clubs in over 20 other countries. Among the largest are the Weimaraner Club of America and the Weimaraner Club 
of Great Britain.

Tests and Trials
The Weimaraner club of Germany follows a testing and breeding program similar to other JGHV-affiliated clubs. It sanctions VJP, HZP and VGP events, as well as various tracking tests. In Germany, Weimaraners must pass at least the first two levels of tests (VJP, HZP), as well as a coat, conformation and character examination, in order to be certified for breeding. The Austrian and the Czech clubs run similar tests, although they use a slightly different scoring system.

In the US, there is a fairly active AKC field trial scene for the breed. The Weimaraner Club of America and its affiliates organize 20 to
 30 trials every year, including a National Championship held near Ardmore, Oklahoma. Several kennels have been very successful in the field trial arena, and have done an outstanding job of keeping the hunt in their lines, while working toward developing class bird dogs for all-breed competition. The WCA also holds field-oriented ratings tests. Dogs can earn titles for upland bird work and/or retrieving. There is a small but growing number of Weimaraners participating in the NAVHDA testing system, with several kennels now using it to select their breeding stock (see a video of some of them here, starting at about 12:50 mark).

In the UK, France, Italy, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland, Weimaraners can occasionally be seen in field trials and hunt tests. Like their American counterparts, European Weimaraner enthusiasts outside of Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic tend to place more emphasis on the breed’s upland bird hunting abilities than on big game hunting or blood trailing.

Health: In addition to the health issues faced by other breeds, the Weimaraner seems to be at a somewhat higher risk for autoimmune reactions to certain vaccination protocols. As a precautionary measure, the Weimaraner Club of America recommends that Weimaraner pups receive parvo and distemper shots separately, about two weeks apart. Weimaraners are also reported to be at a higher than average risk for a severe form of hypertrophic osteodystrophy (HOD), an inflammatory condition of the bones and other organs that can be fatal. Other issues of concern are bloat (gastric torsion) and von Willebrand’s disease.


FORM

The unique look of the Weimaraner is a double-edged sword. Having a hunting dog with a unique color and chiseled good looks is great. I've had Weimaraners for over 12 years, and I am still flattered when my hunting buddies tell me my dogs are handsome. But, on the other hand, the look of the breed has captured the attention of huge numbers of non-hunters who now make up the largest market for it. As a result, many breeders select almost exclusively for looks, and ignore the most important feature of the breed: its hunting instincts.

Size: Weimaraners can be substantial dogs, among the biggest of the Continental breeds. North American field-bred Weimaraners tend to be smaller than their show-bred compatriots.
Males: 59 – 70 cm
Females: 57 – 65 cm

Coat: Most Weimaraners have a short silver-grey coat and cropped tail. Long-haired Weimaraners are identical to the short-haired variety except for having a long, soft topcoat, with or without an undercoat. The long hair lies flat and measures 3 to 5 cm in length. It is somewhat longer on the ears and backs of the legs, and slightly shorter on the head. The tail develops a “plume” of long hair when the dog nears maturity. The tail of the long-haired Weimaraner is usually not cropped.

Long-haired Weimaraners were known to exist for many years before they were officially accepted in 1935, but have always been less common than the short-haired variety. Even today they only represent about 30% of the breed’s population in Germany and Austria; less in other countries. Curiously, the Weimaraner Club of America is the only Weimaraner club in the world to list the long-haired coat as a disqualifying fault. But the disqualification only applies to the show ring, so long-haired Weimaraners may participate in any other event open to pointing dogs.

Another type of coat known as stockhaar is quite rare, and only occurs in dogs that carry both the short-hair and long-hair genes. It is a double coat with a medium-length, flat-lying topcoat, and thick undercoat with a slight amount of feathering sometimes seen on the backs of the legs. Mating a short-haired Weimaraner to a long-haired Weimaraner may produce a stockhaar coat, but it is not a sure bet. The same holds true for two short-haired Weimaraners that carry the recessive long-hair gene. There is only a slight chance that they could produce a stockhaar coat.

Color
The breed’s silver-grey color has always been its most distinctive feature. But a grey coat is not unique to Weimaraners. Pups with grey coats have cropped up from time to time in other breeds. Writing in Weimaraner Heute, Dr. Werner Petri describes seeing grey pups in a litter produced by two black Middle Pinschers, and that prior to the Second World War, grey pups appeared in several litters out of solid brown German Longhaired Pointers. I’ve been told by breeders of GSPs in the Czech Republic and Slovakia that grey pups occasionally occur in their breed and are suspected of being throwbacks to a time when Weimaraners were crossed into GSP lines. A former president of the Cesky Fousek Club, Dr. Jaromir Dostal, has also confirmed that grey pups can also occur in Cesky Fousek litters.

What is unique to the Weimaraner, at least among the pointing breeds, is that breeders specifically select for the silver-grey coat color. According to the breed standard, it is silver, deer or mouse grey, as well as shades of these colors. Genetically, silver-grey is actually a shade of brown that has been altered by a recessive dilution gene. If a Weimaraner is bred to a dog of another breed with a non-diluted coat color, the resulting pups are never grey. They are usually liver or black.

While silver-grey is the only officially recognized color of the Weimaraner, another coat color can occur. The so-called blue Weimaraner has a distinctly blue-grey coat color similar to that of blue Great Danes, Dobermans or Italian Greyhounds. The color is actually a dilution of black. Blue Weimaraners have black noses and lips, and may have black mottling on the skin inside the mouth. Physically, other than the coat, blues look just like the silver-greys. They have a small but devoted following in the US, and have recently gained some ground in the UK, France and even in Germany, where breeders not affiliated with the parent breed club are now trying to cash in on the “rare” variety. 

Unfortunately, blue fanciers are like the grey fanciers—most of them do not hunt! Blues are bred, almost exclusively, as companion animals. Since a blue coat is listed as a disqualification in the show ring, they are not even bred for blue ribbons. Of course, that is not to say that there aren’t any good blues out there; there certainly are. I am aware of several breeders of blues that test their dogs with NAVHDA and have earned respectable scores. Nevertheless, for hunters and field trial enthusiasts, finding a first-rate hunting dog among the blue Weimaraner population usually presents an even greater challenge than finding one among the silver-greys.

“Blues” remain a hot-button issue in Weimaraner circles but space does not permit an analysis of the issues involved. However, a resolution may be on the horizon. In 2009, a club was formed in the US with the goal of establishing the Blue as a separate and independent breed. If you want to read my take on the Blue issue, here is a link to a mini rant I wrote a while back.

UPDATE: I recently wrote about another coat type/color in Weims: White. 

FUNCTION

Field Search: I have seen Weimaraners that were ultra- close workers, hunting at a fairly methodical pace. I have also seen one or two that ran for the horizon like bats out of hell. However, most Weimaraners have a close to medium range and hunt at a medium gallop. Judy Balog, a leading American Weimaraner breeder, says: Good Weims can search a field as well as any other versatile breed. But even the widest-ranging Weimaraners are not run-offs. They keep a sharp eye on their owners and willingly hunt for the gun while handling kindly.


Pointing
The pointing instinct can be slow to develop in some Weimaraners. Once they mature, however, they are generally strong pointers. Those selected for field trials in the US and Europe tend to have a very strong pointing instinct that develops earlier. Americans, in particular, place more emphasis on style of point, and look for dogs that display a higher head and tail. Like most other Continental breeds, natural backing is occasionally seen, but it is not particularly common.

Retrieving
Most Weimaraners are natural-born re- trievers that show a strong desire to fetch anything and everything at a very early age. The retrieving instinct may, in fact, be one of the most deeply seated traits of the breed. Even in lines where the run and point have almost been completely bred out, the desire to retrieve often remains quite strong.

Tracking
Perhaps because of its Leithund heritage, the Weimaraner has always been known for a “deep nose”. In Germany, a lot of emphasis is placed on selecting and testing for tracking ability. A lower head is greatly valued. So is giving voice on track, a behavior called spurlaut. In America, many breeders prefer a higher head, but do not ignore tracking ability completely as it is an important aspect of upland game hunting and NAVHDA testing. However, there is very little emphasis placed on big game tracking among Weimaraner fanciers outside of Germany and Eastern Europe. Nor is there any attempt to select for traits such as spurlaut.

Water Work
Weimaraners can be excellent water workers. Some may need more encouragement than others when first being introduced to water, but once they have learned to swim, they can be top-notch performers. The short-haired version of the breed may not be the best choice for the late-season waterfowler. Even the long-haired variety, which is better able to work in cooler temperatures, may not be well suited to breaking ice in deep waters. 

Judy Balog says that: The young Weim may need a little more early encouragement, but once they mature I think they’re hard to beat and most make top-notch water retrievers. 


CHARACTER
With such a huge population and so many different lines of Weimaraners out there, it is difficult to describe a “typical” weimaraner. There is a wide range of personalities in the breed, running the gamut from eager-to-please gundogs to hyperactive basket cases. But if we limit the discussion to dogs with a well-balanced character we can say that, in general, Weimaraners are friendly, extremely intelligent, high-energy dogs. They are not well suited to living in a kennel, and not really the kind of dog that can be left to their own devices around the house. They are often slow to mature, both physically and mentally.

Me and the Amazing Maisey
Training
The breed is particularly well known for forming a very strong attachment to its owner/handler. This can be a double-edged sword when it comes to training. The fierce loyalty and tremendous desire to please are great assets but, if not handled properly, they can sometimes lead to dogs that show very little independence. Again, it really depends on what lines they come from and how they are raised. Generally speaking, training a Weimaraner from good, proven stock is fairly straightforward.

Protection
For over a century, Weimaraner breeders in Germany have sought to breed courageous dogs with a strong protection instinct. Weimaraners are the only pointing breed in Germany required to pass tests designed to evaluate these traits. Tanja Breu-Knaup, a leading breeder of long- haired Weimaraners in Germany, explains that the breed’s reputation of being mannscharf (literally “man-sharp”) is slowly fading.
In the 1980s, when I first showed up to a training session with my dogs, everyone thought that they would be aggressive. But I proved to them that my dogs are NOT aggressive. Thankfully, things have changed since then. 
Instrumental in the public’s change in attitude has been the decision by the parent club to modify the testing procedure. Steve Graham, an American who has imported Weimaraners from Germany, explains:
The man-sharpness test (Mannscharfprüfung) was replaced by the new Wesenstest in 2001. In the older test, the handler holds the dog on a lead, and the judge, armed with a stick, makes threatening moves toward the handler. The dog is expected to show courage and willingness to defend its handler.In the newer test, the dog must also prove that it is not fearful or aggressive. A group of a about a dozen people forms a large circle around the handler and dog. Slowly, the people move toward the center. When the circle is more or less closed, the handler must let go of the leash and exit the circle leaving the dog behind. Once outside of the circle, the handler calls the dog. The dog should then go to the handler. When this is done, the handler and dog re-enter the circle. Judges look for any hint of fear or aggression. If they detect the slightest amount of either, the dog is prohibited from breeding. 


Read more about the breed, and all the other pointing breeds from Continental Europe, in my book Pointing Dogs, Volume One: The Continentals
http://www.dogwilling.ca/index.cfm