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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

The world of pointing dogs in words and images, moving and still.

Filtering by Tag: History

Mystery Breed?

Craig Koshyk

Charles Fernand de Condamy (1847-1913) was a well-known watercolour painter in France in the late 1800s.  If you do a google image search for his works, among all the wonderful painting of horses and hounds, is this shot of a dog on point.

Charles-Fernand de Condamy
What is unusual about the image is that it shows a dog with a curly coat, and there is only one breed of pointing dog that has such a coat, the Pont-Audemer Spaniel. But as far as I can tell, the painting does not have a title. At auction, it has been listed as an image of an Irish Water Spaniel and/or Pont-Audemer Spaniel. One auction site even listed it as a watercolour painting of a Poodle.

De Condamy's painting may have also inspired one of French sculptor Albert Laplanche's bronzes. Unfortunately the small statue is simply listed as "Chien à l'arrêt" (dog on point), so we still have no solid confirmation of what breed it is. So what breed could de Condamy's watercolour represent?


Chien à l'arrêt by Albert Laplanche


Well, I don't think it is a Poodle. Here is how de Condamy painted that breed.

And it is probably not an Irish Water Spaniel. After all, that breed doesn't point... or DOES IT? Have a look at this video. It is of an Irish Water Spaniel and a Boykin Spaniel hunting pheasants in Oregon.



I asked the owner of the Irish Water Spaniel about the dog in the video and this is what he told me:
Ah yes, the hesitation flush (aka the point). With my limited experience of hunting with only 3 IWS, my speculation has two parts. One is that IWS are somewhere on the continuum between a flusher and a pointer and as such, they can be trained to go either way depending on the individual dogs personality. 
Tooey is a very reserved dog and if prey is not running, her chase instinct gets confused and so she points while determining what to do next. My male Cooper was an opportunist, and if he saw a hint of a bird, he would do anything to trap the bird before it flushed (we always got several birds each year that never left the ground). But if he winded a bird but could not see it at first, he would lock up while his brain processed what to do next. My youngest male recently saw a pheasant deep in wild rose and locked up tight, in a classic pointer pose. But when he encounters a moving bird, his prey drive kicks in.

The second speculation is that as the dogs confidence grows with experience, the tendency to point or hesitate at the flush diminishes over time. Tooey hesitates less and less, and only if the bird is in sight but not moving will it cause a point before the flush (she failed a senior level hunt test for this behavior but has never failed to find a downed bird or an crippled runner). However, the hesitation flush, or temporary point, has been a blessing for my shooting. Just having a few moments to prepare for the shot has allowed me to connect with birds that I probably would have missed with an instant flush. Not good for hunt tests, but great for the average shooter who likes to eat birds. 

Now, let's compare that to what I wrote about our Ponto Uma in my book:
Uma lives to run and runs for fun. To her, pointing birds is great sport. But so is flushing and chasing them. When she was young, I tried to cure her of bumping and chasing in the same way I cured our Weimaraners. I took her to a field loaded with meadowlarks and let her chase for as long as she wanted. But it didn’t work. When our other dogs were young pups, they were given the same treatment but they quickly figured out that they could not catch the birds, so they stopped chasing them and started pointing. Not Uma. The more she bumped and chased, the more she enjoyed it. She was so driven to play this game, I was concerned that she would run till she dropped dead. Eventually, by adjusting my training methods, I managed to bring out her pointing instinct while discouraging her impulse to flush. Uma is now a very reliable pointer and even backs other dogs on her own. 
I now believe that what Uma showed me early on was the basic conflict in the genetic makeup of the breed. With training she learned to listen to her pointing instinct and ignore the urge to flush. However, it could have gone the other way. It would have been very easy to train her to work like a Springer Spaniel.

Be that as it may, my guess is that the dog in De Condamy's watercolour painting is indeed a Pont-Audemer Spaniel. The artist lived and hunted in the north of France were Pontos were relatively common in his day. It is very likely that he'd hunted over them and knew hunters who bred and owned Pontos. So, until and unless more evidence comes to light that indicates otherwise, we can enjoy the lovely painting as an extremely rare image of a Ponto on point from the 1880s.

Uma the Ponto on point!



Enjoy my blog posts? Check out my book Pointing Dogs, Volume One: The Continentals

www.dogwilling.ca

Meanwhile in Picardy

Craig Koshyk


The 1880s were a difficult time for the French pointing breeds. Nearly overwhelmed by a tsunami of Setters and Pointers, they were struggling to get their house in order. Lacking written breed standards, even official names for some breeds, judges had a hard time figuring out what was what in the show ring and how the various breeds should perform in the field. Even worse, a seemingly endless number of “rediscovered” breeds kept cropping up. After judging a dog show in Paris in 1884, Ernest Bellecroix published a plea for order.
Last year we were crushed under a completely unexpected number of classes. In all the species, native or foreign, new breeds, until now unknown, were discovered. There were 145 classes! Of all these different classifications, which one is the proper one? We have no idea. Therefore we request that the Society that has the difficult task of improving the breeds of dogs determines these breeds once and for all and clearly defines their characteristics.  Even the owners of dogs sometimes had no idea what kind of dogs they owned or bred and often would enter them into the wrong class at a dog show or field trial. 
Meanwhile in Picardy, many of the locally bred dogs were of the French Spaniel or Pont-Audemer Spaniel type. They were medium sized, long haired dogs with white and brown or white and black coats and were said to be excellent workers in the field and water. However by the 1880s it was increasingly obvious that a hefty dose of British blood had made its way into most kennels.

Nowadays, the official story of how and why that happened goes something like this: wealthy British sportsmen would travel to northern France to hunt in the fall but then leave their Setters and Pointers with the locals for the winter since there was a quarantine back home. While they were away, their dogs would occasionally get lucky and have a fling with a local pointing dog and voila, suddenly a bunch of 'setterized' épagneuls and 'pointerized' braques were seen running around.

As plausible as it sounds, I've always found that story to be a bit too convenient. First of all, the quarantine act didn't come into effect until 1901. So for most of the 1800s British hunters could come and go as they pleased with their dogs. And secondly, it is well documented that a lot of French hunters were captivated by the beauty and abilities of the British dogs and would seize upon any opportunity to breed their dogs to them.  French sportsman and dog expert, Adolphe De la Rue, actually witnessed the very beginning of the widespread and indiscriminate period of crossbreeding in France.
I remember that it was on one of the opening days, so noisy and numerous, that I saw for the first time a large black pointing dog
 of the kind that appeared in France in 1814 with the English army. The dog was so highly regarded that his owner did not know who to answer first. All of his neighbors had the dog cover their bitches, even if the bitches were épagneuls. Based on what I saw, I can conclude that these thoughtless crosses were taking place more or less everywhere, a dog of a foreign breed would appear, everyone would take a liking to it and want one of its kind. 
Clearly, the various setterized families of epagneuls in the north of France were not the results of happy accidents or illicit flings. They were intentionally created for the use and enjoyment of local hunters. In fact, there are even written records describing exactly how some of the families were created and in one case, an extraordinary colour illustration of what some of the first crosses may have looked like.

In an 1885 article published in Le Chenil a M. DE TOURIGNY wrote about tri-coloured dogs that were entered as French Spaniels in a number of shows and were awarded first place several times. (*translation mine, original French version below)

In 1883 at the Tuileries dog show two black and white spaniels with tan points were shown as French Spaniels. These two dogs, Odett and Kroumir 1 won first and second place in the class.

At the time, we criticized the decision, noting that these animals were not of the French Spaniel type; they were more like watered-down versions of English Setters, obviously the result of cross breeding or inadequate selection. This year, Odett was again shown with her son Kroumir II and five puppies, and won again. And yet we still failed to find any more of the French Spaniel type in Odett and her offspring this year than in 1883. 
Our criticism didn't seem to have any effect since Odett and her offspring are still registered as French dogs by the Kennel Club and are well on their way to creating a line of pseudo-French Spaniels. Recently, a portrait of Kroumir and Odett appeard in the Journal d'agriculture pratique with an explanation of their origins. Here it is verbatim:


In I855, Mr. Molon obtained a Setter from Scotland. It was entirely white with silky hair, very beautiful and remarkably good. He crossed that white Scottish dog with a beautiful black and white silky-haired bitch with bright tan markings on her cheeks and the same colour on the nose and paws. The bitch was from North America, where it had been bred by a captain, a friend of Mr. Molon. 
Later a bitch from this cross was bred to a beautiful Setter from England, with the same colour coat as the dog from North America and most probably belonging to the Laverack breed, although it was white with large black spots and bright tan markings above the eyes, cheeks and legs. However it did not have the same sort of undercoat as the Laveracks. It is through judicious inbreeding among the first crosses that Mr. Molon established his breed, which is now as beautiful and as good as Odett and Kroumir. 
From the foregoing we can only conclude that the alleged French Spaniels are in fact from various Setter crosses; yes, they have been in France for thirty years, but their origins are actually English. We will refrain from discussing their qualities or from criticizing Mr. Molon; he bred and kept good dogs and they did well. Ultimately he did what we recommend French breeders do: use good dogs where you can, but use authentic purebred Pointers and Setters and stick with them. 
But somehow the products of all these crosses have become French because they were born here and we've become used to them. But they are not now and never will be French breeds of dogs, and we wish to remind the Judges of upcoming exhibitions, and the Kennel Club, that we must require purebred dogs, and not accept the unfortunate mixes we now have on hand.  
M. DE TOURIGNY

Eventually the French pointing breeds did get their act together. Official standards were drawn up, clubs were formed and breeders learned how to keep their lines pure...more or less. Nowadays, the épagneul breeds of France are recognized for what they really are; national treasures, living works of art, created by dedicated French hunters from a bygone era.

Today, the Brittany and the French Spaniel are doing quite well, while others like the Picardy, Blue Picardy and (especially) the Pont-Audemer remain vulnerable. But in yet another twist to the story, the French breeds which were nearly wiped out by an invasion of British breeds 150 years ago now seem to be winning hearts in the UK.

British and Irish hunters are shooting over Griffons, braques and épangeuls in increasing numbers. There is even a club for the Picard, Blue and Pont-Audemer in the UK now and the first litters of Picardy and Blue Picardy pups were whelped this year. A litter of Pontos may soon follow. I guess the old saying 'what goes around, comes around' is true after all!


Stay tuned for more on the origins of the Picardy and Blue Picardy Spaniels. I've got some more great images and quotes from the sporting press of the late 1800s and early 1900s.


Enjoy my blog posts? Check out my book Pointing Dogs, Volume One: The Continentals

www.dogwilling.ca







* En 1883 on pouvait voir à l'exposition de la terrasse des Tuileries deux chiens épagneuls blancs et noirs, légèrement marqués de feu, exposés comme Epagneuls français. Ces deux chiens, Odett et Kroumir 1 furent classés par le Jury premier et deuxième dans la classe des Epagneuls français.

11 nous souvient alors d'avoir critiqué celle décision, en faisant remarquer que ces animaux n'avaient aucun des caractères typiques des Epagneuls français; ils faisaient songer à une dégénérescence de Setters anglais, suite de croisements ou de sélection insuffisants.

Cette année, ladite Odett, de nouveau exposée avec son fils Kroumir 11 et cinq chiots, a obtenu le rappel de son premier prix de 1883 et le premier prix d'élevage, toujours pour Epagneuls français. Nous nous sommes permis encore de ne pas trouver davantage cette année qu'en 1883 dans Odett et dans ses produits le type de l'Epagueul français.

Critique bien platonique, assurément, puisque voici désormais Odett, et tous ses Kroumirs, inscrits comme chiens français sur la liste des origines de la Société canine et parcheminés à la patte, prêts à faire souche de prétendus Epagneuls français. Ces temps derniers, le portrait. d'Odett et de Kroumir a été reproduit dans le Journal d'agriculture pratique, et une notice explicative de la gravure donne l'origine des deux chiens et de leur race.

Nous reproduisons textuellement : « En I800, 31. M. de Molon se procure un Setter écossais, entièrement blanc, à poil soyeux, très beau et remarquablement bon. Il croise ce chien écossais blanc avec une magnifique chienne épagneule à poil soyeux mais noire et blanche avec feu très vif aux joues et mouchetée de même couleur sur le nez et les pattes. Cette lice était originaire de l'Amérique du Nord, d'où elle avait été ramenée par un capitaine de vaisseau, ami de M. de Molon.

Plus tard une lice issue de ce premier croisement fut donnée à un très beau Setter venant d'Angleterre, de la même robe que la chienne venant de l'Amérique du Nord et appartenant très probablement à la race Laverack, bien que ce chien blanc avec grandes taches noires et feu vif aux-yeux, aux joues et aux pattes, n'eût point le fond de la robe traitée comme la plupart des Laveracks.

C'est grâce à des alliances judicieuses in and in entre les produits de ces premiers croisements que M. de Molon est parvenu à constituer la race, absolument confirmée, aussi belle que bonne, représentée par Odett et Kroumir. Après ce qui précède la conclusion se tire d'elle-même. Les prétendus Epagneuls français ne sont que des chiens provenant de divers croisements de Setters ; ce sont donc bien et dûment des chiens anglais élevés depuis trente ans en France, mais réellement d'origine anglaise.

Nous nous garderons bien de discuter leurs qualités, ni de critiquer M. de Molon; il a reproduit et conservé des chiens qu'il trouvait bons et s'en est bien trouvé. En définitive il a fait ce que nous conseillons aux éleveurs français:,se contenter de prendre son bien où on le trouve, c'est-à-dire de recourir aux reproducteurs authentiquement de race pure — Pointers ou Setters — et s'en tenir là.

Mais les produits de ces élevages, devenus français par la naissance, par l'habitat, ne sont pas et ne seront jamais ce que. l'on appelle des chiens de race française, et nous signalons tant à l'attention des Jurys de nos expositions à venir, qu'à celle de la Société canine, la nécessité d'exiger la production des origines, et la regrettable anomalie que nous venons de constater pièces en main. DE TOURIGNY

The Braque Dupuy

Craig Koshyk

The origins of the Braque Dupuy have been the subject of speculation since it first appeared on the French gundog scene in the mid-1800s. No one knows exactly how the breed came to be, but it was probably created by hunters who bred sight hounds to French braques.


The first such crosses are said to have occurred in 1808 at the kennels of Omer and Narcisse Dupuy, hunters in the Poitou region of France. Apparently the Dupuys were impressed by the hunting skills of a sighthound named Rémus belonging to one of their friends. They were also frustrated with their own braques. They found them to be too heavy and close-working. So, in an effort to develop a dog with the speed of a sight hound and the firm point of a braque, the Dupuy brothers bred Rémus to two of their bitches. Three pups from the first two litters were kept and then bred back to their best braques. That second cross produced a dog with all the qualities they were seeking. They named him Rémus in honor of his grandsire, and bred him to a female braque named Léda. Pups from that breeding were the first to be considered true Braques Dupuy.


The breed struggled to gain acceptance in its early days, and by about 1850 was in serious trouble. But a man named Gaston Hublot is credited with reconstructing it and even wrote a book about the breed, Le Chien Dupuy, in 1899. In terms of appearance they resembled sight hounds more than braques. They were very tall and had a short white and liver coat. Some may have had black and white coats.
The Dupuy Pointer is a big upstanding dog with considerable elegance in his movements. The head is narrow and long. Occipital bone prominent, muzzle long, lean and slightly arched. Eyes golden brown in color with a rather melancholy expression. … Stern [tail] long, set low and carried like a greyhound’s tail.
In terms of hunting style there seems to be a difference of opinion. Some authors describe the Dupuy as a fast dog that excelled at hunting on the plains. Others write that it was more of a trotter. In a letter published in Le Chenil in June of 1887, a Mr. O. Pineau, who had been around Braques Dupuy for most of his life, explained that it may have been a bit of both.
The Dupuy has a lot of drive; when young and rested it searches at a gallop; if it is affected by age or fatigue, its pace is a fast trot. In action, it holds the head high, into the wind, but when a partridge runs, it follows all the twists and turns of its trail, sometimes putting its nose where the game placed its feet. The Dupuy retrieves quail or partridge naturally when he has seen other dogs do it. But the use of the force collar is often necessary to make it retrieve a hare that it finds a bit heavy, or strong smelling waterfowl that it is not used to.
In another account, the breed is described as being similar to the English Pointer.
The Braque Dupuy is very much like the English Pointer in build, but his head is squarer, and he is stouter on his pins [legs]. He is a moderately fast ranger, and a clever finder of game, very stanch and steady. When brought-up to it he does not mind rough work, but few of them go well to water. They are dashing workers, and are very greatly prized. I have seen a brace that would come to their points at awful distances, by a tropical heat; hence, for the hot departments of France they are admirably suited. (Walter Esplin Mason, Dogs of All Nations, 48)
After the First World War, the Braque Dupuy went into a steep decline, and had all but disappeared by the 1950s. In 1960, Jean Castaing wrote:
If, here and there, we see, very rarely, a dog called a Braque Dupuy, it is most often a bastard of unknown origins whose sighthound look is more or less of the Dupuy type. I do not believe that there is an organized breeding program even though breeders try from time to time to reconstitute this artificial dog that had its moment of glory mainly due to a desire to create a French version of the [English] Pointer.


My friend Christophe Oriou, an avid hunter and field trial enthusiast, lived in the Poitou region in the 1990s. While there, he did some research into the breed.
I discovered that the last Dupuy with a real pedigree belonged to Mr. Charpentier, a dentist in the village of St. Jean de Sauves. His wife showed me some color photographs of the dog—it had died in 1964. It was very moving to realize that I was looking at the very last Braque Dupuy. After him, the breed disappeared without a trace!
Strangely, despite that fact that no one has actually bred a Braque Dupuy in over half a century, the FCI continues to publish the breed’s official standard and still lists it in Group 7 for pointing dogs. There are even people in Europe qualified to judge the breed—even though they have never seen a Braque Dupuy! But there is a logical explanation for this seemingly bizarre situation. It was Michel Comte, the father of the modern Braque du Bourbonnais, who explained it to me.
Under certain circumstances, a breed that is thought to be extinct can still be listed. It is a way of “keeping the porch light on”. In other words, if someone decides to revive the breed from whatever remnants can be found, there will still be an official standard to use as a guide and there will be judges ready to evaluate the dogs. In fact, if it were not for this peculiar policy of the SCC, the Braque du Bourbonnais would have never been recreated. 

Mad Dogs and Englishmen

Craig Koshyk


One of the more interesting things I discovered when I was researching the various French breeds of pointing dogs for my book was how much information there is to be found on them in the old English sporting press from the mid to late 1800s. In fact, for some breeds, there is more information in English than in French.

And now that I am writing my second book, this time on the British and Irish breeds, I am re-reading many of the same old books, but with an eye for references to Setters and Pointers. Unfortunately, even though the stories themselves are fascinating, a lot of them were written by unbelievably arrogant English snobs who regarded France as a third world country and its inhabitants as illiterate heathens. A few of them are so over the top, they sound like Donald Trump talking about Mexicans.

Anyway, here is a short passage from a book called "The sportsman in France : comprising a sporting ramble through Picardy and Normandy, and boar shooting in Lower Brittany" written in 1841. It is about how the author found and purchased a well bred-setter near Abbeville, France.



"It came to pass, that, being at Abbeville, in 1829, 1 was induced to shoot my way to Amiens, via the marshes on the banks of the Somme. On my return, and when about half way from home, my attention was attracted to a dog in the swamp, which was beating and quartering his ground in a very superior manner : the style of going, the pace, the action, and that indescribable dashing and swinging of the stern, which betrays high breeding, were so unusual in that part of the world, that I was induced to approach the chasseur, whom, to my astonishment, I found to be a Frenchman.

After the interchange of as many bows as would suffice for an Englishman during the term of his natural life, I ventured to observe, " that he had a nice dog with him." He answered me by stating that it was a '' sacre chienne Anglaise,'' and of the '' veritable race," but that she would not remain close to him, and always beat her ground at too great a distance to suit him.

I then inquired where he picked up the dog. He told me candidly, that he believed the mother to have been stolen, as she had strayed from the servant of an English gentleman, on the road from Boulogne ; that she was in pup at the time ; and that the animal before me was one of the litter. "


I've embedded the book below. But be forewarned; there are some passages that may make you want to say the following to the author:



Click on the right or left to leaf through the pages or on the link to read the book at archive.org


Do Spaniels POINT?

Craig Koshyk

An illustration from the Quadrupedum Omnium Bisulcorum Historia by Ulisse Aldrovandi, published in 1621.
The writing on the left reads: Canis Hispanicus auribus demissis, Espagneulx Gallis, Can Limier Gesnero
 “Spanish dog with hanging (or drooping) ears, Gallic (i.e.: French) Spaniel, Lymer type dog”


Like the term “braque”, the word épagneul can be a tough nut to crack. For English speakers, an approximate pronunciation would be Ay- (rhymes with “say”) Pan- (rhymes with “dan”) YUL (rhymes with “pull”). Ay-Pan-YUL. The origin of the word is unclear. Gaston Phébus wrote in Le Livre de la Chasse 1388 that:
There is another type of dog that we call chiens d’oysel and espaignolz, because this type comes from Spain, even though there are some in other countries.
Chiens d'oysels from Le Livre de la Chasse
From this and other lines in Le Livre de la Chasse, many have concluded that épagneul means “from Spain”. It is also considered by many to be synonymous with chien d’oysel (dog of the bird) and to refer only to long-haired pointing dogs. But not all authorities agree on these points. Jean Castaing wrote an excruciatingly detailed analysis of the word épagneul in his monumental book, Les Chiens d'Arrêt. He suggests that épagneul may not mean “from Spain” since épagneul-type dogs probably developed somewhere further north. He presents a fairly good argument that is supported, in part, by other authors, that épagneul could have come from the Old French espanir which means to “spread out”. In any case, getting to the bottom of the word’s origin does not really help us with the main problem that it presents today: Spaniels don’t point, but épagneuls do!

Épagneul type dogs on a cart. They could be Brittanies,
but are more likely "épagneuls du pays" (country spaniels)
of mixed/unknown ancestry
In English, when it comes to sporting breed nomenclature, the word “spaniel” is used almost exclusively for breeds that flush game and never for breeds that point game. So when the name of a pointing breed such as the Épagneul Breton is translated as “Brittany Spaniel”, it causes all kinds of confusion. In fact, the “spaniel” part of the Brittany’s name was such an irritant to many English speakers that it was dropped altogether by national breed clubs in the US and UK. Today, most English speakers just call it the Brittany. 

Pont-Audemer Spaniel with Ruffed Grouse
(Manitoba, Canada)

To add to the confusion, none of the other épagneul breeds from France—the French, Picardy, Blue Picardy, Pont-Audemer and Saint-Usuge—have dropped the “spaniel” part of their names in English. English speakers who own and breed them, use the term spaniel — and soon get used to explaining that yes, the dogs point, and no, not all "spaniels" are flushing dogs. And that's not all! In French, just about any breed of pointing dog with long hair can be called an Épagneul. So to many French hunters, a Small Munsterlander is a Petit Épagneul de Munster, a Drenthe Patrijshond is an Épagneul de Drenthe and the German Longhaired Pointer is an Épagneul Allemand (or sometimes even a chien d'oysel!)

Épagneul Breton at full gallop, Picardy, France

Small Munsterlander with a nice rooster, South Dakota, USA.
In France, the breed is known as the Petit Épagneul de Munster.

And finally, there is one more curious linguistic twist. The French do not translate the English names of the flushing spaniel breeds. They call them by their English names, often with a thick French accent. So in France, you will hear French hunters call Springer Spaniels  "Spreenn-gairz”, Cocker Spaniels “Coke-air Span-yellz” and Irish Water Spaniels "Eereesh Vat'air Span-yellz". 

German Longhaired Pointer in the Netherlands
In France, the breed is known as the Épagneul Allemand or Chien d'oysel.
Here is the list of the various French "épagneul" breeds still being bred in France (and elsewhere) today. 

Épagneul Français (French Spaniel)
Épagneul Picard (Picardy Spaniel)
Épagneul Bleu de Picardie (Blue Picardy Spaniel)
Épagneul de Pont-Audemer (Pont Audemer Spaniel)
Épagneul Breton (Brittany [Spaniel])
Épagneul de Saint Usuge (Saint Usuge Spaniel)

Épagneul Français (French Spaniel) in Québec.
In my view, the most elegant of all the épagneul breeds.




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

Popularity. It's complicated.

Craig Koshyk

Portuguese Pointer
As I alluded to in my last blog post, the term 'rare' is sometimes used by breeders to suggest that their breed is exotic and therefore superior to the run-of-the-mill breeds. But breeders of more common gundogs sometimes use the term 'popular' to promote their breed; the implication being that 'A million owners can't be wrong'.

Picardy Spaniel
But it turns out that the factors contributing to a breed's rarity or popularity are actually quite complicated. If we really want to understand why a breed is the way it is today, we have to look at history, geography, politics, breed clubs, registries and a bunch of other things, most of which are totally unrelated to how it actually performs in the field as a hunting dog.

Sometimes it comes down to a breed being in the right (or wrong) place at the right (or wrong) time. Take the Picardy Spaniel for example. It is a superb gundog with great looks and temperament.  It really should be more popular around the world. Unfortunately the breed was developed in a part of northern France that was ground zero for two world wars. Obviously, building a strong population of hunting dogs and attracting the attention of the gundog world is not easy when you are just trying to survive the next artillery barrage. 

Cesky Fousek
The Cesky Fousek on the other hand is very popular...in the Czech Republic. But outside of its native land, it is almost completely unknown. Obviously 50 years of cold war and an iron curtain are not exactly conducive to gaining world-wide recognition for a gundog breed.  

But much of Germany was also turned to rubble during the wars, and half of it also lay behind an iron curtain for much of the 20th century. So why are German breeds like the GSP, GWP, Weim, Munsterlander and Pudelpointer now so popular in many parts of the world? Well it turns out that when hundreds of thousands of Allied servicemen and women are stationed in a foreign country, they tend to notice the local gundog breeds. And when local breeders, desperate to get back on their feet after years of war realize they have a very eager market for their dogs...well, you do the math. 


English Setter
And then there is the fact that once a breed gains a certain level of popularity, momentum based on a sort of herd mentality develops. Chances are, if you are a Czech hunter, you've seen plenty of Cesky Fouseks. Your best buddy probably has one and so do a lot of other hunters in your neck of the woods. So naturally, when you decide to get a gundog for yourself, your first thought is probably to get one just like your buddy's or just like the ones you see in the field all the time. 

I mean, do you really think all those guys and gals you see hunting with Labs or GSP's in the States really took the time to check out the pros and cons of dozens of other breeds before they got their first dog? Fat chance. The vast majority of dog owners can't even name more than three breeds of hunting dogs. Personally, I didn't do a whole lot of shopping around when I chose my breed (Weims). I just happened to see a really good one in the hunting field when I was younger and it stuck in my mind. When I finally got a house and a yard, guess what I got? Yup, the kind of dog I remembered seeing in the field years earlier. 

Large Munsterlander
Think about your own area. There are probably one or two breeds that are way more popular than all the others. But why is that?  My hunch is that they are a reflection of the momentum they've managed to build over the years. And chances are, that momentum is there to stay. The popular breeds in your area will probably remain quite popular and continue to build momentum.

But what would happen if a few top notch breeder/trainer/testers started working with one of the less popular breeds in your neck of the woods? And what if they started achieving FC and VC titles on a bunch of their dogs and what if they formed a really solid club, promoted the breed's virtues and began to place lots of pups in really good hunting homes? My guess is that over time, there would be a new 'most popular breed' in your area. As they say; nothing succeeds like success. Just ask the GSP and Brittany people who had, at one time, breeds that were not even on the radar in North America.




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