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Filtering by Tag: Investigation

The Picardy Spaniel: What's What and Who's Who.

Craig Koshyk

In a previous post I wrote the following about an excellent Picardy Spaniel that Lisa and I saw in a field trial in France.
Watching Aramis run, I realized that the Picardy Spaniel would probably thrive in the US and Canada. Speaking to Lisa after the trial, I said that it would be perfect for many North American hunters since, among all the French pointing breeds, it is probably the best suited to NAVHDA testing and to the kind of mixed-bag hunting we do. She replied: I think you are right. It’s a shame that the Picardy is such a well-kept secret. But if you write about dogs like Aramis, the secret won’t last very long!
Photo: Sarah Caldecott
Well I am happy to say that the secret may finally be getting out. In addition to a club for the breed and a number of breeders in France, there is now a Picardy club in the UK and Holland and breeders in Germany, Austria, England and Finland. This summer, the Picardy Spaniel population of Canada is set to double -- from one to two -- when we welcome our new pup Leo from the UK and there will soon be several more pups coming to in North America and even a litter or two on the ground in the next couple of years.

So I thought it would be a good idea to write a post about the current state of the breed, as of February, 2016.

Photo: Claire Josse
THE GOOD: The Picardy is a hidden gem among gundogs. Created by hunters, for hunters, it is still an artisanal breed. The vast majority of Picardy Spaniels look like they are supposed to look and hunt the way they are supposed to hunt. There are no large kennels breeding dozens of litters per year, no trucks full of Picardies on the major field trial circuit or show-only breeders seeking blue ribbons in the ring. Picardy Spaniels are still bred the old-fashioned way; mainly in the homes of hunters who produce a litter or two every couple of years from their personal hunting companions.

Like all breeds, there is some hip dysplasia, and eye issues like ectropion are not unknown either. But in general, the average Picardy enjoys good health. Overall, the breed's gene pool is relatively wide and inbreeding coefficients are usually not particularly high in most litters, even if it may seem that way on paper (see below).

The overall population of Picardy Spaniels is very low and that means the dreaded popular sire syndrome can occur more easily and have a stronger negative effect. Have a look at the graph I drew up showing the registration stats from the French kennel club. It shows that while the breed has gained ground over the last 45 years it still averages less than 100 registrations per year. Of course there are dogs that are not registered, but even if we include them, the number of Picardy Spaniels whelped in France has probably never been more than 200 pups in any given year.

Outside of France, stats are harder to come by, but my guess is that an additional 20 to 40 Picardy Spaniel pups are whelped in places like Germany, the Netherlands and Austria each year. So if the average life span of a Picardy is 9 years and there are say, 125 pups whelped per year, that means the entire world-wide population of Picardy Spaniels is only about 1000 individuals right now.

Testing rates for hip dysplasia and other health concerns are also too low, especially in France. There are still too many breeders out there that just assume that their dogs are fine, then breed them without taking advantage of diagnostic tests now available.

Photo: Claire Josse
CHALLENGES: Even before the breed was fully formed, "foreign" blood (mainly English Setters) had made its way into French Spaniels all over France, and in particular, into the French Spaniel type dogs bred in Picardy, Normandy and Brittany. I wrote about one such case here. When the Picardy Spaniel was officially recognized as an independent breed in the early 1900s, it was supposed to remain pure. But like every other French breed of épagneul, crosses to setters occurred. It is believed they happened between the wars and again in the 1980s and 90s and have probably occurred as recently as just a few years ago.

Over the years, some of the crosses were sanctioned by the club, others were not. In any case, no one denies that if a Picardy could talk, it would have a slight English accent. And in some ways, that is a good thing. Limited and controlled doses of setter blood have helped widen the gene pool of the breed and given the average Picardy a bigger run, more point and better style.

But there have also been some drawbacks. It now seems that there may have been a few too many crosses in some lines and that breeders may have over-estimated their knowledge of basic genetics. In any case, there are some issues in the breed that need to be dealt with. For example, pups with so-called "lemon" colouring -- a coat like that of an orange and white setter -- have popped up in some lines. Breeders will now have to test their dogs to identify carriers of the gene to avoid "lemon" coats in the future. In addition, coats with a faded brown colour, very light or no tan points, lacking grey roan and/or having a lot of white are also occurring in some litters.  Another issue is that the overall build of some dogs is becoming more setter-like and there is a real fear that the versatility and practicality of the breed's continental hunting style may also be at risk.

So in some regards, the Picardy is facing a situation similar to that of the Korthals Griffon (although on a much smaller scale and with far less vitriol). Unwanted genetic material has made its way into the breed and it is now posing a challenge to breeders seeking to produce clean litters of pups that look and hunt like Picardy Spaniels. That said, I am actually optimistic that the breed will be just fine in the long run. The French tend to have a worldly, pragmatic view about these sorts of things. They are certainly much less puritanical about it than some of the more zealous purists in the US and UK where a similar situation would end up with torch carrying mobs looking for witches. No, in France there may be a bit of mud-slinging and hurt feelings, but in the end breeders of Picardy Spaniels, with the help of a growing community of supporters outside of France, will put the breed back on a more or less straight and narrow path and continue to breed some really good dogs.

Photo: Claire Josse
OPPORTUNITIES: I know I sound like a broken record, but I will say it again: the Picardy Spaniel should be better known, especially among North American hunters. It represents exactly the kind of dog many of us want: an easy-to-train, easy-to-live-with, naturally-talented upland birddog that is also an excellent water worker. And yes, Picardies can also blood track, hunt fur and fetch foxes. Just ask the increasing number of German and Austrian hunters that are getting into the breed.

And that, I believe is the biggest opportunity for the breed right now. There are exciting new horizons opening up for the Picardy Spaniel. After languishing in its native Picardy for too long, hunters from outside of France are bringing new energy and new ideas to the breed. And as they do, a renewed sense of pride and purpose is emerging among the creators and guardians of the breed, French hunters. They've had a real treasure on their hands for over a century, but needed a friendly reminder about just how precious it is. The Picardy Spaniel was a well-kept secret for too long. I'm happy to report that the world is finally finding out about it.

Here is a list of currently active breeders with links to their websites or Facebook page or email. If you are interested in getting a Picardy Spaniel pup, you may want to read my post about importing a pup from overseas first.


Photo: Claire Josse
And here is a brief overview of some of the more influential kennel names of the past and present that you will see in the pedigrees of most Picardy pups today.

Mr. Loir no longer breeds, but his kennel was among the first to be established after World War II and his efforts were key in reviving the breed in the post-war years.

DU PRÉ DES AULNAIS: Mr. Demagny no longer breeds dogs, but was one of the first breeders of Picardy Spaniels, along with Mr. Lempereur, Mr. Charron and Mr. Mailly to focus on fields trials to raise the profile of the breed. Mr. Demagny's dogs Joconde, Only One, Tina, Excel and Iroo achieved great results in the field. Other kennels active on the field trial scene in that same period include du Bois Bruyant (Mr. Lecaille) and du Mont Galant (Mr. Charron).

DE LA VALLEE BROUTIN: Mr. Marc Lempereur's kennel is perhaps the most well known and prolific in France. Mr. Lempereur, along with Mr. Demagny and Mr. Charron were the first to bring the Picardy back to field trialing in the 1960s. Pacha de la Vallée Broutin, an excellent trial dog was the foundation of Mr. Lempereur's kennel and greatly improved the pointing talents and coat quality of the breed. Pacha's son Truffe dominated the field trial scene for Picardy Spaniels and was followed by other excellent descendants such as Astuce, Chipsie, Echo, Futile, Futée, Pandorre and other champions including the well-known dog Fax.

DES MARAIS DE SAINT HILAIREMr. Lemonnier was one of the rare breeders of Picardy Spaniels to successfully compete in woodcock and snipe trials. His dogs Roxane des Terres de Pitance, Aramis des Marais de Saint Hilaire, Candy des Marais de Saint Hilaire, Comtesse des Marais de Saint Hilaire and Coyotte des Marais de Saint Hilaire established the excellent reputation of the kennel. Mr. Lemonier has produced a number of field trial champions but may no longer be breeding.

Mr. Joël Mailly started his kennel with Catch de la Vallée Broutin et Farah at the beginning of the 1980's. Since then, his small family-run kennel has produced field trial champions and field pointed dogs in every generation. Dogs such as Jaffa, Jeff, Milord, Rambo, Roxane, Vénus, and his latest dog Gena are the stars of his kennel. Vénus is in fact one of the very few female Picardy Spaniels to attain the title of spring-time field trial champion.

DES ETANGS ENSOLEILLÉS: Only produced one or two litters and is best known for Theo des Étangs Ensoleillés, an excellent dog used by Mr. Mailly.

DE LA VALLEE DE BOUCHON: Sébastien Roze continues to breed the occasional litter for the kennel founded by his late father, Dominique. Sébastien often participates in Saint Hubert events (shoot to retrieve trials) and typically gets excellent ratings for his dogs at the national breed show.

DU MARAIS DE LA MALVOISINE: William Brutelle's kennel has produced several high-profile Picardy Spaniels in recent years. Dogs such as Archimède du Marais de la MalvoisineAxel de la Malvoisine and Astro de la Malvoisine earned the kennel a good reputation for producing excellent field trial and hunting dogs. Axel also earned a BICP (versatile dog test) championship title and other dogs from the kennel have won and placed in field trials in France and the Netherlands. Mr. Brutelle also breeds English Setters.

Mr. Bruno Demoulin produced a number of excellent Picardy Spaniels including autumn and spring-time champion César du Rideau de la Louve and Natt du Rideau de la Louve, the first ever spring-time field trial champion Picardy Spaniel. Mr. Demoulin no longer breeds Picardy Spaniels and now focusses on breeding English Setters.

Photo: Julia Kauer

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

Long Distance Run Around

Craig Koshyk

In a perfect world the pup of your dreams, from the breed of your dreams, would be whelped by an awesome breeder living just down the street. And when the happy day came for you to bring puppy home, all you'd need to do is walk half a block to get him. 

But this world is not perfect. 

The pup of your dreams, from a breed of your dreams, may actually spend the first 8+ weeks of its life far away from where you live. And that means you can't just walk down the street to get him. But if he's in your own country, getting a pup from a different city or state is fairly straight forward. There are no international borders or language barriers to deal with. And no matter how far away the breeder lives, you at least have the option of taking a road trip to go there or shipping him with a domestic airline.

But what happens when the pup is in another country, on the other side of the ocean? Obviously things are a bit more complicated, but not impossible. In fact, getting a pup from Europe is actually relatively easy, and best of all, it can lead to some incredible opportunities to make new friends and discover other cultures.

How do I know that? Because my wife and I have been there, done that, several times. And our lives are now richer for it. We've imported and help others import dogs from France, Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia and helped breeders over here export dogs to France, Italy, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain. So here are some tips and suggestions for getting a pup from overseas or, if you are a breeder, for shipping a pup overseas. They are based on our own experiences and those of some good friends who have also 'been there, done that'.

NOTE: If you are still trying to figure out which breed to get or haven't made contact with an overseas breeder, before you continue reading this post, you may want to read these posts about the 'rare' European breeds here and here.


Before you do anything at all, you absolutely, positively MUST establish a connection based on mutual trust with folks on the ground over there. Look for contacts on breed club websites, Facebook groups or online lists of breeders. Connect via the breeder's website, by email or forums, bulletin boards, Facebook etc. or spend a buck or two on a long-distance phone call.

But whatever you do, make sure to look for HUNTERS who breed hunting dogs. Engage them on a hunter-to-hunter basis and see if you are on the same wavelength as they are. Don't worry too much about language barriers, they are no longer such a big deal. Google Translate is your friend!

Cindy Petkwitz, a breeder of Braque du Bourbonnais in Michigan says:
It takes time to build an open and honest relationship, but it is worth it. We've all heard stories of people just throwing money at a breeder or two, hoping to get a fantastic pup but ending up with a real dud. When you spend no time at all building a relationship and establishing a good reputation with breeders, you risk getting nothing but their cast-offs, the dogs they couldn't sell locally but are more than happy to 'dump' on the other side of the ocean.

I was lucky to get my first dog Jack. The breeder in France didn't really know me but I was at the right place at the right time. 8 years later, with all the time and effort I have put in, making connections, I am creating my own luck.

Sending photos of where and how you hunt is a great way to communicate with a breeder and establish trust. While you may not be able to communicate well due to a language barrier, as they say "a picture is worth a 1000 words". Sending photos of your hunting adventures shows them that you are a serious hunter and you have the same passion as they do. And it is usually super interesting for them to see how we hunt over here, so sending photos is a great way to get them interested in working with you.
Cortney Schaefer, a breeder of Deutsch Langhaars says:
It helps a lot to have a mutual friend to refer the breeders to if they have any questions. For example, I am friends with the chairman of the Deutsch Langhaar Verband in Germany. And of course all of the German breeders know him (or at least know of him). So when I contact breeders, I always encourage them to call the chairman if they have any questions about shipping puppies to America. Probably about half end up calling him. But I think they all like the piece of mind of a reference that they themselves know.

I might also mention that most Germans do not seem to check email nearly as often as Americans. And we all know how many scammers try to email people today. So if you can call the breeder rather than emailing them, that is always preferable. It is easier to trust someone calling you over someone emailing you. If you can't speak the language, have someone who can speak on your behalf. We have gotten some pups with Germany by just communicating through email, but most of our imports come after Hermann (our German-speaking president) calls the breeders to answer any final questions.

And finally, I would add that "tire-kicking" is very disrespectful to German breeders. If you contact the breeder, they assume that you are 100% committed to getting a puppy from them. I know it can be very exciting to start contacting breeders about puppies, but please don't contact a breeder unless you really plan to take one of their puppies. I'm not sure why the culture is definitely there, but it most certainly is.

When you do contact breeders, make sure to be completely open and honest in all your dealings and insist that they be too. Get references, check with people who may know your contact, even vaguely about their reputation and their dogs. Like American breeders, German breeders are most interested in placing their pups into hunting homes. So I have found it very helpful to immediately talk about the types of game that I hunt with my dogs and even include several good hunting photos. 
I have also found that German breeders are very interested in seeing their pups reach their full potential by being trained and run through tests. So it helps us a lot to talk about our testing experience and our desire to get the dogs certified for breeding. If you tell a breeder that you plan to run his pup through a VJP and HZP and get him certified for breeding, that goes a long way. If you can tell the breeder that you have already tested a dog and report his scores, that goes even further. So like us, they prefer sending their pups to experienced owners.
I should also add that "tire-kicking" is very disrespectful to German breeders. If you contact the breeder, they assume that you are 100% committed to getting a puppy from them. I know it can be very exciting to start contacting a bunch of breeders about puppies, but please don't contact a breeder unless you are fairly sure that you want to take one of their puppies. I'm not sure why that attitude is there, but it most certainly is.   


In my opinion, the best way, by far, to get a pup from overseas is to fly there yourself and pick it up from the breeder. Not only is is the most secure way for the pup, but the experience of a trip to Europe will stay with you forever and if you can arrange to go during hunting season and go for a hunt there, it will blow your mind. Yes, it will cost more, but you will get huge returns on the investment of time and money make for years to come. So sell a gun or two, eat nothing but Kraft Diner for six months, get a second whatever you need to do to pay for a return flight and a week or two visit to Europe. Trust me, you will LOVE IT!

If you absolutely cannot or do not want to go, arrange for someone to bring the pup over for you. Ask around to see if a friend or relative, neighbour, work associate, basically anyone you know and trust is already planning to go there. If they are, offer them a few bucks to bring the pup back with them (and cover the cost for the pup's flight of course). A few years ago, a friend of mine reserved a pup in France. She was unable to go so pick it up herself so we looked into shipping it here. The cost turned out to be about the same as a return flight to Paris for a person. So I asked my sister if she'd like a free trip to Paris. She jumped at the opportunity and was more than happy to bring the pup back with her.

Another option is to invite the breeder to bring it over to you.
Again, this is a very secure way of getting the pup, and depending on where you live and where the breeder lives the cost of a round trip flight for the breeder (or for you if you go there) is not much more than shipping the pup one way via cargo.

What about having the pup shipped? This can be the least expensive way (still not cheap, and sometimes as much or even more than a round trip flight for a person), but it can also be the most stressful way for everyone involved. The breeder may have to travel a long way to get the pup to a major airport, the flight may not be direct, you may have to travel a ways to get to the nearest major airport etc. But if you are near a major hub and the breeder is too, and you can get a decent flight (hopefully direct) at a decent price, shipping via cargo can be a good option.
Some breeders will flat-out refuse to ship pups over here no matter what. They are anxious about putting a puppy on a plane overseas. I don't push them on this. Everyone has their limits with what they are comfortable with. But when I contact breeders now, I am quick to point out that we have successfully shipped many puppies with PetAir ( and that they have been easy to work with. They arrange the flights and can pick up the puppy at the breeder's door to deliver him to the airport. I have had a couple of breeders tell me that they were nervous about shipping overseas but felt more comfortable with it after visiting the PetAir website and speaking with their representatives. -- Cortney Schaefer


Surprisingly, prices for pups in Europe are not much different than in North America, and sometimes less.
Of course, as they say "caveat emptor" (buyer beware), so watch out for really low prices or really high prices. Generally speaking you are looking at about a thousand US dollars for a young puppy of just about any breed. Yes, some will be higher, some lower, but none will be half price or double the price.
For years, we had some trouble getting people in our club to import puppies. People just assume that the process is difficult and expensive. It is a little more pricey, but it is a really easy process and well worth the effort. Most pups in Europe are cheaper than here.  The average DL price in Germany right now is 700-800 euros (about $825-$900 US dollars).  But then the shipping often doubles the price.  However, consider that buying a domestic DL pup right now is $1,100 plus about $450 for shipping.  So really, importing a pup is only a few hundred more than buying a domestic pup.  And there is a lot more selection because there are so many more litters over there.  So you can be more selective about gender, colour, or whelp date if you import a puppy. And then you just have to show up at the airport with your photo ID and the pup is yours! -- Cortney Schaefer
Finally, if you need help, just ask. I am happy to help out in any way I can and there are people in every club, in every breed that are willing to take the time to answer questions and help you get a good dog. After all, they are looking for good hunting homes for their hunting dogs. And the rarer breeds really could use a helping hand, especially from North American hunters.

Baltrum, 2001

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

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!

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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.  

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

* 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

Pure Copper Shot.

Craig Koshyk


In my previous post, I took a look at the various non-tox options available for hunters looking to go lead free. And one type of shot really stood out for me: pure copper. 

I discovered that French ammo maker FOB has been marketing an entire line of copper loaded shells called Sweet Copper since 2013 and another French company, Vouzelaud just announced similar shells loaded with copper shot and a bio-degradable wad. In Germany, Rottweil is now selling a shell called  "Copper Unlimited"

In Italy, reloading website Siarm lists a product called "Real Copper". It is said to be made of 99.97840 % pure copper and is currently available in #3 and # 6 shot sizes for reloading. I also found a recipe on the same site for a 12 gauge test load composed of 28 grams of pure copper shot and 2 grams of B&P's MBx36 powder. Test results indicated that it produced a peak pressure of 750 bar and a velocity of 450m/s (about 1475 f/s). 

So I wasn't suprised to see that Italian ammo giant 
Baschieri & Pellargi are also getting into the pure copper shot game now.  Here's a company rep at an outdoor/hunting fair in Germany announcing their new 'Dual Shock' shells that contain a half-and-half mix of pure copper #6 shot and zinc-coated copper #4 shot. 

And here is a video of Dual Shock shells being tested in the fields of Argentina and the UK:

Naturally, with all the buzz around copper shot in Europe, I have to wonder if it will ever make its way over to this side of the ocean. But that brings up a whole slew of other questions. Here are a few I can think of, and my best guesses as to what the answers might be. 

Is copper shot approved for use in North America? 
I don't really know. But if I had to guess, I would say that copper shot should be perfectly fine to shoot wherever lead can be shot. But pellets made of pure copper are not on the list of approved non-tox lead alternatives. However, as an ingredient in shells combining different elements, copper gets the green light. Here are the percentages currently allowed in approved non-tox shot types.

  • Copper-clad iron: copper cladding can be up to 44.1% of the shot mass
  • Tungsten-bronze: can contain up to 44.4% copper
  • Tungsten-iron-copper-nickel: can be 9–16% copper

Is pure copper shot toxic? There is no such thing as a completely non-toxic metal suitable for use in shotgun shells. So it comes down to figuring out which is the least toxic. And copper seems to have relatively low toxicity, especially when compared to lead. When copper is just one ingredient mixed with other things like tungsten, studies indicate that "the rate of copper release from tungsten bronze shot was 30 to 50 times lower than that from the copper shot, depending on pH".  And other studies indicate that the "mortality among mallards fed iron, copper, zinc-coated iron or molybdenum-coated iron shot was significantly less than in birds fed lead shot, and was not significantly greater than the controls."

I am sure there are many more studies out there, all of which undoubtedly reveal at least some level of toxicity, but what is important to note is that regulators in Europe, where environmental regulations tend to be far stricter than in the US or Canada, have determined that pure copper shot can be used where lead is banned. And that means they've chosen it (and other metals like bismuth and tungsten) as the 'least bad' alternatives to lead. 

Can it be shot out of a gun that is not approved for steel? I think so. But don't quote me on that. In terms of hardness, copper actually looks like it might fit the bill. It is harder than lead and bismuth, but it is softer than most of the others, including ITX (original) and Tungsten polymer, both of which were specifically designed for use in guns not approved for steel.

Copper is harder than lead, but softer than ITX and Tungsten Matrix shot

In terms of density, here is how it stacks up to some of the other options.

Copper shot is nearly15% denser than steel shot

And finally, what about price? Pure copper shot is more expensive than lead or steel shot, but, surprisingly, it can be as much as 3 times cheaper than other options. Here's how it compares on a dollars-per-pound basis (#6 shot).

Copper is more expensive than lead and steel, but way cheaper than all the other lead alternatives

I will leave it up to the reloading experts to figure out what a decent 20 gauge upland load would cost on a per shot basis since I have no idea what hulls, wads, powder and primers cost or how much shot you'd need of each type for a decent upland load. But if all the other components remain more or less the same, it seems to me that copper shot would be a relatively inexpensive choice for reloading.

So, will we ever see pure copper shot loads over here? Only time will tell.

UPDATE, December 17, 2015

An article with test results of 8 different pure copper loads appeared in a French magazine called "Armes de Chasse" (Hunting Guns) recently. I finally had a chance to read it today and here are some of the results.

NOTE: tests were done with a 12 gauge Beretta A400 with a 28 inch barrel and modified choke. The results in the magazine were given in metric, I've made approx. conversions to imperial.

Re Patterns: They ranged from 79% to 87% in a 30 inch (76cm) circle at 40-ish yards (35 meters)

These two loads are said to be safe to shoot in any gun. See my previous article "After Lead" to read about CIP's
specifications for loads specifically formulated to reduce (if not completely eliminate) the risks of shooting them in older guns not approved for steel shot.

Brand: FOB
Load: Sweet Copper
Pressure: 683 bars
Velocity: 1204 f/s

Brand: Vouzelaud
Load: 28
Pressure: 778 bars
Velocity: 1272 f/s

The loads below are designed to be shot only out of guns approved for steel shot and having a fleur de lys proof mark (ie: able to handle higher pressures).

Brand: Rottweil
Load: Ultimate 34 HP
Pressure: 767 bars,
Velocity: 1299

Brand FOB
Load Sweet Copper HP
Pressure: 914 bars 
Velocity: 1300

Brand B+P
Load: Dual Shock
Pressure 1043 bars
Velocity: 1400

Brand: FOB
Load: Sweet Copper Magnum
Pressure: 767 bars
Velocity: 1100

Brand: Rottweil
Load: Magnum
Pressure: 1050 bars
Velocity: 1265

Brand: B+P
Load: Magnum
PRessure: 957 bars
Velocity: 1368

And finally, I came across an interesing tidbit in the comment section of the B+P youtube video posted above. A viewer asked: "...Will that ammo be available in the States??" and the video poster relpied: "B&P assured me that in 2016 the three cartridges of the Dual Shock line will be available for US market."

So, once again....will we ever see pure copper shot loads over here? Only time will tell.

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

After Lead?

Craig Koshyk

When I hunt waterfowl, I shoot non-tox ammo, usually Kent steel and tungsten matrix loads. When I hunt upland birds or whitetail deer, I shoot lead ammo. But not for long. I've decided to switch* to copper bullets for deer hunting and I am looking for a suitable non-tox alternative to shoot in the uplands.

North Dakota rooster taken with copper-plated lead shot.
Steel shot does not play nice with my Darnes, 
so I need to find an alternative non-tox ammo.
Copper bullets for deer won't be a problem. They are widely available, and their slightly higher price is not really an issue since a box of 20 rounds will probably last me several years. But finding a suitable non-tox load for upland hunting is going to be tough because my go-to guns for grouse, woodcock and pheasant are Darnes. And the steel loads available to me here just don't play well with those sweet, sweet side by sides. So if I want to go lead free, I have to crawl down the rabbit hole of non-tox, non-steel shotshells.

Currently, my options are:

Kent Cartridge's Tungsten Matrix: By far the best stuff you can throw down-range. Period.  Unfortunately, the only TM shells currently available are stout loads of larger shot designed mainly for waterfowl, not grouse and woodcock.  Kent used to make a shell called "TM Upland" with a somewhat lighter load of smaller shot, but it seems to be discontinued.

Bismuth shells: Less expensive than tungsten matrix cartridges, and if you load your own, you can come up with decent load for smaller upland birds. Unfortunately, stocks of bismuth come and go as fast as a 17-year-old farm boy with a bad case of the trots at the local bordello. One day you see bismuth shells listed on the WhizBangMart website and the next day they are listed as 'out of stock'... probably because the company that made them switched to making stomach remedies for 17 year old farm boys with the trots.

Nevertheless, I am hopeful that Rio Ammo's new facility in Texas will start cranking out decent, affordable bismuth loads before the season opens this year. If they do, and if my Darnes like them, Bismuth will be my upland go-to shot.

Niceshot: Pack an awesome punch and are highly rated. Unfortunately Niceshot shells have the same 'here today, gone later today' availability as bismuth and, when they are in stock, have nearly the same buzz-harshing price tag as tungsten matrix.

Hevi-Shot Classic Doubles: Surprisingly 'in stock' most of the time at various outlets. Unfortunately, at over four bucks a pop, they are even more expensive than tungsten matrix and niceshot shells. Even worse, when tested against the competition, Hevi-shot Classic Doubles always end up in last place. Randy Wakeman concluded that: Kent Tungsten-Matrix wins, beating the pants off of Hevi-Shot Classic Doubles every time by no small measure. Bottom line, if I'm paying close to a fiver each time I pull the trigger, the stuff coming out the end of my barrel better be the equivalent of a fine single malt scotch, not Bud Light Clamato.

So is there anything else out there? Anything on the horizon? Well if you live in Europe, the answer is yes. Several ammunition manufacturers in France, Italy, Germany and elsewhere have introduced brand new shells with some very interesting loads. Let's look at the options:

Steel loads that they can be used in older guns. Realizing that there are still huge numbers of hunters using shotguns that were never intended to shoot steel, the CIP, Europe's governing body for firearms safety standards has come up with an interesting solution: create guidelines for steel loads specifically formulated to reduce (if not completely eliminate) the risks of shooting steel guns not approved for steel shot. The standard includes limits for chamber pressure, velocity, momentum and shot size. The goal is to ensure that steel shot marketed in CIP countries does not compromise the safety of "...the most vulnerable guns, namely old, thin-walled, perhaps poor-condition guns." You can read about CIP standards and how they differ from the SAAMI standards used in the US in this excellent article here.

So that means that almost all of the major ammo makers in Europe such as FOBRottweilSellier-BellotFiocchi and many of the smaller firms (there are dozens of them) sell 'Standard Pressure' steel shotshells that are supposed to be safe to shoot in older guns. The loads are lower in pressure than High Performance steel loads but also have the same thick plastic shot cups designed to minimize barrel damage.

Now I can practically see your eyes rolling at the thought of a low pressure, (low performance?) steel load. After all, even the best steel loads, when compared to similar lead loads, can be anemic. So why the heck would you want to water them down even more? Well, if you hunt snipe and woodcock, as I and millions of European hunters do, there is no problem. Most shots are in the 15 - 20 yard range and the birds are not 12-pound late-season honkers. So low pressure steel shells are probably just right for that sort of game.

Mary Arm's "Steel 24" shells are fairly typical standard pressure loads.  Their 20 gauge shells contain 24 grammes (about 7/8 of an ounce) of nickel-plated steel # 5 or # 6 shot in a specially-designed wad. They are said to be safe for all chokes and have a maximum effective range of about 35 yards.

Non-steel loads. Tungsten Matrix and Bismuth Loads are available throughout Europe. And yes, they cost and arm and a leg there too. But there are also other alternatives that are available there, but have not (yet?) made it to North America.

Zinc/Tin. Shells loaded with shot made from a combination of zinc and tin have been on the European market for a while now. Available from Clever Mirage in Italy, Mary Arm, Tunet in France, and Sellier-Bellot in the Czech Republic, they are apparently safe for all guns and chokes but are only recommended for close to medium distances, about 30 yards max. They are more expensive than steel or lead loads, but not as expensive as Tungsten matrix or Bismuth.

Copper. Bullets made from pure copper have been on the market for a while now and are becoming more popular among big game hunters. But pure copper shot has not been offered in shotshells, until now. FOB in France recently launched a new line of shells called Sweet Copper (for some reason, the French love giving English names to hunting related products). Vouzelaud also offers shells loaded with copper shot, but they add a proprietary ACP bio-degradable wad.

Not to be outdone, Germany ammo company Rottweil also announced shells containing copper shot called "Copper Unlimited" (yes, they love English names as well). Available (so far) only in 12 gauge it is said to be a "... high-performance lead-free cartridge that rivals lead shot cartridges. The cartridges contain shot made from pure copper - copper is both heavier and softer than soft iron shot. The advantages to the sportsman include increased effective ranges of up to 40 metres and up to 15% more energy delivered to the target. This improves one's chances of success since more pellets can be put into the cartridge than with the same load weight of steel. In addition, the softer copper shot makes forest and field shooting possible again since the danger from ricochets is greatly reduced."

Copper is a sort of 'in-between' option. It is softer and heavier than steel, and lighter, but harder than lead. It is less expensive than tungsten matrix, but substantially more than zinc/tin. It will be interesting to see how the European market responds to copper shot and if it will ever make its way over to this side of the Atlantic. After all, copper plated shot is allowed here, so why not solid copper shot?

Bottom line: After reviewing all my options, there are only a few solutions. Here they are and the chances they ever happen.

  • Give up shooting my Darnes. Never. Ever. Sorry. Ain't gonna happen.
  • Win the lottery. One chance in a gazillion. Ain't gonna happen...but I will still buy a ticket.
  • Move to Europe. I would totally be down for that.... about 10 seconds after I win the lottery.
  • Cross my fingers and hope that bismuth ammo finally sees the light of a reasonable price.

* My decision to stop shooting lead is a personal one. I've written about lead shot before and it is becoming increasingly clear that as hunters and stewards of the environment, we really should look for alternatives. And yes, I understand that there are people who disagree with me on the lead ammo issue, and that's fine. I am not out to convince anyone to stop shooting lead. Do whatever pops your airbag.

UPDATE: I was asked for more information on why I choose to go lead free in the uplands even though lead is still OK to shoot in many areas I hunt. Here's my answer:

The reasons that I am currently looking into non-tox and non-steel shot options range from strictly regulatory to purely personal. I've thought a lot about the issues involved for quite a while, and no matter how I slice 'em, when added up, they all point to a non-lead future for me.

On the regulatory side, I live in Manitoba, Canada. The laws up here mandate that I use non-tox shot for all migratory birds. So, unlike other jurisdictions where non-tox shot is only required near or in wetlands, when I hunt ducks, geese or snipe, even in a field or forest, I cannot use lead. I am allowed to use lead for woodcock (for now) but I often encounter timberdoodles in areas that also hold snipe (my favourite bird to hunt) and ducks (my favourite bird to eat), so I feel that I should at least make an effort to find a suitable non-tox load that I can use no matter where I am, or what I am hunting.

I also hunt a lot in the Dakotas. And while much of the hunting we do there is on private land were lead is still OK, from time to time, we do hunt on public land where non-tox is required. Of course, the easy solution would be to leave my Darnes in the truck and shoot steel in my steel-approved guns. But I really, really love my Darnes and I shoot them far better than my other guns (I am a mediocre shot on a good day, but in 2013, I went 14 for 14 on wild ND roosters with my Darne 20 gauge and last year I got 15 birds in 21 shots with my 16 in South Dakota). So if I can find a way to use my favourite guns, no matter where I am, or what I am hunting, I would be a happy man.

And finally, one of the greatest pleasure I get from hunting is sharing the harvest with family and friends. Every year, I provide duck, goose, grouse, snipe, woodcock and deer meat to people close to me, including young children. And that motivates me, more than any law ever could, to do my best to get lead out of the equation. After all, wild meat is the healthiest, most organic, free-range food under the sun. But running the risk of contaminating it with the residues of toxic metals just doesn't sit right with me, especially when there are less toxic options available.

So those are the main reasons I've been spending waaaay too much time online trying to find non-steel alternatives to lead shot. But, as already stated above, I am not out to convince anyone else to stop shooting lead. Do whatever is legal where you are and shoot whatever loads you want.

Owners of vintage guns rejoice! There are now TWO brands of bismuth ammo on the market, and they are very competitively priced. I mentioned Rio's bismuth ammo, and it seems that at least some loads are now listed as 'in stock' on the Natchez website, but remain 'backorderable' on the Cabela's site. The 20 gauge shells I'm interested in go for $18.99 for a box of 10, or 17.99 if you buy 10 boxes (100 rounds), so just under two bucks a pop.

But there is a new kid in town, with a better price! Kent Cartridge recently announced "the rebirth of an old favorite" by introducing their new Bismuth Premium Shotshells. According to their website they have "... taken everything that was great about bismuth and made it better. Kent’s proprietary manufacturing technique produces bismuth pellets of superior integrity and ballistic capability. This shot is safe for the environment and suitable for use in fixed choke and high grade shotgun barrels".

Even better, checking the listing on the Cabela's website shows that the 20 gauge shells I'm interested in go for $15.99 for a box of 10 (just over a buck and a half a pop).  Yesterday, I called the Kent Cartridge office in Canada and the nice lady on the phone told me that Kent Bismuth shot will begin shipping to my local dealer in 'late spring or early summer'. YES!!!! It looks like my trip down the rabbit hole of finding decent, affordable non-tox, non-steel shotshells for my Darnes may be paying off.

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