Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Development of the German Wirehaired Pointer

Just what is a German Wirehaired Pointer made of?
The German Wirehaired Pointer (Deutsch-Drahthaar) was developed in Germany in the late 1800’s by sportsman looking to produce a breed that could do it all. At that time, there were many groups trying to develop this “supreme” hunting dog and as you will see when you read the history of our foundation breeds, most thought their particular breeds fit that bill.

The Goal
The goal of this particular group of breeders was to produce a dog that could find and point game, as well as retrieve the wounded and killed. It must work the thickets on command, track and trail as well as retrieve in water. The dogs, with appropriate training, must work equally well with game birds, rabbits, fox, deer and boar. They wanted a dog calm in disposition, but brave in the face of diversity. They had to be good family companions, but would guard the home and bounty of the family. They had to retrieve gently , but be willing to dispatch vermin if asked to. They had to have the drive necessary to independently search the marshes for a wounded goose, but work closely to the gun in the heavy forests.

This group decided to use whatever breeds they thought would contribute to the final product and their motto was,
At that time there were many “rough coated” breeds, and each filled a niche in the hunting dog world. Apparently this group knew their final product should be rough coated, since most of the breeds they used carried a wire coat. But they also used a smooth coated breed for it’s working abilities. The breeders kept records of the dogs used to produce each litter, and even today you will find references to the “motherlines” or what breed the parents lineage came from. The motherlines for both sires and dam are given in the VDD (Verin Deutsch Drahthaar, the German Breed Club) Stud Dog Catalog. A quick review for 1999 shows the following breakdown; DK (Shorthair) 30 / St (Stichelhaar) 23/ PP (Pudelpointer) 59/Unbekannt (unknown) 2.

A Little of This, a Little of That...
This practice of “cross breeding” continued well into the 20th Century and still affects the GWP today. There are lines that resemble Griffons, lines that resemble the Pudelpointer and lines that produce the smooth coat similar to the GSP. As breeders, we must remember the heritage of the GWP and not be surprised when some of these foundation breeds pop up in our litters. However, there is a difference in acknowledging that these breed will influence what is produced today and using this as an excuse to produce puppies that do not conform to the standard for the German Wirehaired Pointer.

The various breeds that were used, (and probably individuals within those breeds) were chosen for certain traits; coat, tracking ability, temperament, water love, braveness, pointing etc..
  • The Griffon was chosen for it calmness and water love
  • The Stichelhaar for bravery and tracking abilities.
  • The Pudelpointer for the abilities of the Pointer as well as the high degree of intelligence and sporting abilities of the Poodle.
  • The German Shorthaired Pointer (Deutsch Kurzhaar) to intensify the pointing instincts.
  • All of these breeds brought desirable coat characteristics.
As you read the history of the foundation breeds, you start to realize how many different breeds of dogs are included in the genetics of the GWP. And remember, many of these breeds were still being used well into the 50’s and 60’s and maybe even more recently.

The Goal is Reached
The fight for recognition of the Duetche Drahthaar in Germany was hard and long, and not until 1928, (after the breed had held the leading position in registrations for sporting dogs) did the Deutsch Drahthaar gain membership in the German Kartell for dogs. It was finally commonly recognized that the breed had reached its’ goal to develop a rough-coated sporting dog that answered the sportsman’s all -around demands.

The first Wirehairs were brought to this country in the early 1920’s. However, it was not until after World War II that the breed achieved any degree of popularity here. Many American servicemen had seen the dogs perform in the field in Europe. They were obviously pleased with what they had seen, for many of them made arrangements to have dogs brought to the United States. A breed club was formed by a group of 10 Chicagoans in 1950 and the breed was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1959 as the German Wirehaired Pointer.

Today the German Wirehaired Pointers main job is still that of an “all around hunting dog”. The majority of the breed will never step foot into a show ring or compete in any organized field event. This is still the breed for the sportsman who wants a dog with abilities as varied as the game they may hunt. When observing a group of GWP’s one should keep in mind they jobs they are asked to perform - they must have strength in thier movement to allow them to cover uneven ground for hours on end; the skin should be tight to the body to resist tearing in thick woods and briars; their coat should be long, harsh and dense enough to shed water but not so long to catch burrs and sticks. The eye should not be saggy to allow seeds to accumulate. Their temperment should be brave and upstanding, unafraid, but not aggresive.

The GWP is a wonderful companion for those who have the time (and sense of humor) to train and entertain them. The breeds strong willed nature, high energy level and willingness and ability to think for itself makes it quite a challenge for the weak of heart or for those who cannot bring themselves to discipline a cute fuzzy faced puppy.

The Foundation Breeds

The Pudelpointer
The first cross of the Pudel and an English Pointer to establish the new breed took place in Germany in 1881. The sire was “Tell”, an English Pointer belonging to Kaiser Frederick III, the dam was a German Hunting Pudel bitch “Molly”, owned by Hegewald, a famous Teutonic author on the subject of hunting dogs.

The idea behind this breeding was to combine the outstanding natural working abilities of the two great specialists in one dog: The intelligence, water love, retrieving instinct, easy trainability and willingness to please, wrapped into the protective coat of the Pudel with the unending desire to hunt, birdiness, pointing instinct, field nose and endurance of the English Pointer.

Since the Pudel proved to be the stronger breed in passing its genes, many more Pointers were introduced into the breeding program to arrive at the breed, as it is known today. During the first 30 years, only 11 Pudels were used against well over 80 Pointers. From then on, only occasional re-introductions of Pointers were undertaken, especially after the two World Wars severely depleted the breeding stock.

The Pudelpointer in its home country Germany, has always ranked among the finest performers in tests and in the field, and is sought by those who enjoy and value a dog with desire and drive. The breed is medium sized, between 22 and 26 inches at the shoulder and weighs anywhere from 45 to 70 lbs. Pudelpointers are predominantly solid in color, from dark brown to the color of autumn leaves, and occasionally black. The ideal coat is harsh, wiry and dense.

The first Pudelpointers were brought into North America in 1956 and the Pudelpointer Club of North America was founded in in 1977 .A sound temperament, as well as a style pleasing to the eye, makes the Pudelpointer a great companion both in the field and the home. They take to training easily, despite their desire and drive.

The Stichelhaar

The Stichelhaar predates the German Wirehair (DD) by 30-50 years. The dog is similar in size but the coat is a bit longer and should be very hard in texture, more so than the DD. The breed was primarily used in the forest and water where it excels. Hr. Harms sees the major difference between the Stichelhaar and the DD being one of temperament, the Stichelhaar being much calmer. This said, the dogs should be very aggressive on wild game such as wild pig, fox, etc. Dogs used for hunting in the forest must be able to lay quietly while game comes and goes in close proximity to the hunter without whining, barking, etc.

The yearly production in Germany of this bred is 50-60. According to Hr. Harms, typically a stud dog may be used only once a year in an effort to keep any one breeding line for taking over the small genepool. The largest number of dogs may be in Czechoslovakia, where 500 puppies are produced each year.

The Wirehaired Pointing Griffon
Although notations to Griffon history can be found which date back to 1545, development of the current day Wirehaired Pointing Griffon began in earnest in the Netherlands in 1873 by young Dutch sportsman and avid hunter by thename of Eduard Karel Korthals (1851-1896). The son of a wealthy banker and cattle breeder in Schooten (near Haarlem, in The Netherlands), Korthals endeavored to create what he considered the ultimate walking hunter’s gun dog.

The Wirehaired Pointing Griffon, or “Korthals’ Griffon” as it was then known, remains so named in many other parts of the world today. The Griff was developed as a hardy, all-terrain close-working hunting dog, working in the polders; the marshy low-lying ground of the Netherlands. Very little, if anything, has changed in the purebred Griffon since Dr. E.B. Ilyus, the first secretary of the G.C.A. wrote in 1917; “The chief characteristics in which the griffon excels, and is superior over setters and pointers, are his ready adaptability to all species of game, all climates, and all varieties of terrain, his exquisite nose, wonderful vitality and endurance, and the pronounced instinct which makes him the easiest of all dogs to train on game. As a retriever he has, in my opinion, no superior, and being very intelligent and affectionate, he makes an ideal man’s companion.”

Korthals purchased his foundation bitch for this project, “Mouche,” in 1874. She was an adult brown and gray “Griffon*” with an excellent nose, and a reputation forbeing an exceptionally good hunter in a variety of terrains. Shortly thereafter, Korthals purchased Janus, Satan, Banco, Hector, and Junon. It is said that Janus’ coat was woolly, Junon’s was fairly short, and the others had a rough, wire coat. Mouche was bred to Janus, which produced Trouvee; a bitch with a better coat than all of her predecessors. Trouvee was then bred to Banco, which produced Moustache I, Lina, and Querida. These dogs are considered to be the primary progenitors of today’s Wirehaired Pointing Griffons, and are referred to as the “Korthals Patriarchs.” In the book “Livre des Origines du Griffon a Poil Dur,” the ancestry of the true Griffons was traced to an ancient breed called the “Griffon Hound,” and referred to at least one cross with a “Pointer.” (different sources speculate either Braque Français or German Shorthaired Pointer.) Other sources feel that contributors to the background of the Korthals Patriarchs included the Spaniel, Otterhound, French Barbet (a water retriever) and a Setter. In truth, there have been several breeds referred to as “Griffons” or having “Griffon type” for several hundred years. The definitive answer may be lost in history.

Note that in historical Europe, many different breeds of dogs who had facialfurnishings and wire coats were referred to simply as “Griffons.” This is a description of “type” and not to be confused with one specific breed of dog. There are many breeds today which are still referred to as “Griffons;” Griffon d’arrêt à poil dur (Korthals, Französischer Rauhhaariger Vorstehhund, French Wire-haired Pointing Griffon, Grifón de muestra de pelo duro), Griffon à poil laineux, (Griffon Boulet, Französischer Wollhaariger Griffon, French Woolly-haired Pointing Griffon, Grifón de muestra de pelo lanoso, Francés, Spinone Italiano, Chien d’arrêt Italien à poil dur, Italienischer Rauhhaariger Vorstehhund, Italian Wire-haired Pointing Dog, Perro de muestra Italiano de pelo duro, Cesky Fousek (Barbu tchèque, Böhmisch Rauhbart, Bohemian Wire-haired Pointing Griffon, Grif¢n de muestra Bohemio de pelo duro) can ALL be correctly referred to as “Griffons” but are, in fact, separate breeds!

The Griffon is a very people oriented dog known for its trainability and high degree of cooperation.

The breed standard calls for the head to be square, with a round eye that is yellow to brown in color. Their coat color is “steel grey” (a mix of liver and white) has abundent undercoat which is lighter in color than the guard hairs. This undercoat gives the breed an unkept appearance and is longer and more standoffish than the GWP’s. The texture should be harsh and coarse, but probably is not as harsh as a good GWP coat. Size is 22-24 inches for dogs, 20-22 for bitches, in general a bit shorter than the GWP. However, if viewed side by side, the Griffon will appear bulkier and more compact.

The German Shorthaired Pointer (Deutsch Kurzhaar)
The German Shorthaired Pointer combines in field-dog requirements those qualities which have long popularized the various breeds of hunting dogs. So successfully have keen scenting powers, linked with high intelligence, been fused into the breed through judicious crossing of the descendants of the old Spanish Pointer, English Foxhound, and local German tracking hounds, and so varied are this dog’s field accomplishments, that its adaptability has earned it the reputation of being an all-purpose dog.

The origin of the German Shorthaired Pointer, as indeed with most breeds, cannot be described precisely. Prior to the establishment of the Klub Kurzhaar stud book in the 1870s, few records are available, though the German hunting fraternity had already spent many years in attempting to produce a truly versatile utility dog-of-all-work, using of necessity the stock that was locally available. The main source of basic foundation stock seems to have been the German Bird Dog, a not very admirable step down by inheritance from the old Spanish Pointer. Its utility was further improved by introducing local types of scent hounds—track and trail dogs, that were also dependable in water and that were used by the German foresters. These Schweisshunde (Schweiss —scent; Hunde —dogs) were of many and diverse types. They had originated principally down through the centuries from the hounds introduced from Eastern countries after the Crusades, and had been developed particularly in France, so that they became the forebears of practically all present-day scenting hounds.

The Germans still were not satisfied. Since obedience was of paramount importance,these early dogs were selectively bred for bidability. Steps were taken later to improve stance, style, and, above all, nose. Fine Pointers were brought from England and were used to lend elegance to the manner of working—die hohe nase (the high nose) being the major aim. This was accomplished, and the breeders then had only the problem of ridding their developing Kurzhaar of its unwanted Pointer characteristics— aversion to water and lack of aggressiveness toward predators. These objectives were achieved long before the turn of the century.