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Breeder Buzzwords – The Vizsla

A thousand years ago, the ancestor of today’s Vizsla had already found its place as hunting partner with the nomadic people of the Greater Hungarian Kingdom.

Magyar Vizslas (Hungarian Pointers) have worked alongside hunter and herder ever since, tracking and pointing wounded game. So successful was the partnership that the dogs were eventually welcomed into the home as comforter and companion.

Perhaps the oldest of Europe’s shorthaired pointing breeds, the Vizsla accompanied its war lord masters across the Carpathian basin of Central Europe into what are now Hungary and Slovakia, as well as parts of present-day Romania, Ukraine, Serbia, Croatia and Austria. The breed was selectively bred and by the 13th century had become the favored hunting partner of the nobility.

Used by the falconer as a natural hunter of fowl and upland game, the Vizsla’s excellent nose, ease of training and fearlessness in the field helped to preserve its purity throughout its long history. Likewise, its affectionate nature and regal bearing guaranteed its support and protection among the ruling classes.

By the 20th century, the Vizsla was threatened with extinction, saved only through the efforts of a few prominent men who undertook its preservation after World War I. Following the end of World War II, the world got its first glimpse of the breed when the Russian army took specimens out of their homeland.

Several strains of the breed have existed throughout its history, each defined by geography and politics. Today’s American dogs are a blending of these various families.

The modern Wirehaired Vizsla is a completely separate breed, created in the 1930s in Hungary through the breeding of purebred Vizslas to German Wirehaired Pointers – and perhaps a few other breeds. Recognized by the FCI since 1986, the breed is little known in North American outside of field circles, although it was admitted to the AKC’s Foundation Stock Service in 2008 and, most recently, to the Miscellaneous class in January of 2011.

A lively and sensitive companion and hunting partner, the Vizsla continues to enjoy the support of fanciers who appreciate its attractive medium-sized frame with a light build and its gentle – but alert – manner at home, in the field and in the ring.

The Vizsla is a capable and colorful aristocrat. Photo by Peter Atkinson.

A Dual Dog

The Vizsla is highly regarded by its supporters for its distinctive appearance, short coat, medium size and aristocratic bearing. A first class companion and field dog, the breed is alert and agile with the power and drive to perform with versatility. At home, the breed is affectionate and easy to manage. In the field, Vizslas are capable hunters, pointing and retrieving with agility and endurance.

The importance of the Vizsla as a working gundog is emphasized in the General Appearance section of the AKC breed standard: “It is strongly emphasized that field-conditioned coats, as well as brawny or sinewy muscular condition and honorable scars indicating a working and hunting dog are never to be penalized in this dog. The requisite instincts and abilities to maintain a ‘dual dog’ are always to be fostered and appreciated, never deprecated.”

Vizslas are well-represented among those Sporting dogs with dual championships.

To earn the title Dual Champion, a dog must earn both a conformation championship and become a field champion. Dogs so recognized have demonstrated their adherence to the AKC breed standard as well as their ability to perform their intended function in the field. Since the mid-1960s, more than 170 Vizslas have earned their dual championships in the U.S.

On land and in the water, the Vizsla is a natural hunter. Lively and fearless while working, the breed also makes a gentle and affectionate companion after a long day’s work.

A Blaze of Color

The golden rust color of the Vizsla distinguishes the breed from its pointing cousins. The coat is always short, smooth and dense, with no wooly undercoat.

Vizslas are self-colored, with nose, eyes, eye rims, lips, footpads and nails blending with the coat color. The breed’s trademark color may vary in tone over the dog’s body and, according to the Color section of the breed standard, “Lighter shadings over the sides of the neck and shoulders givingthe appearance of a ‘saddle’ are common.”

Dogs that are pale in color or, conversely, a solid dark mahogany, are to be faulted.

A small amount of white on the chest and toes is permissible in the breed; however, “solid white extending above the toes or white anywhere else on the dog except the forechest” is considered a disqualifying offense. According to the standard, “white markings on the forechest must be confined to an area from the top of the sternum to a point between the elbows when the dog is standing naturally.”

White hairs due to age or scarring are not faulted in the Vizsla.

Color denotes purity in this ancient hunting dog, so the breed standard disqualifies those dogs whose color suggests a cross with another breed. The standard directs judges to disqualify any dog from competition that possesses a partially or completely black nose, or white extending above the neck and shoulders, or above the toes. In fact, white found anywhere else on a Vizsla other than the toes and forechest is cause for disqualification.

Size Matters

Devotees of the breed appreciate the Vizsla’s medium size, with a lighter construction than other pointing breeds. Well-balanced overall, with firm, smooth and clearly defined muscling, the breed is robust in appearance without ever seeming big. Vizslas move with a lightness of foot and demonstrate a certain grace when viewed from any direction.

Because the Vizsla performs its intended function as a versatile hunter, size matters. Vizsla males are to measure between 22 and 24 inches “at the highest point over the shoulder blades,” with bitches measuring between 21 and 23 inches. Dogs measuring more than one-and-a-half inches over or under these limits must be disqualified, according to the breed standard.

The moderate frame of the Vizsla can also be measured in ways that do not require a scale ruler. The breed’s speed and agility – as well as its energy and stamina – have served the breed well for more than 10 centuries, preserving it for the modern world as a beautiful and capable dual-purpose gundog.

Written by

Dan Sayers started “in dogs” through a chance encounter with a Springer Spaniel in 1980. A student of dogs ever since, he’s shown Spaniels and Hounds in the conformation ring and breeds Irish Water Spaniels under the Quiet Storm prefix. A dog lover with a passion for the creative arts, Dan has worked as a freelance writer, photographer and illustrator for many years. His feature articles and columns have appeared in Dogs in Review, Dog World and the AKC Gazette, and his design work has appeared in dozens of publications in North America and abroad. An interest in all things “dog” brought Dan to Best In Show Daily, where he gets to work with the most dynamic group of fanciers every day. He lives in Merchantville, New Jersey, with his partner, Rudy Raya, Irish Water Spaniel, Kurre, and the memory of Oscar, a once-in-a-lifetime Sussex Spaniel.
Comments
  • Dot Romano June 4, 2012 at 12:01 PM

    Thank you, Dan, for a wonderful description of my beloved breed for the past 40 years. The beautiful, agile, smart, loving, manipulative Vizsla is a joy and life long treasure. They are to be admired and revered just like in the days of old, but you had better give them a job or they will invent one of their liking.
    Dot Romano
    Willorunn Vizslas, Reg.

    • Dan Sayers
      Dan Sayers June 5, 2012 at 3:00 PM

      You’re welcome, Dot. How fortunate that your Vizslas have been given jobs to do for more than 40 years! Thank you for writing and thank you for reading Best In Show Daily. Cheers,

      Dan

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