A good hunting dog is an asset for hunters who need an able canine to work alongside them. Many different breeds have been used for centuries to find game – from terriers, curs and feists to spaniels, pointers and retrievers. A versatile hunting dog is capable of tracking game, pointing it out to his handler, and retrieving it on land or water. He must be able to track wounded game and be willing to work with enthusiasm. The North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association (NAVHDA) is a non-profit organization that tests these special hunting breeds to protect, promote and improve versatile breeds. All of the unique hunting dogs below were developed in Europe.
Bracco Italiano – Italian Pointer – UKC recognized
The Bracco Italiano, pictured above, is one of two gundog breeds native to Italy (Spinone is the other). The breed is considered one of the oldest gun dogs and is an ancestor to many modern sporting breeds, especially European pointing dogs. Paintings and writings about the Bracco Italiano date back to the 4th and 5th centuries BC. Hunting during the Middle Ages and Renaissance era was much different than it is today. There were no guns and dogs were used to drive game into nets. Falconers used dogs to flush out game for falcons to hunt. The role of the Bracco Italiano changed after the invention of guns. Instead of driving game into nets, they became accomplished at locating, flushing, pointing and retrieving game.
Braque du Bourbonnais – UKC recognized
Native to France, the Braque du Bourbonnais (pronounced brock-do-bor-bon-NAY) is an ancient breed and considered one of the oldest European pointing breeds. Writings describing the breed date back to the late 1500s. The different pointer breeds developed in France were named after the region where they were developed. The Braque de Bourbonnais comes from the province of Bourbon in central France. Like the Bracco Italiano, it’s uncertain which dog breeds were used to create the breed, although most experts agree the Braque Francais and local hunting breeds from the region of Bourbonnais were used.
Braque Francais – French Pointer – UKC recognized
Native to France, Braque Francais actually refers to two distinct breeds similar in appearance and purpose, differing only in size and hunting style. One of the oldest pointing dog breeds, the Braque Francais is considered to be the ancestor of many European pointing breeds. The Braque Francais Gascogne, developed in the 1600s, is the larger and oldest breed. This dog was popular with wealthy hunters who had the means to care for a large dog, but the turmoil of the French Revolution (1787-1799) stripped land, power and wealth from the upper class, and the population of dogs quickly declined. During the Industrial Revolution, there was a shift from rural to urban life and a smaller version of the breed was developed in the Pyrenees Mountains – the Braque Francais Pyrenees, which is the more popular breed today.
Deutsch-Drahthaar – German Wirehaired Pointer – UKC and AKC recognized
During the 1800s, social, political and economic changes throughout Europe created a new middle class that owned land. Hunting became more of a sport and improvements in firearms created a need for more specialized hunting dogs. The Deutsch-Drahthaar (pronounced DROT-har) was developed as a versatile hunting breed to track, point and retrieve waterfowl and upland birds from land or water. The dog was also capable of hunting fox, wildcat, boar, deer, hare and squirrels over any terrain. Hunters wanted a dog with a weather resistant coat for protection from dense underbrush and harsh weather condition. The German Wirehaired Pointer is native to Germany and remains extremely popular there.
Pudelpointer – UKC recognized
Native to Germany, this rare breed was developed in the late 1800s. A cross between the Poodle and a variety of pointers, the Pudelpointer was first brought to America by Sigbot Winterhelt. In an effort to protect versatile breeds, he founded the North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association.
Versatile gundogs were developed as multi-purpose dogs for hunters who couldn’t afford more than one or only wanted one dog. The goal was to create loyal dogs that could work all day on land and in water, be a patient and affectionate family pet when the day was done, and guard the family and home. These breeds are intelligent, easy to train and good family pets for the right owner.
Versatile breeds recognized by the NAVHDA include the above dogs as well as the Braque d’Auvergne, Brittany, Cesky Fousek, Drentse Partridge, English Setter, French Spaniel, German Longhaired Pointer, German Shorthaired Pointer, Gordon Setter, Irish Red & White Setter, Irish Setter, Large Munsterlander, Picardy Spaniel, Pointer, Portuguese Pointer, Slovakian Wirehaired Pointer, Small Munsterlander, Spinone, Stichelhaar, Vizsla, Weimaraner, Wirehaired Pointing Griffon, and Wirehaired Vizsla.
Photos by Diane Matsuura/CANIDAE
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