Here is a complete look at the wirehaired pointing griffon from its history all the way to breed selection
When one thinks of the wirehaired pointing griffon it often conjures images of bearded dogs or for others maybe the image of the mythical griffin where the etymology of the words roots lie. Whether we have experience with them or not there is a lot of mystery, controversy, and confusion that has challenged this breed since its inception. As I wrote in The History of the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon and Eduard Korthals, “What I discovered was that the wirehaired pointing griffon was created mainly in Germany by a Dutchman working under the patronage of an Anglophile German prince.”
Wirehaired Pointing Griffons can sometimes be mistaken for other wire-haired breeds such as the german Wirehaired pointer, Cesky Fousek or Stichelhaar. On average, however, Wirehaired pointing griffons are slightly smaller than those breeds and tend to have a longer coat and more pronounced beard, moustache and eyebrows.
Size: males: 58 – 63 cm females: 55 – 60 cm
Coat and Color
In terms of length and harshness, the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon’s coat may be the most variable of all the wire-haired breeds. I have seen Griffons with practically short-haired coats and Griffons with very long, woolly coats, and nearly everything in between.
According to the breed’s FCI standard, the ideal coat is harsh and coarse, reminding of the touch of a wild boar’s bristles. The AKC standard does not mention boars’ bristles probably because most Americans have never seen a wild boar, let alone touched its bristles. Nevertheless, the coat is made up of a coarse, harsh topcoat and a fine, dense undercoat. Wirehaired Pointing Griffons should have pronounced eyebrows and a full beard and moustache.
The coat color is generally a steel-grey shade with liver patches. It is often seen in a liver roan pattern with a mixture of brown and white hairs. Wirehaired Pointing Griffons can also be “self-colored”, that is to say, all brown. The FCI standard also states that clear white and brown coats and white and orange coats are permissible, but such coats are extremely rare. The AKC standard states that a uniformly brown coat, all-white coat, or white and orange are less desirable. Neither standard allows black.
Historically, there were other coat colors associated with Griffons. Jean Castaing himself had an almost all-white Griffon and Pierre Mégnin, in his book Les Races de Chiens (1889), describes dogs that had mainly white coats with brown and tan ticking.
The Function of the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon
The breed is prized for its all-round abilities and admired for its feline style of movement, excellent nose and ability to work in the toughest conditions.
While there is some variation within the breed, on average Griffons hunt at a smooth, sustained gallop out to medium range. Some dogs from field trial lines in France run much faster and wider than average. Yet for some reason the idea that Wirehaired Pointing Griffons are slow and very close-working dogs has taken hold in certain circles, particularly in North America. It is not uncommon to see words like “careful”, “methodical” or even “plodding” used to describe a Griffon’s search. One American author even wrote that the Griffon “is very definitely the closest-working and about the slowest, most deliberate pointing breed available in North America.”
That description is a far cry from how Wirehaired Pointing Griffons were first described in the press after a field trial held in 1897. Reporters on the scene described them as hunting at such a fast gallop and distance that they “astonished” the men of the time. Other reports from the same period describe dogs handled by well-known personalities, including Korthals himself, searching as far as the horizon and running almost as fast as English Pointers and English Setters. There are even reports of Wirehaired Pointing Griffons running in the same stakes as English Pointers and English Setters. Of course that is not to say that all Wirehaired Pointing Griffons ran like English Setters, or that there were never any methodical, close-working Griffons.
Some European and American sources from the early 1900s mention dogs that hunted relatively close and not as fast as other breeds. And it is clear that when the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon fell on hard times between the wars in France, and again in the 1960s and ’70s in the US, the overall level of performance had declined. So the breed may have been branded an “old man’s dog” simply because there were not many good ones around.
In any case, anyone who takes the time to seek out a well-bred Wirehaired Pointing Griffon in North America or in Europe today will soon realize that it is anything but the slowest, most deliberate pointing breed available.
Wirehaired Pointing Griffons generally have a strong pointing instinct that can develop ear- ly in some lines but may be somewhat slower in others. The French working standard offers a detailed explanation of the unique feline style of point the breed should display:
Whether is be a sudden stop or after working into the scent cone, the head and the nose arein line with the back, the body is tense and rigid, the neck extended, and the legs are often bent. The dog may be semi-crouched…and the tail is rigid and must not flag. The roading style is always feline and done with determination and drive. The dog crouches more and more as he approaches the game. He can end up with his belly on the ground when he finally stops…
It is only during the act of working into the scent cone and during the act of roading int that
Griffons take on this feline movement which earned them the nickname of “Korthals Cats” in the last century.
One of the prime goals of Eduard Korthals was to breed dogs possessing a strong desire to retrieve on land and in the water. Ever since, Griffon breeders have placed a natural retrieving instinct high on their list of priorities. As a result most Wirehaired Pointing Griffons today are excellent retrievers. Some may need more encourage- ment early on than others, but in general retrieving comes naturally to most.
Griffons are said to be very good trackers. Test results from various organizations seem to support their assertions. Griffons bred and tested in Germany regularly pass the most demanding tracking tests. In North America, NAVHDA scores reveal that the breed does well in the Natural Ability test, a portion of which evaluates the tracking abilities of young dogs.
In France tracking, especially blood tracking of big game, is not typically viewed
as a job for pointing dogs. But tracking wounded birds or small game is, and in that regard the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon is said to be an excellent worker.
There was a time, particularly in North America, when water work was not the
strong suit of many Wirehaired Pointing Griffons. Fortunately, over the last 30 years tremendous progress has been made in that regard and many of today’s Wirehaired Pointing Griffons are excellent water dogs. Their harsh coat offers a good degree of protection and their calm, steady nature is an advantage in the duck blind.
Character of the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon
When describIng the Wirehaired pointing griffon’s personality, owners and breeders often use terms such as outgoing, fun loving and eager to please.The typical Griffon is said to be a great family dog, good with kids and easy to get along with. Griffons typically respond best to softer training methods and calm trainers. A hallmark of the breed is a sweet, friendly personality. However the FCI breed standard actually refers to a natural protective instinct, stating that a “Korthals Griffon is attached to his master and his territory, which he guards with vigilance”. The German Griffon club seems to agree, stating on their website that the breed is regarded as a good family dog with a pronounced protection drive.
Hunting Dog Editor Craig Kosyks Take on the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon
I have had the pleasure of watching a good number of Wirehaired pointing griffons work in the field, forest and water in north america and in Europe. I’ve hunted over a few right here in my home province of Manitoba and watched Griffons run in NAVHDA tests in the pothole country of North Dakota and in the rolling hills of central Québec. I’ve seen a fair number run in field trials in the sprawling wheat fields of northern France, and I have even watched a young Griffon hunt in a polder (a small field enclosed by dikes) near the Dutch city of Haarlem—where Eduard Korthals himself was raised.
Each time I saw one I came away with an even greater appreciation for the breed. The best Wirehaired Pointing Griffons I have seen left me no doubt regarding their purpose in life: they hunt. And while they may not be quite as hard-charging as some breeds, nor as fast or far-ranging as others, the good ones are outstanding all-around workers with a great personality and classic rough-haired look.
But beyond the dogs themselves, my research into the history and development of the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon has opened my eyes to the fact that dog breeds are really just the physical manifestation of the ideologies, hopes and dreams of the people who breed them. Today, for better or worse, the Griffon is in the hands of several different groups each of which is following a slightly different path. The fact that good, solid gundogs can still be found within most of those groups is testament to the vitality of the breed and the vision of its founder, Eduard Korthals.
Last modified: October 9, 2020