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The Difference Between a Deutsch-Drahthaar and a German Wirehaired Pointer

The Difference Between a Deutsch-Drahthaar and a German Wirehaired Pointer

A Deutsch Drahthaar with a young boy.

A look into the ongoing struggle of Deutsch-Drahthaar and German Wirehaired Pointer owners

If you want to start a fight just call someone’s Deutsch-Drahthaar a wirehair . . . I know, I’ve done it before by accident, which led to my want to understand it better.

For those of us outside that world, we often scratch our head and wonder what is the difference between these two bird dog breeds? They started from the same bloodline, including such breeds as the Pudelpointer, Griffon, and the Deutsch-Kurzhaar. And in order for us to fully understand, we must go back the beginning and we should say, distinctively, when there was only one such thing as a Deutsch-Drahthaar.

The history of the Deutsch-Drahthaar

The Deutsch-Drahthaar is the product of German history. The Germans put a lot of emphasis on the idea of a versatile breed. In the late 19th century, a group of breeders set out to create a dog that could fulfill all the aspects of hunting with a dog, including field, forest, and water. They also hoped to further the idea of a dog that could be used on foot rather than by horseback, a practice which had ruled most breed standards at that time.

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In 1902, the Verein Deutsch-Drahthaar (VDD) was founded. Freiherr Sigismund set the standards for the breed with the idea that performance should be the measure of the breeding program. That standard has been upheld to this day in the true Deutsch-Drahthaar bloodlines.

The splitting of the German Wirehaired Pointer

In the 1950s, things started to change with the rising popularity of the breed in the United States. The name German wirehaired pointer is the English translation of Deutsch-Drahthaar. Now before anyone starts name calling, stone throwing, and whatever else may come of this candid look into the history of these bird dog breeds, please remember that this is based on the historical references of the VDD, the only recognized breeding registry for the Deutsch-Drahthaar, which includes over 10,000 members in 34 groups throughout the world. In other words, this is the factual history of the breed and not individual breeders throughout the world. The distinction of where the breed is registered is the literal and measurable difference between a GWP and DD.

The popularity in the United States resulted in unrestricted breeding, meaning the dogs chosen to pass on standards were not necessarily held to the breed standards of the VDD. Even if they were, the simple fact remained that they were not registered with the VDD — and that was a break from the breed standard.

In 1959, the AKC admitted the German wirehaired pointer to its studbook and the German Wirehaired Pointer Club of America (GWPCA) was created and set standards based on an American version of the breed.

What makes them different?

The American Kennel Club requires that both parent dogs be purebred of the German Wirehaired breed. On the other hand, the Verein Deutsch-Drahthaar require the parents to have passed several tests in the program before being bred. If they do not pass those tests, that dog will not be used to carry on the standards of the breed. This is the largest and most measurable distinction between the two breeds.

Now that’s not say that an individual breeder of the German wirehair has not created strict standards for their breed. In fact, the Americans have taken up varying forms of application of the breed. You can find breeders that specialize in show dogs, field trial dogs, or just straight hunting dogs. This is where researching individual breeders before committing to a dog is important, and such things as accolades can be crucial to that decision. You can also look at groups like NAVHDA who carry on registries for the breed including testing.

There are also some variations in the physical appearance of the breed between the VDD and the GWPCA — the largest being that the GWPCA discourages black roan dogs and allows white dogs. White dogs are forbidden in the VDD. Smooth coated dogs are not allowed to breed in the VDD, and the length of hair varies slightly in breed standard listings between organizations.

To put it all simply: the two breeds — the Deutsch-Drahthaar and the German wirehaired pointer — are subject to different rules. Now as far as the credibility behind each dog in casual bar conversations . . . that’s a whole other topic.

Need help deciding on a bird dog breed? Check out: A Comprehensive Guide to Choosing a Bird Dog – The Pointing Breeds

The German Wirehaired Pointer in Project Upland work

In one of the oldest Project Upland films “Because They’re Wild” we follow former Northeast Regional Director of the Ruffed Grouse Society, Tripp Way, grouse hunting with his German wirehaired pointer. You can also listen along on episode 49 of the Project Upland Podcast with the host of Wingshooting USA, Scott Linden, who has been known to be a passionate lover of the breed for many years.

The Deutsch-Drahthaar in Project Upland work

Look back to the film “The Opportunity” which features former Regional Biologist of the Ruffed Grouse Society with her Drahthaar in this short film about her passion for ruffed grouse and American woodcock. The Deutsch-Drahthaar also appeared on the cover of the Spring 2019 issue of Project Upland Magazine and is featured in the story “Spirits Ablaze” by Ben Brettingen, then again in the Summer 2019 issue in the article and photo essay by Levi Glines entitled “A Solitary Pursuit.”

View Comments (12)
  • A great summation of the general differences between GWPs and Drahthaars— just one fact you might want to change. Drahthaars who lack furnishings can be certified for breeding in the VDD, but they cannot receive a Zuchtbuch registry number. Practically speaking, it means they’re rarely bred, but it is allowed.

  • This is a very complete and accurate assessment. I have owned and loved three DDs. Two passed the VGP test and were/are NAVHDA Versatile Champions. The third is young and still in training. DDs are great dogs and companions and I love the breed. That said, it irks me when some DD owners act like their dogs are superior to AKC GWPs just because they are DDs. I have competed in gun dog trails against and tested with many really great GWPs that I would own in a heart beat. The breeding line counts greatly but, more importantly, the difference between a mediocre (or poor) hunting dog and a great one comes down to the owner and the dog’s training. I’ve see more than a few DDs that never reached their full potential because of their owner/trainer. Frankly, I have no issue with someone calling one of my DDs a GWP. In fact I frequently do so myself with people that I presume would have no clue what a DD is.

    • I was unaware that DDs could test with NAVHDA for titles like Versatile Champion? Same for AKC titles. I have both DD and GWPs right now… and have raised and trained and hunted DDs since 1982.

      • Yep they can test in NAVHDA. I have a draht that just ran an NA test this past April. NAVHDA simply places a breeding restriction on their registration in order to maintain good standing with the VDD.

  • Mr. Shickle,
    Great post, and I have also met some snobby DD owners who snub their nose at GWP, and I’m glad that you can cut through the B.S. and see an awesome breed for what it is regardless of what name, or Organization it is registered with…

    • I bet I’ve met more snobby GWP owners who have snubbed their noses at the difference between the two.

  • Nice read, very interesting. I have wondered about the difference for a while now. Now I know. Thanks

  • Thank you for the article and the platform of discussion.

    There are few things you find out in life that you never bring up in conversation. Politics, religion, and GWP vs. DDs.

    As an owner of a DD, and certainly not and expert nor elder in representing this fine breed, you soon find out what a huge “can of worms” can be opened when the topic is at hand. I have been on the receiving end of many flip and even heated confrontational remarks directed my way due to being a supporter of the breed that I dearly admire.

    GWP and DDs in my opinion, went down “different forks in the road” in objectives. Objectives to fulfill personal wants and needs.

    It all comes down to, in my opinion, is objectives that create the standardization of the definition at hand. What is a definition in relation to anything else? It is the statement expressing the essential nature of something. For example, what makes a measurement a measurement? What separates the color red from orange? What makes a Harrier different form a Beagle? Its all “horseshoes and hand grenades” to the generalized bystander right?

    Why has Man manipulated the species of dog over generations to create certain characteristics, like temperament, furnishings, height, etc.? Its to achieve an objective.

    Take for example my DD. He has a perfect topline required by a grand champ, exceptional furnishings, and a gait to kill for. But in the show ring, you could not fool an AKC judge or professional handler that he is a GWP. His schwarzschimmel (black in color) coat, larger paws, to name a few of many attributes, would stand him out as not an AKC prototype of perfection to the definition.

    Some may say, “well thats the show ring” and isn’t a field breed design. Thats “apples and oranges” in the dog world. Like many breeds, isn’t that the truth? It comes back to what is the definition, a statement expressing the essential nature of something, essence of the purpose. Why isn’t there acceptance in the show ring of all dogs under the same breed the goal of standardization and clarification of the definition?

    The essence of a “versatile” hunting dog, is for the “common person” to have ONE dog at his or her disposal to aid in every hunting situation that comes to hand. The “common man” with limitations to “one dog” rather than a kennel full of specified breeds like hounds, setters, pointers, retrievers to be represented every situation only a rich or “well to do” hunter can possess.

    What is “versatility”? Its a much different definition to may different people, to many different regions in the world, to many different situations. Would you say versatility in hunting is pointing, flushing, retrieving of different types of birds the definition of versatility? Many say yes. To many that is what they hunt and that is what they require to fulfill an objective of versatility.

    How about including hunting hares and rabbits? How about wild boars, coyotes, foxes, bobcats, deer, bear, raccoons, blood tracking etc? Isn’t that versatility? Maybe the true definition of versatility? Isn’t testing for all aspects of the dog the only way to truly and objectively certify these questions?

    All these questions and statements are not unique to DDs and GWPs. There are plenty of, usually sporting, breeds that originate and are perfected in the “old world” have been altered, for many reasons, over time to “play by the rules” of others, for example in the USA and other parts of the world.

    And I couldn’t resist… my final statement or “jab” to the GWP people out there… Would you rather have new improved COKE or the original COKE classic? I think we all know the answer that that one… Good day!

  • So genetically there is no difference?! Or is there? Based on the historical references of the VDD: The distinction of where the breed is registered is the literal and measurable difference between a GWP and DD.” I think it’s safe to save they are the same breed. They are genetically the same so how can they be two different breeds?

  • I owned an AKC GWP for 15 years and a DD for the last 6–both great dogs.
    I did not aim to do it that way, rather they were the just dogs that were available to me at those particular times.
    FWIW, you could have two dogs from the same litter, one registered AKC and the other VDD.
    Despite this, the continued insistence (last time I looked) by the VDD that they are two separate breeds leads me to believe that it is actually a cult masquerading as a breed organization.
    Mind you, I think the German breeding system is logical and produces wonderful, healthy dogs, but so do many other breed organizations.

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