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.
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else may come of this candid look into the history of these bird dog breeds, please remember that this is based on the historical references of the VDD, the only recognized breeding registry for the Deutsch-Drahthaar, which includes over 10,000 members in 34 groups throughout the world.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.”
A.J. DeRosa founded Project Upland in 2014 as an excuse to go hunting more often (and it worked). A New England native, he grew up hunting and has spent over 30 years in pursuit of big and small game species across three continents. He started collecting guns on his 18th birthday and eventually found his passion for side-by-side shotguns, inspiring him to travel the world to meet the people and places from which they come. Looking to turn his passion into inspiration for others, AJ was first published in 2004 and went on to write his first book The Urban Deer Complex in 2014. He soon discovered a love for filmmaking, particularly the challenge of capturing ruffed grouse with a camera, which led to the award-winning Project Upland film series. AJ's love for all things wild has caused him to advocate on the federal and state levels to promote and expand conservation policy, habitat funding, and upland game bird awareness. He currently serves as the Strafford County New Hampshire Fish & Game Commissioner in order to give back to his community and to further the mission of the agency. When those hunting excuses are in play, you can find him wandering behind his Wirehaired Pointing Griffon in the mountains of New England and anywhere else the birds take them.