With its elegant coppery coat, the Vizsla is a talented versatile breed that is visually stunning.
This series of Project Upland hunting dog breed profiles focuses on the hunting characteristics that set one breed apart from another – understanding that within a breed individual dogs may vary in temperament, conformation, instincts and abilities. This particular article focuses on the Vizsla.
Original Purpose of the Vizsla
The Vizsla name is traced to Hungary centuries ago where it was more of a generic hunting dog designation like “Braque” or “Griffon” than a specifically defined breed. Around 1800, the modern Hungarian Vizsla was developed as an upland hunting breed. Its population was destined to decline and resurface twice more before being re-established in 1956 by the current parent club, the Magyar Vizsla Klub. Subsequently, satellite breed clubs formed in the United States and several other countries.
As with many other Continental pointing breeds, the Vizsla was originally tasked with driving birds and small furred game into nets. When firearms came into use, the breed was purposefully developed to point and retrieve on land and water.
Hunting Style and Temperament of the Vizsla
Vizslas tend towards a medium hunting range and speed. Those bred from field trial lines work farther out and at a faster pace. Vizslas are classy pointers and natural retrievers although cold weather water work is not their strong suit. They handle a variety of birds well, from northern tier grouse woods to wide open grasslands.
While some owners say Vizslas have a soft temperament, more often the breed is described as people-oriented and biddable. Whether it’s waiting patiently in a duck blind or perched in attendance on the truck tailgate at lunchtime, Vizslas like to be close to their owners. They want to please and make excellent family dogs as long as they get the exercise needed to satisfy their energy.
Traits of the Vizsla Important to Hunters
Males average 22 to 24 inches in height; females average 21 to 23 inches. They weigh between 45 and 65 pounds.
The Vizsla’s smooth flat coat should be uniform in color, with only a bit of white on the front of the chest or on the toes allowed by the breed standards. Although it is not a hearty coat for late season waterfowling or extremely cold temperatures, it is low maintenance and not likely to pick up field debris such as burdocks or briars.
The Vizsla’s point develops early and they take to training at a young age as long as too much pressure is not applied.
As a breed, the Vizsla has a good health report card. Allergies and hypothyroidism are listed as potential issues, along with problems commonly cited for medium to large hunting breeds such as hip dysplasia. Prospective owners might want to ask breeders if the parents have had hip, thyroid, or von Willebrand’s screening.
Finding a Good Breeder
The Vizsla’s stunning coat has made the breed popular in the show ring. As a result, some breeders select for color characteristics over hunting traits such as nose, point, drive and affinity to water. Prospective Vizsla owners should be sure the pups they are considering come from solid hunting lines. Having credentials proven in NAVHDA or AKC hunt tests is added insurance.
Nancy Anisfield is an outdoor writer and hunting dog photographer, creative director for the Ugly Dog Hunting Company, member of the Pheasants Forever / Quail Forever Board of Directors, and co-owner of the Track2Wing Project which grants Action trackchairs to individuals with mobility challenges who want to train and hunt with bird dogs. She and her husband live in Hinesburg, Vermont, where their lives are governed by her two German shorthaired pointers and his two German wirehaired pointers.