A French field trialer and his pointing dog circa 1920

West of the Rhine – Pointing Dog Breed Origins: HDC Episode #3

Exploring the origin of pointing dog breeds from continental Europe west of the Rhine

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In this week’s episode, we explore the development of pointing dog breeds in the regions of Europe that fall west of the Rhine River, including Italy, Spain, and France. Aside from being a convenient geographic divide, the Rhine also roughly divided the hunting dog culture in terms of how people used and promoted their dogs. Countries to the south and west generally followed the British method of “proofing” their dogs by competing in field trials that crowned a champion. In comparison, countries to the east and north generally followed a system based on meeting a set of qualifications, rather than a competitive system.

The first field trial was held in 1865; soon, field trials were being held all over western Europe. The growing popularity came at a time when people had the time, money, and ability to travel regionally to hunt and compete with their dogs. The field trial approach fit well with the rise of individualism and independence.

French field trialers with their pointing dogs circa 1920

Our discussion of specific dog breeds starts in Italy with two very old breeds: the Spinone and the Bracco Italiano. Craig shares the history of the two breeds as well as how they both embody the Italian love of style.

Moving northward, we discuss Eduard Korthals’s quest to create the perfect hunting dog, which ultimately resulted in the development of the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon. Unlike many other breeds, the history of the Griffon is well-documented as it followed the twists and turns of national politics and cultural identity. Though it was originally created in Germany by a Dutch man, the breed was ultimately adopted by the French. Thanks to enthusiasts around the world, the Griffon continues to see a high degree of international success today.

Finally, we move on to France, which is responsible for creating more pointing dog breeds than any other country in the world. After a quick vocabulary lesson on epagneul vs. griffon vs. braque, we move on to cover a variety of French pointing breeds. The discussion ranges from the popular Brittany to lesser known breeds like the Picardy Spaniel, Pont Audemer Spaniel, Braque du Bourbonnais, Braque Saint Germain, Braque d’Auvergne, and Braque Francais. It’s a fascinating dive into French regions and the resilience of the people –and dogs– who survived life at the epicenter of two world wars.

Tune in to hear the stories, uncover the myths, and discover the history of the dogs that we know and love today.

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Hunting Dog Confidential is presented by Eukanuba Premium Performance Dog Food

Last modified: May 30, 2020

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