The evolution of the American Brittany or “Pocket Pointer”.
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 American Brittany.
The Brittany spaniel can be traced back to the 1500s in France. The development accelerated in the late 1800s and early 1900s. By reputation, these all-purpose gun dogs were referred to as “poachers’ dogs.” They didn’t look tall and houndy like most hunting dogs were supposed to look, so game wardens paid no attention to them while their owners—with the help of their dogs’ keen noses and swift retrieving skills—nabbed piles of tasty birds and furred game.
When Brittanys appeared in the United States, their name changed from the original Epagneul Breton to “Brittany spaniel. (The “spaniel” was dropped in 1982.) Their popularity in the field trial circuit grew in the 1960s resulting in many American kennels breeding dogs that were longer legged and more athletic runners, changing the Brittany breed standards. Subsequently the breed officially split in two, American and French. The American Brittany is now simply known as the Brittany.
Hunting style and temperament
Fun-loving, biddable bird dogs, some American Brittanys come with a hyperdrive speed mode acquired from field trial lines. Their range varies from medium to wide. Some refer to them as “pocket pointers” because they deliver the search, point, nose, and versatile skills of German and English pointing breeds but in a smaller package. American Brittanys have strong drive, a cooperative nature, and the desire to please. Some tend towards the “soft” side in their inability to take hard correction during training. They have been called the clowns of the sporting dog world for their playful, good-natured personality.
Traits important to hunters
Small to medium. Weight 30-40lbs., height 17-1/2” to 20-1/2”.
The American Brittany’s medium length orange and white or liver and white coat should be dense, flat, or wavy. Not curly. Shedding and matting can be kept in check with regular brushing.
Some American Brittanys point from an early age, while others take longer. Additionally, some are natural retrievers and eager swimmers, but others need more time. As a result, generalizing is difficult because of this range of development.
Epilepsy and hip dysplasia have been noted as health concerns.
Finding a Good Breeder
There are lots of great American Brittany breeders out there. Also on the plus side, there are different types of American Brittanys. That could, of course, be a minus. Prospective Brittany buyers should learn what type of bird hunting particular breeders do and how their dogs have been bred to maximize success in that type of hunting.
Love all things about the American Brittany or hunting dogs? Watch “All about the Dogs” an American Brittany Film.
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.