HISTORY OF THE VIZSLA HUNTING DOG
By unknown in VIZSLA FIELD Aug82
The Vizsla belongs to dog-dom’s aristocracy; he shows it in dignified bearing and proves it in recorded history. While the Vizsla is new to the Western World, it is perhaps the oldest breed of the great European Vorstehung group of shorthaired pointing and retrieving dogs. There is a long though unheralded history behind this unusual breed. Primitive carvings in stone, estimated to be 1,000 years old, in the Carpathian regions, show the Magyar hunter, his falcon and his Vizsla.
Credit for revealing the Vizsla’s claim to ancient and honorable lineage is due a former Secretary of the Hungarian Kennel Club and had it not been for his voluminous knowledge, efforts and works in behalf of the breed, the role of the Vizsla in ancient and medieval history may never have been brought to light in this country.
Prior to the occupation of Hungary by the Russians during WWII, the Hungarian Kennel Club began a search of family records and heirlooms for documentary proof on the history of the Vizsla, and a priceless collection of evidence was compiled. Private documents, drawings, paintings, and sculptures confirmed the Vizslas’s existence in the 10th Century. King Louis the Great’s (1342-1382) portrait includes a Vizsla. Mention is made in a document of the year 1569 during the Turkish Occupation (15236-1686). An excellent description of the Vizsla can be found in Hungarian literature back in 1730.
As the breed was developed centuries ago, no information is available concerning the descent of the Vizsla. It would be a mistake to trace his ancestry to the Weimaraner or English Pointer, as the Vizslas was a well-established breed centuries before the Nobles or the Courts of Weimar set out to develop their Weimaraner around the year 1810, as before the first English Pointers were introduced into the Hungarian Kingdom were introduced to Hungary in 1880. Historically, the Vizsla is older than most breeds. There is a little hamlet, on the Danube called Vizslas that dates back to the 12th century.
Throughout the ages the Vizsla has been known as a “Gift of Kings” and breedings were restricted to the Nobility of the Greater Hungarian Kingdom which covered Hungary and Czeckoslovakia prior to WWI. To receive a “royal golden Vizsla” was an honor bestowed on only a select few, such as the Queens of Italy and Spain, and Princess Iolanda di Savoia, daughter of the King of Italy. The Vizsla bears the official title of the “National Pointer of Hungary” and the breed is especially protected by the Magyar Ebtenyestok Orszagos Egyesulete, whose purpose is to maintain the high standards of the breed.
The Vizsla is a rather privileged canine and holds a very high place in the Hungarian sporting circles and is not expected to sleep outside at the finish of its day of work. The Vizsla always lived with the family, traveled with the family, and was as much a part of the family as the children. It has been said that the Vizsla must live with the family if the family is to benefit (deserve) the loyalty and affection the Vizsla has to bestow. This breed has an exceptionally good disposition, is very affectionate, and instinctively fond of children. They are an apartment sized, family sized, family-hunting dog.
The Vizsla is striking in appearance and never fails to attract attention. They have a very beautiful and distinctive shorthaired rusty-gold coat as well as a dignified and aristocratic bearing which sets them apart. They present the picture of a versatile aristocrat, great driving power, stamina, rugged constitution, in which they understand. They have a rare adaptability to new conditions.
The Vizsla is a robust animal of considerable skill at its work, a shade taller and some pounds heavier than the English Pointer and has a dominant natural instinct to point and retrieve. They are medium-sized; males generally weigh from 55-75 pounds, females run about 45 pounds. The head is fine featured and aristocratic. The color of the iris of the eye should correspond with the lighter or darker hue of the coat. The ears are carried pendant’ wide at the base and rather low set. Their tails are generally docked to about 6 inches giving the animal a unique appearance and at the same time avoiding the danger of having their flags whipped raw in heavy cover. Legs are straight, slender but well muscled. The feet are cat-like rather than hare-footed. The carriage is deliberate. In action the Vizsla is extremely fast yet its movement is so smooth and graceful as to appear effortless.
Through centuries of selective breeding, the patient and thorough Hungarian breeders developed a dog of great versatility. He is able and willing to trace down ground game with the gameness and keen nose of the bloodhound; to point instinctively his feathered game with the sure location and staunchness of the Pointer and Setter and, in addition, with the strength and fortitude to brave rough and icy water in retrieving waterfowl. The Vizsla possesses all three traits.
They are dogs of unusual stamina and courage, no matter under what conditions they are called on to hunt. They have been used to hunt partridge, pheasant, ducks geese, rabbits, wolf, bear, deer and boar. Their nature is to work the ground carefully and pick up with their nose the faintest scent, working it out to a contract with the game. Their superb nose proves ideal mantrailing.
The Vizsla is trained to search diligently rather than to range too quickly, to seek, track, point and retrieve, thus serving a multiple purpose. The robust Vizsla is commonly used for retrieving the huge 10 pound European hares as found on the edge of the Hungarian Puszta. He is a natural retriever and is equally at home on land or water.
On upland game, the Vizsla really comes into his own and combines the duties of the Pointer and Retriever. He is very fast, extremely birdy, has an exceptionally good nose, a finely discriminating bird sense and points by instinct. He possesses an ideal “soft-mouth” that does not mar the game in any respect.
Comparisons are said to be rather “nefarious”. However, to properly classify this breed it probably is essential to quote from Continental description which compares the Vizsla with other pointing breeds and Vizsla pointers all have excellent noses. The English Pointer is extremely fast, the German is slowest and the Vizsla is swift and not as wide-ranging as the English, but persistent on trail. The English is a poorer retriever, while the German and Vizsla are excellent retrievers and the Vizslas more gentle mouthed. The Europeans also compare the Vizsla with the Weimaraner and state that the Vizsla Pointer is smaller, much faster, has more pointing instinct, is a more gentle-mouthed retriever and is of a distinguished color more suitable for use in the field.
For more than a century the Vizsla, in his native land, has been used to guard sheep on the prairie-like pusztas. Hungarian shepherds have a saying about him “Vizsla igen-farkas nem” which, freely translated means that there just aren’t any wolves when there’s a Vizsla around.
He is faster, more courageous and more intelligent than a wolf and adequately equipped to deal with any of his tricks. If he can get at a marauder in a swift running attack, he’ll do so. If he can save time by going through a herd, he’ll do that too, over the backs of the sheep.
As a guard-dog at home he’s sort of a glorified canine baby sitter: instinctively fond of children. Hungarian parents lease small youngsters completely in his custody around the house and yard, with the utmost confidence that he’ll keep them out of trouble. He is a family dog and, although he is a hardy animal, he prefers being a part of the household and does not roam. In most Hungarian homes he has very definite sleeping quarters, a rug just inside the outer door where he can maintain a night guard against possible intruders. He is popularly believed to “smell an approaching burglar in his sleep long before anyone else can see or hear one.”
As a hunting dog, he combines all of the duties of the Pointer, Setter and Retriever. He points by instinct. His technique, particularly in the Derecon district of Eastern Hungary where he is used on upland game, varies considerable from that of American gun dogs, due to the nature of the terrain. Instead of ranging wide and fast over big areas in the manner of most of our own Pointers and Setters, he has been taught to search diligently for game and he remains within earshot of his master’s voice. For a Vizsla to overlook a bird is an unforgivable and almost unknown crime. He is as thorough as he is reliable and, with his fine nose, he is often trained by Hungarian police for mantracking. He has been successful on many cold trails where other breeds of tracking dogs have failed. Some of these hunts have covered as much as 45 miles over rugged terrain. To report on the Vizsla’s performance as a big-game hunter is as to indulge partly in speculation. There is no doubt whatsoever that he is excellent as far as wolf, boar and bear are concerned. He has been used on all these species in his homeland for many years.
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