The History of the German Shorthaired Pointer: The Jack of All Trades

History of the German Shorthaired Pointer

In the late 1800s, the German aristocracy joined with the rising middle class in the search for the perfect dog. They wanted a lot from this dog. This superlative animal had to be a great hunting dog, but not just a bird hunter or a deer hunter or a wolf hunter or even a boar hunter. This dog had to be able to hunt all the wild creatures that lived in the vast forests that covered the land that had just recently become Germany.

These perfectionists wanted a dog who could find and follow a scent and when the game went to ground, would stay on point until the hunters arrived and then flush on command. In addition, they wanted a pointer who would retrieve the fallen prey in dense cover, field, forest or water. And they wanted a loyal, loving dog who would help protect their families and homes. In short, they wanted the German Shorthaired Pointer.

The Background of the German Shorthaired Pointer

Pointing dogs have been documented as far back as the thirteenth century, but they came in all sizes, colors and shapes. By the eighteenth century, the pointers had been somewhat standardized. They were called braques and were large dogs with wide chests, long ears and a brown spotted white coat. Guns were becoming popular for hunting and the braques were used all over Europe and in Britain.

In 1848, there were several revolutions in the kingdoms and princedoms of Germany, and in France and Austria. But at the same time that the students and liberals were demonstrating to bring about reforms in the governments, the peasants were rising in revolt. Ninety per cent of the population of Europe were peasants and many of those were serfs. The revolution led to the abolition of serfdom. It also led to the development of a keen interest in hunting dogs by the former serfs as they began to acquire guns and hunt for food.

The pointers began to evolve. Breeding included German dogs, along with Italian, French and Spanish stock, as well as the German Bloodhound and the French Gascon and finally the English Pointer. The breed became popular, especially as the middle class expanded. Breeding was done mainly by people only one generation away from serfdom. The German Shorthaired Pointer is the dog of the common man.

Then came two world wars and kennels and dogs were destroyed, stolen and lost.

In between the wars, several Americans became interested in the new breed and imported dogs to Montana and Wisconsin, where they started agitating to get the breed acknowledged by the American Kennel Club, which recognized the breed in 1935.

During WWII, the Nazi government controlled all hunting and the breeding of hunting dogs. Hermann Goering was in charge and had all pure white and liver spotted dogs destroyed because they didn’t meld into the background in the woods like the other colors.

As the Allies closed in on Germany, the Germans sent many of their best dogs into Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, where they disappeared behind the Iron Curtain. Breeders were forced to open their kennels and let their dogs loose as war swept across the land. They gave the dogs the only chance they could and many, if not most of the dogs were lost.

Toward the end of WWII, an important breeder, Gustav Machetanz, was able to escape the eastern part of Germany with some of his dogs just ahead of the Russians. He settled in West Germany and started breeding pointers again. After the war, it took over a decade for the German breeders to recover.

In the 1950s, American breeders had been lovingly developing the breed. They started importing German dogs and introducing new genetic material into their dogs. The breed
flourished through the next decade.

In the later days of the twentieth century, however, hunting became stigmatized in the developing social climate. Hunting has largely vanished in the countries that contributed to the development of this elite breed. The United States and Canada are the only countries where the German Shorthaired Pointer still prospers.

These wonderful dogs need to be cherished and the lines of champions continued despite the decrease in hunting. What a companion to have for a walk in the wilderness!

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