English pointer gun dog breeds

Deerhunter presents a mini-series on different gun dog breeds. Here is a short presentation on the most common gun dog breeds in Denmark. It is a general presentation with references to the websites of the individual clubs, allowing you to find more information about specific dog breeds, contact persons, training opportunities, puppies and activities.

The pointer
The first group we are presenting is the English pointer group, which includes the Pointer, Gordon Setter, English Setter, Irish Setter and Brittany breeds. The hallmark of a pointer is that it stands still and points towards the prey, hence the term pointer. The phenomenon of the dog standing still and pointing comes from certain sensory impressions triggered by the sense of smell. As you can see from the pictures in this article, the point of the English gun dog is very pronounced and elegant.
Clamps the bird
Although the English breeds are predominantly bred for hunting birds, over time they have become very versatile and are now used for most types of hunting. A pointer will stop and point when chasing partridge, pheasants and, to a certain extent, snipe. These dogs also make great hunting companions in our neighbouring countries where they can be used to hunt the many types of grouse. The special ability to point has been developed over many generations and is stimulated through training. Without getting too technical, the dog is able to point after localising the bird. The dog's behaviour causes the bird to "press” against the ground, with the belief that it will not be discovered.

Hunting with a pointer

Hunting with pointers is a very interesting form of hunting but is sadly not as widespread as it used to be. It is a type of hunting that is best done by just a few participants, who together can then enjoy the dog's unique way of working. During this type of hunting, the dog's interaction with the hunter is essential and an important part of the experience. Both the interaction between the dog and its handler and the dog's hunting technique are crucial for success. These types of hunt may not be the biggest, but they are unforgettable. Hunting with pointers is done in bogs, forests and fields. In order for the hunt to be successful, the dog must have excellent contact with its handler, and it has to check the terrain for birds. When hunting in fields, the ground is usually searched in headwind to give the dog the best possible conditions to use their sense of smell and thereby find the birds. If there is also wild game present on the terrain, it is only a benefit that the dog is trained not to pursue this as well. It would be a waste of time, not to mention disruptive, if the dog starts chasing after game. When the dog is searching for birds, it will localize the bird and then stop, stand still and point. The dog must remain standing until the hunter(s) arrive and must place itself in the most favourable position for the hunter to shoot the bird. When the hunters are "ready”, the dog must, on command, 'flush' the bird so that it takes off, giving the hunter the opportunity to shoot it. Ideally, when the bird takes off, the dog should remain calm. This makes for a calm situation and the hunter can then focus on shooting. If a bird is felled, the dog must retrieve it and bring it to the owner. Once you have experienced this type of hunting, where everything just comes together as one, you'll never forget it!

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The five English pointer breeds

In Denmark, there are five breeds that fall into this group: the Pointer, English Setter, Irish Setter, Gordon Setter and Brittany Spaniel. It is only in Denmark that the latter breed is categorised as an English breed. As well as pointing, the characteristics of these breeds include their great endurance, their ability to seek out the terrain in a wide range of situations, and that they are simply beautiful to watch while working. The latter is an important part of the assessment basis when testing these dogs, where the dog's style is assessed. Here you look at the dog's musculoskeletal system to see if the gallop is effective so that the dog can show stamina. How the dog holds his head and whether he is working in contact with his handler are also factors that are assessed. Below is a brief presentation of each breed. It is worth visiting the clubs' websites, where there are more detailed descriptions of each breed. You can then decide for yourself how long and when the young dog should be allowed to hunt, and then also assess where and when it is ready to hunt with another hunting dog. On these smaller hunts, you can also let the dog out alone for the first couple times, and then gradually try to let it out with another - preferably experienced - gun dog.

The Pointer
There is some doubt as to where the Pointer originally comes from. Some believe Italy, others Spain, but it is generally agreed that the Pointer is a cross between French, Spanish and Italian bird dogs. The breed is named after the Spanish "de punta”, which in English has been translated into ”two points" - namely to designate a bird and point.

When the breed was brought to England in the 1700s, breeding really took off and the first Pointers came to Denmark in the mid-1800s. The Pointer is known for its muscular appearance, high energy and speed, and has a very distinctive and pronounced pose. The Pointer is a short-haired breed that has slightly different but distinctive fur colours. The most common are white/yellow or white/black, but they are also available in solid black or hertha. The ideal size for males is about 63-69 cm, while for bitches, it is 61-66 cm. The Pointer is a devoted breed, bred first and foremost for hunting in the open terrain. As the Pointer works in close contact with its owner, it is also excellent for hunting in bogs and forest.

English Setter
The beautiful English Setter is one of the oldest gun dog breeds. Historically, it dates back to the 14th century, when the ancestors are believed to have been Spanish pointers and different types of Spaniel. This may be why the breed was originally known as a Setter Spaniel. The British Setter became an independent breed in England in the early 1800s. It was Sir Edward Laverack who created a special hunting dog line of the English Setter. Others followed and bred good hunting dogs lines. The word "setter” refers to the almost crouching position (setting) that the dog takes when pointing at prey.

Sturdy dog for different terrains

The English Setter can be described as a medium-sized gun dog, where the males measure 65-68 cm after the breeding standard, and the bitches 61-65 cm. Weight varies somewhat, but will typically be around 20-32 kg. The English Setter is available in various colour variants, with the most common being white/orange or white/black. There are also tri-coloured dogs, called tricolours, which are white/black/orange. The English Setter is sturdy and can easily work on various terrain. Although this breed is most often associated with hunting in open terrain, it is often used for hunting in forests, and especially for snipe.

A long-lasting gun dog

The Gordon Setter got his current name from the Earl of Gorden at Gordon Castle. The Earl was a passionate hunter and loved hunting with pointers. It is said that his dogs were known for their endurance and enthusiasm for hunting. The Gordon Setter is the most heavily built of the three Setter breeds, and the males are ideally sized around 66 cm, while the bitches' ideal size is 62 cm. The Gordon Setter has a lovely friendly expression with charming and irresistible brown eyes. The colours of a Gordon Setter are black with chestnut coloured markings.

The Irish Setter
The red-brown Irish Setter is an incredibly beautiful and hard-working dog originally from Ireland, where it was bred for hunting in the Irish highlands for grouse, partridge and snipe.The breed originates from the Irish Red-and-White Setter, which was once introduced to a unicoloured red breed, and thus bred to produce the red Irish Setter that exists today. In terms of size, the male dogs range from 58-67 cm, while the bitches range from 55-62 cm. Like the other Setter breeds, the Irish Setter is also a dog most often associated with hunting in "open terrain”. However, as with the other British breeds, this breed is particularly useful for hunting on various types of terrains. The Irish Setter has a great deal of energy and endurance. It is also robust and typically hard working, making it a competent hunting companion.
The Brittany Spaniel
The Brittany Spaniel is the smallest of the English breeds. It originates from France, where it is called the Epagneul Breton. Here it is an old breed of gun dog originally from the Brittany area. In France, the breed has been bred for hunting on rough terrain, where its versatility is a key characteristic. The Britanny Spaniel is an excellent dog for hunting snipe, which has certainly contributed to its popularity, especially in France and the US.

As mentioned, the Britanny Spaniel is smaller than the other English breeds, so the males have an ideal size of 48-51 cm, while the bitches are between 47–50 cm. Brittany Spaniels are typically white/orange or white/black, but are also available as tricolours of white/black/orange. This is a compact dog that makes a very versatile gun dog, making it a popular breed with Danish hunters. It has a great willingness to hunt and is a fantastic bird finder.


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