Interview with a Master


In my book I wrote about seeing a sparkle in the eye of renowned Cesky Fousek breeder Jaromir Dostal.
It was a look we had seen before; a certain fiery sparkle, a radiant glow on the faces of a handful of men we had met in our travels. They were men with decades of experience who had spent countless hours in the fields with their dogs. They had each dedicated much of their lives to a breed of gun dog that, without their help, may have fallen into the abyss. We saw the years of ups and downs etched into their faces, and would sometimes hear notes of sadness as they spoke to us about the struggles they’d endured. But, when the light was just right, and the conversation turned to the great dogs they had known, they became young men again, their eyes transformed by an inner glow, their faces beaming.
Among that handful of men mentioned above is Cesare Bonasegale, one of the most important figures in the history of the Bracco Italiano. I first met Cesare in 2006 near Milan when I travelled there to interview him and photograph his dogs. I'd spoken to him on the phone before my trip, so I knew he had a lot to say about the Bracco, but when I met him in person and saw that "fiery sparkle" I knew I was in the presence of a true master. His knowledge of the breed, based on a near-photographic memory of 60+ years of Bracco history was astounding. 

Cesare and Lisa at a field trial near Pian di Spino (Emilia-Romagna, Italy).
Pro tip: if you really want to bring out the sparkle in their eye, ask them about their dogs
and have them pose for a photo next to a pretty woman!
Much of the information I gathered from Cesare during my visit ended up in the Bracco Italiano chapter in my book and over the last few years, Cesare and I kept in touch, occasionally exchanging information on dog-related topics or helping one another connect with other dog enthusiasts in various parts of the world. Then, last January Cesare asked me if I would be interested in translating a book he'd recently written. How could I refuse? Sure, it would take a lot of time and effort (my Italian is not that great), but I would get to read a great book before anyone else in the world! 

So page by page, chapter by chapter, Cesare sent me his manuscript by email. And day by day, month by month, I would do my best to render his monumental work into English while maintaining a sense of Cesare's unique writing style and razor-sharp wit.

Finally, in late May, with the help of friends and proof readers Jude Gerstein, Concepta Cassar, and Jo Laurens, I was ready to press the "send" button on an email containing the final version of the translation. By August the book had been printed and on September 9th at a massive international breed show and field trial held in Italy, it was launched. 

Here is a brief introduction of the event (in Italian).


And here are highlights from the field trial.


And from the breed show.



I was unable to attend the event — the hunting fields of Manitoba beckoned me! — so I received my copy of the book by mail late last fall and last week I received a limited number of copies that I've now made available for sale on my website. For fans of the Bracco Italiano this book is a 'must have' and for fans of any breed of pointing dog, this book should be at the top of your wish list since it is such a valuable resource for all things related to breeding and training any breed of pointing dog.

Finally, I wrote to Cesare to ask him a few questions about the book. Here are his answers:

Why did you decide to write this book?
In a way, I had no choice. I had so many requests from the readers of my blog I finally had to say "yes"!

Now that it is finished, and available in English, what are your hopes for the book?
That breeders of all breeds will read it and learn how they can base their breeding efforts on concrete data and not just continue to rely on the luck of the draw.

This is not your first book, in fact you are a very prolific writer and oversee an online journal called Continentali da Ferma. When did you start writing and what motivates you to write?
I started writing about 20 years ago and my goal has always been the same: improved communication (and therefore education) about a subject that sorely needs it. I want to shed light on the challenges and difficulties faced by anyone who wants to breed good pointing dogs.

Why did you decide to start breeding Bracchi? 
When I first started breeding Bracchi Italiani, the breed was in a pitiful state. But I was lucky enough to come across a few very good individuals that really caught my attention. So I decided to devote myself to developing that blood line.

What aspect of breeding dogs gives you the most satisfaction?

Successfully fixing the traits I seek in my dogs through selective breeding. It is also very rewarding to gain an understanding of the genetic mechanisms by which those traits are transmitted.

What has been your greatest challenge as a breeder of Bracchi Italiani?
To make my dogs field trial champions in a minimum number of trials. Considering that a male has to win three CAC awards and females two CACs to become a champion, my greatest success was with Bocia del Boscaccio who earned his championship in just three trials and his sister Murusa in only two! After that I retired from competition. I find it rather absurd that some dogs continue collecting useless CACs even after they've become a champion, instead of "leaving some room" for the youngsters.


You mention in your book that you keep your Bracco puppies until they are 6 months old, or even older so that you could observe their development and start their early conditioning. Can you tell me more about why you would keep them for so long and the benefits to you and the pups for doing so?
My kennel was never set up to make money. Its main goal was to evaluate the results of the breedings I undertook. And that could only be achieved if I kept all the pups until they were 6-8 months old or even older. It also enabled me to offer a guarantee to the people who got pups from me. After all, I could personally vouch for each pups' strengths and weaknesses since I had observed and evaluated them over a longer period of time.

Your del Boscaccio kennel is famous throughout the Bracco world, and dogs from your line are found in the pedigrees of almost all the great working Bracchi of today. How would you describe your dogs? What makes them unique or different from other lines of Bracchi? 
In the beginning, the principle difference between my dogs and those from other lines was their very stylish gate and much greater range. Today, fortunately, those traits are much more widespread in the breed (but then again, they are all distant descendants of dogs from the del Boscaccio line).


Looking back on your many decades of work with the Bracco, what do you think is your greatest contribution to the breed? What more do you wish you could have done? 
I wish I could have achieved a greater genetic fixation of the "flying trot" across the breed. And it would have been nice to see a faster, wider distribution of the unique working qualities and style of the breed. But it is hard to achieve quality and quantity at the same time. (Note: for more information about the 'flying trot' see my article on the Bracco Italiano here).

Your book is more than just an excellent source of information on the genetics of pointing dog behaviour and how to train pointing dogs of any breed, it offers a fascinating look into the culture of hunting with pointing dogs in Europe. My favourite parts of the book are your personal anecdotes about hunting with your own dogs. Can you tell me more about the 'good old days' of hunting when a young man could take his dog and a gun on the tram to go hunting snipe in the countryside?
Those are such lovely memories, but it's all in the past. The hunting conditions have changed so much since then. Even outside of Italy, the hunting conditions we enjoyed twenty or thirty years ago no longer exist. I could relive other great adventures, but they would still be nothing more than just memories.



In your book, you also wrote that some Italian hunters would even ride their bicycles to the field. Do you know the man and dog in the photo above?
That is Avvocato Giacomo Griziotti from Pavia. I wrote about him in the book. The photo is from the cover of Griziotti's book and, if I remember well, the dog is Atala. In my book there is another photo of Griziotti with Banco del Vergante. He also used to ride in the basket of the bike.

If you could speak to your 'younger self', the young Cesare Bonasegale that was just starting with Bracchi many years ago, what advice would you give him?
I would tell him to ignore the naysayers and people who are motivated only by their ego. I would tell him to focus on the improvement of the breed. Unfortunately so many people in the dog world are in it for their own personal glorification. It's always been that way and I fear that it will always be that way in the future. It is disheartening to see so much hatred and divisiveness in a world that should be about friendship and solidarity. But it's always been that way. 

Your historical overview of the development of the Bracco is one of the best I've ever read. If you could go back in time and meet a famous Bracco person from the past, who would it be?
It would be Rino Vigo, the pro trainer from Pavia who bred some of the best Bracchi of the 60s and 70s. He was responsible for some of the most significant innovations in the understanding and training of the Bracco Italiano. 

Finally, your dogs and your writings are very well known in Italy but this is the first time one of your books is available in English and it will undoubtedly be widely read in Europe, the UK and in North America. What would you like to say specifically to the English readers of your book that may not be very familiar with the Italian hunting culture and history of the quintessential Italian pointing dog?

In many foreign countries the Bracco Italiano is seen as nothing more than a pet. But the source of all the Bracco's best qualities as a pet are its qualities as a pointing dog. So if you want to produce the best pet Bracchi select them from among the best Bracco Italiano hunting dogs! The day the Bracco Italiano is no longer a pointing dog and selectively bred as such is the day it ceases to exist. If they are only bred for the show ring they will lose the qualities that make them such a magnificent pointing dog and that will soon lead to them losing all the qualities that make them such an affectionate companion animal as well. So breeders in the English speaking world need to understand that selectively breeding Bracchi to be excellent gun dogs is the best way to ensure that they end up with excellent companion animals and the best friends they could ever have. 



Click here to order your copy of Noble Bracco by Cesare Bonasegale.

$30 in North America, $40 everywhere else. Shipping included!


Picardy Spaniels in North America. The Year in Review

In 2016 there were fewer than a half dozen Picardy Spaniels in North America. By the end of 2017, the number had risen to nearly 30 and for the first time ever, a litter of Picardy Spaniels was whelped in Quebec. Over the last 12 months North American hunters and breed enthusiasts have imported pups from the UK, France and Germany and three Picardy Spaniel kennels are now officially registered with NAVHDA, including one in the UK, a first for the association.

Here in Manitoba, despite below average bird numbers, our Picardy Léo had an awesome 2017 hunting season. Here is question/answer format video I cobbled together of clips of Léo in the field, forest and water during the season.


One of the highlights of the season was Lisa's shooting. She was on fire! With her trusty side-by-side and Kent Bismuth ammo, she out shot me and her nephew CJ.


Another thing I really enjoyed in 2017 was helping folks connect with Picardy breeders overseas and helping them get good pups. When Lisa and I flew to Europe last spring we stopped over in the UK to bring back two pups for hunters in Saskatchewan. Seeing the smiles on the fellows' faces as their new pups jumped into their arms at the airport made our year! Thanks to social media, I was also able to help other folks have pups shipped in from overseas  or even to fly to France to pick up a pup. Jamie Simmons for example, not only got a great pup, he hunted for a week in France and made several new French hunting buddies.

Once Jamie returned from France and the jet-lag had worn off, I asked him a few questions about how and why he ended up flying half way across the world to pick up a pup. Here's what he said:

How did you 'discover' the Picardy?
I discovered the Picardy in a random Google search for “Spaniel” which produced the names and pictures of the different breeds. The Picardy and Blue Picardy caught my eye as I had never heard of them before. I was instantly intrigued and wanted to learn more about them. I found the North American Picardy Alliance web site and inquired where they could be found via the contact link on the site and soon received your initial email. I had also searched Facebook and found several breeder pages as well.
How did you "meet" Quentin online?
I had viewed Quentin’s ad on a Facebook page and then you mentioned it as well and offered to call him to check references, etc. That meant a lot to me as a vote of confidence.


How did you and Quentin communicate on line?
All of our communication was through Messenger on Facebook. I spoke no French and he spoke almost no English so most of the communication I translated through Google Translate. I attempted to learn some French before I left but there just wasn’t enough time between when I made the decision to go (late September) and when the pups would be available (early December). Quentin had worked on his English some during that time, but we found that Google translate on my phone was easier for normal conversation. It was a hurdle but it worked well enough to communicate with him and his friends/family.

Why did you decide to go get the pups instead of having them shipped?
Honestly, cost was a big factor. With 3 kids and modest income, I wasn’t real keen on spending a lot of money on a breed of dog that I knew very little about and had never seen before (besides meeting yours once). When Quentin offered to take me hunting if I went over there, well that sealed the deal! Not only would I be getting a new pup, but also the experience of a lifetime!

Was it your first time there? What did you learn about France and the French people?
My time spent in France was mainly spent hunting and hanging out with his friends. It was not a tourist trip! We spent 3 days in the “Duck Hut,” although the migration was very slow while I was there. Most complained that this was their worst year ever for ducks, but the experience was still unbelievable! I would equate it to hanging out at deer camp, but with the ability to run out in the dark and shoot ducks on the water with a scoped shot gun! We also spent a morning chasing Bécasse (European woodcock) and I managed to bag my first! We spent another morning/evening chasing pheasants, rabbit and duck. We took one day and went to Blankaart Castle in Belgium where there is a large waterfowl preserve surrounding it. Very neat place! On the final day we did a large pheasant with 25-30 other hunters.

This was my first trip outside North America, but definitely won’t be the last! I learned that the French spend a lot of time hanging out and conversing with each other over meals and drinks. It seemed at times that we were eating non-stop! I also learned that Johnny Hallyday (their version of Elvis) passed away while I was there and was the topic of a lot of discussion among his friends and family. I also learned that most do not speak English (at least where I was), but the people were very accommodating and very nice! 

What surprised me was many of Quentin’s friends and family offered for me to stay with them in their homes on my next trip to France. I thought that was very generous and I look forward to seeing them all again. 

What was it like seeing your pup for the first time and hunting with their mother?
It was very neat to see Gyda (Nyda) for the first time. Out of the same little, both he and his parents were keeping pups, so there were 4 of them running around when I arrived. It was fun to see how the interacted (fought) with each other and vied for attention. Hunting with their mother, Ilka, was reassuring that I had a made a good decision. She ranged well, seemed to have a good nose on her and had a very strong desire to hunt!

How was the homecoming for your pup? Kids must have been thrilled!
Homecoming was great! It was fun to see the kids reaction after being gone a week and bringing home a new member of the family. They were happy to see me, but I think they were more excited to meet their pup! Travel was a bit stressful, but everything ended up where it should be. I would do it again now that I know the ropes.

Since she's been home, how has your pup adapted? What is her personality like?
Pup has adapted very well! It took her about a week to adjust to our time (7 hours different than France), but once we got over that she sleeps all night (most nights). She has her puppy moments, but I still cannot get over how calm she is. She loves to cuddle, but isn’t over the top with having to pet all the time. After a bit, she just finds her pillow and lies down. For 4 months that is crazy! She is also very gentle with my kids (ages 4,8,11). Her personality seems laid back with a kind of whatever attitude. She doesn’t get worked up about anything besides a little whimpering in her kennel. Vacuum, loud noises, kids yelling have no effect on her. I can’t wait to get her in the field!




I'd love to hear from other members of the growing Picardy family in North America, so post your 2017 stories in the comments below!


Enjoy my blog posts? Check out my book Pointing Dogs, Volume One: The Continentals

www.dogwilling.ca


Once you go French....

One day, I will write the story of how an Icelandic-Ukrainian prairie boy grew up to become a wine-sipping, snipe hunting, stark raving francophile. In the meantime, let me share just one aspect of the French life I've adopted; my love of French cooking.

Léo's first Canada..it weighed 13lbs!
Here is a recipe that changed my entire outlook on hunting geese. I used to ignore them. Now I can't wait to put some in the game bag. So when you have a good goose shoot, for the love of dog, keep the legs, and gizzards! You can make confit and rillettes from them that will rock your world.

Léo's first Snow goose made awesome confit!
Ingredients
Goose legs
Gizzards (cleaned and halved)
Onions or Shallots
Garlic
Salt, pepper, thyme, rosemary (other spices can also be added. Try cardamon, cinnamon or nutmeg. If you like a bit of a kick, try some cayenne pepper).

Method
Step one: Cure the meat.
Clean legs and gizzards, then wash and pat them dry
Place them in a glass bowl with chopped onions/shallots, garlic, salt and spices. Be generous here, don't skimp. You are basically doing a very short "cure" and will wash most of the salt and spices off the meat before it's cooked.
Put bowl in fridge overnight.

Step Two: Confit the meat.
You can even use woodcock legs!
Turn your oven on to 220 degrees
Rinse the goose legs and gizzards and pat them dry. You want to get most of the salt off of them, but if some of the spices stick, that's ok.
Place the goose legs and gizzards into a dutch oven or oven safe bowl that you can cover with aluminum foil.
Cover all the meat with fat or oil.* Duck fat is the very best in terms of flavour, but is can be hard to find and is always expensive. Olive oil (even a relatively inexpensive brand) is a near perfect substitute. Just make sure to keep the heat under 225 degrees (I used olive oil for the legs in the photo above, it works great).
Put the dutch oven with the legs, gizzards and oil or fat in the oven and then take the dog for a grouse or woodcock hunt.
Depending on the kind of goose (Snow geese cook faster than old Canada honkers) the meat will be done in as little as 4 hours. Generally, the geese we shoot take 6- 8 hours. To check if the meat is done, grab a bone with a pair of tongs. If the meat falls off as you lift it, the meat is done *Confit is to deep fat frying what barbecue is to grilling. Low and slow versus fast and furious. And don't worry, the method doesn't really add any extra fat to the dish. The oil or fat only sticks to the surface of the meat and does not really penetrate it. And since there is no breading to soak it up, a confit leg of goose has far less fat than a deep fried piece of chicken. For more information on the method see the Food Lab's article on confit.


Step three: Enjoy!
Slice the gizzards and serve them on toasted French bread with a bit of garlic aioli. Put the legs under the broiler for a minute or two to crisp/brown the surface and serve on just about anything.

OR:

Take the legs and pull all the meat off with a fork. Using tongs or your fingers if it is not too hot, shred the meat like pulled pork into a mixing bowl. Add cut up chunks of gizzards. Stir in some cognac, or brandy, or port wine and add some wild blueberries. Stir it all together and put it in mason jars. You've now made "Rillettes" and they will keep in the fridge for up to a week or so. Serve rillettes at room temperature. Eat is like a nice paté, spread it on bread or crackers and enjoy with a nice Petite Sirah or Pinot Noir.
Rabbit legs are GREAT for confit too!
Just like becoming an expert in wine–you learn by drinking it, the best you can afford–you learn about great food by finding the best there is, whether simply or luxurious. Then you savor it, analyze it, and discuss it with your companions, and you compare it with other experiences.
— Julia Child


Enjoy my blog posts? Check out my book Pointing Dogs, Volume One: The Continentals


www.dogwilling.ca

Interview with a Connoisseur Part 2

In Part 1 I asked professional trainer Xavier Thibault about the various French pointing breeds and the French breeding system. Today I asked him about his approach to training those breeds.

When it comes to training a dog from one of the French pointing breeds should a trainer take a slower, softer approach or one in which more pressure is applied?

Xavier in the field with a Braque Français
In general, a lighter touch is best, but you can’t apply one method to all dogs, they are all different. So you have to adapt your approach to each individual. When I was a child, before learning to read and write, I learned to use a pen and pencil by coloring pictures in coloring books, and then I learned to draw letters and so on. For a young dog, it is the same sort of progression. The dog has to discover things, learn from its mistakes and successes. The trainer’s job is to guide a dog along the path he has chosen for it. And it takes about three years to fully train a dog, so don’t rush. Stay calm and carry on!

No matter what approach you take, it always comes down to being patient and giving dogs enough time to reach their full potential. Every dog, every person and every type of hunting terrain is different, and our French breeds clearly reflect that. Each was developed in its own region and each has its own character, style and look. So there is no single way to train a dog, there are as many ways to train as there are dogs, breeds and types of hunting terrains. You train a dog with your brain, not a training manual.

In general, English pointing breeds seem to mature earlier than many of the German pointing breeds. But what about the French pointing breeds? Are they slow to develop or are they more on the precocious side?

Xavier with a  Braque Saint Germain
Pointing can come seen quite early in some dogs from the French breeds but in general, that has nothing to do with how well the dog will eventually turn out. Some dogs point early and some point a bit later on, but what’s the use of pointing if the dog doesn’t know how to find game to point? Let's not forget that there are only two kinds of dogs: those that just seek and those that seek..and find!

A puppy is a puppy and will be that way until it matures. Trying to rush things along is useless. The most common mistake I see among amateur trainers is trying to do too much, too soon. If the dog is good, it will always be good. There is no need to hurry. I only start taking my dogs out to expose them to real game and actual hunting situations when they are about 6 or 7 months old. In the first few months, I don’t worry about how early they starting pointing or how far they range out. Developing a pointing dog is not a race.

What French breed would you recommend to the following kinds of hunters:
1. One that hunts mostly in the marsh, duck, teal, goose, but a little woodcock in the forest?
2. One that hunts, partridge, snipe, grouse, and from time to time, waterfowl in the marsh?

3. One that hunts a bit of everything, but in a hot dry conditions?

Xavier and a Braque de l'Ariège
Each breed will adapt to the terrain it hunts, but it is usually best to choose a breed that has been developed for specific local conditions. In general, for wetlands and forest work, I would consider a dog from one of the épagneul breeds from Northern France like the the Picardy Spaniel, Pont-Audemer Spaniel, Saint Usuge Spaniel, French Spaniel etc. or a Kortahls Griffon. For dryer, hotter conditions, I would consider one of the French braques like the Braque FrançaisBraque Saint Germain, Braque de l'Ariège etc.. That said, I sold a Braque Saint Germain to a guy in Canada and it did really well there. But that is because our dogs are like us: they are at home wherever they end up hunting!


Xavier and two Braques Saint Germain, a Springer Spaniel and a Korthal's Griffon


Enjoy my blog posts? Check out my book Pointing Dogs, Volume One: The Continentals

www.dogwilling.ca






Here and There Part 4

“Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won't come in.” ― Isaac Asimov

Painting by Paul de Vos (1595-1678) 
In parts one, two and three of this series, I examined some interesting differences in bird dog culture, populations and registration numbers in North America, the UK and Europe. In part four, I will share my observations on European and North American field trials and do my best to explain the different approaches each system takes when it comes to using them as a selection tool for producing gundogs for hunters.

Since most of this post is based on what I've discovered over the last 20 years or so, I've structured it almost like an interview.  The questions are based on comments/questions I've received over the years from various people in private messages and public forums, and bulletin boards. My answers are based on the ones I provided at the time but have been edited here for clarity.


How do North American and European trials differ? In what ways are they the same? 
Both Euro trials and NA trials are the domain of dedicated pros and amateurs doing their best to breed the highest performance animals they can. European and North American judges evaluate the style, class, brains, range, steadiness, use of nose of the dogs under judgment, but the main differences are in how they actually interpret those concepts. I will list some of the more important differences below.

Breed specific styles: On both sides of the ocean, all breeds have conformation standards. But in Europe, each breed has an official 'working standard'. European judges therefore pay more attention to breed-specific styles as they evaluate a dog's performance in the field. Setters, for example, should run very close to the ground and have a feline way of moving and crouch or even 'set' on the ground while pointing. Pointers run with a more upright style and must point standing up. Both have to perform the 'commanded approach' in a breed-specific way. Once a point is established and the handler gets up next to the dog both dog and handler move slowly towards the bird until the flush, that is called a "coulée" in French and "guidata" in Italian. A setter should do it with an extremely feline style, almost slithering along the ground, while a Pointer should do it standing tall with forceful, thrusting movements. I explain a bit more about the coulée here.  Working standards are different for each breed. Some, like the working standard for the French Spaniel are just a few paragraphs that describe the ideal speed, range and pointing posture for the breed. Others like this seven thousand word working standard for the Pointer published by the Pointer club of Italy could fill an entire book. 

Diagram showing the ideal pattern for spring field trials
Ground Coverage: The biggest difference may be the fact that in Europe, for many types of field trials, they want to see the dogs hunt in a windshield wiper pattern. For example, in Spring trials for British and Irish pointing breeds, as soon as they are released, the dogs make a huge cast out to 400-500 yards to the left, then turns into the wind, and runs past the handler out to another 400-500 yards to the right. Each time it passes in front of the handler it should be no more than about 50 to 60 yards in front. Michel Comte provides a good explanation of this kind of search pattern on his Braque du Bourbonnais site (the distances he provides are for the Bourbonnais. Distances for setters and Pointers are far greater).

The field coverage  looks to be very inefficient, the dog just runs back and forth on what seems to be the same line. 
Actually, it is a bit of an illusion in the videos due to zooming the lens in from a long way away. Optically, this creates a sort of compressed look to the frame and the dogs seems to pass only a few feet in front of the handler. In reality, the distance at which dogs pass in front of their handlers is basically shotgun range, about 40-60 yards. More than that is too big of a bite and they risk missing birds, less than that is too tight and they won't cover enough ground in the allotted time.

So the dog runs out to one side, passes in front of the handler at the appropriate distance then heads o the other side. And at the end of each cast it MUST turn into the wind...if it turns the other way, downwind, it risks being eliminated.

The Diagrams imply that the dogs are always working into the wind otherwise these patterns would be inefficient. Is this always the case in practice? 

Yes. The dogs are always worked into the wind. Trials run from one field to the next, each dog or brace working a new area. Judges, gallery, dogs and handlers move from one field to the next and always start into the wind. Sometimes this just means walking from one field to the next, often it means getting into the cars/vans/trucks and driving to the best place to start.

Following the trials around is sometimes kinda tricky. Everyone meets at a central location, usually a town hall in the nearest hamlet and then are divided up into groups led by a judge. Each group is then given an assigned area that consists of enough room and fields to run all the dogs. Sometimes those areas are miles from the village and even if they start off close by, they end up miles away. So if you are not there at the start, finding any particular group is kinda tough since they could be anywhere within a given zone of many square miles.

After a couple of seasons though, I got pretty good at finding groups. I would just drive around the general area and look for the long line of vans and cars out in the middle of nowhere...often on pretty rough two-tracks between fields. Here is a video (in French) about spring field trials. It has some decent footage of dogs running and pointing (I suspect that some of the scenes are set-ups with planted birds, but some are authentic). At about the 3:20 mark, there are scenes of what the gallery of people, cars and trucks looks like at a typical field trial in France.


Also it seems they want their pointing breeds to work more of an enlarged spaniel pattern. Fair?
Yes, in spring trials run in fields covered with winter wheat, they expect the dogs to have a side to side windshield wiper pattern. The reason is that the fields are basically green carpets of sprouts...no real objectives or lines per se. In fact, they even run them across plowed fields because they actually hold birds. When I first started watching trials there I thought there was no way that any birds would be out in those fields. But there can be surprisingly large numbers of birds in some areas (others have fewer...some have next to none...it depends on the year, the weather and other factors).

Léo at full speed
Different Speeds: I've had the pleasure of watching Pointers and setters run in North American field trials and have hunted over some on my own hunting grounds. And I've always marveled at just how fast they run. But nothing prepared me for the first time I saw Pointers and setters run in spring time field trials in France. They looked like greyhounds on a race track!

But the difference is not how fast they are capable of running. If American-bred and European-bred setters and Pointers were run on a greyhound track, I think they'd be fairly evenly matched. It is just that American bred dogs are selected, conditioned and trained to run for longer periods of time. Some North American field trials are three hours long! European bred dogs are selected, conditioned and trained to run as fast as they are physically capable of running for 15-20 minutes at a time. 

The easiest way to understand the difference is to imagine a typical North American-bred Pointer or setter running in a field trial hitting objectives and really laying down a fast race. Now imagine that a rabbit pops up in front of him and he gives in to the temptation. He decides to be a baaaad boy and he takes off in hot pursuit of that rabbit. You see that extra gear he just switched into? Notice that no matter how fast he was running before that rabbit popped up, there was still one more gear of turbo speed he could kick it up to?

Ya, well THAT is the speed that the Euro dogs are expected (and bred and trained and pushed) to have for their entire run. Basically, they run like they are chasing something or are being chased by something. And that is why I say it is more like Top Fuel Drag Racing...the dogs don't run for a long time but they run really, really fast. Here is a video of a young European-bred setter in a trial. It is a good indication of the kind of speed they want to see.



Watching a few of the videos seems like the dogs are just hitting the after burners. Is the dog's nose able to keep up with the speed? 
It depends. When I first started attending trials I could not believe any dog could actually run that fast and nail a point...especially considering that they were looking for wild huns in ankle deep winter wheat! And a lot of dogs do in fact crash and burn. They run too fast for their noses and the conditions, they bump a bird...and they are eliminated. But, amazingly, some do manage to slam points as they are running full blast. And I think that is what everyone is looking for. Like the big league trialers over here, or car racing or other thrilling sports, they want to see contestants that are just on the edge of fabulous glory...or the agony of defeat.

Here is another video that shows the kind of speeds dogs run at in some of these trials. The entire video is worth watching, but if you want to see a young Pointer run across the field like his ass is on fire skip to the 12:50 mark.




Different Tails: Have a look at the videos above one more time but this time, pay attention to the dogs' tails as they run. You will notice that it is held below the level of the back and doesn't really move much. The reason is speed. Euro handlers and breeders prefer a so-called dead tail (in North America a cracking, slashing, animated tail is preferred). The idea is that any energy going to the tail is wasted and should go to the legs. And remember the example I provided above of a North American dog chasing a rabbit? Chances are, no matter how animated a dog's tail is when it is hunting, if it switches into turbo sprint mode, it's tail will drop and be far less active as it sprints to the horizon chasing a deer or jack rabbit (look at the tail on this Saluki chasing a big jack rabbit). On point, the tail is more or less level with the back or slightly lower. To many Americans, a low tail is an abomination, just like a high tail is to many Europeans. À chacun, son goût!

I would like to see how many finds they have compared to how many birds are bumped or ran over. 
If they bump a bird they are out. If the handler or judge puts up a bird they are out. That is why they go back and forth, they have to cover the entire area to make sure they get to the bird before the handler or judge. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

Different Trial Formats and Standards: European judges follow the FCI working standards. Their version of all-age is called Grande Quête in French (literally big quest or big search) and those trials are considered the highest level of performance. Most Grande Quête trials take place in the spring on wild huns. Grande Quête dogs are considered the top of the top and have a similar reputation to our all-age dogs (ie: some folks love em, others think they are too much dog).

Their cover dog trials are called Autumn Trials or Woods trials and are run on stocked pheasants and/or wild woodcock and other game (they also have trials on snipe for example). They usually take place in the fall. One of the most popular spots is in south western France near Bordeaux. Cover dogs are said to have a quête de chasse (hunting search, equivalent to our gundog stakes) so that, I think, would be the closest thing to what we call a cover dog (or in some ways like a NSTRA dog too I guess).

What a lot of North Americans don't realize is just how massive the European field trial scene really is. Some trials can have over 500 dogs entered! There are professional trainers and handlers all over the place and they even have their own union of sorts. National teams of dogs run in a sort of field trial Olympics for the European cup and there are huge numbers of breeders and followers all across Europe.

Have a look at this video from the 2017 Campo Felice trial in Italy. It is a huge annual two-day event where Pointers and setters are run on released European quail (coturnix coturnix). Not all trials are this big of course, but it gives you an idea of just how organized the system really is over there.


When you speak of Euro trials, what area of Europe are you talking about? When my bride was in Norway/Sweden for some FT's it sounds different from what describe.
The center of the European field trial world is Italy/France/Spain. That is where most of the pros are and most of the top dogs are bred (Italian dogs dominate). But there are lots of trials elsewhere in places like Holland, Denmark, Portugal, even Greece, Croatia, Russia and elsewhere.

There is a fair sized trial system in Sweden and Norway. But the Scandinavian system is a bit different. A lot of their trials are held in the mountains on ptarmigan and other wild birds. They also use pointing dogs more like the British do...ie: after the point, the dog is expected to rush in and flush the birds and then stay steady to wing and shot. From what I understand, Scandinavian trials are supposed to be more like a day out hunting with far less emphasis on the sort of super fast and wide windshield wiper casting that is the rule in trials in France/Italy/Spain.

In the spring the birds are singles, and in coveys in the fall? 
In the spring the birds are usually pairs of huns that are courting and preparing to mate, but may be singles or in small coveys. The whole spring season starts in the south of Spain in January and works north all the way to northern France until mid April. The trial dates are set to coincide with when the wheat is just high enough and the birds are paired up but not sitting on eggs. Most years it works out just right but sometimes the wheat is too high or too low, or the birds are not yet paired up.

In the fall, trials are run on woodcock (wild, almost always singles), snipe (ditto) but the biggest events of the fall season are shoot-to-retrieve trials run on released pheasants. They take place in wooded areas where birds are set out the night before. Here is a video of an autumn field trial held in southwestern France near Bordeaux.


Different Durations:
In a typical field trial in Europe, dogs run from 15 to 20 minutes, sometimes longer, but almost never more than 30 minutes. In North America, dogs run from 30 minutes to 3 hours!

What's the point of having a dog that runs like hell for 20-30 minutes and then goes back to the truck? Who hunts for only that long?
In the same way that all-age field trials over here do not really reflect an average day hunting -- most North Americans do not hunt quail from horseback -- top level springtime trials are not really designed to reflect the average day out hunting in Europe.

Both trial formats exist to develop the extreme ends of the canine spectrum. In North America, those extremes include things like speed, endurance, high tails, bird finding ability and other qualities. In Europe they want to see even greater speed, a different kind of ground pattern and a very breed-specific style of running/pointing/roading in. And let's not forget that a lot of trial formats over here (NSTRA, AKC, NAVHDA field components) are in the 30 minute range as well. They don't have as much of an endurance component either but they still manage to identify high performance hunting dogs.

When I first started attending European trials, I asked a judge why the stakes are only 20 minutes or so. He replied: "If I can't identify the traits I want to see and the style I am looking for in a dog in 20 minutes, it is not there...it will not suddenly appear after an hour or so".

I am of the opinion that short braces for adult dogs is conceptually flawed. For starters, and we have this happening in the US, selecting animals that run full blast is not IMO good for any breed. I want a nice hard pace but this trend is producing dogs that run frantically is not to the benefit to hunters or the breed.  
I would agree, and I am sure that most hard-core European field trial breeders would agree with you...if their main goal was to produce dogs that were a benefit to hunters. It is not. Their primary goal is to win competitions. The fact that many of the winning dogs can offer some benefits to hunters and hunting dog lines is a fantastic secondary side effect and something that all hunting dog breeders should appreciate...but it is not the main focus of people trying to breed the perfect trial dog.

Field trial near Broomhill Manitoba
And that, in essence, is the upshot and downside of competitive events. They are highly effective at distilling whatever specific traits you seek. But they eventually become a world unto themselves and the envelope they push does not necessarily match the performance envelope of the hunting field.

For the Europeans, one of the main traits seems to be speed. Having a fast dog is good...having a faster dog is better, having the fastest dog on the day is usually best and, if a dog does everything else right, speed will go a long way to getting you in the winner's circle. And breeders over there go to great lengths to get that speed. Accusations of doping are sometimes made and it is fairly clear that Greyhounds and even Salukis may have been bred into some lines (to the detriment of the nose and point) all in an effort to get faster and wider running dogs.

So what we see is that the dogs over there now are way, way faster than there were 30 years ago. And the trend can be seen across almost all the pointing breeds. Some Braques and Epagneuls, GSPs and Wirehairs are now approaching the speed and range of some setters and Pointers. And it is competition that is driving the quest for better trial dogs.

We can see it in other traits as well and on both sides of the ocean. At some point in time in US field trials a high tail became a good thing. Then an even higher tail became better, and eventually a 12 o'clock tail became best. In Europe, a certain setter style was good, more setterish movement became better and a really exaggerated feline panther-stalking-its-prey kind of movement is now seen as best...and is in fact required if you want to win a trial. Yet it could be argued that both of these highly desired traits, the 12 O'clock tail in the US and the cat-like movement and "setting" in Europe are of very limited value to hunters.

The bottom line is that competition is all about pushing the envelope. I can't ever imagine a day when Euro breeds will say "OK, that is all the speed we will ever need". The fact is, they will always be seeking that extra bit of speed even if they are close to the structural limits of canine physiognomy right now. And I can't imagine a day when US breeders will declare, "OK, that is all the drive or endurance we will ever need". They will continue to seek that extra umph they want to see in a dog. Heck we have 1 hour stakes, 2 hour stakes, even 3+ hour endurance stakes for pointing dogs, and all of them seem like a cake-walk compared to the Iditarod for sled dogs.

English Setter at full speed in a cover crop field in France
Competition is about pushing the envelope. That field trial envelope and the hunting dog envelope overlap in many areas is great, but they don't completely overlap and breeders who are full bore into field trials are all about pushing the envelope that gets them in the winner's circle.

In comparison to NA trials where there is an endurance component to it, how would they evaluate endurance for breeding purposes since trials are supposed to do such things? 
Their argument goes like this: "any dog that is capable of running at a top fuel pace for 20 minutes is far above the average in terms of athletic abilities. They have more than enough heart and lung and leg and with the proper conditioning all the endurance you need in a hunting dog".

Until I actually hunted with some of those field trial dogs, I was skeptical. But I saw it with my own eyes. I hunted all day, every day for 8 days straight with a pair of English Setters from French field trial lines. And they kept up with all the other dogs. Now, they did NOT run like they do in trials...they ran fast but certainly not at the ass-on-fire pace they run in trials. They kept up a nice hunt-all-day speed the entire time.

Upon reflection, I realized that even if marathon runners have the best endurance of all, 800 meter runners and even 100 meter sprinters are still superb athletes. Hussein Bolt would never take gold in a marathon, but I am damn sure he could train to run a marathon fairly easily and I would bet my bottom dollar that he could run a marathon faster than every couch potatoes on the planet.

But let me add one other thing. Whenever a system is created to select for extremes, and you add money and competition, you get positive and negative results. The knock on Euro dogs running in the big trials is that they are too much dog, that they are hyper run offs, that they burn out early and die before they are 6 years old etc. And there is probably a grain of truth in there. The Italians produce nearly 20 thousand setters every year. Some of the dogs probably are nuts, some probably die early, some probably do run off. But in reality, men and women are pretty good at developing high performance animals. It is not really rocket science. Breeders have been doing it on both sides of the ocean for 150 years now and they have produced animals that are light years ahead of where they used to be.

Are the hunting spots or coverts over there so small that you go through them quickly and move on to another spot further away so the dog gets a rest between them? Do people have more dogs?
Some spots are smaller, some are huge. Some guys have only one dog and hunt it for hours on end, others have more than one dog. It really depends on the country and the game they are hunting. I've been to spots in northern France (Beauce, Picardy) that looked like Kansas wheat country. And I've been to places in Italy that looked like Idaho. One thing that is different though is that there are more paved roads and a lot more traffic so more dogs get killed while hunting, and there are way, way more hares, which pointing dog guys hate! Check this video out. I think it is northern Italy somewhere:



Usually, when I talk dogs with dog men and women on either side of the ocean, I am met with genuine curiosity about 'the other side' and I do my best to explain the differences and similarities between the two worlds. However, I have occasionally run into people on both sides of the Atlantic that are not only uninterested in what's happening on the other side, but openly hostile to the idea that high caliber field trial and hunting dogs could come from any other country or system of format. Here are some typical sorts of exchanges.

As far as style and hunt is concerned I don't see anything worthwhile in those European dogs. They have no class and seem no better than show dogs in the field. 
Well, I should point you towards thread I started on a French field trial forum. I posted photos of North American all-age Pointers and setters that I consider to be awesome dogs. But the comments I got from the French field trialers are almost identical to yours...except the other way around of course. They simply could not get their head around what they see as a complete lack of style in our dogs and some did not even believe me that the dogs in the photos were purebred Pointers or setters. One smart ass even said that we must be breeding Pitbull into our Pointer lines and Cocker Spaniels into our setter lines and another accused me of photo-shopping the dogs' tails to make the stick straight up. They did not believe the dogs did that naturally. 

Look, the bottom line is this: there is simply no way to say which system is better or which one produces better dogs. Is NASCAR better than Formula One? Are cricketers better than baseball players, rugby players better than football players? About the only thing we can say is that they are all freakin awesome performers and athletes.

And that is why I have concluded, after seeing a good number of dogs over here and over there, that any Pointer or setter that has reached the top level of competition in North American or European field trials can run circles around 99% of all the other dogs out there, just as any pro rugby or football player can run circles around all of us.
Pointer at the break-away of a field trial near Broomhill, Manitoba
No one over here gives a damn about those dogs over there and you couldn't give me one of them. 
I've actually heard this line from people in a half-dozen countries and I must say that despite my best efforts, I've made very little progress convincing them that there are good dogs in other regions of the world. But the most important thing to remember in all this North America vs Euro dog thing is that no one in Europe expects anyone in North America to value their dogs, and vice versa. If you don't give a damn about the dogs over there it really doesn't matter. No one running dogs in the European championship is trying to market their dogs to quail hunters in Texas and no one running dogs at Ames does it in order to crack the Pointer and setter market in Italy.

Fortunately, folks that look down on anything that isn't from their own neck of the woods are in the minority. The vast majority of field trialers and hunters I have met on both sides of the ocean are interested in hearing about good dogs, no matter where they are from. They know that a good dog is a good dog, and that is all that matters.

Sleepy Pointer at training camp.
But our breeders have done more to improve Pointers and setters than anyone else in the world.
Based on all the research I have done I would say the Europeans have improved their dogs just as much as we have ours. Both sides have made huge strides in their dogs over the last 100 years.

There are detailed descriptions of the dogs themselves as well as their hunting styles (not to mention photos) of Pointers and setters from England in the mid to late 1800s and many of them are closer matches to modern NA dogs than they are modern European dogs. The Euros tend to keep more of a breed-specific look in even their highest level setters and Pointers. So their dogs tend to have far more typical heads and coats because breeders have to have their dogs confirmed by a judge (ie; they must look like a setter or pointer and be within the breed standard for form) before they can get a field champion title.

That said, because of the enormous amount of competition and because of the nature of judging a dogs looks, Euro dogs now have exaggerated looks compared to North American dogs (well except for the tail), I mean, just look at this bad boy!

Hastro des Buveurs d'Air
One of my favorite photos that I ever took is of FDSB hall of famer Colvin Davis with my Pont-Audemer Spaniel pup in his arms. I told him that Uma was one of only three hundred Pont-Audemers in the world and that her mother was a kick-ass field trial champion in France. Colvin just smiled, held her for the camera and said "Well I'll be!"

And THAT really told me a lot about guys like Colvin who have dedicated their lives to their pursuit. They are secure enough in the knowledge that what they have achieved is true greatness in their field, and they are able to understand and accept the fact that others can achieve true greatness too, even if they took a different road to get there.


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Plus ça change....

France is full of treasures. From ancient castles to the best wines, cheeses, guns and gun dogs on the planet, the French really have a knack for combining art and science to come up with something greater than the sum of its parts. Take French libraries for example. Some of them are more than just repositories of written works, they are works of art in and of themselves. And when it comes to the cutting edge of technology, French libraries lead the way in terms of online access to incredible treasure troves of information.



The Bibliothèque nationale de France's digital library Gallica is second to none. It was established in 1997 and was made available on the Web in 2012. Anyone with access to the net can consult the over 2 million documents in the collection and I must admit that I visit the site at least once a day and sometimes squeal like a kid in a candy shop when I find something really interesting...like THIS:

It's an article published in 1933 in a magazine called "L'Éleveur : journal hebdomadaire illustré de zoologie appliquée, de chasse, d'acclimatation et de la médecine comparée des animaux utiles." It is description of the Picardy Spaniel's situation at the time and a detailed version of the breed's (then) standard. Here is the original (click to view full size). I will include an English translation below:


THE ÉPAGNEUL PICARD (Picardy Spaniel)

We recall having written, in one of our recent articles about field trials, that we should pay more attention to the field trials results of our outstanding native breeds of pointing dogs, bred by and for our own hunters to work in our conditions.

And we mentioned that there were excellent dogs just about everywhere in the hands of intelligent breeders, but that those breeders were, unfortunately, reluctant to promote them to the public. Alas! If the Tower of Ivory is a palace of delight for a thinker, it is hardly conducive to the sharing of the ideas that are formed there. Nowadays, especially, where mass marketing is King, in order to get the word out, you have to shout from every rooftop. When you present your dogs in competition it doesn't matter if they are mediocre, at least people will talk about them. But if you avoid showing your breed in public for a few years people will completely forget about it, as if it had never existed.

The Picardy Spaniel is a good example. Where would a hunter who is just starting out get the idea of ​​buying a Picard spaniel? He's only ever heard of Pointers, setters and Brittanies because that is all he sees everywhere. And yet many of our old French races are full of excellent hunting partners.

So today, we will give you and example: the Picardy Spaniel. But before we get to our subject, we must thank M. Flandre, the amiable president of the Club de l'Epagneul Picard, whose precious documentation helped us write this article. For thirty years Mr. Flandre has been as the relentless supporter of the Picardy Spaniel, and ever since his entry into the dog world in 1903, he has remained faithful to the true and pure breed type, always rejecting any infusion of blood English.



Although it has only been officially recognized recently, it is likely that the Picardy spaniel's origins go back a long ways since all the classic hunting authors, even ancient ones, mention not only white and brown épagneuls but also one with speckled gray coats, ones that are self-colored and some that are completely brown. Mr. A. de la Rue even claims that the latter variety reproduces better than the preceding ones.

The Picard is a large and beautiful dog. Its silky, wavy, speckled gray robe is dotted with dark brown patches, more of the time. It differs from the French Spaniel not only in terms of coat colour but by certain characteristics that confirm the decision to separate the two different varieties was correct. The Picardy has, more often than not, tan markings on its head and feet, which for the French Spaniel that is a fault. Other distinctive markings, even though they are quite small exist in the nose, eyes, back, kidney and tail set.

Developed to work in a region where hunting is extremely varied, the qualities of the Picardy spaniel should be great docility, a careful way of working and and the ability to quickly adapt to any kind of game. These qualities, which are the strong points for many of our continental breeds, the Picardy Spaniel has in abundance. It loves to hunt snipe, grouse, rabbit, as well as woodcock or pheasant. It does not fear the deep water and will easily retrieve waterfowl from the water, even in winter.

Its robust constitution and protective fur make it one of the best breeds for hunting the marsh and forest on the same day. It has a very docile nature, lively intelligence, excellent nose. It is devoted to its master, and that is a characteristic of racial purity since many of our spaniels have had excessive infusions of English blood and have lost that fundamental character trait. That is why the Picardy breed club has always proscribed infusions of English blood, so most of the crosses done in the Picardy where with French spaniels.

Statistics for the numbers of dogs shown in exhibitions, faithfully submitted by M. Flandre, give us some idea of ​​the evolution of the Picardy.


The first appearance was in 1899 at an exhibition in Amiens, where there are 6 dogs, all of them males were shown. In 1903, at Montdidier, eight; In 1904, at the Paris exhibition, 6 picardies among 13 spaniels, and two M. Raltel subjects made the first and second prizes in C. 0. In 1906, Mr. Amiens harbored 15 spaniels from Picardy and Paris, the following year, 7. From there, we jump to 1908, who lives 4 subjects at Dieppe and 1909, who lives 5 subjects in Paris. In 1910, it was, in a way, the apogee of the race: Paris had only 1 subjects, but all of quality, because two Champions came out; Amiens received 17 subjects with class opening of youth, field-trialers and Champion; Other Picards, among them Champion Toin, pBy the inscriptions in the exhibitions, which have been faithfully pointed out by M. Flandre, we shall have some idea of ​​the evolution of the Picard spaniel.
He made his appearance in 1899 at the exhibition in Amiens, where there were 6 dogs, all of them males. In 1903, at Montdidier, eight dogs; In 1904, at the Paris exhibition, 6 picards on 13 spaniels, and two M. Raltel subjects made the first and second prize in C. 0. In 1906, 15 spaniels from Picardy Spaniels at Amiens and Paris, the following year, 7. 
 
From there, we jump to 1908, 4 dogs at Dieppe and 1909, 5 dogs in Paris. In 1910, it was, in a way, the breed's apogee : Paris had only 3 dogs, but all of high quality, two Champions were made; Amiens, 17 dogs classes for youth, field-trialers and Champion; Other Picardies, among them Champion Tom, appeared at Bordeaux and Niort, who attended the first prizes and C. A. C.
1911 had eight entries in Paris; 1912, 6 in Paris and 11 in Amiens; 1913, 3 in Rouen and 4 in Paris; 1919, 4 in Paris and 2 in Rouen. 

1920 marked an event. : 25 dogs were presented at Amiens, all dogs of high class, of which a lot of 10 dogs owned by M. Flandre, obtained the prize of honor of the President of the Republic, against a superb lot of Irish setters; Five very good dogs, including a male with C. A. C., were also in Rouen that same year. 

1921 saw the first special exhibition of the club, which brought together at Amiens 27 dog including a class of first-rate females: 3 subjects in Lille; 5 in Paris and 2 in Rouen, that same year.
1922 had 26 dogs at Amiens; 13 in Paris, 1 in Brussels, the famous Sapphire, 11 in Arras. 

1923 had 28 dogs at Amiens, including Saphir and Diane; 9 in Saint-Quentin, 9 in Boulogne, 2 in Rouen; 1921, 23 in Amiens; 1925, 11 in Arras: 192G, 4 in Reims, 5 in Paris and 10 in Amiens; 1927, 12 in Amiens, 3 in Paris. 1 in Béthune; 1929, 18 in Amiens. This is one of the club's last special exhibitions. 

1930 saw 10 engagements at Grandvilliers, 6 at Amiens, 2 at VilIe-d'Eu. 1 in Paris; 1931, 2 in Aumale, 10 in Beauvais, 6 in Amiens and 1932, 1 in Poix, 1 in Senlis, 5 in Amiens and 3 in Dieppe.

Since then, numbers have continued to decline year after year, but the quality has remained good. Although this survey does not pretend to be thoroughly complete, it nevertheless gives an exact idea of ​​the fluctuations of the Picard spaniel, and there seems to be at present a noticeable decrease in the breeding of this breed . With regard to field trials, we do not have the records. The most brilliant period was also that of 1902, 1903 and 1901, when the famous Champion Tom, to M. Ralttel, was presented by Cotterousse, notably at Nantes and at Sully-sur-Loire.


Beside him, Bellotte, Pyrrhus of Picardy, and others, made mention of them at the time. They would then compete with all the spaniels and sometimes even with the English dogs and yet managed to rank honorably.

BREED STANDARD
In terms of conformation, here are the points which were fixed in 1908 by MM. Flanders, Yves, Parel, Mégnin and some other supporters of the Picardy spaniel, under the presidency of M. de Coninck:

Nose - Qualities: Brown, medium, fairly round. Faults: Black, sharp, tight or double nose.
Lips - Qualities: Average thickness, somewhat lowered, not too pendent. Faults: too thick and too high.
Muzzle - Qualities: long, fairly broad, diminishing from the attachment of the head to the muzzle and very slight prominence in the middle. Faults: too short, too abrupt, head pear shaped or too thin.
Skull - Qualities: Round and broad, flat sides, oblique and not at right angles. Faults: square or too straight, narrow and short.
Eyes - Qualities: dark amber color, very open, frank and very expressive. Faults: Too light, wicked look, too sunken or or slanted.
Ears Qualities: well feathered, nicely framing the head. Beautiful wavy hairs. Faults: narrow, short, attached too high, too curly or lacking feathering.
Neck. - Qualities: well attached, well muscled. Faults: too long, too small or too short
Shoulders b- Qualities: fairly long, fairly muscular. Faults: Short, too straight, too oblique or too wide.
Limbs - Qualities: well muscled. Faults: too fine.
Chest - Qualities: deep, fairly broad, straight down to the elbow. Faults: too narrow not well down
Back - Qualities: medium length, slight depression after the withers, hips slightly lower than the withers. Faults: too long and roached.
Loin - Qualities: straight, not too long, broad and thick. Faults: too long, too narrow and weak.
Hips - Qualities: Prominent, arriving in the middle of the back and the loin. Faults: too low, too high or too narrow.
Croup - Qualities: very slightly oblique and rounded: the tail not attached too high. Faults: too oblique.
Flanks - Qualities: flat but deep, though fairly high. Faults: round, too high, too low.
Tail - Qualities: forming two slight curves, convex and concave, not too long, adorned with beautiful feathering. Faults: sabre too long or curly, attached too high or too low.
Front legs -. Qualities: straight, well muscled, elbows well let down, decorated with feathering. Faults: without feathering, fine, elbows in or out.
Back legs - Qualities: straight thighs, well let down, broad, well muscled, well fringed to the hocks, straight stifles, hocks slightly bent. Faults: narrow thighs, no fringes, bent or tight hocks.
Feet - Qualities: round, wide, tight, with a little hair between the toes. Faults: straight or flat or too open.
Skin - Qualities: fairly fine and supple. Fault: too thick.
Hair - Qualities: thick and not very silky, fine on the head, slightly wavy on the body. Faults: fine, silky, curly or too short.
Coat - Qualities: gray speckled, with brown patches on the various parts of the body and at the root of the tail, most often marked with tan points on the head and feet. Faults: too brown or white spots, or black.
Overall Powerfully built dog, from 55 to 60 cm at the withers, strong and lithe limbs, soft, expressive countenance, head carriage: lively and strong, strong well-developed front.

This wonderful breed, which is becoming more and more rare in exhibitions and which is no longer seen in field trials, must not be left to disappear. Let us wish for a triumphant awakening, like that of his first cousin, the French spaniel. 

So how has the breed fared since 1933? 


Throughout the 40s, 50s, 60s and well into the 70s, the number of Picardy Spaniel pups born in France was very low. Only 9 Picardy pups were registered with the French Kennel club in 1970 for example. Fortunately, since the 80s, numbers have risen and the breed has found the support of hunters in other countries. The chart below shows that average number of Picardy pups registered annually over the last 45 years is about100 pups, a tenfold increase from 1970, but still dangerously low.  

Outside of France, stats are harder to come by, but my guess is that an additional 20 to 40 Picardy Spaniel pups are whelped in places like Germany, the Netherlands, the UK and Austria each year. So if the average life span of a Picardy is 9 years and there are say, 125 pups whelped per year, that means the entire world-wide population of Picardy Spaniels is only about 1000 individuals right now.

The numbers are better than they were in1933, but in a way, we are still waiting for the "triumphant awakening" the author of the article called for 85 years ago. And to be fair, we are starting to see light at the end of the tunnel. It looks like the number of pups being produced in France and elsewhere in Europe is on the rise and a few more hunters in North America are now getting into the breed. But there is still a lot of work to do so that "This wonderful breed... not be left to disappear."


Enjoy my blog posts? Check out my book Pointing Dogs, Volume One: The Continentals