Breed History:

Prior to the 1800's, European hunters maintained a large collection of dogs - pointers to locate the game; setters and retrievers to retrieve it; hounds to trail quarry over long distances. Of course, the typical hunter of the period could afford that many dogs, for the sport was reserved for those wealthy enough to own the land on which to hunt. A large kennel of dogs was simply another accouterment of the landed upper class.

Beginning in the 19th century, the European hunting scene changed. The dawn of the industrial age, coupled with the prevalence of the sporting gun, created a new breed of middle-class huntsman. Because this hunter could not afford a large kennel of dogs, he required a single dog who could find every kind of game, from bird to hare to boar, point them and hold them, be steady to the shot, and be a sure retriever from land or water. Furthermore, this new hunter wanted a dog who would serve as a companion and guardian of the home, as well as one whose good looks would make his hunting buddies jealous.

From this long list of requirements, German breeders set out to create the perfect all-purpose hunting dog, eventually leading to the development of the German Shorthaired Pointer. The breed is only one example of this movement. In Germany alone, several breeds were developed for similar purposes, including the German Wirehaired Pointer, the German Longhaired Pointer and the Weimeraner. In France the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon and the Brittany were bred for similar motives, as was the Vizsla in Hungary.

Form Follows Function

The most ancient ancestor of the German Shorthaired Pointer, as well as all other pointers in Europe, was the old Spanish pointer, a liver-and-white dog with a natural instinct to hesitate before springing toward game. Its offspring were crossed with the St. Hubert Hound, a breed with cold-trailing ability originally brought west by returning crusaders. In Germany, these scent hounds were known as Schweisshunde (schweiss meaning scent in German; hunde meaning dog), and were of diverse types throughout the region.

Crossing these early pointer and hound types produced interesting, if not completely satisfactory, results. As the German Shorthaired Pointer developed, breeders realized they must take steps to improve stance, style, and above all, nose. To achieve this, fine pointers were brought from England and introduced into the stock to lend elegance to the manner of working, with the aristocratic, high nose being the major aim.

By the mid-1800's, breeding efforts of the Deutsch Kurzhaar, literally German shorthair, began in earnest and some widely divergent breed types had appeared. By 1872 breeders were able to produce litters sufficiently to type to enable them to be registered in the German Kennel Club stud book.

Still there was a wide deal of variation in the early dogs. First efforts produced some undesirable, often awkward dogs with heavy bodies and stumpy legs. Subsequently some breeders became obsessed with appearances, chasing ideal head and ear shapes. Others were directed by an early patron, Prince Albrecht zu Solms-Brauenfels, of the Royal House of Hanover, who advocated that form should follow function. He sternly cautioned breeders to use only the dogs who performed best in the field and not to worry about appearances in those early stages. Time proved the prince's direction correct. Form did follow function, and as the German Shorthaired Pointer slowly developed into the breed we know today, it earned a reputation as an outstanding hunter, capable of all tasks of the field.

Thornton's Discovery

The idea of a no-frills, all-purpose gundog appealed to Dr. Charles R. Thornton of Missoula, Montana. An avid hunter, Thornton held fast to his father's teachings, reminiscent of Prince Albrecht's - a dog is worth keeping for what it can do, not how it looks. In 1925 he happened upon a magazine article describing a unique breed of German gundog and became wildly excited. Here, the article claimed, was a dog that did it all: pointing, flushing, retrieving and tracking. According to legend, Thornton, upon finishing the article, remarked to his wife that "if these dogs could be bought for anything reasonably less than the earth, he was going to import himself a few."

Several months later, Senta v Hohenbruck, Thornton's first German Shorthaired Pointer, arrived in Missoula in whelp. On July 4th, 1925, the bitch gave birth to seven puppies, the first litter of German Shorthaired Pointer puppies known to have been born in America.

Word of this all-purpose gundog spread among American sportsmen, and the breed quickly gained a foothold on this side of the Atlantic. In 1930, Greif vd Fliegerhalde became the first German Shorthaired Pointer registered by the American Kennel Club (AKC). In 1938 the German Shorthaired Pointer Club of America was formed, and a breed standard was adopted in 1946.

The German Shorthaired Pointer is the most popular of the all-purpose European gun dogs developed in the 19th century, at least in the United States. It was 24th in AKC registrations in both 1998 and 1997. 

The SUD - Sport Utility Dog

Clearly those German hunters and breeders of the 19th century were ahead of the curve. Today the multi-talented German Shorthaired Pointer is a perfect dog for our sport-utility, all-purpose, one-size-fits-all crazed world. Incorporating the best qualities of pointers, retrievers and hounds, it truly is a dog that does it all. And while the typical German Shorthaired Pointer may no longer spend its days roaming the fields and woods at its master's side, this handsome, athletic dog does make an affable and boisterous family companion, perfect for all your canine needs. The Name Game

Dr. Thornton was involved in more than just importing and breeding the German Shorthaired Pointer in those early years. He was also active in the breed's promotion and publicity, with a major source of concern involving the name by which his beloved dogs would be known.

As Thornton knew full well, the name pointer was not fully accurate for the breed. Famed English sporting dog authority Frank Warner Hill addressed the same issue in the June 8, 1962, issue of Dog World magazine. "You cannot call a dog a pointer when this is only a third of the work, the other two-thirds being hunting and retrieving both in and out of cover," Hill wrote. Hill went on to argue that the dog should be given a name along the same lines as those given the Vizsla and the Weimaraner.

The Germans faced this same problem and addressed it by changing the name from the Deutsche kurzhaarige vorstehund - literally German Shorthaired Pointer - to the more succinct Deutsch Kurzhaar - German shorthair. Thornton objected to a similar name change in America, fearing that the shorter name could indicate any short haired German dog.

In 1938 the breed's parent club applied to the AKC under the name The German Shorthaired Pointer and Retriever Club of America Inc. The AKC rejected the name, arguing that the dog had to be either a pointer or a retriever, it could not be both. Although club organizers knew the truth - that the dog truly was both a pointer and a retriever - they wisely saw little value in arguing the point with the AKC. Thus, for better or for worse, the club reapplied, and was consequently accepted, as the German Shorthaired Pointer Club of America Inc.

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