Point! ....Now what?

So there you are, just you and your dog. 
You are in a perfect field, on a perfect day, 
hunting partridge. 

Suddenly your dog slams on point.
Your heart beat quickens.  You make your way to him. 
When you finally get there, 

what do you do?

Hunters from all over the world love watching dogs search for game. And while they may have different views on just how far or how fast a dog should run, they all agree that a pointing dog's job before the shot is to hunt, find and point hidden game. And what a hunters want a dog to do after the shot also varies. Some want their dogs to retrieve the game, others do not.

However, there is a wide variety of expectations to how a dog should behave after a point is established and until the game is flushed.

So there you are, your dog is on point, you've managed to make your way to the dog and are ready to shoot. So what does the dog do now?

If you are in North America, the answer is 'nothing'. North American hunting traditions and field trials rules generally demand that once the dog is on point, it should remain as still as a statue as the hunter or handler moves in front to flush the game. Here is a video clip showing this method as used in the hunting field:

And here is how it is done (in training) from horseback:

And here it is in a field trial:

Note that in all three situations, the dog finds game, points it and then remains on point as the hunter or handler flushes the bird. To North American hunters, this is the 'normal' way to hunt with a pointing dog. Some hunters may, on occasion, get their dog to flush birds out of tight cover (I do), but in most field trial and test formats, if a dog moves after establishing a point it is usually seen as a cardinal sin. 

So what about other parts of the world were pointing dogs are used to find and point game? What does the dog do after it establishes a point?

If you are in the UK, the answer is: the dog flushes the birds on command.

In the UK, once the hunter is in position the dog that is expected to flush the game, on command. At about the 1m 15 second mark of this clip there is a good example of that method (seems to be during a training session on wild birds). The dog is on point, then given the command to flush. He then charges in, the birds fly up and the dog sits to the flush. 

On the continent, there is yet another way. For French, Italian, Spanish and hunters from some other countries what happens after the point is that BOTH the hunter and the dog move forward to flush the game together. In French, this is called a "coulé", in Italian it is 'guidata' and in Spanish 'guia'.

In 1570 John Caius wrote the following lines in De Canibus Britannicis.
Another sort of Dogges be there, serviceable for fowling...when he hath founde the byrde, he.. layeth his belly to the grounde and so creepeth forward like a worme.  This kinde of dogge is called Index, Setter, being in deede a name most consonant and agreable to his quality.
Watch the dogs in these videos. You will see that in some countries, the setting style of their dogs hasn't changed much in nearly 500 years!

In this spectacular video of setters hunting in the mountains of Italy you see the 'coulé' several times. If you watch only one video today, make it this one!

What I learned in Idaho

Recently, I had the honour of speaking at the 2014 Wirehaired Pointing Griffon Club of America judges' seminar in Jerome, Idaho. I knew that the WPGCA folks are a dedicated group hunters and breeders, so I figured meeting them and seeing their dogs in the field would be a real treat. But I had never been to Idaho, so I had no idea what it would be like out there. Well, long story short, I was right about the WPGCA folks and their dogs; fantastic people, great dogs! But what about Idaho? Well, here are a few of the things I found out while I was there.

There is a great big, CRAZY sky in Idaho

The land is gnarly, but beautiful

And so are the plants

The WPGCA folks love their dogs

And their dogs love them

The WPGCA is like a big family 

Where even the youngest members are crazy about dogs

And the oldest dogs can feel the love

The dogs LOVE to hunt!

And point

And swim

And track

And fetch

And chill out with their people

The test is run in a beautiful valley in Idaho

And the judges are so focused on judging, they have little time to take it all in

But at the end of the day, I think they all know how lucky they are to be able to spend some time...

With good dogs

And good people

Under a crazy Idaho sky

To see more of the photos I took while in Idaho, click HERE

You say Tomato..

The pronunciation of the word “braque” as in Braque Français, Braque du Bourbonnais and "bracco" as in Bracco Italiano etc, is fairly straightforward, or at least so I thought.

Lisa and I speak French at home, and the majority of our research into the various Braque breeds for Pointing Dogs Volume One was done in France, Québec and Italy, mainly in French, but also in Italian. So we had never heard anyone pronounce “braque” or "bracco" to rhyme with anything other than “rack” or "racko' Here is a native French speaker saying "braque" and here is a native Italian speaker saying "bracco".  So it came as a bit of a surprise when I began to interview breeders and owners of braques in the US and heard them call their dogs “brocks” and "brockos" (rhymes with “rock” or "rocko"). 

So in my book, when it came to describing the various braque breeds, I thought it would be easy to clarify. I would just write that “braque” rhymes with “rack” and bracco rhymes with “jacko” since, to my Canadian ear, the words “rack”, “jack” and “braque” all rhyme. However, when I asked an American friend about it, he told me that, to a his ear, the correct pronunciation of “braque” does not quite rhyme with “rack”. To him, it has a slightly longer “a” sound, something like “brahk”. He speculated that the reason it rhymed with “rack” to me was because I speak English with a Canadian accent. 

In any case, we both agreed that “braque” should not really be pronounced “brock”. It rhymes, more or less, with “track” with maybe a slightly longer “a” sound for American ears. But then again, as the song goes:

You say eether and I say eyether,
You say neether and I say nyther;
Eether, eyether, neether, nyther,
Let's call the whole thing off!

You like potato and I like potahto,
You like tomato and I like tomahto;
Potato, potahto, tomato, tomahto!
Let's call the whole thing off!

When it comes to the origin and meaning of the word braque, as they say on Facebook: “It’s complicated.” The short version is that it means “pointing dog”. The long version can be found in Les Chiens d’Arrêt, where Jean Castaing devotes six entire pages to tracing the word back almost to the time of the pyramids. I’ll choose the middle ground and offer the following explanation: 

Braque is an old word whose origin cannot be determined beyond the shadow of a doubt. It may come from the Old High German word brakko meaning “dog”, or from the French verb braquer meaning “to bend” or “turn in the direction of”—suggesting aiming or pointing at something. Whatever its origin, the word has been associated with hunting dogs for centuries. The French use braque and the Italians bracco for any breed of short-haired pointing dog. When the Pointer was first brought from England to the continent, it was listed in show catalogues in France as the 'Braque Anglais'. 

In Spanish, the word is braco and is used for pointing dogs as well, but the terms perro de punta (pointing dog) and perro de muestra (literally “a dog that indicates or shows”) are more commonly used. In Germany the word is bracke, but it is not used for pointing dogs. Rather, it is used for scenthounds such as the Deutsche Bracke, Tiroler Bracke and Westfälische Dachsbracke. “Pointing dogs” in German is vorstehhunde.

In my next post I will try to tackle the word "épagneul". Wish me luck!!

BOOK REVIEW: Red Grouse Over Pointing Dogs, A Photographic Exploration

I love books. A lot.  In fact, calling me a 'bibliophile' probably isn't enough. I think I am a full-blown biblio-maniac! So in addition to writing (and writing about) my own books, I thought I should start writing about the books of others and start posting some reviews. And I'd like to start with a book that I haven't put down since it arrived in the mail last week.

Red Grouse Over Pointing Dogs, A Photographic Exploration, is an absolutely magnificent book. It is an exquisite collection of photographs featuring pointing dogs, hunters and red grouse on the moors of Scotland and Northern England. Edited by Santiago Hererro, who also contributes many of the photos, the nearly 200 page book is big, heavy, beautifully bound and skillfully printed.

The book is comprehensive and well organized, leading the viewer from one visual treat to another. Photo captions are kept to a minimum. They provide a few details about each photo and occasionally a bit of background information, but remain tastefully unobtrusive. The first section presents the beautifully haunting look of the moors. And, thankfully, instead of the super-saturated, over-manipulated look currently trendy in landscape photography, Hererro opts for images that present a more subtle, nuanced look. He sometimes juxtaposes two photos taken at different times of the same landscape to reveal the ever-shifting light and mood unique to the heather moorland

The next section features photographs of red grouse in their native environment. Contributing photographer Roy Rimmer's images in particular are absolutely mesmerizing and reveal just how beautiful a bird Lagopus lagopus scotica really is.  Herrero's stylish Brittany Valick, -- who also 'wrote' the book's introduction -- is the star of "The Dogs" and "The Point" sections containing fantastic photos of various breeds hunting on the moors including German Shorthaired and Wirehaired Pointers, a Large Munsterlanders, Weimaraners, a Spinone, Vizslas and even a Labrador. "The Shot" section consists of some rather amazing images capturing the moment of a shot being fired or of a bird being hit, sometimes both. "The Retrieve" features photos of dogs fetching game and the book concludes with some exquisitely moody shots in a sections entitled "The Mist". 

This is a thoughtful book that is worth keeping at hand for those times when one feels a need for an
 ...unforgettable journey to the heather moorlands of Scotland and Northern England, home to the sublime red grouse, where perhaps the most spectacular bird shooting over pointing dogs in the world takes place. 
It's a big, heavy volume, worth every penny of its purchase price. It is... 
A book to turn to every time you are longing for the immensity of the moors and the whistling wind in your  ears.

You can purchase Red Grouse Over Pointing Dogs, A Photographic Exploration, on Amazon, at Coch-y-Bonddu Books or through Abe Books.

Happy Reading!

Update on the Stabyhoun

In an earlier Breed of the Week post, I wrote the following about a breed called the Stabyhoun: 
I am happy to say that I now stand corrected. There are still at least one or two kennels doing their best to produce Staby's for the field. The owner of one of them,  Klass Zonnebeld from Nijverdal in the Netherlands, sent me some very nice photos of Stabyhouns in the field to prove it. 

Here's a Staby showing off its good looks!

And ere's a Staby making a retrieve.

Klass and his wife Esther breed Staby's under the kennel name Fan it Heidehiem. They are among the very few folks in the world breeding Staby's for hunting. 
Several years and nests (litters) further, we can say that our kennel breeds healthy dogs with passion for hunting. We think beauty is less important than fine characters, although we do not want to lose the typical qualities that belong to our breed. We love the older Stabij type that is not too big and is able to hunt all day. The body needs to be athletic and in good proportions with good movements.
 A Fan it Heidehiem dog is first and foremost bred to have great working potential. We are not producing show dogs but a Stabij that has the health, temperament and movement to prove himself a worthy companion in the field. I enjoy seeing a dog is in his element – using his natural hunting instincts and willingness to do a good day’s work. These are the qualities I value highest in a dog. If a judge also likes the look of them then that is a bonus.
Klass and Esther offer some fascinating details on the history of the breed and how it was used to capture moles and polecats.
The Stabij was the dog for the poor man they called him Bijke and if the owner had a farm it was a farm dog, but if the owner was a hunter, it was a hunting dog. This is also why these poor people were breeding the dogs.  If they needed a stronger dog, they just find a combination with a bigger and stronger breed. But if they needed a special hunting dog,  the combination with a hunter-breed was made. The early 20th century were crisis years and everybody was poor.

In  Friesland they did a lot of mole catching and for this kind of hunting they needed a smaller dog so the Stabij was crossed with a smaller breed. In 1904 the Stabij was often sold for 15,- gulden which is about  €7,= but in 1918 a good mole catcher was worth a fortune - between f.50,- and f.100,- (€ 25,= – 50,= )  In those days, that was the main reason to breed these dogs. 
There were two ways to catch a mole. 
1) The Stabij tracked down a fresh mole-hill and stood still and waited for his boss. Together they waited until the mole started to dig.  The trick now was to wait and just before the mole was on the highest point,  put a shovel under the mole and lift it up.  The dog would then catch the mole and shake it until it died and then gave it to his boss. 
2)  The second method was when the Stabij caught the mole itself out of a tunnel by digging it out. But it could only get the young and small ones which are not worth much money. 
When  a farmer just wants to keep his land ´mole- free´,  the second option was ok. But when it was to catch a mole for the skin,  the first option was better. The mole was cut open and the skin was spread out on some wood and put to dry. When they were dry they could be sold for cloth etc. 
Today,  unfortunately the Stabij as a hunter is not used so much anymore, and other specialized dogs from outside Holland took this place. Maybe this is because the Stabij is to much of an all-rounder, he can do a little of everything. But still as a mole and a polecat-catcher he is still very valued.

For more information on the breed and more great photos of Stabyhouns, check out Klass and Esther's website: http://www.fanitheidehiem.nl/en/

Happy 14th Birthday Souris-Manon!!

Souris-Manon (Grau Geist's Let R Rip Du Souris) is 14 years young!! 

 So here's to:
14 years of growing up

14 years of chillaxing with her buddies

14 years of play

14 years of sunbeams

14 years of wear and tear

14 years of running

14 seasons of pointing sharptailed grouse

and woodcock

and ruffed grouse

and huns

and snipe

and pheasants

14 years of backing

and of being backed

14 years of victory rolls

14 seasons of fetching waterfowl

and upland birds

And above all,  
14 years of putting a smile on our faces

So here's to many more 

Happy Birthday Souris!