Trouble in Griff Land

(what would Korthals do?)

Yesterday, as I was working on the Griffon chapter in my never-ending book project I went looking for a few more details on the early life of Eduard Korthals. What I found instead was a pretty intense shit-storm swirling in French Griff-land.

It has always been an open secret in dog circles that crosses to English Setters, GSP's, GWP's and Pointers have occurred in some Griffon lines in France for decades. I've alluded to it before in various forums, offering only the information I had been given "off the record" and what I had seen in the field with my own (non-expert) eyes. And I've known for a long time that an internal squabble over the issue of cross breeding had been brewing within the parent club for the breed in France. In fact, there had been warnings about excessive cross breeding coming from some sources as early as the 1990's.

Now let's remember that cross breeding is nothing new in France. Breeders of all kinds of dogs over there are quite "creative" and the French kennel club system actually has a mechanism in place for cross breeding under certain special circumstances. So I am fairly confident in saying that pretty well every breed of pointing dog in France has had at least a shot or two of English or German blood sneak its way in at some point in the last 130 years. And the French are not overly puritanical about it either. Like everyone else, they know how to play the "pure-bred" game and they stick to the official party line in public. But in private they are among the few who will admit that there is some "wiggle room" and that a dash of this or a dash of that from time to time is not such a bad thing. And to be honest, I find their attitude refreshing in a way. At least they admit that no breed is as pure as the driven snow and they certainly don't have a hair trigger aimed at any heretic that even thinks about cross breeding.

But it seems that what was going on in French Griff-land had finally gone too far, even for the French. The battle is now out in the open and it looks like the gloves are off. The biggest, best-known breeder of Korthals Griffons in the country is being accused of crossing to "foreign breeds" (mainly English Setters) and of even faking HD reports on some of his pups. It's as if Bob Whele (r.i.p) were being accused of breeding GSP's into his line and paying off a vet to rubber stamp their hip x-rays!

The people making the accusations point to strange colored griffs popping up with black, white and tri-coloured coats ranging from wiry to long to slick. They claim that some field trial Griffs are now just as fast as Pointers, that they run to the horizon and point laying down; they "set" (I've actually seen this myself). And they claim that most of the dogs seem to trace back to two or three lines, mainly the biggest one in France, a breeder with more field trial wins and show titles than almost all others combined.

Now, let me just say that I have no dog in this fight. I've met some fantastic Griff people in France, Quebec and in the US. I really admire the breed and am very impressed with the progress it has made. But I am an interested bystander and I believe that politically, this may be a real brouhaha. But on a practical level, I am actually optimistic that the breed will benefit in the end. The French seem to have a worldly, pragmatic view about these sorts of things. They are certainly much less evangelical about it than some of the more zealous purists in the US and UK where a similar situation would end up with torch carrying mobs hurling accusations of witchcraft. No, in France there will be lots of political/personal mud slinging, but in the end once the issues have been thrown around the Octagon for a while, dedicated Griffon folks will work together to put the breed back on a more or less straight and narrow path and continue to breed some really, really good dogs.

Anyway, I'm making popcorn and sitting back to see how it all turns out. It should be interesting. If you want to try to follow along, here is the site that is the center of the movement to bring all the shady dealings to light It's in French, but remember, Google is your friend. Just click the "translate this site" option in language tools.

Bonne lecture!


  1. Doesn't France have an Open Registry system?

  2. The French Kennel Club (SCC) and Studbook (LOF) offer something called a "Titre Initial", a sort of official pedigree status that can be given to dogs whose parents are unknown.

    It works differently for breeds with closed studbooks than for those with open studbooks. And that is another aspect of the French system. Breed clubs can ask for, and be granted, an opening of the studbook for purposes of bringing in new blood.

    In any case, the system in not wide open for anyone to breed anything to anything. There are strict regulations in place to moderate any cross breeding, but also a fairly straight forward way to go about it..if it is deemed necessary. The real issue with the Griffon as I understand it is that it does not seem necessary to cross breed for any genetic health reason or because of a very small population etc. It seems that a few breeders have taken things into their own hands and have gone outside the systems regulations to breed to setters and gsp's only so they can win in high-stakes trials.

    And that may be the real crux of the problem.

  3. Craig: the same is also true for vizslas, at least in the US, that certain kennels are rumored to have used some pointer blood a couple of decades ago to create a vizsla that could potentially compete with the pointers and setters for endurance and speed in trials. For some this is heresy -- although as you have commented on your blog before, the reason that 'vizslas' survived both World Wars and remain fairly free from some of the genetic disorders that plague other closely line-bred breeds is from out-crossing.