Breed of the Week: The Turkish Pointer
Until very recently the Turkish Pointer, a.k.a. the Tarsus Catalburun, was a completely unknown to hunters outside of Turkey. Today, most people still know nothing about it, even in its homeland.
Tarsus is a 2,000-year-old city in south central Turkey. In ancient times it was the capital of the province of Cilicia and was the scene of Mark Antony and Cleopatra’s romance as well as the birthplace of Saint Paul. Today the city is a popular tourist destination and an important industrial center.
It is known that pointing dogs have been in the region since at least the 1930s, but no one knows exactly how or when they arrived. Some believe that the Turkish Pointer may be an indigenous breed of pointing dog that has been around for centuries. It may have developed in the region long ago and then made its way to western Europe, either while much of Spain was under Arab control in the 8th to 11th century, or when European Crusaders returned from the Middle East in the 12th century. If so, then the Turkish Pointer would be the great-grandfather of all the pointing breeds in the world today.
A Turkish origin for all pointing dogs is an intriguing idea, but it is not supported by the available evidence. No one disputes the fact that certain types of dogs were introduced to western Europe from the Middle East and North Africa. But there is no reason to believe that any of them were pointing dogs, and many reasons to believe that they were not. As we’ve seen in the historical overview in the Introduction, pointing dogs have never been a part of Middle Eastern or Asian hunting traditions. Even today hunters still practising traditional Oriental hunting methods do not employ pointing dogs of any kind. It is also quite telling that there are no illustrations, photos or written references to pointing dogs in the Tarsus area before the 1930s.
So it is far more probable that the Turkish Pointer is in fact a sort of landrace that developed in the Tarsus region out of a nucleus of European dogs imported in the 19th century. The Turkish Pointer has a classic shape and hunting style that harkens back to a bygone age and, like the Pachón Navarro, it has a “double nose”. In fact, its name in Turkish, Catalburun, is derived from this trait; catal (pronounced chatal) means “fork” and burun means “nose”.
In terms of hunting style and ability, the Turkish Pointer works in much the same way as the Pachón Navarro. It is mainly used to hunt partridges and rabbits and, despite a rather thick build, it is said to be quite agile. Umit Dinçer, who wrote an excellent book on the breed, told me that:
They generally hunt at a trot but will occasionally gallop, depending on the cover they are working. Since the breed is most often used in very bushy terrain or areas of thick grass, it is a very close worker, typically staying within 25 to 30 meters from the hunter. They tend to be good pointers and they are natural retrievers with a soft mouth, as well. There is no specific effort to select for tracking but the more the dogs practise, the better they get. These dogs track, stalk, find and retrieve game. Giving voice is common and desired. The Turkish Pointer is mostly an upland dog but if they are trained, they may be successful at swimming, too. The breed was originally found in the Tarsus area, but nowadays you can see a few in other regions of the country. People who have them are basically hunters. The Turkish police force is interested in using the breed as narcotic detectives as well. But numbers are decreasing because it is not under the protection of any official club. It must be protected and officially known.
Recently, the municipality of Tarsus has applied to the Turkish Patent Institution to register it as a breed. Due to the limited gene pool, all current Turkish Pointers are heavily inbred, but so far no known hereditary health issues have been reported. Recently a few websites and blogs about the breed have popped up online and there is an interesting video (in Turkish) about the Tarsus Catalburun on Vimeo: