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:

Digitürk İZTV Çatalburun AV Köpekleri Belgeseli from Adana_DT on Vimeo.

Read more about the breed, and all the other pointing breeds from Continental Europe, in my book Pointing Dogs, Volume One: The Continentals


  1. Thoughtful breed review. As to comments on the breed as a pointer, they seem more like the GSP, Spanish Pointer. As a historical researcher I suspect the Turkish Pointer was carried to England, Europe by the Holy Wara in the 11th, 12th & 13th century which would answer one question asked in the article, but not the true origination of the Turkish Pointer. We know from Gaston Phebus book(1st illustrated hunting book)(14th century) that many of the hunting dogs strongly resemble the Turkish Pointer. Phebus loved dogs & owned 1,000 in his time. He was also a frequent falconer, but lamented that you couldn't hunt dogs with falcons. Something we know to not be true. Falconry & dog breeds originate from the middle east so it makes sense that the Turkish Pointer is older than pointing breeds (exception the Vizsla), but if that is true or that Europe England got their bloodstock from the Holy Wars, why didn't Phebus know you could hunt with falconry. That's how history works. Look under a rock for one answer, get to look for more questions needing answered.

  2. the modern Turkey which inherited the Ottoman empire colapse, was never a dog orriented place. When the Byzantine Konstantinople was conquered there are reports that the pure bred hunting dogs of the byzantine aristocracy lived as mongrels in the streets more or less like the pure breds of the french aristocracy after the French revolution. The dogs ate the remains of the beheaded corpses that were hanging and executed around the walls of Top Kapi. Many times the Sultans ordered that the dogs will be collected and send to a small island of Prinkiponisa to stay there and die of starvation.. The last time this happened was around 1910 and the French ambassador describes the cruelty of the decision. In ''Kynygetika'' by mr Oikonomidis writen 1888 in Smirni[ Izmir today] there are many references to dogs of european origin setters pointers braques etc and many nice lithogrpahs but none of the double nose dog. At these times all the west coast of Turkey[ Ionia] was populated be Greeks , they lived in very high standard and imported dogs from Europe as they had close relations and ship export harbours. The possibility is that catalburun belongs to a family of dogs that wete imported during last centtury somehow from Spain. There are no evidence of their existence before.Fortunately modern Turks hunters are more canine loving and they import pure breds from Europe to hunt.

  3. The turkish pointer is the father of the portuguese pointer and the grandfather of the english pointer. Back in the end of 1800's beginning of 1900's these portuguese pointers still had the double nose and they arrived in portugal hundreds of years before these dates. The portuguese hunters in order to claim a breed of their own selected the breed to develop a normal nose and a simple brown coat and keep it as their standard. All the other traits were untouched such as the soft mouth and the hunting style. The best indicator of this correlation between turkish pointer and the portuguese pointer is their heads and their round eyes. In both breeds there are some blood crosses that can be distinguished by the eyes and type of head.

  4. The english pointer was based on the portuguese pointer and was mixed with foxhound and greyhound to adapt to the british terrain. I have no knowledge of the pachon navarro origins, but im certain that it is based on the turkish pointer as well.
    It would be a shame to lose the turkish pointer duo to mix blood or lack of interest on the breed. I firmly believe that this dog is related with the practice of falconry and net hunting duo to the geographic location of turkey and the affluence of migratory birds such as the quail. It may be impossible to determine the origin and age of this breed.