Breed of the Week: The Stabyhoun

Friesland is a northern province of the Netherlands. Several breeds of domestic animals were developed there including the Friesian cow, the Friesian horse and two breeds of gundogs, the Wetterhoun—a type of water dog—and the Frisian Pointing Dog, better known as the Stabyhoun.

The Stabyhoun is another local variant of the widely-distributed longhaired pointing dogs found throughout much of northwestern Europe. It is probably related to other pointing breeds from nearby regions, such as the Drentsche Patrijshond and the Small Munsterlander, but was often crossed with the Wetterhoun, a retrieving breed developed in the same area. When foreign hunting breeds were introduced to Friesland from Germany, France and the UK around the turn of the 20th century, the Stabyhoun was more or less abandoned by hunters. 

But the breed managed to hang on as a mole catcher. Moles were, and still are, considered a pest in the region, so catching them was helpful to farmers. Around the turn of the 20th century, a market was created for the mole’s velvet-like pelts which were used to make coats and other articles of clothing. Due to their small size, Stabyhouns were carried in the baskets of bicycles, and since they had a keen sense of smell and were eager hunters, their owners would take them from farm to farm to earn extra income catching moles.

In 1942 the Stabyhoun and Wetterhoun were recognized by the Dutch Kennel Club and a breed club, the Nederlandse Vereniging voor Stabijen Wetterhoun (Dutch Stabyhoun and Wetterhoun Association) was formed in 1947. Today the Stabyhoun is still fairly rare in the Netherlands, but its population is said to be increasing. There are also breeders in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, the US and Canada. A few owners do participate in retrieving type tests sanctioned by the breed club in the Netherlands, and I have heard reports of a hunter or two in Norway and Sweden who may use their Stabyhouns as pointers. But most agree that the FCI’s Group 7 may not be a perfect fit for the breed. 

Hanneke Dijkman, the secretary of the hunting and working committee of the Stabyhoun and Wetterhoun club in the Netherlands, explained that most Stabyhouns are simply pets.
It’s correct there are only a few people who hunt with a Staby or do hunting tests. I’m one of them. The people who do hunt with them are pleased with the dog’s performance, but they are mainly used for retrieving work. The main reason the Staby is not used for hunting is because a lot of people and breeders see it as a family dog; a nice dog to lay on the couch. People are not willing anymore to spend a lot of time to train a dog. Field trials require a lot of training and time, and everybody is too busy today.
I have only seen about a half dozen Stabyhouns, most of them in the Netherlands. They were all great-looking, lively dogs, much loved by their owners. But they were pets, and none were used for any form of hunting.

We did manage to set up a photo session with a Stabyhoun near the town of Poortugaal and it was a lot of fun. The dog, a handsome young male, greeted us with a wagging tail and an eager look in its eye. Our friends who had arranged the meeting brought a few pigeons to see if we could get the dog to point.
The dog’s owner is not a hunter, but she was eager to see if her dog was interested in the birds. And he was. In fact, he was very interested. But despite our best efforts, he did not point them and seemed just like any other high-energy dog blowing off steam in the field. I got some great shots of the dog and was very happy to see a Staby in the field. But what I saw only reinforced the idea that the FCI’s pointing dog group may not really be the best place for the breed. It might be better off in Group 8 for retrieving, flushing and water dogs.

Even so, it is clear that, for all intents and purposes, the Stabyhoun is no longer a hunting breed. Its small size, once prized by mole catchers, is a now seen as an asset for families with small children, or people living in smaller houses or apartments. Its lively, friendly temperament makes it a great companion, and its athletic build and eager-to-please attitude makes it a good candidate for activities such as flyball and agility.

UPDATE: I recently came across an article about a Stabyhoun participating in a trial for pointing dogs in Sweden. So it looks like there are at least one or two people out there that are using their dogs for hunting-related activities. You can read the article here.

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


  1. Thanks, for making our beautiful Dutch breed pointing dog of the week.
    Unfortunately not many people use them for hunting, I think because there are not so many opportunities left in Holland to hunt. Most of the ‘working’ Stabij’s are used as all-round hunting dogs. But the good thing is that in some countries outside Holland they have discovered the working skills of the Stabij.

    I would like to attach some picture of pointing Stabij’s but I is not possible.

    Greetings Klaas Zonnebeld Stabijhounkennel fan it Heidehiem

  2. Feel free to send photos to me at dogwillingpublications@gmail.com or via my website www.dogwilling.ca I will be happy to post them here.

  3. Hello,
    Since you seem to be one of the people who have nowadays most deeply studied different pointing dog breeds, I would like to ask you a question that I haven't been able to find an answer by myself.

    So here's a section from the Dogs of all Nations:

    The problem is, I couldn't find any more information about this breed. I've tried to search by different words, such as Schweizer Wactelhund, Schweizer Vorstehhund, épagneul francais and French Spaniel, but I don't get any other sources than this one (especially I don't get any source in German or French although this is supposed to be a Swiss breed...). So I would like to know if the photo in the book and the breed described by the author is just a Stabyhoun and the author might just have made mistake by thinking it as a Swiss breed?

    Btw I think your book sounds very interesting, but I'm especially interested of one of the other volumes of it (the ones about extinct breeds and épagneul Larzac). I myself have been thinking much about writing a book serie of spitzes and primitive dogs, dividing its volumes by the continents of origins, but I will see if I will ever get a chance to really do it.

    1. Marjolein RoosendaalMonday, May 26, 2014

      I don't think your link shows a Stabyhoun. It has definitely a spaniel head and a stabyhoun has a different head. I would rather think of a French breed, it looks more like epagneul saint usuge or a breed like that.

  4. In my book I also describe the Swiss Setter (in the extinct breed section), but my source of information on the breed was also Mason's Dogs of All Nations. Beyond that, I did not really find much. My best guess is that it was not much more than a local variety of 'epagneul', probably related to the épagneul Francais and/or the Deutsch Langhaar or Small Munsterlanders (both called "epagneuls" in France). Perhaps an individual breeder or small group of breeders tried to get it established as a true breed, but for whatever reason, the project never really got off the ground.

    Mason, and other English authors of the time often translated 'epagneul' as 'setter' calling, for example, the Epagneul Francais a "French Setter". So, in all likelyhood, it was not called a Swiss Setter in Switzerland but probably something like épagneul Suisse (if the breeders where in the French speaking part of the country) or Schweizer Wactelhund or Schweizer Huhnehund or some such thing is they were in the German speaking part of the country

  5. In Norway several dogs are Bloodtrack champions and certified as tracking dogs for wounded deers.

  6. Certainly I wouldn't put them in the category of retrievers. I myself am a Staby-lover, and was fortunate enough to work with a young male who, in his puppy play stalked and pointed to the ball, before, eventually pouncing on it. This says a lot to me about the instinctual behaviour of the breed (in contrast to the learned behaviour evident in older dogs). Most Stabijs are not fond of water and swimming, and they certainly do not exhibit webbing on the toes that would indicate they were born swimmers. In fact, they are used all over the Northern Netherlands (where I live) as mole dogs. Farming families typically keep one and patrol their fields together, catching and killing the moles.

  7. I own a stabyhoun, and while he doesn't point, he's obviously meant for swimming, retrieving and flushing birds! He has webbing between his toes and loves to retrieve birds from water, or dummies with wings attached to them. I know many stabijs that love water. (The wetterhoun, by contrast, are said to dislike water! I wonder if that's true.) My dog behaves much like a spaniel in the woods, especially if I say the key word 'bird'. He will start searching actively (much faster than he usually moves when we are just having a walk), and I can see very clearly when he has caught the scent of a bird. He will then proceed to flush the bird out and into the air. Now I only need to train him to stop after that, giving me the opportunity to shoot the bird.

    He is also interested in moles when he sees them but has never caught one, it's too easy for them to hide in the woods. He also likes blood tracking, so any activity where he can use his sense of smell is probably great for this breed.

    I wonder if stabijs have ever had the pointing ability or whether it has simply withered out and been lost from the breed. I still think this dog breed would be the happiest if you can take them hunting or offer something similar, where they can use their nose. Nothing will light up his eyes like the scent of a bird.

  8. Interesting!
    My stabyhound called Urho(http://intranet.saksanseisojakerho.fi/jalkelaiset.php?rekisteri=FI10377/11 Ohped Dal Vikkelä Rantaräkätti) is working hard To dig moles out of Our Garden. Last autumn I Went to Hunt Forest grouse With Him ang he was Very Keen on that, nyt I Would consider it hard work To Train Him To Be a pointer. He Works in the Forest Like spaniels. He is Also Very Keen on working in water -we have been training on retrieving in water, which he seems To love. I Look Forward on Hunting Ducks With Him This autumn!
    Petri from Finland

  9. I'm not longer the secretary of the hunting and working committee of the Dutch Stabyhoun and Wetterhoun club, NVSW.

    Hanneke Dijkman

  10. At this moment (November 2014) 7 Stabij’s have made a official price on FCI field-trials. Me and my wife are proud owner of two of them: Djura Baike fan it Heidehiem and Famke Lobke fan it Heidehiem.

    Gr Klaas Zonnebeld