The New Country Life Magazine
Walter A. Dyer
think that it was no longer ago than 1915, at the show of the Westminster
Kennel Club in New York, that I had my first sight of a wire-haired
pointing griffon. It was a new one to me, and I judged it was
a new one to the majority of the spectators at the show. Some
one informed me, with a great show of wisdom, that it was a cross
between a pointer, a setter, and an Airedale terrier, a statement
which even then I took with a grain of salt. Some one else
said that it was a sort of otterhound, and I myself noted the resemblance,
though I soon discovered marked differences. It was some
months before I got at the truth of the matter, for there were
then only a few persons in this country who really knew anything
about the breed, and it was not my fortune to come into contact
with them at the time.
is still spoken of as a new dog, though we have had specimens of the breed
in this country for ten or fifteen years. But its fame is spreading
rapidly, owing to the well directed efforts of its friends and admirers,
and I fancy it won't be considered a new dog much longer. The time
has come, I think, to spread a little correct information about a dog that
stands a good chance of taking its place alongside the pointer and the
setter as a tip-top sporting dog for America.
As a matter of
fact, the term "a new dog" was never more inappropriately applied. For
though it may be no disgrace to us that we have so long been ignorant of
it, the breed is as old as any of the gun dogs - perhaps older - and has
been used for centuries in France, Belgium, Germany, and other European
countries. And since it is our purpose to learn all that we can about
the breed, it will be worth while to glance at its history, which, it seems
to me, is in no way a dull one.
should hardly be necessary to remark that the breed is in no wise to be
confused with the Brussels griffon or the basset griffon. The term
griffon is a generic one that has been applied to a number of rough coated
dogs in France. Nor should it be confused with any of the French
hounds which in some respects it resembles.
word about these hounds will serve to keep the matter straight. There
are two varieties of the Vendéen hound, a rough and a smooth. The
latter is really a separate breed, being probably descended from the St.
Hubert bloodhound. The former, called the griffon de la Vendée, resembles
the English otterhound, though some what smaller. Similar, but usually
darker in color and longer in body, is the griffon Nivernais. Both
of these breeds have probably been crossed with the griffon de Bresse, producing
a hound so like our wire-haired pointing griffon as to lead to natural
main distinction to be kept in mind is that our griffon is not a hound
at all, but a pointing dog, more closely allied to the spaniel-setter family. Indeed,
it has sometimes been called the French spaniel, and many of its setter
characteristics are marked.
the history of the pointing griffon has been faithfully recorded by G.
F. Leliman in his book, "Le Griffon á Poil Dur," which has been
translated into English by Mr. Percival L. Rosseau, the judge and animal
painter, and by Dr. E. B. Ilyus, one of the foremost American importers
and breeders. The hound or coursing griffon was probably older than
the pointing griffon, but the latter family is as old and as useful as
the French pointer or bracque, and was perhaps the first of all gun
dogs. Doubtless it was used for various forms of sport before gun powder
came into use.
word griffon appears to have been first used toward the end of the sixteenth
century. It is cited by Henry IV of France in a letter to de Montmorency
in 1596. The breed is mentioned in a book by Charles d'Arcussia in
1598 in reference to partridge hunting, showing that the pointing griffon
was distinguished from the hounds at that time. J.E. de Selincourt,
in "Le Parfait Chasseur." In 1683 gives descriptive details of the
breed and refers to it as a gun dog (chien d'arquebuse) and pointer,
stating that it had its origin in Italy.
griffon was taken up by sportsmen and fanciers in a scientific manner about
the middle of the last century. About 1847 the Marquis de Clerville
established a strain in France that became famous. In Germany, about
1865, E. Bontant of Frankfort began breeding a strain of pointing griffons
known there as the dirty-bearded Hessian, and exhibited them in 1878 as
stichelhaariger (bristly-haired) Vostehunde.
family, in fact, has been well known for many years over a large part of
continental Europe where its useful qualities have long been well recognized,
several groups being developed in different sections which have varied
slightly under the influences of climate and diverse breeding. All
came originally from the same source and all possess in common great endurance,
keen scent, the rough, wire-haired outer coat, and the fine, downy inner
coat. These groups are to be found as far east as Syria and the Danube
country. The three principal branches are the spin one of Italy,
one of the oldest groups, the French strains, which are the most numerous
to-day, and the German Stichelhaar.
France the full name of the breed is even more cumbersome than our English
title - griffon d'arrét á poil dur. It is believed
to be allied to the French barbet, a rough-coated water spaniel. There
are several strains or varieties in France alone, all probably descended
from the now practically extinct but once famous griffon de Bresse.
griffon de Bresse is described by Veto Shaw as one of the most ancient
breeds of France, a favorite with sportsmen for centuries. It closely
resembled the English otterhound, he said, though it is to be suspected
that he has again confused the breed with the wire-coated hounds of France. Tradition
has it that these griffons were prized by the Romans and Gauls, while the
Greeks considered them lacking in beauty. I suspect, however, that
this is mere tradition. The griffon de Bresse, according to Shaw,
had the hard, wiry coat with which we are familiar.
modern varieties of French pointing griffons are fully described by Robert
Leighton in "The New Book of the Dog." He particularly mentions three
strains or types now prominent, each associated with the name of a breeder. First,
there is the griffon d'arrét Picard, of which A. Guerlain
of Crotoy, the Marquis de Clerville's successor, had the first famous kennel. Second,
the griffon Korthals, a Dutch and German rather than a French strain,
of which E.K. Korthals of Amsterdam and Biebesheim was the earliest systematic
breeder. Third, the griffon Boulet, brought to perfection by
M. Emanuel Boulet of Elbeuf.
describes these three as more or less alike. Superficially they resemble
the otterhound, but on close examination prove to be less hound-like. In
some respects, he says, they are compact dogs, straight-legged, and wire-haired.
griffon Guerlain strain," writes Leighton, "is perhaps
the most elegant in shape and appearance, owing to its shorter and less
rugged coat and lighter build. This breed is usually white in color,
with orange or yellow markings, rather short drop ears, and a docked tail,
and with a height of about 22 inches. The nose is always brown, and
the light eyes are not hidden by the prominent eyebrows so frequent in
the French spaniels.
far the most attractive of all the foreign setter-spaniels, however, is
the griffon Korthals, a dog symmetrical in contour, with a noble
head not unlike that of our Airedale terrier in its length and squareness
of muzzle and determined expression of eye. The coat is wiry, crisp,
and harsh, never curly, with a dense undercoat. The color is steel
gray with dark brown patches, often mingled with gray hairs; or white-gray
with lighter brown or yellow patches. The height may be 23 inches
and the weight fifty-six pounds.
griffon Boulet has many of the same characteristics as the Korthals
griffon, the chief difference being that his coat is much longer and not
so hard in texture. He is at present the favorite purely native spaniel
in France A decidedly rugged, coarse-looking dog, he is evidently
meant for work rather than for ornament, yet his expression is friendly
and intelligent, in spite of his wild and ungroomed aspect, with his broad,
round head, square muzzle, heavy mustaches, and strong, overhanging eye-brows. The
iris of his eye seems always to be yellow and the nose always brown. The
ears are set on low and hang slightly folded, well covered with wavy hair. The
shoulders project somewhat instead of sloping. The loins are slightly arched
and end in a straight stern nicely carried, and not too shortly docked. The coat is fairly
long and semi-silky, with out being glossy, flat rather than wavy, and
never curly. Its color is that of a dead chestnut leaf or a dark
coffee brown, with or without white; never black or yellow. For dogs
the height is given at 21 to 22 1/2 inches, for bitches a little less. The
weight averages fifty-six pounds."
The dog which
we have imported into this country and which we have begun to see more
and more frequently in the bench shows, is the Korthals griffon. Edward
Karel Korthals, born in Amsterdam in 1850, began breeding this strain in
Holland about 1870. He used his dogs for hunting in the marsh and
dune country, where he found them to be more effective than any other gun
dogs. The breed was then called, in his country, the smousbard Hollandais. Korthals
began showing his dogs in Uttrecht in 1875 and in Amsterdam
in 1877. He raised seven great prize winning dogs which he called
the patriarchs of the breed.
then moved to Germany where Prince Albrecht de Solmes-Braunfels became
his friend and patron. The Prince leased the hunting grounds of Biebesheim
in 1881 and installed Korthals there. Many fine dogs were raised
here and were distributed throughout Holland, France, Belgium, and Germany. In
1886 Korthals drew up a standard of characteristics of the breed, on which
our American Standard is based, and in 1889 the first Griffon Stud Book
was published. In 1907 it was decided to class the German Stichelhaar and
the Korthals griffon together as one breed, and a new Standard was drawn
Korthals griffon is the only kind, so far as I know, that has been imported
to this country. It is the dog that we know as the wire-haired pointing
griffon. Personally, it would seem to me more sensible to change
the name in our American registry to the Korthals griffon, since that is
what it is. The name is less cumbersome and would lead to less confusion
in case we would ever import any of the softer-haired Boulet griffons from
France. With its long and honorable history, it is evidently absurd
for us to refer to it as "a new dog."