May – Hungarian Vizsla
In part five of our 12-part series with working dog food manufacturer Chudleys, we take a closer look at the Hungarian vizsla.
Exactly when the first Hungarian vizsla was recognised as a breed in its own right is unknown. There is speculation that the breed's origin goes as far back as the 10th century, but illustrations which show a smooth-coated vizsla being used alongside falcons in the Hungarian plains dating back to the 1300s is considered the earliest 'official' evidence of the breed's existence.
Over the next 500 years, the breed was developed into a highly skilled working companion which found favour among the Hungarian upper class who enjoyed their hunting – the vizsla's good looks and companionship were desired by many.
As time went on, however, the breed became popular with people of the middle class who could not afford more than one dog, for it could be used as a hunting dog, a guard dog and a family pet. In the early 20th century, its popularity in Hungary grew so much that nearly every household owned a vizsla. Thus, the breed became something of a national treasure for the country.
In the mid-1930s, with the guidance and approval of the Hungarian Vizsla Klub, keen hunters Vasas Jozsef (owner of the Csaba Vizsla kennel in Hejocsaba) and Gresznarik Lazslo (owner of the de Selle kennel of German wire-haired pointers) created a new breed of wire-haired vizslas. Breeding from a vizsla bitch and Germain wire-haired pointer dog, pups from the resulting litters retained the colour and characteristics of the vizsla and benefitted from the heavier frame and protective coat of the German wire-haired pointer, producing a dog capable of coping with the harsh winter conditions of the Hungarian mountains.
Sadly, during World War Two, both breeds suffered tremendous losses as very few dogs were successfully smuggled out of Hungary and away from hostile areas. The few dogs that remained were successfully bred from, though, and would be the foundation from which the line of handsome, capable working dogs that exist today would stem.
How many are registered in the UK:
Kennel Club records show that of the 88,829 gundog puppies registered to the organisation in 2017, 2,756 were Hungarian vizslas, making them the fifth most popular gundog breed in the UK.
Traits and characteristics:
As a Hunt, Point and Retrieve (HPR) breed, Hungarian vizslas are renowned for being versatile companions in the hunting field capable of taking on a range of roles. Vizslas can have a stubborn streak and take longer than many other breeds to mentally mature, requiring a very hands-on approach to training for the first 2–3 years. Short, fun training sessions are recommended and should accompany a high volume of exercise per day.
They are also sociable dogs that become very attached to their owners, hence why they are often called 'velcro dogs'; without regular interaction with people they can become destructive and find ways to entertain themselves, such as chewing furniture etc. Overall they are intelligent, highly athletic and of a friendly nature. Not only have they been used as gundogs over the years, but they have successfully doubled as search and rescue dogs, guard dogs and explosive detection dogs, too.
Hungarian vizslas are a medium- to large-sized, muscular and attractive breed of gundog. They are generally split into smooth-haired or wire-haired types – both having rust-coloured coats. Both types have broad, soft ears, a deep chest and long limbs, though physically, the wire-haired vizsla is slightly taller and of a stronger build than the smooth-coated lines and its muzzle is also more squared off with a shaggy beard and eyebrows.
Both smooth-coated and wire-haired vizslas require minimal grooming, often needing only a brush. When bred for the intention of hunting, both variations will often have a third of the tail removed to prevent painful injuries.
Average life expectancy:
Over 12 years.
Due to being a dog with a deep chest, vizslas can be prone to gastric dilatation volvulus (twisting of the stomach) which requires urgent medical attention. Other health issues include atopic dermatitis, myasthenia gravis, polymyositis, epilepsy, sebaceous adenitis, haemophilia and entropion.
Feeding and nutrition – from the Chudleys' nutritionist:
“As a nutritionist, one designs a diet first and foremost to meet all the nutrient requirements to support a long, active and healthy life.
“For working breeds, fundamental nutrient requirements vary very little, if at all. There may be subtle trend differences between the breeds in terms of certain conditions that are more prevalent in one particular breed over another that may be helped by using appropriate functional nutrition.
“The key differences in nutrient requirements for working dogs stem from the duration and intensity of the work undertaken. The higher the workload, the more energy your dog will require. A very active dog will therefore need to eat more food, and as a result will get more of all the other nutrients it requires, such as protein and vitamins.
“It is important to know where that energy needs to come from. Sprint work requires a diet consisting of more carbohydrate and some fat – a diet of around 22–25% protein and up to 14% fat is preferred – whereas a dog working long days on a moor will rely more on fat and fat reserves – a diet with 24%+ protein and 14%+ fat works best.
“Finally, when it comes to choosing the size of the piece of food, studies have proven that all breeds prefer a kibble of around 14–16mm in diameter.
“So, choose a diet to suit your dog’s workload and type, and one that provides those functional nutritional aspects as well.”
Why do Hungarian vizslas make good gundogs?
As a Hunt, Point and Retrieve (HPR) breed, most vizslas will show signs of good pointing ability at an early age and will instinctively retrieve objects. If well-trained, a vizsla will work over a large area of land or water and alert its handler of nearby game – whether fur or feather – by holding to point. Then, on command, the breed can be trained to flush the game so it can be shot, before retrieving any fallen game to the handler.
They are of particular benefit to the game Shot who prefers walked-up sport, as when hunting they do so at a medium pace which allows Guns keep up with them without struggling, and due to their attachment to their owner they predominantly search for game within comfortable range of a shotgun.
Of added benefit to the game Shot is the level of stamina many vizslas have, which means they can work over tough terrain for a full day with relative ease.
It is important to remember that when picking a vizsla puppy for the intentions of hunting, you choose a pup that has been bred from working lines and not the show-ring.
From the sponsor…
With over 40 years of expertise and passion in the physiology, feeding and management of working dogs, Chudleys pride themselves on their commitment to quality. Chudleys have a specialist range of working and sporting dog food which is highly nutritious, containing substantial levels of quality protein alongside our patented blend of antioxidants (QLC) designed to support and maintain your dog's health and well-being.
For more gundog nutrition and diet information, or details of your local Chudleys stockist, visit www.chudleys.com