Frequently dismissed as a “Norfolk lurcher”, the Hungarian wirehaired vizsla is steadily gaining popularity in the shooting field — and with David Tomlinson.
Her dogs are brilliant advertisements for their breed, as they are good-looking, steady and responsive workers.
They do, however, create some consternation among new Guns who have never seen them before.
“What sort of dogs are those, Tracie?” is the usual question. She has to be quick to reply, as the brushers will assure unsuspecting Guns that they are Norfolk lurchers, the affectionate term by which Tracie’s hairy orange dogs are known.
I first came across HWVs not long after I started writing this column more than 16 years ago.
A reader called Clint Coventry wrote to me, inviting me to see his dogs in action. I went to meet Clint and his partner Anita, was introduced to their HWVs and saw them working.
I was impressed. Clint used his dogs mainly for beating and hawking, and it was clear that they excelled at both disciplines. He said that they had all the attributes of the familiar Hungarian vizsla, but their rough coats made them better suited to the British shooting field.
He added that he also found them unusually biddable and easy to train.
Fashion is a fickle thing in the world of HPRs, and there are many examples of handlers who have abandoned one breed, enthused about the new one they have just taken on, only to move on again to another a few years later.
Intriguingly, all the people I know who have taken on HWVs have remained faithful to the breed, while its popularity has continued to grow steadily. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to convince people that they are Norfolk lurchers.
Hungarian wirehaired vizsla – one of the newest gun dog breeds
Historically, the HWV is one of the newest breeds of gundog: it was developed in the 1930s in Hungary by crossing smooth-haired vizslas with German wirehaired pointers (GWPs).
The aim was to produce a shooting dog that combined the colour of the vizsla with the heavier coat and more substantial build of the GWP, making it better suited to working in harsh conditions.
Development of the breed continued during World War II, with a number of Hungarian kennels becoming involved. It is thought that pudelpointer and Irish setter blood was introduced.
Today, though the breed remains relatively rare in its native Hungary, it has been enjoying growing popularity elsewhere in the world. The first HWV was shown at Crufts way back in 1980, but it wasn’t until the 1990s that the first litter was whelped in the UK.
The relaxing of Britain’s strict quarantine rules at the start of the new century made it much easier to bring dogs in from the Continent and this did much to boost the popularity of the HWV in this country.
Unlike another relatively recent arrival, the GLP, the HWV has been embraced with as much enthusiasm by the show fraternity as it has by working enthusiasts.
Whether this is a good thing is debatable, but one of the attractions is that this is still a genuine dual-purpose breed, with no division between working and show strains.