History of the Hungarian Wirehaired Vizsla
Vizsla means “pointer” in Hungarian. The smooth-coated Magyar (pronounced mah-yar) vizsla, or Hungarian pointer, is an ancient breed whose ancestors were hunters and companions of the Magyar tribes that swarmed over central Europe more than 1,000 years ago and settled in what is now Hungary and Transylvania. The wirehaired vizsla is a relatively new breed developed from the Magyar vizsla in Hungary in the mid 1930’s. The idea came mainly from hunters, to breed a dog with the same excellent features as the shorthaired vizsla, but more resistant to cold weather and rough field conditions. All agreed that the new breed should be a Hungarian vizsla with all it’s features, but with a wiry coat. The work was initiated by Vasas Jozsef, owner of the Csabai vizsla kennel, he was soon joined by Gresznarik Lazslo, who owned the Selle kennel and had great experience breeding German wirehaired pointers.
They chose two vizsla bitches with very good pedigrees and working ability, Zsuzsi and Csibi, to breed with a totally brown German wirehaired pointer (Astor von Potat). Zsuzsi’s sire was known to have offspring with longer coats. The best of Zsuzsi’s and Csibi’s offspring were selected and bred together and Dia de Selle, the first HWV to be exhibited, was born. She had the same body as the shorthaired vizsla, but her head was more like the German pointer. While her coat was not rough and thick enough, she was the promising beginning of the creation of the new breed.
Vasa Jozsef asked the Hugarian vizsla club to assist the bredding in 1943. Under some controversy, they finally accepted the request, with the suggestion to exhibit as many specimens in shows and hunting competitions as possible. They also created a non-official pedigree for the HWV’s. Only after the evaluation of these documents could the standard and final approval for the new breed be set. The breeding aim was defined to develop the HWV to preserve all features of the shorthaired Hungarian vizsla, including the ancestral colour (ranging from golden russet to rust) but with a wiry coat. The three-generation breeding produced offspring that had the same features as the smooth vizsla but with thick, course wiry hair. From the German wirehaired pointers they inherited stronger, thicker bones and longer, thicker coates.
Even with difficulties in the beginning, registrations increased and by 1944, 60 HWV’s were registered. The success of the breeding efforts created interest abroad and several kennels in Austria pioneered further developement of the breed beyond Hungary.
World War 2 caused great harm in dog breeding, as well as everywhere. The Csabai kennel came under state ownershi, but Vasas Jozsef remained the leader and even in those difficult times brought the breed closer to perfection. Information from that period is sketchy at best, but many other kennels in Hungary were also involved in the developement of the breed and according to some information about those bloodlines, Irish setters, Pudelpointers and even Blood hounds were involved as well.
Finally, the Hungarian wirehaired vizsla was recognised by the FCI in 1966 as an independant Hungarian breed and was registered under #239. The first HWV was imported to th United Kingdom in the late 1970’s and the breed began to catch on throughout Europe. HWV kennels can now also be found in the Netherlands, France, Belgium and Germany as well as Hungary and the UK. In North America NAVHDA recognised the breed and began registering them in 1986.
The HWV is still a very rare breed with numbers far below that of it’s smooth cousin. Most of them in Hungary are owned by hunters not interested in registering and showing their dogs and don’t have formal pedigrees. An average of only 30 litters are registered annually in Hungary, about 140-150 individual dogs. An informal census last year came up with approximately 200-2500 registered dogs worldwide.
The wirehaired vizslas is much like the shorthaired in many aspects, though it is generally a little larger and sturdier-boned and not as highly strung. In appearance, it has the same uniform colouration, with nose and eyes that blend harmoniously with the coat, which is coarse and wiry and has furnishings on the head and body. It’s bushy eyebrows accentuate a lively, intelligent expression. It’s colour blends into dried grasses and brush in the field. The tail is docked 1/3 in countries where docking is permitted and dewclaws removed.
In temperament, the wirehaired vizsla is a calm, gentle and loyal companion. It’s sensitivity and strong desire to please make harsh discipline unnecessary and unwise. An intuitive nature and special ability to work cooperatively with the trained raptors makes the HWV a favourite of falconers and it is popular with deer stalkers in the UK. A strong swimmer with a keen nose, it hunts on land or in water with enthusiasm.