The Braque Saint-Germain is a breed of pointing dog native to France. Developed by crossing the English Pointer with the Braque Francais (Gascogne), the Braque Saint-Germain was the most popular of the French pointing breeds in the show ring until World War I. The Braque Saint-Germain has subsequently experienced many rises and falls in popularity since that time, coming close to extinction several times. The modern breed is known for combining a highly standardized appearance with substantial hunting abilities. The Braque Saint-Germain is also known as the Saint-Germain Pointer, Saint-Germain Pointing Dog, French Pointer (Saint-Germain) and the French Pointing Dog (Saint-Germain).
The Braque Saint-Germain was first developed in the early 1800’s, although its ancestors can be traced back many centuries. The Braque Saint-Germain is the result of crossing the English Pointer and the Braque Francais (Gascogne); breeds with histories that go back until at least the 1600’s, and probably several centuries longer. The English Pointer is thought to have been developed by crossing the Spanish Pointer with British gundog, hound, and herding breeds. The Braque Francais (Gascogne) is thought to have been developed from either the spaniel-like Chien d-Oysel or Spanish and Italian pointing dogs. The English preferred their dogs to be specialized, and the English Pointer became the fastest and most capable of all pointing dogs, although it was not skilled at any other tasks. The French, on the other hand, preferred their dogs to be capable of performing many tasks, and the Braque Francais (Gascogne) was capable of performing many more tasks than its English counterpart such as retrieving and flushing, although it was a less talented Pointer. Another major difference between the two breeds was color. The English Pointer was primarily white in color, with markings of darker colors, while the Braque Francais (Gascogne) was primarily brown in color, with white markings.
With the advent of more modern technology in the late 1700’s, it became increasingly easy to ship dogs between countries. At the same time, the economies of European countries were becoming increasingly interlinked. After Napoleon’s final defeat at Waterloo in 1815, the French monarchy was temporarily restored to power. In 1824, Charles X claimed the French throne. Like most of French upper class, Charles X was an avid hunter who was especially fond of bird hunting. Shortly after he took the throne, Charles X was presented with two English Pointers, a male named Stop and a female named Miss. Allegedly these dogs were imported to France and given to the King by Count Alexandre de Girardin, the chief huntsman of the French Royal Court. These dogs were considered by many to be excellent hunters. In fact, the famed French dog-expert Adolphe de Rue, who personally hunted with more than 200 dogs, claimed that Miss was “far superior to our Braques.”
Unfortunately for King Charles X, his reign proved very unpopular and he was forced to abdicate in the wake of a massive revolt in 1830. His royal kennels were divided and sold off. Stop died before he was able to be bred, but Miss was able to produce several litters. Miss was sold to M. D. Larminat, chief inspector of the Compiegne Forest, located north of Paris. Miss was initially bred to a dog described as a “Brown German Spaniel” but the pups from this litter were considered to be of low quality. Miss’s second litter was sired by a brown and white Braque Francais (Gascogne) named Zamor. Zamor was owned by the Count de l’Eigle and considered an excellent bird dog. This litter resulted in 7 puppies, four of which were white with orange markings and pink noses. These dogs proved to be such excellent hunters that Zamor and Miss were bred several more times. M.D. Larminat distributed these puppies to friends, co-workers, and those willing to pay for them. Adolphe de Rue personally purchased a male and female from Zamor and Miss, and he thought just as highly of them as he did their mother.
At the time that Miss and Zamor were first producing offspring, it was a common practice for forest officials to move around. Many of the forest officials from Compiegne moved to the Saint-Germain Forest, located just west of Paris. The striking orange and white appearance of these dogs immediately caught the attention of Parisian hunters. The breed rapidly became very fashionable in the French capital, and it first became known as the Braque Saint-Germain at this time. From the 1830’s until the 1850’s, the Braque Saint-Germain was one of the most popular, valuable, and sought after breeds in Paris and its surroundings. The breed was at the height of its popularity at the exact same time that dog shows were first introduced to France from England. The Braque Saint-Germain was the most commonly exhibited pointing breed at the very first French dog show, held in Paris in 1863. The elegant and beautiful Braque Saint-Germain became one of the most popular breeds in French dog shows for several decades, and was the most commonly exhibited and awarded Braque breed until World War I.
Eventually this popularity began to damage the breed. Unscrupulous salesmen began to sell other dogs as Braque Saint-Germains, and even more unscrupulous dog show handlers began to exhibit other breeds under the Braque Saint-Germain name. In particular, many English Pointers were passed off as Braque-Saint Germains. White and orange coloration had occasionally been seen in other French Braque breeds for centuries and many of these dogs were also sold, bred, and exhibited as Braque Saint-Germains. Ironically, this new infusion of blood probably greatly benefitted the Braque Saint-Germain as it meant that the breed was no longer primarily descended from two individual dogs. There has long been a major dispute among Braque Saint-Germain fanciers as to the impact of these other breeds. Some claim that it was negligible and that the breed is still primarily descended from Miss and Zamor. Others believe that it was so substantial that Miss and Zamor actually only provided a small part of the breed’s total ancestry.
The introduction of new blood was almost entirely stopped in 1913. In that year, the breed Braque Saint-Germain breed club was founded in Paris with the goals of keeping a closed stud book and promoting the breed. However, the club could not agree on a single standard, instead promoting two distinct varieties. One had a sturdy build, rounded chest, and long, low-set ears. This type was larger and slower than the other, and was said to a trotter with none of the speed, range, or grace of the English Pointer. The other type was smaller, finer-boned, more elegant in appearance, had shorter, high-set ears, and was said to be a fast galloper. These two types probably represent greater amounts of Braque and English Pointer origins respectively.
Just as the Braque Saint-Germain was beginning to become standardized, it nearly went extinct. IN 1914, France became involved in World War I. The conflict absolutely devastated France, especially the region around Paris. Most of the bloodiest fighting along the Western Front took place less than 200 miles from the city. During the War and its aftermath, breeding of Braque Saint-Germains was almost entirely ceased, and many individual dogs perished from lack of care. The Braque Saint-Germain population plummeted as a result, and the once common breed became very rare. The breed had only barely begun to recover when World War II broke out and Paris and its surroundings were occupied by the Nazi Blitzkrieg. By the end of World War II, the Braque Saint-Germain was very close to extinction.
After World War II, a number of dedicated breeders took it upon themselves to revive the Braque Saint-Germain. By this point, there was only one variety of Braque Saint-Germain as the two previous ones had been completely merged. By the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, the Braque Saint-Germain had established a niche for itself among French hunters. The breed made several major successes in the show ring and in field trials during this time as well. Among the most successful breeders was Xavier Thibault whose Feux Mignon line is generally regarded as having some of the breed’s top hunting performers. However, the dog could not quite make the jump to mainstream popularity. This may be because it was bred too much for appearance for the taste of serious sportsmen and too much for working ability for the tastes of dog show fanciers. The breed club began to experience trouble due to lack of interest and conflict between those who wanted to breed the Braque Saint-Germain for dog shows and those who wanted to breed it for bird hunting. By 1982, it counted only 23 members and eventually ceased operation for a few years. Even after the club was reconstituted, the same problems that had plagued it for years continued.
By the late 1990’s, the breed had increased noticeably in popularity and over 100 new puppies were being registered each year. In 2001, the first ever breed specialty was held. At that time, it was agreed that a limited number of English Pointer crosses would be allowed in order to widen the Braque Saint-Germain’s dangerously small gene pool. However, dissension and internal strife once again struck. Several prominent breeders either switched to different breeds or stopped breeding altogether. By 2004, only around 30 new puppies were registered. Recently the situation has improved, and more than 100 puppies were registered in 2009. A few English Pointer crosses have also been conducted to widen the gene pool. However, the breed still suffers from a very small population, general lack of interest, and a very limited number of serious breeders.
Throughout its existence, the Braque Saint-Germain was been almost entirely limited to France. Almost the entire population of this breed is currently living in France, and essentially all breeding is conducted in that country. A few individual dogs have found their way to other countries, but the breed has not yet become established in any of them. It is unclear if any breed members have made their way to the United States, but if they have it is only a few individual dogs. The breed is, however, granted full recognition with the United Kennel Club, (UKC), and has been since 2006. The Braque Saint-Germain is regarded as being a very vulnerable breed, one that could easily become extinct in the near future if its situation is not improved. Currently, the Braque Saint-Germain is bred almost equally for appearance standardization and working ability, and the breed maintains good conformation and hunting prowess.
The Braque Saint Germain is very similar in appearance to the English Pointer, although it clearly shares some features with other French Pointers as well. In general, this breed is quite refined and is said to, “Look like a purebred dog.” This is a medium to large breed. Males typically stand between 22 and 24½ inches tall at the shoulder, and females typically stand between 21 and 23½ inches. Breed members in good condition weigh an average of 40 to 60 pounds. This breed is intermediate in body type between the English Pointer and the other French Braques. It is extremely well-muscled and lithe, but is generally slightly more heavily built that the English Pointer. This breed is a working dog and should always appear as such. The Braque Saint-Germain should be completely free of any features that would impede its working ability. The tail of this breed is low-set, wide at the base, and tapers to a sharp point. The tail of this breed is of medium length and should be carried straight out from the body when the dog is in motion.
The head Braque Saint-Germain is slightly rounded with a prominent brow over the eyes. The head connects more smoothly to the muzzle than is the case with most Pointers, but the two are still relatively distinct. The muzzle itself is quite long, approximately the same length of the skull. The bridge of the nose is either straight or slightly convex. The lips of this breed fully cover the lower jaw, but are usually not noticeably pendulous. The nose of the Braque-Saint Germain is one of the breed’s defining characteristics. It must always be pink in color, broad in width, and contain well-opened nostrils. The eyes of the Braque Saint-Germain are large, well-opened, and golden yellow in color. The ears of this breed are set on a level with the eye, of medium length, and rounded at the ends. These ears droop down but should be slightly removed from the head. The overall expression of most Braque Saint-Germains is mild and friendly.
The coat of the Braque Saint-Germain is the feature which has most defined the breed historically. Like most Pointing dogs, this breed has a short, smooth, coat that should not be too fine. The Braque Saint-Germain is only found in one acceptable color pattern. This dog should always be dull white with orange (sometimes referred to as fawn) markings. These markings may be of any size and shape but are usually large and either round or oval. Some ticking is acceptable but is greatly disfavored. The ears must be primarily orange/fawn, although some white is tolerated. In general, greater amounts of white are generally preferred. Occasionally, a Braque Saint-Germain is born with alternate coloration, such as with black in the coat. Such dogs are either disqualified or penalized in the show ring and should not be bred, but otherwise make just as excellent companions and working dogs as other breed members.
Braque Saint-Germains have been bred both for work in the field and for appearance in the show ring. As a result, certain lines are substantially more driven and energetic than others. However, most breed members are very similar in terms of temperament.
This breed is known to be extremely devoted and affectionate, as is the case with most gun dogs. Many breed members are serious cuddlers and face-lickers. This is a dog that wants to be in the constant company of its family, and may develop severe separation anxiety if left alone for long periods on a regular basis. When properly socialized from a young age, most breed members are very tolerant of children and make excellent family companions. A Braque Saint-Germain puppy may not be the best companion for a home with very young children, as they are likely to bowl over toddlers in their youthful exuberance.
This is certainly not an aggressive breed, and when properly socialized, most breed members are very tolerant of strangers. In fact, most of these dogs are quite friendly and engaging. Some individuals are known to be quite shy, which if left unchecked may lead to nervousness and timidity. Some breed members are alert enough to make good watch dogs, while others do not especially seem to care that a visitor is approaching. This breed would be a very poor choice for a guard dog as most of these dogs are not anywhere near aggressive enough.
Braque Saint-Germains were bred to work either alone or with other dogs. Most breed members exhibit low levels of dog aggression and have few problems with other canines when properly socialized. As is the case with all breeds, unsocialized dogs may develop dog aggression issues and it is always best to use the utmost caution when introducing strange dogs to each other. The Braque Saint-Germain was bred to hunt, and most breed members are driven to pursue and potentially attack small animals. However, this dog was bred to point and retrieve rather than attack, and most Braque Saint-Germains can be trained and socialized to the point where they are trustworthy around family pets such as cats.
The Braque Saint-Germain is very driven to hunt and retrieve, and most handlers claim that the breed is very, very easy to train to do so. These dogs are said to be very willing to learn, eager to please, and quick learners. This breed does best with training methods that emphasize rewards than corrections. However, this is not nearly as sensitive a breed as many other French Pointers and will accept gentle and fair corrections without developing issues with nervousness. Because the Braque Saint-Germain is almost exclusively used as a hunting dog, it is very difficult to say whether or not this trainability would extend to other areas, but if given the chance this breed would almost certainly excel at a number of canine activities such as agility and competitive obedience.
This is a dog that is not only capable of working long hours in the field, but one that seems to greatly enjoy doing so. Braque Saint-Germains are very energetic dogs that require substantial amounts of daily exercise. This breed should get a minimum of an hour of vigorous activity every day, and would ideally receive two or more. These dogs make excellent jogging companions, but truly crave the opportunity to run around off-leash in a safely enclosed area. It would be extremely difficult to keep one of these dogs in an apartment, and most do best in a home with acreage. Braque Saint-Germains that are not provided proper outlets for their energy will almost certainly develop behavioral problems such as destructiveness, over excitability, hyper activity, and severe neuroses. Those looking for a working gun dog or a companion to take on long hikes will probably be very satisfied with a Braque Saint-Germain, but those looking for an urban companion would probably be better off considering a different breed.
This breed has very low grooming requirements. A Braque Saint-Germain should never require professional grooming; only a regular brushing is necessary. Other than that, this breed only needs those routine maintenance procedures that are required for all breeds such as nail clipping and an occasional bath. Braque Saint-Germain owners do have to clean their dog’s ears on a regular basis to prevent irritations and infections. There do not seem to be any reports on how much this breed sheds. However, given what is known about similar breeds it is almost certain that the Braque Saint-Germain is a shedder, and quite possibly a heavy one.
It does not appear as though any health studies have been conducted on the Braque Saint-Germain which makes it impossible to make any definitive statements about the breed’s health. This breed may be at risk to suffer from a number of genetically inherited conditions due to its small gene pool. The Braque Saint-Germain came dangerously close to extinction several times during the 20th Century, and its surviving population is made up of a very small number of these dogs. If any of those individuals suffered from a condition, all of their descendant’s might as well, a situation known as the founder’s effect. As of yet, it does not appear that any such conditions are predominant in the Braque Saint-Germain, but until more research is conducted it is impossible to say that they are not.
Although the breed’s health status is unclear, it is highly advisable for owners to have their pets tested by both the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) and the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF). The OFA and CERF perform genetic and other tests to identify potential health defects before they show up. This is especially valuable in the detection of conditions that do not show up until the dog has reached an advanced age, making it especially important for anyone considering breeding their dog to have them tested to prevent the spread of potential genetic conditions to its offspring.
Although no health studies have been conducted for the Braque Saint-Germain, they have been for several closely related and similar breeds. The problems that have been discovered to be of the greatest concern include: