The Drentse Patrijshond is a breed of gundog native to the Netherlands, specifically the province of Drent where it has existed for centuries. Although the Drentse Patrijshond is a very old gundog breed, it was not granted formal recognition until the 1940’s. The modern breed is primarily a gundog and companion animal, whereas in the past, the breed was more multipurpose and also served as a vermin eradicator and draft animal. The Drentse Patrijshond is one of the most popular working gundogs in the Netherlands, but is very rare elsewhere in the world. The Drentse Patrijshond is also known as the Dutch Gundog, Dutch Partridge Dog, Drent, Drentsche Patrijshond, and the Drentse Partridge Dog.
The Drentse Patrijshond was developed in an era before written records were kept of dog breeding; so much of its history remains a mystery. However, a substantial amount of information can be inferred based on what evidence has survived,. The first records of dogs in the Netherlands which resemble the modern Drentse Patrijshond come from the 1500’s. At that time, the first Spaniel-type dogs were imported into the lands of what was then the Holy Roman Empire from France and Italy. In Dutch, these dogs were called Spioenen or Spanjoelen. There is a substantial dispute as to the origin of the Spaniels. Some claim that these dogs originally came from the Iberian Peninsula (which at the time was divided between Castille, Aragon, Portugal, Navarra, and Granada), hence the name Spaniel (one coming from Spain or Hispania). Others believe that these dogs were actually developed in Britain and/or France from Celtic hunting dogs. Still others think that Spaniels are the descendants of Middle Eastern hunting dogs brought back from the Crusades, most likely the Saluki. Although largely discredited, a sizable number of researchers continue to hold the theory that the first Spaniels were descended from small East Asian companion dogs such as the Japanese Chin and Pekingese.
However the Spaniels were developed, they were certainly some of the oldest gundogs in Europe, and possibly the oldest. When Spaniels were first developed, hunting guns did not even exist yet. The first Spaniels worked with hunters armed with nets and/or falcons. The Spaniel’s job was to locate birds in the bushes or grass in which they hid. The dog would then flush the quarry (scare it so that it flew into the air) and the hunter would either throw the net or release the trained falcon. The Drentse Patrijshond’s ancestors almost certainly worked in this manner when they first arrived in the Netherlands. Because the environment and wildlife was different across Europe, many different types of Spaniel began to develop as the centuries wore on, each from a different region. Dutch hunters preferred to hunt partridges and other similar land birds, and began to call Spaniel-type dogs Patrijshonds, or Partridge Dogs.
Beginning in the 17th Century, Patrijshonds begin to appear in Dutch artwork. Numerous paintings from this era depict dogs very similar in appearance to the modern Drentse Patrijshond, including The Hunter’s Present and The Poultry Seller by Gabriel Metsu. At this point, Patrijshond-type dogs were probably quite common throughout the Netherlands. These dogs were not a single breed in the modern sense, but rather a group of closely related types which were bred for a specific purpose.
Across most of Europe, hunting was strictly limited to the nobility, often by law. Such restrictions were greatly reduced in the Netherlands, especially the province or Drent. Dutch hunters came from all social classes and professions, and they developed bred dogs which best suited them. Because large dogs are more expensive to keep, small and medium sized hunting dogs were preferred. As most hunters could only afford to keep a single dog, such dogs had to be capable of working alone with a hunter. Working-class Dutch farmers greatly preferred a dog that would be capable of performing other tasks for them besides hunting, so they bred dogs which were also capable of pulling carts. As is still the case today, rats, mice, and other vermin were major agricultural and urban pests, eating food and spreading disease. In an era before the development of modern pest control methods, dogs were commonly used to eradicate vermin, and farmers bred Patrijshonds which would return from a day hunting birds in the field to kill rodents by night. Perhaps most importantly, working class Dutch farmers could not afford fancy kennels and needed to keep their dogs in their homes. This meant that their Patrijshonds had to be family dogs which got along well with their children.
For more than 300 years, Patrijshonds were the gundog of choice for most Dutch sportsmen. These sportsmen did not care about a dog’s pedigree or appearance; they cared only for its working ability and temperament. As a result, the Patrijshond was not pedigreed until much later than other European gundogs. Although Patrijshond-type dogs were found throughout the Netherlands, they were most associated with the province of Drent, or Drenthe, located in the Northeastern Netherlands along the German border. Eventually, these dogs became known as Drentse Patrijshonds or Drentsche Patrijshonds in honor of the province.
World War II proved devastating to the Netherlands, which was occupied by Nazi forces even though the country had attempted to remain neutral. Although most European breeds were tremendously damaged by the war or driven to extinction, the opposite occurred with the Drentse Patrijshond. As the German occupation lasted progressively longer, the Dutch people began to emphasize what was most traditionally Dutch to separate themselves from the occupying forces. In 1943, during the middle of the German occupation, the Raad van Beheer op Kynologisch Gebied (the Dutch Kennel Club) granted official recognition to the Drentse Patrijshond as one such symbol. After World War II ended, the Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI) adopted the Dutch Kennel Club’s standard.
Over the latter half of the 20th Century, the Drentse Patrijshond became increasingly popular in its homeland especially among sportsmen. The Drentse Patrijshond is currently one of the most popular working gundogs in the Netherlands, and is also increasing in popularity as a companion animal as well. In recent years, the breed has been increasing in popularity outside of its homeland as well, and there are currently Drentse Patrijshond populations in several neighboring countries such as Belgium and Germany. The first Drentse Patrijshond to arrive in the United States came over in the 1960’s with a serviceman returning from Europe, but the breed did not become established for many decades. For the past decade or so, Drentse Patrijshonds have been regularly imported to the United States and Canada. Most of the importers have been sportsmen who use their dogs to hunt birds and small mammals. In 1996, the United Kennel Club (UKC) granted full recognition to the Drentse Patrijshond as a member of the Gun Dog Group. In 2008, a group of breeders and owners founded the Drentse Patrijshond Club of North America (DPCNA) to protect and promote the breed in North America. One of the group’s primary goals is to have the Drentse Patrijshond fully recognized with the American Kennel Club (AKC). In 2010, the DPCNA achieved the first step of its goal when the AKC placed the breed in the Foundation Stock Service (AKC-FSS) and named the DPCNA the official breed club. If the DPCNA and the Drentse Patrijshond meet certain benchmarks in the future, the breed will move from the AKC-FSS to the Miscellaneous Class and then on to full recognition.
Unlike most modern breeds, the Drentse Patrijshond remains primarily a working dog. The majority of Drentse Patrijshonds are either working or retired gun dogs. This is especially true in North America, where the breed is kept almost exclusively as a hunter. However, the breed is rapidly gaining a reputation as an excellent companion dog and is increasingly kept primarily as a family companion.
The Drentse Patrijshond is generally similar in appearance to other Spaniel-type dogs, especially the Small Munsterlander and the English Springer Spaniel, but remains quite unique looking. The Drentse Patrijshond is a medium to medium-large breed. Most males stand between 23 and 25 inches tall at the shoulder while most females stand between 21½ and 23½ inches. Although weight is heavily influenced by height, build, condition, and gender, most breed members weigh between 40 and 65 pounds. The Drentse Patrijshond’s body is obscured by the breed’s coat, but underneath is a very fit, athletic, and muscular dog. This breed should exhibit both great power and great speed. The tail of the Drentse Patrijshond is relatively long. The tail is carried straight, but may have a slight upwards curve at the end.
The head of the Drentse Patrijshond is larger in comparison to body size than is the case with most gun dogs, although not nearly to the extent seen in many working breeds. The skull is fairly flat and only slightly rounded. The muzzle is wedge shaped with a blunt end. The muzzle is slightly shorter than the skull, but quite broad. The nose of the Drentse Patrijshond is large-in-size and should always be brown-in-color. The ears of the Drentse Patrijshond are relatively but not excessively long and hang close to the sides of the dogs head, usually facing slightly forwards. The ears are quite broad at the base but taper slightly to a blunt tip. The eyes of the Drentse Patrijshond are moderate-in-size, oval-in-shape, and amber-in-color. The overall expression of most breed members is intelligent, kindly, and intense.
The coat of the Drentse Patrijshond is very dense. The coat is medium to medium-long, about the same length as is seen on working (not show) line English Springer Spaniels. The hair is shortest on the head, feet, and fronts of the legs and longest on the neck and fore chest. The hair on the ears is long and preferably wavy. There is light feathering on the backs of the legs and the tail. Drentse Patrijshonds only come in one acceptable color combination, primarily white with brown markings. These markings are generally sizable but ticking (small spots) is also acceptable. Roan dogs or dogs with a solid mantle are acceptable but not desirable. All Drentse Patrijshonds should have brown markings on their ears and around their eyes.
The Drentse Patrijshond has been bred for centuries not only as a gundog but also for more general purpose work as well. Although this breed is generally similar in temperament to other gundogs, it has some traits that are relatively unique for the group. This is an intensely, intensely human oriented breed. Drentse Patrijshonds form incredibly close bonds with their families to whom they are very devoted. This is a breed that absolutely craves human companionship 24/7 and does extremely poorly when left alone for long periods of time. Drentse Patrijshonds have an excellent reputation with children, with whom they are both very affectionate and very gentle when properly socialized.
When well-socialized, Drentse Patrijshonds tend to be good with strangers. This breed is usually friendly and outgoing. That being said, this breed tends to be less immediately friendly than is the case with most sporting dogs, and some tend to be standoffish and protective. The Drentse Patrijshond is very alert and most make very capable watch dogs. This breed is not human-aggressive enough to make a truly effective guard dog, but the Drentse Patrijshond would probably make a more effective protection animal than is common among gun dogs.
When properly trained and socialized, the Drentse Patrijshond tends to get along well with other dogs. Although dog aggression is not unheard of from this breed, it is definitely not a common problem. In fact, many breed members would greatly prefer to share their lives with other dogs so that they have constant company. Non-canine animals are another story, and many breed members show very high levels of aggression towards them. Unlike most gundogs, the Drentse Patrijshond was also bred to attack and kill rodents and other small animals which it will definitely do. Most breed members will eventually become trustworthy around the family cat (after an extended period of chasing it), but few are trustworthy around strange animals.
The Drentse Patrijshond is considered an intelligent breed. Although the Drentse Patrijshond is a very trainable dog, this breed is considered more difficult to train than most gundogs. Many Drentse Patrijshonds have a stubborn streak, and a few could even be considered willful. While most breed members are willing to please, they certainly do not live to do so. This dog also has a tendency to being very sensitive, so trainers should avoid harsh training methods such as yelling. Rewards-based-methods, especially those that involve treats are generally much more effective and desirable. This breed does take to hunting quite naturally, and many Drentse Patrijshonds begin to exhibit hunting behaviors without training. However, the Drentse Patrijshond is usually better suited to life as a personal gundog rather than a competition gundog, because they tend to hunt relatively slowly and usually refuse to go far from their handler.
This is a working gundog through and through and has the exercise requirements one would expect of such an animal. This is a very energetic dog that should receive a bare minimum of an hour a day of vigorous physical activity, although more than that would be preferable. The Drentse Patrijshond makes an excellent jogging or bicycling companion but truly craves the opportunity to run freely in a safely enclosed area. Breed members that are not provided proper outlets for their energy are likely to develop behavioral problems such as destructiveness, hyperactivity, excessive barking, nervousness, over excitability, and emotional instability. This is a breed that absolutely loves going on outdoor adventures and would make an excellent companion for those who enjoy engaging in extreme activities. Because of its high exercise requirements, the Drentse Patrijshond does not adapt well to apartment life and does best when provided a large (preferably very large) yard.
The Drentse Patrijshond is a relatively low-maintenance dog. This breed should not require professional grooming, only a regular and thorough brushing. Owners must carefully and slowly brush out any potential mats from their dogs’ coats. There do not seem to be reports as to the Drentse Patrijshond’s shedding, but is safe to assume that this breed does shed and does so quite heavily.
It does not appear that any health studies have been conducted on the Drentse Patrijshond which makes it impossible to make any definitive statements on the breed’s health. Most fanciers seem to believe that the breed is in good health in comparison to similar breeds. This is quite possible as the Drentse Patrijshond has been spared the poor breeding practices which have damaged the health of many modern breeds and has been bred almost exclusively for working ability. However, the Drentse Patrijshond is not immune to genetically inherited health problems, and both progressive retinal atrophy and hereditary stomatocytosis are thought to be serious concerns.
Because skeletal and visual problems have been known to occur in this breed, 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. It is highly advisable to request that breeders show any OFA and CERF documentation that they have on a puppy or its parents, which essentially all reputable breeders will have.
A full list of health problems to which the Drentse Patrijshond may be susceptible would have to include: