The Wirehaired Pointing Griffon is a breed of gundog which was developed in the 1800’s by the Dutch sportsman Eduard Karel Korthals. In honor of the breed’s creator, the dog is also known as the Korthals Griffon or just the Korthals. The Wirehaired Pointing Griffon is known for being an excellent hunting companion, and is capable of working in adverse weather conditions and wet environments.
The name Griffon is a relatively generic term used to describe a number of European breeds which share a wiry coat. While most Griffons are hunting breeds, a few have been developed as companion animals. Besides the Wire-Haired Pointing Griffon, some of the most well-known Griffon breeds include the Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen of France, the Spinone Italiano of Italy, the Brussels Griffon of Belgium, and the German Wirehaired Pointer of Germany. Griffon is the French word for Griffin, and most Griffon breeds originated in France or from French stock. Griffins are mythological beasts with the head and wings of an Eagle and the body and size of a lion. It is thought that the breeds were called Griffons because their wiry coats gave them beards that look like an eagle, making them look like a Griffin.
The ancestry of the original Griffons has been lost in time, as these dogs were created long before any records of dog breeding were kept. All that is certain is that Griffons have existed since at least the Middle Ages, and possibly long before. The most prevalent theory posits that the Griffon breeds descend from a breed known as the Canis Segusius. These dogs were kept by the Pre-Roman Gauls of modern day France and were said to be wiry-coated and excellent hunters. Other theories have the Griffons being developed from terriers imported to Europe from Britain during Roman times, or by carefully breeding wiry-coated mutations among dogs in Italy and France. Unfortunately, no theory can be proven without more evidence, and the truth may remain forever a mystery.
It is certain that throughout the Middle Ages and up until the modern era, Griffons and Griffon-type dogs have been quite common among European hunting dogs. Their wiry-coats gave them extra protection from the elements and allowed them to work in wet environments, such as swampy terrain or areas with a number of lakes and rivers. Initially, all Griffons were probably pack hounds, bred to pursue game while hunters followed either on horseback or on foot. The primary quarry for these dogs was large mammals such as deer, boar, wolf, and fox. This was the preferred method of hunting until reliable hunting guns became available. Guns would not only make hunting easier, they would allow for smaller game to be hunted as well. As a result, it became popular to hunt for birds, squirrels, and similar quarry which previously could only have been caught with traps.
However, hunting in this fashion would require a new set of hunting methods and different types of dogs. Most importantly, the dogs used for this purpose would need to be more trainable and responsive to their owner’s commands as this new type of hunting would require complex tasks such as retrieving. These first gun dogs also needed to be less ferocious or soft mouthed, to avoid damaging the animals they retrieved. Some game would need quieter dogs, who would quietly alert their masters in a manner other than baying to avoid scaring off the game. Finally, these dogs had to be able to work independently and without the aid of other dogs. It could easily take 20 dogs to successfully hunt a fierce boar or a crafty fox, but only one is necessary to find a pheasant. Sportsmen across Europe took it upon themselves to develop breeds that could work alongside armed sportsmen. These dogs became known as gundogs, birddogs, or sporting dogs.
By the time that gundogs became a necessity pack hounds had already established themselves as possessing excellent hunting instincts, keen noses, and an affectionate nature towards people. All of these qualities would be necessary in an ideal gundog, and this is the reason that the majority of gundog breeds originally descended from pack hunting scenthounds. The Griffon breeds were ideal candidates for development into gundogs, because they also possessed a coat which allowed them to work in water. A number of Griffon gundog breeds were developed in several European countries. These dogs were quite popular among sportsmen in the 1800’s. As hunting is inherently a competition, fanciers of these breeds were in a constant quest to develop the ultimate gundog. One such fancier was Eduard Karel Korthals.
Korthals was born in 1851 in Schooten, Netherlands, and was the son of a wealthy banker and cattle breeder. Korthals was raised in a life of privilege, and was particularly fond of hunting. Around Korthals’s home, and in much of the Netherlands, hunting is primarily conducted in the polders, marshy low-lying ground. This can be difficult terrain for a gundog to work in, and Korthals made it his goal to create the ideal gundog. As Griffons have long been known for their ability to work in and around wet terrain it should come as no surprise that Korthals decided to develop his breed from them.
Korthals acquired a female Griffon named Mouche in 1874. It is unknown what type of Griffon Mouche was, and she may very well have been a random bred dog or a mix. It is known that she was brown and gray, had a reputation for having an excellent nose, and was capable of working in a variety of terrains. Korthals was so impressed with Mouche that he made her the foundation of his breed. Shortly thereafter, Korthals also acquired Janus, Hector, Banco, Satan, and Junon. Like Mouche, the exact nature of these dogs is unknown, other than Janus had a wooly coat, Junon had a short coat, and the other three dogs were wire-coated. Mouche and Janus were bred and one of the offspring was a female named Trouvee. Trouvee was said to be the finest of these early dogs, and she was bred to Banco. The three finest offspring produced by Trouvee and Banco were Moustache I, Lina, and Querida. These dogs are considered the Korthals Patriarchs, and are the foundation of the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon breed. Korthals is also known to have occasionally added other dogs to his bloodlines throughout his work as a breeder.
As Korthals’s records do not definitely say which breeds he used to create the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon, breed fanciers and dog experts have long had to speculate. It is known that he used Griffons. However, Griffon is a term that is similar in meaning to retriever or pit bull, and could describe any number of breeds, mixes, or random-bred dogs of a certain type. It is very possible that Korthals did not use pure-bred dogs but rather these other Griffons. Although there are a number of Griffon gundogs, there are also a number of Griffon scenthounds, and Korthals may have used both. Among the popular hunting breeds of the time were the Briquet Griffon Vendeen and the Grand Griffon Vendeen, both of which may have factored into Korthals’ breeding program.
Other Griffon breeds which Korthals may have used were the Griffon Nivernais and the Spinone Italiano. It is also almost universally accepted that Korthals used at least one breed of pointer, and possible several. It is possible that Korthals used one of the English Pointer breeds, but it is more likely that either the German Short-Haired Pointer or a French breed such as the Braque Francais, Braque St. German, or the Braque Du Bourbonnais. Some experts have posited other breeds may have played into the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon’s ancestry as well, primarily the Otterhound, the French Barbet, the Poodle, a Setter breed, and any number of French Spaniels or Epagneuls.
Korthals became employed as an advance agent of the Duke of Penthievre. This profession allowed him to travel across Western Europe and put him in contact with many wealthy and influential sportsmen. Korthals took every opportunity to extol the virtues of his hunting dogs, and he earned them many followers. Korthals also made it a point to be present at almost every major sporting event in Western Europe. This allowed him to put his dogs on display and to discuss his breeding program and practices with the best gundog breeders working in Europe. Around this time, Korthals met Prince Albert of Solms-Braunfels, now a part of Germany. Prince Albert allowed Korthals access to his kennel facilities which were said to be excellent. With the aid of his father’s financial support, Korthals moved his kennel Ipenwoud from the Netherlands to Germany. For the next twenty years, Korthals dedicated his life the development of the Wire-Haired Pointing Griffon. This period in Germany is responsible for the confusion over the country of origin of the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon. Some claim that the breed is Dutch in origin, while others claim it is German.
Korthals continuously worked to improve his dogs, but he also spread them across Europe and founded a number of other breeding programs for his dogs. Korthals suffered a major setback in 1881 when a severe disease swept through his kennel and killed 16 young dogs. Luckily, by this time there were enough Wirehaired Pointing Griffons in the hands of other breeders that the breed was safe. In 1887, Korthals and 16 other breeders signed and published the first breed standard for the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon, and the first international breed club was founded the following year. Korthals was dedicated to the breed until the day he died of laryngeal cancer in 1896. At that point the breed he had created was well-established and had earned a reputation for being one of the best sporting dogs of continental Europe. The Wirehaired Pointing Griffon was developed to work closely with a hunter on foot, and does not work as well independently as some gundogs.
In the late 1800’s the first Wirehaired Pointing Griffons were exported to the United States. The first breed member to be registered with the American Kennel Club (AKC) was a female named Zolette in 1887. However, there was substantial confusion about the breed in the United States at that time and Zolette was registered as a Russian Setter (Griffon). Despite this early confusion, the AKC considers 1887 to be the year which the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon was first registered. The AKC placed the breed in the sporting dog group. The breed continued to grow in popularity among American sportsmen and the Griffon Club of America was established in 1916. In that same year 16 Wirehaired Pointing Griffons were exhibited at the Westminster Kennel Club, which led to a substantial increase in interest in the breed.
In 1917, “New Country Life Magazin”e published an article about the breed, which increased the awareness and interest in the breed among the American people. This early interest was almost ended by the World Wars. Almost all serious breeding of the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon ceased in America, as did the Griffon Club of America. However, the breed continued to grow in popularity among sportsmen. By the end of the 1920’s, the breed was registered in the American Field Dog Stud Book, and was a regular sight at field dog trials. In 1936, the United Kennel Club (UKC), which is primarily dedicated to working dogs, first registered the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon.
After the end of World War II, breeding of the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon resumed on a serious scale in America. Many American soldiers had seen the breed in action in Europe and were very impressed. Some brought back dogs with them, others decided to acquire American bred dogs on their return. In 1951, ten such soldiers led by Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Rogers founded a new breed club, the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon Club of America (WPGCA). This club promoted and protected the breed for a number of years. In the 1970’s, the club decided to form a committee to guide breeders in their attempt to improve their dogs. This committee tested a number of litters for their quality as hunting companions. The results were very disappointing, which led the committee to determine that there was a shortage of high quality Wirehaired Pointing Griffons in America.
In the early 1980’s, there was a split among Wirehaired Pointing Griffon breeders. Led by the WPGCA, some breeders began to cross their Wirehaired Pointing Griffons with the Cesky Fousek. The Cesky Fousek is a Czech gundog breed. Although very similar in appearance to the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon, the breed is substantially different in terms of hunting method and temperament. Another group of breeders refused to cross their dogs with the Cesky Fousek, and instead wanted to remain true to Korthals’ initial vision for the breed. These “purists” formed their own club, The American Wirehaired Pointing Griffon Association (AWPGA). Almost all major national and international kennel clubs agreed with the purists. In 1991, the AWPGA became the official AKC parent club. Currently, the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon/Cesky Fousek crosses are not registerable or testable with the AKC, UKC, Canadian Kennel Club, American Field, or Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI).
The Wirehaired Pointing Griffon remains a relatively uncommon breed in America, although they are steadily moving up in popularity. In 2010, the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon ranked 93rd out of 167 breeds registered with the AKC. Unlike most modern dog breeds which are primarily companion animals; a large percentage of the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon population in America is still employed as working gundogs. The breed is a regular in field dog trials, and has experienced a great deal of success. The breed is regarded as one of the most versatile of all sporting dogs. The breed also performs extremely well in obedience and agility competitions. However, an increasing number of families are discovering that this breed also makes an excellent companion for active families, one who is always eager to go on a new adventure.
The Wirehaired Pointing Griffon is similar in appearance to other wire-coated sporting dogs, in particular the German Wirehaired Pointer. This is a medium to large breed. Males are typically between 21½ and 23½ inches tall at the shoulder, and females are between 19½ and 21½ inches tall at the shoulder. Although breed standards do not specify weights, most Wirehaired Pointing Griffons weight between 50 and 60 pounds, with working gundogs tending to weight slightly less. This is a muscular and athletic breed, and should appear as such. These dogs are sturdy and well-balanced in appearance. This breed generally has its tail docked, leaving a short tail which is typically carried level with the body or with its tip slightly upraised.
The Wirehaired Pointing Griffon has a long face which gives the breed extra area for scent receptors. The muzzle is relatively wide, and this width is exaggerated by the breed’s fur. The breed has dark yellow or brown eyes, which give an intelligent expression. Wirehaired Pointing Griffons should have brown noses; all other colors are heavily penalized or ineligible in the show ring. The ears of the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon are medium length, and hang flat against the dog’s head. Perhaps the most recognizable aspect of the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon’s face is the breed’s beard and eyebrows. The dog’s fur forms a beard and moustache on the end of the muzzle which is often compared to a goatee. The fur also forms pronounced eyebrows which extend over, but do not cover, the dog’s eyes.
As could be expected from the breed’s name, the coat of the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon is very important. This breed has two coats which give it protection from the elements. The undercoat is thick and downy, while the outer coat is hard, stiff, dry, and wiry. The coat is of short to medium length and covers the entire body. Most dogs will have shorter hair on their faces, ears, and legs. A Wirehaired Pointing Griffon should never have a wooly or curly coat, although some wooly and curly coated dogs were used to create the breed. The preferred color and pattern for Wirehaired Pointing Griffons is steel grey with liver patches, although solid liver, solid roan, liver and white, and white are also acceptable. Occasionally solid black Wirehaired Pointing Griffons are born; these dogs are usually immediately disqualified from the show ring.
The Wirehaired Pointing Griffon has a temperament similar to most other sporting breeds; they are affectionate, responsive, eager-to-please, playful, and intelligent. This breed was developed to work closely with its master and is extremely affectionate and loyal with its family. This breed loves to play throughout most of its life, and is considered puppy-like until it reached an advanced age. This breed is known for being extraordinarily gentle with children and often becomes best friends with them. Socialization is very important for Wirehaired Pointing Griffons. Without it, these dogs tend to be reserved and nervous around strangers, although rarely aggressive.
If properly socialized, the breed tends to be politely reserved with new people, although they will quickly become familiar and friendly. In fact, the breed has a tendency to become an inappropriate greeter, and will jump up on and lick family and friends. Most Wirehaired Pointing Griffons will provide an alert that a stranger is approaching the house. However, this breed makes a poor guard dog. This breed is extremely people-oriented and prefers to be in the constant presence of its family. As a result, the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon makes a poor kennel dog. Also, this breed is very likely to suffer from intense separation anxiety and is not ideal for families who must leave their dog alone for many hours each day.
Wirehaired Pointing Griffons generally get along well with other animals. Most breed members, especially ones which have been fixed, are accepting of other dogs, and rarely develop problems if properly socialized. However, this breed does not crave the company of other canines as much as some breeds, and in general prefers the company of humans. It is always best to use caution when introducing new dogs to each other. The Wirehaired Pointing Griffon is also generally accepting of non-canine pets. This breed was bred as a hunting dog, but one who did not attack or kill the game itself. When properly socialized and supervised, the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon will get along better with small pets than most breeds. Some of these dogs have a tendency to become cat chasers, and may irritate home or neighborhood felines.
The Wirehaired Pointing Griffon is an extremely trainable dog. This breed was bred to be responsive and obedient. They are capable of learning and executing a number of complex commands and command sequences. If you are looking for a breed capable of competing in obedience and agility trials, the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon excels at both. However, this breed tends to be more distractable than many gundog breeds. Even the most well-trained and obedient breed members can pick up a scent and get very excited about pursuing it, and may ignore commands to return. Owners must carefully and patiently work with their dogs to teach them impulse control. Although generally trainable, the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon has a reputation for being quite difficult to housebreak, and may require crating significantly longer than most breeds. You may also have to deal with more accidents than you would like.
Like most sporting breeds, the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon has high exercise requirements. These are working dogs and need to release their energy. They need regular vigorous walks at the very least, but prefer to be allowed to run off-leash. This breed prefers to have a purpose, and loves agility courses, complex games, and hunting. Wirehaired Pointing Griffons that are not properly exercised have a tendency to develop a variety of behavioral problems, including nervousness, destructive chewing, and various obsessive behaviors. If you do not have the ability or desire to properly exercise a canine athlete, you should probably consider a different breed. However, Wirehaired Pointing Griffons are known for being more relaxed and calm indoors than most sporting breeds. Once they have had their daily run, they will happily curl up next to their owners and watch television. This means that they adapt well to life as a family companion animal.
One aspect of the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon which prospective owners must be aware is the breed’s tendency to develop “shaggy dog syndrome.” “Shaggy dog syndrome” is experienced by a number of breeds with long or wiry coats. These dogs have a tendency to get dirt, mud, and grime caught in their coats, and also to track it all over a home. Additionally, food and water will get caught in their beards, and will often leave a trail from the food bowl. If you or a family member cannot stand the thought of muddy floors or cleaning regularly, you should either consider a different breed or make special accommodations.
The Wirehaired Pointing Griffon has a higher grooming requirement than most sporting breeds. These dogs need to be regularly and thoroughly brushed and groomed. Special care must be given to the hair in and around the dog’s ears to prevent ear problems. The ear hair must be regularly trimmed and plucked, which many owners decide to let either veterinarians or professional groomers take care of. Wirehaired Pointing Griffons which are intended to be show dogs must be stripped and groomed. Many owners choose to have their Wirehaired Pointing Griffons professionally groomed once or twice a year to keep them looking their best. Some sources will claim that the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon does not shed. This is not technically accurate, although the breed is a very, very low shedder. This breed may be a good choice for allergy sufferers or those who hate cleaning dog hair.
The Wirehaired Pointing Griffon is a generally healthy breed. Their life expectancy is about 12 years, on the long end for a breed of this size. With proper health and care, this breed regularly lives until 13 or 14. These dogs were created from a number of different breeds and have a wide genetic base. Additionally, they have long been bred as a working hunting dog and dogs with genetic problems would have been excluded from breeding lines. However, this breed is known to suffer from several genetic disorders.
By far the most common health problem facing the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon is hip dysplasia. Hip dysplasia is caused by a misshapen hip joint. This causes pain and discomfort for the dog. In severe cases, hip dysplasia may even result in lameness. Although it is a genetic condition, environmental factors can determine the timing of hip dysplasia’s onset and the severity of the condition. For a number of years, this problem was very widespread in the breed, although in recent years the percentage of individuals affected has dropped substantially as breeders are using new methods to detect the condition and remove certain dogs from the breeding pool.
It is always advisable to get your pets tested by either the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals and/or the Canine Eye Registration Foundation, particularly if you intend to breed. The OFA and CERF test for various genetically inherited disorders such as blindness and hip dysplasia that may impact either your dog or its descendants.
Other health problems which are known to affect the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon include: