The Vizsla is a rare type of hunting dog that is native to Hungary and is sometimes known as the Magyar Vizsla. This medium sized sporting group member is actually the smallest overall of the pointing types of dogs and is one of the few hunting dogs that has always been prized both as a hunting companion as well as a family pet, traditionally owned by royalty and others considered to be in powerful positions. It was a breed that was traditionally seen as the dog of aristocracy in Hungary, especially before the Russian control of Hungary occurred after World War ll. However, it was not uncommon for the Vizsla to also be found with landowners and hunters alike, making them a very well-rounded and well recognized dog within the area.
The ancestors of the modern Vizsla were likely the Transylvanian Hound and the Turkish Yellow Dog. The Transylvanian Hound still exists although in very small numbers and typically not outside of Hungary. This is a larger sized pointer that has the black and tan coloration of the Rottweilers and some of the Dobermans, although it is a true hunting dog and very similar to the Vizsla in body and head shape. These dogs actually have two sizes, a short dog that is used for birds and small game, and a larger size which was used to hunt boar, stag and wild bears. They are outstanding tracking dogs with a keen nose and a natural intelligence of a true hunting dog. The Turkish Yellow Dog is a now extinct breed that was also a short haired hunting dog, and it is likely from this dog that the rich golden to rust colored coat evolved. There are some breeders that believe that the Weimaraner, another breed of the royal classes in Germany, may have also been used in early breeding programs.
These dogs were historically used for hunting all types of birds and small game and were very popular in Hungary. With the unrest in Europe and Russia during World War I and II, the numbers of Vizsla dropped dramatically. Many of the Hungarian breeders were concerned that the Russian occupation after WW II would result in the destruction of the breed as a symbol of Hungarian royalty, so dogs were shipped to other countries to preserve the breed. This is also true of the Transylvanian Hound, and through careful breeding small numbers of Vizsla survived. In order to increase the genetic pool, selected German Shorthaired Pointers were used to build up the breed after WW II, resulting in the modern Vizsla of today.
Typically the male Vizsla is about 60 pounds and 26 inches at the shoulder with females lighter and about 24 inches at the withers. They are very muscular dogs with a sleek, athletic and strong body, rounded lines and an appearance of speed and agility. The ribs are well sprung but not rounded and the abdomen is tucked up like that of the pointers and the Weimaraner. They have straight, rounded well boned legs and small compact feet. The chest is moderately wide and deep and the neck is longer and muscular, slightly arched and very elegant in appearance.
The head of the Vizsla is very much like that of the Weimaraner, sleek and well chiseled with a look of alert intelligence very much a part of the breed. They have moderate sized rounded ears that are thin through the leather and frame the face. The eyes are golden to darker rust or brown in color, very much matching the color of the coat. The nose is typically a darker to medium brown, again balancing with the color of the coat. Typically the Vizsla has a shaded rust to golden color of coat however some of the breeding lines breed a solid coat with no shading through the body or head. Very light tan or pale yellow colors are not acceptable neither is any dark brown, black, brindle or other types of coat patterns. A dark mahogany red is also considered a disqualifying color for show.
Although only the short haired Vizsla are recognized by the American Kennel Club there are actually two other options in the breed. There is a wire coated variety and a very uncommon long coated variety that are not recognized by most kennel clubs, although they do occur occasionally in breeding programs between registered and purebred dogs.
The Vizsla is a very high energy dog that is not suitable for apartment living or for homes where people are not dedicated to exercising the dog on a daily basis. These dogs need a large, well fenced yard to run and play during the day, plus they also need at least two long walks per day. They are great as jogging companions or for active families that want a dog that is always on the go. When properly exercised the Vizsla is great in the house but with a lack of exercise they are very rambunctious and difficult to work with. Vizslas are also known as chewers, particularly as puppies, so lots of toys need to be provided.
A dominant type of dog, the Vizsla needs early and constant socialization and obedience work. They are more independent than many of the hunting group but they have a strong sense of belonging and devotion to the family, making them ideal for someone that understands how to work with dominant types of dogs. They are not recommended for first time dog owners unless the person is willing to work with a trainer to establish him or herself as a leader using positive training methods. Once trained the Vizsla is a wonderful family dog and will absolutely love spending time with older, active children. The Vizsla is a good dog with other dogs or when raised with cats but has a very high prey drive. They are not suited for homes with rabbits, hamsters or other types of small rodent pets.
The short, sleek coat of the Vizsla sheds moderately year round but only requires grooming once a week to remove dead hair and minimize shedding. They are a very healthy breed that typically has few genetic problems other than hip dysplasia and an occasional ear infection that can be easily treated with routine cleaning and checking.
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