Named for the French province in which it originated, the brittany was first registered by the American Kennel Club as the Brittany Spaniel in 1934. Although called a spaniel, by its manner of working game the Brittany belongs with the pointing breeds. In appearance, the breed is smaller than the setters but leggier than the spaniels, having a short tail and characteristic high ear-set. On September 1, 1982, the breed’s official AKC name became Brittany, to more correctly identify their hunting style.
Though it is generally conceded that the basic stock for all bird dogs is the same, most of the facts concerning the development and spread of the various breeds are lost in antiquity. The first accurate records to pinpoint the actual Brittany-type dog are seventeenth-century paintings and tapestries. The frequency with which these appear suggests this type of dog was fairly common. Paintings by Jean-Baptiste Oudry (1686–1755) show a liver-and-white dog pointing partridge. This same type of dog is common in Flemish paintings from the school of Jan Steen. Still other artists show this type of bird dog, so it would appear that it was common throughout the northern coast of France and in Holland.
Still, there is nothing written before 1850 that can be unequivocally interpreted as a reference to the Brittany. In that year, the English clergyman Reverend Davies wrote of hunting in Carhaix with small, bobtailed dogs. They were not as smooth as the Pointer, but worked well in the brush. They pointed, retrieved game well, and were particularly popular with poachers, as the nature of that occupation required that the dogs be easy to handle. The description fits the Brittany to perfection.
It was speculated, and in at least one case confirmed, that around 1900 some native spaniels of Brittany were mated with English pointing dogs, whose owners vacationed in France, for woodcock shooting. These matings intensified the pointing qualities of the breed while the basic features remained essentially Breton. The Brittany was an all-purpose dog, a family pet, and a guard dog as well as a hunting dog for the thrifty French peasant. This certainly influenced its shape, size, and disposition. The climate, the nature of the terrain hunted, the manner of hunting, and even its popularity with poachers all had an effect on the type of coat, keenness of nose, and retrieving ability that was developed over the years.
Legend has it that the first tailless ancestor of the modern Brittany emerged in the mid-1800s at Pontou, a little town in the valley of Douron. It resulted from a cross between a white-and-mahogany bitch owned by a hunter in the region and a lemon-and-white dog brought to Brittany for woodcock shooting by an English sportsman. Of two tailless puppies in this litter, one proved outstanding. His work in the field has been described as wonderful, and he became a popular stud. All of his litters produced puppies either without tails or with short stubs.
The Brittany became a recognized breed in 1907, when Boy, an orange-and-white, was registered in France as the first l’épagneul Breton queue courte naturelle. This name was soon shortened to l’épagneul Breton, or Brittany Spaniel. Before 1907, Brittanys had competed in classes for Miscellaneous French spaniels.
In the same year, an outline for the first breed standard was written. This early standard required that the tail be short at birth and that, in order to discourage further crossbreeding, black and white be disqualified. The requirement for the natural bobtail was soon dropped.
The breed was introduced in the United States in 1931 and was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1934. The first standard was a direct translation from the French and not particularly comprehensible. The first major accomplishment of the American Brittany Club after its formation in 1942 was to replace the original standard with a clear and concise one.
An early gain in popularity was due largely to the Brittany’s merits as a shooting dog. A superb nose and desire to please, coupled with relatively small size, endeared the breed to rural and urban hunters alike.
The last fifty years have seen a tremendous growth in both field trials and hunt tests sponsored by the American Brittany Club under the auspices of the AKC. Brittany competition in AKC dog shows has grown equally, and the majority of Brittany owners and breeders are today dedicated to the Dual Champion (field and show champion). Now, seventy years since first recognition, more than 500 Brittanys have gained the ultimate title, that of Dual Champion.
OFFICIAL STANDARD FOR THE BRITTANY
General Appearance—A compact, closely knit dog of medium size, a leggy dog having the appearance, as well as the agility, of a great ground coverer. Strong, vigorous, energetic and quick of movement. Ruggedness, without clumsiness, is a characteristic of the breed. He can be tailless or has a tail docked to approximately four inches.
Size, Proportion, Substance—Height—171D2 to 201D2 inches, measured from the ground to the highest point of the shoulders. Any Brittany measuring under 171D2 inches or over 201D2 inches shall be disqualified from dog show competition. Weight—Should weigh between 30 and 40 pounds.
Proportion—So leggy is he that his height at the shoulders is the same as the length of his body.
Body Length—Approximately the same as the height when measured at the shoulders. Body length is measured from the point of the forechest to the rear of the rump. A long body should be heavily penalized. Substance—Not too light in bone, yet never heavy-boned and cumbersome.
Head—Expression—Alert and eager, but with the soft expression of a bird dog. Eyes—Well set in head. Well protected from briers by a heavy, expressive eyebrow. A prominent, full or popeye should be heavily penalized. It is a serious fault in a dog that must face briers. Skull well chiseled under the eyes, so that the lower lid is not pulled back to form a pocket or haw that would catch seeds, dirt and weed dust. Preference should be for the darker colored eyes, though lighter shades of amber should not be penalized. Light and mean-looking eyes should be heavily penalized. Ears—Set high, above the level of the eyes. Short and triangular, rather than pendulous, reaching about half the length of the muzzle. Should lie flat and close to the head, with the tip rounded very slightly. Ears well covered with dense, but relatively short hair, and with little fringe. Skull—Medium length, rounded, very slightly wedge-shaped, but evenly made. Width, not quite as wide as the length and never so broad as to appear coarse, or so narrow as to appear racy. Well defined, but gently sloping stop. Median line rather indistinct. The occiput only apparent to the touch. Lateral walls well rounded. The Brittany should never be “apple-headed” and he should never have an indented stop. Muzzle—Medium length, about two thirds the length of the skull, measuring the muzzle from the tip to the stop, and the skull from the occiput to the stop. Muzzle should taper gradually in both horizontal and vertical dimensions as it approaches the nostrils. Neither a Roman nose nor a dishface is desirable. Never broad, heavy or snipy. Nose—Nostrils well open to permit deep breathing of air and adequate scenting. Tight nostrils should be penalized. Never shiny. Color: fawn, tan, shades of brown or deep pink. A black nose is a disqualification. A two-tone or butterfly nose should be penalized. Lips—Tight, the upper lip overlapping the lower jaw just to cover the lower lip. Lips dry, so that feathers will not stick. Drooling to be heavily penalized. Flews to be penalized. Bite—A true scissors bite. Overshot or undershot jaw to be heavily penalized.
Neck, Topline, Body—Neck—Medium length. Free from throatiness, though not a serious fault unless accompanied by dewlaps, strong without giving the impression of being overmuscled. Well set into sloping shoulders. Never concave or ewe-necked. Topline—Slight slope from the highest point of the shoulders to the root of the tail. Chest—Deep, reaching the level of the elbow. Neither so wide nor so rounded as to disturb the placement of the shoulders and elbows. Ribs well sprung. Adequate heart room provided by depth as well as width. Narrow or slab-sided chests are a fault. Back—Short and straight. Never hollow, saddle, sway or roach-backed. Slight drop from the hips to the root of the tail. Flanks—Rounded. Fairly full. Not extremely tucked up, or flabby and falling. Loins short and strong. Distance from last rib to upper thigh short, about three to four finger widths. Narrow and weak loins are a fault. In motion, the loin should not sway sideways, giving a zig-zag motion to the back, wasting energy. Tail—Tailless to approximately four inches, natural or docked. The tail not to be so long as to affect the overall balance of the dog. Set on high, actually an extension of the spine at about the same level. Any tail substantially more than four inches shall be severely penalized.
Forequarters—Shoulders—Shoulder blades should not protrude too much, not too wide apart, with perhaps two thumbs’ width between. Sloping and muscular. Blade and upper arm should form nearly a ninety-degree angle. Straight shoulders are a fault. At the shoulders the Brittany is slightly higher than at the rump. Front Legs—Viewed from the front, perpendicular, but not set too wide. Elbows and feet turning neither in nor out. Pasterns slightly sloped. Down in pasterns is a serious fault. Leg bones clean, graceful, but not too fine. Extremely heavy bone is as much a fault as spindly legs. One must look for substance and suppleness. Height at elbows should approximately equal distance from elbow to withers. Feet—Should be strong, proportionately smaller than the spaniels’, with close-fitting, well-arched toes and thick pads. The Brittany is “not up on his toes.” Toes not heavily feathered. Flat feet, splayed feet, paper feet, etc., are to be heavily penalized. An ideal foot is halfway between the hare and the cat foot. Dewclaws may be removed.
Hindquarters—Broad, strong and muscular, with powerful thighs and well-bent stifles, giving the angulation necessary for powerful drive. Hind Legs—Stifles well bent. The stifle should not be so angulated as to place the hock joint far out behind the dog. A Brittany should not be condemned for straight stifle until the judge has checked the dog in motion from the side. The stifle joint should not turn out making a cowhock. Thighs well feathered but not profusely, halfway to the hock. Hocks, that is, the back pasterns, should be moderately short, pointing neither in nor out, perpendicular when viewed from the side. They should be firm when shaken by the judge. Feet—Same as front feet.
Coat—Dense, flat or wavy, never curly. Texture neither wiry nor silky. Ears should carry little fringe. The front and hind legs should have some feathering, but too little is definitely preferable to too much. Dogs with long or profuse feathering or furnishings shall be so severely penalized as to effectively eliminate them from competition. Skin—Fine and fairly loose. A loose skin rolls with briers and sticks, thus diminishing punctures or tearing. A skin so loose as to form pouches is undesirable.
Color—Orange and white or liver and white in either clear or roan patterns. Some ticking is desirable. The orange or liver is found in the standard parti-color or piebald patterns. Washed-out colors are not desirable. Tri-colors are allowed but not preferred. A tri-color is a liver and white dog with classic orange markings on eyebrows, muzzle and cheeks; inside the ears and under the tail; freckles on the lower legs are orange. Anything exceeding the limits of these markings shall be severely penalized. Black is a disqualification.
Gait—When at a trot the Brittany’s hind foot should step into or beyond the print left by the front foot. Clean movement, coming and going, is very important, but most important is side gait, which is smooth, efficient and ground covering.
Temperament—A happy, alert dog, neither mean nor shy.
Any Brittany measuring under 171D2 inches or over 201D2 inches.
A black nose.
Black in the coat.
Approved April 10, 1990
Effective May 31, 1990
The Pointer comes by his name honestly. He was the first dog, so
far as we know, used to stand game in the sense in which we use the term today, and was developed as a distinct breed much earlier than any of the setters. For years it was believed the first Pointers used in England were importations from Spain and Portugal, but that theory has been pretty thoroughly disproved. It seems far more likely that Pointers came into general use in Spain, Portugal, throughout Eastern Europe, and in the British Isles at approximately the same time. Whether or not the dogs from which they sprung were native to all these places no one can say, but it can be stated with confidence that the development of the English Pointer took place within the confines of Great Britain, most probably in England itself. Later on, Spanish Pointers were brought in, but from the first they were considered as a different strain, if not a different breed, from the English dogs.
The first Pointers of which there is any dependable record appeared in England in about 1650, some years before the era of wing-shooting with guns. The use to which they were put is interesting. Coursing with Greyhounds was a favorite sport of those times, and the earliest accounts of Pointers reveal that they were taken afield to locate and point hares. When the hare had been found, the Greyhounds were brought up and unleashed, the game was kicked from cover, and the fun began. But early in the eighteenth century, at least by 1711, wing-shooting had come into vogue, and from that day on, the “shorthair” has been considered by the majority of sportsmen the equal, if not the superior, of any of the gundogs.
As to the Pointer’s lineage, as usual we find it something of an enigma, but there is no question that the Foxhound, Greyhound, and Bloodhound all had a share in his making. Individuals of the three breeds were probably crossed with the inevitable “setting spaniel,” which played such a prominent part in the creation of all our modern bird dogs.
During the first years of the eighteenth century the Spanish Pointer began to appear in England, and he, too, was used for a cross. But, as he was exceedingly heavy and very slow in comparison with the English, French, and German Pointers, subsequent breeding operations not only left him out but definitely attempted to correct the faults he had introduced. It appears that his real value was not to improve type but to fix and intensify the pointing instinct, in which, we are told, he was peculiarly strong.
Excerpted from The Complete Dog Book by The American Kennel Club. Copyright © 2006 by American Kennel Club. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine Books, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.