Many pointing dog breeds have been lost to history. Craig Koshyk thought that the Majorcan Pointer was another one that only lived on today in books and stories. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case. Below is a bit of what he discovered about the breed.
This excerpt comes from Craig’s book Pointing Dogs, Volume One: The Continentals, the most thorough and authoritative work available on the history of continental Europe’s pointing breeds. If you love hunting dogs, it’s a book you have to have.
“Of all the breeds I’ve seen and studied, the Majorcan Pointer came as the biggest surprise. Despite finding a good number of historical references to it in the old literature, I was unable to determine if the Balearic Islands’ native pointing breed was still being bred today. And since Googling its name in English, French and Spanish only turned up the same old quotes from same old books, for a long time I assumed that the breed was extinct.
But only a few weeks before flying to Spain to photograph Burgos Pointers and Pachónes Navarro, I decided to give it one more shot. This time the words I entered into the Google search field were in Catalan, the other official language of the island of Majorca. I typed ca de mostra and ca de caça, then hit return. Less than an hour later I was on the phone to Sheryl Marchand, my very understanding travel agent, telling her that Lisa and I would need to extend the Spanish leg of our trip. Majorca’s native pointing dog was still alive!”
Craig Koshyk has seen both breeds, plus dozens of other hard-to-find hunting dogs. So when he writes something about the rare breed, his thoughts are worth checking out. Here’s a piece he just posted to his Pointing Dog Blog:
“One of my pet peeves is seeing breeders of less common gundog breeds use the term ‘rare’ as an advertising hook, as if ‘rare’ was a synonym for ‘good’. On the other hand, it also bugs me when I hear people bad-mouth less common breeds by saying “they must be rare for a reason”.
When it comes to gundogs, rare does not mean good, or bad. Breeds become popular or remain rare for many reasons, usually totally unrelated to how good, or bad they actually are. Case in point: the Weimaraner. It is among the most popular gundog breeds in the world. Yet apart from a some superb individuals and a few good lines, as a hunting breed, it is in pretty rough shape overall. Trying to get a decent hunting dog by reaching in and picking a pup from any random Weim litter is like trying to hit a hole-in-one with a nine iron”
When it comes to their dogs, people love believe the craziest stories. And when it comes to Vizslas, these stories get pretty crazy. Some include bits about how the breed appears in ancient European rock paintings and others say these dogs have been pure bred for the last 1,000+ years. One tale even has them as the favorite hunting dog of medieval Magyar barons and warlords.
But as romantic as many of these tales are, there’s no real evidence to confirm them as true. Craig Koshyk points this out in his excellent book Pointing Dogs, Volume One: The Continentals. You can some of the truth about Vizslas here on Craig’s excellent Pointing Dog Blog. While their true story is far from the romance that some people would like to read, it’s still fascinating and worth learning about.
If you follow this blog, you know how much I love Craig Koshyk’s book Pointing Dogs: Volume One: The Continentals. Here’s a review of it that I wrote a little while ago. It was published in July/August 2012 edition of Shooting Sportsman magazine:
I’m selfish with my time, and the older I grow the worse I get. This makes me reluctant to pick up most new books I come across. I wonder if they’ll be worth the time they’ll take to read.
Pointing Dogs: Volume One: The Continentals by Craig Koshyk is a big book with a big title, and at first this title worried me. It sounds a lot like the other breed bibles out there. Fortunately, Koshyk’s bookisn’t anything like them. Part history lesson, part guide, and part love letter, Pointing Dogs is one of the finest books about hunting dogs that I’ve ever read.
Passion is what makes Pointing Dogs so worthwhile. Early on in the book Koshyk writes “We will always love our pointing dogs, and through them, forever seek a closer connection to the natural world,” and “Hunting over them (pointing dogs) is about pleasing the senses and soothing the soul.” Koshyk loves bird dogs and bird hunting, and his ardor makes this work glows. What follows in the book is as much a tribute to pointing dogs as it is a tribute to all the ways they enrich our lives.
Accuracy is an crucial part of this tribute. Instead of just recycling old breed standards and previously published information (much of which is incorrect), Koshyk spent twelve years doing original research for this book. Crisscrossing Europe with a notebook, camera and credit card, he talked to breeders, attended field trials, and hunted behind the breeds in his book.
Today, Koshyk is probably the only person in the world to have seen every one of the continental pointing breeds in action, in their native lands. This gives Pointing Dogs an impressive authority. When Koshyk writes that the Pachon Navorro (nicknamed the Double-Nosed Spanish Pointer) “…showed a good degree of desire, hunting hard despite the thick, thorny cover,” you know he didn’t just read that on the Web or in some out-of-date field guide. He actually traveled to Guadalajara, Spain, and saw Pachon Navorros in the field. This commitment comes through on every one Pointing Dogs, and it’s a big part of what make the book so special.
The three-hundred-and-sixty-five pages in Pointing Dogs go over a lot. To keep the book readable, Koshyk breaks it into six sections. First is “Pointing Dogs,” which covers the origins and history of these animals. The next two sections – “South and West” and “North and East” – detail current Continental breeds. Next there’s “Outliers,” which is about pointers at the edges of Europe, and then “Lost and Forgotten” discusses extinct breeds. At the end is “Appendices,” which includes everything from how to select a breed and dog to comparisons in sizes, gaits, populations, and more.
In all, Pointing Dogs covers 52 breeds from Europe and into Turkey and Russia. Koshyk writes about each dog’s history, form, function, and character. He also details the pointer’s selection & breeding prospects, and gives his opinion of each dog’s hunting ability.
There’s information about dogs we’ve heard about, like German Wirehair Pointers, and about dogs few people have seen, like the Saint-Usage Spaniel. Koshyk judges each breed with an understanding of how different dogs have been bred to hunt in different ways, while still holding to an objective standard of what it takes to be a good gun dog.
The handiest part of the breed reviews is a synopsis called “At A Glance”. It outlines the breed’s Pros and Cons and includes a useful little blurb called the “Risk Profile”. Buying a hunting dog is a gamble, and when you bet on any of the rarer breeds presented in this book, the odds against getting a good one for the field can really grow. The Risk Profile accounts for this phenomenon. It’s good to see that Koshyk is knowledgeable enough about hunting dogs to include this and responsible enough as a writer to report on it.
Beautiful, full-color pictures are another impressive part of Pointing Dogs. Koshyk is just as talented with a camera as he is with a pen, and page after page of his book come to life with photos of the dogs he writes about. This mean Pointing Dogs is rewarding to study and just plain fun to flip through and admire.
Early on in his book Koshyk explains what drove him to put the time, money, and effort into creating Pointing Dogs: Volume One: The Continentals. “If I wanted to read a book that did not exist,” he says, “I’d have to write it myself.” I’m glad he did, and I’m happy to spend time reading it again and again. If you love bird dogs, you will be, too.
If you’re into hunting dogs, you need to buy Craig Koshyk’s excellent book Pointing Dogs, Volume One: The Continentals. I wrote a glowing review of the book for Shooting Sportsman magazine. It looks like I’m not the only one who loved it, either. More reviews are in and all of us agree that this is a must have book.
I’m interested in side by sides — that’s pretty obvious. So when I came across the Pachón Navarros, a Spanish pointing dog with a double barrel nose, I was intrigued.
According to Craig Koshyk’s Pointing Dogs, Volume One: The Continentals, the Pachón Navarros trace back to the very first sporting breeds to appear around the Pyrenees Mountains, way back in the 13th century. The dogs almost disappeared in the early 20th century, but today a growing group of hunters and enthusiasts are rebuilding the breed.