”America’s New Golden Gun-Dog”
Dr. I.S. Osborn ã1959
The Vizsla belongs in dogdom’s aristocracy; he shows it in dignified
bearing and proves it in recorded history. While the Vizsla is new to the
Western World it is perhaps the oldest bred of the great European
Vorstehund group of shorthaired pointing and retrieving dogs. The Vizsla
achieved recognition as a breed centuries ago. However, the breed was
never popularized in an American sense, but was rather restricted to the
nobility. There is a long though unheralded history behind this unusual
breed. - Primitive carvings in stone in the Carpathian regions - estimated
1,000 years old - show the Magyar hunter, his falcon and his Vizsla.
The Magyar Vizslas (Hungarian Pointers) honor their nomadic masters who
roamed the Carpathian plains and valleys ten centuries ago. Herdsmen and
hunters, these early Hungarians began the development of companion-hunting
dogs to find, point, and retrieve native game, and to tract (sic) wounded
large game. Successive generations continued the development of the breed
and by the Thirteenth Century the beautiful golden Vizsla was a distinct
breed, recognized and prized as a companion-field dog.
The word Vizsla, according to the Hungarian Etymological dictionary by G.
Bordi, is documented first in the writings in the year 1350 as the name of
village on the Danube indicating that Vizslas may have been found in its
environment. With the meaning “dog” it is documented in the Berstence
Glossary compiled toward the end of the 14th Century. It is
supposed to have
come from the oldest layer of the Hungarian language, from a root -Vis- which means “to search.”
Credit for revealing the Vizsla’s claim to ancient and honorable lineage
due to the former Secretary of the Hungarian Kennel Club, who may well be
one of the last living experts on the breed, and fortunately is now in
country. Prior to the occupation of Hungary by the Russians during World
II, the Hungarian Kennel Club began a search of family records and
for documentary proof on the history of the Vizsla. A priceless collection
of evidence was compiled. Private documents, drawings, paintings, and
sculpture confirmed the Vizsla’s existence in the 10th Century.
throughout the Middle Ages is confirmed in letters written in the 15th and
16th Centuries now in the National Archives in Hungary.
The Vienna Chronicle, a manuscript of the early Hungarian codes and laws
dating from the time of King Lajos (Louis) the Great (1342-1382) contains
chapter about the falconry of the nobility with a picture of the Vizsla.
Hungarian historians mention the favorite Vizslas of their heroes.
of the Turk occupations of Hungary (1526-1686) deal with the Vizsla breed chiefly in the correspondence between the Danubian provinces and the court
of the Sultan of Istanbul.
The breed existed beyond question of doubt in the 1200’s as the “Yellow
Pointer.” As the breed became progressively more popular, “Hungarian
Pointer” gradually replaced the term “Yellow Pointer.” Throughout the 100
years of Turkish Occupation, the now famous all-purpose dog frequently was
mentioned in correspondences of the era. By the 16th Century we
generally accepted and used as the breed name.
One Janos Gyulai writes in Latin, in 1563, to Kristof Batthyani; “We know
that your Honor possesses smaller sized hawks. Don’t leave us without one
two of them. And do send us please a bird-chasing Vizsla too. (Sed et
odoranium vulgo fyrejre valo Vizslath nobis dare velli).”
Mihaly Komlossy writes his brother, Tamas, on August 15, 1515: “.besides,
beloved brother, I ask you for a good Vizsle (sic), fit for birds. And let
the squire know that Janos Koesis is in the know about the falcons because
he worked with the falconer of Kristof Krassy and had to handle them.”
(Lampeath, Old Hungarian Letters 202).
Early in the 18th Century, Zolton Hamyay (landowner of the
county Gomor) and
Istvan Barczy de Barczihaza (landowner and Cabinet Councilor) established
purebred records in the form of a studbook, and the now famous “Golden
Vizsla” was documented as “Magyar Vizsla.”
The golden Vizsla was the favorite companion dog of the early barons and
warlords and, with the evolution of the nobility and large landowners, the
breed was preserved in its purity through the centuries. There is little
doubt that its ancestors were the hunting dogs of the various Asiatic
that invaded the lands of Central Europe until the 10th Century. The Vizsla
presents several specific breed-marks, apart from the characteristic
rusty-gold coat, that have never been found in any other variety of
The Vizsla was an established and recorded breed at least 300 years before
the Nobles of the Courts of Weimar set out to develop the Weimaraner
the year 1810, or before the first English Pointers were introduced into
Hungarian Kingdom in the year 1880.
Throughout the ages the Vizsla has been known as a “Gift of Kings” and
breedings were restricted to the Nobility of the Greater Hungarian
which covered Hungary and Czechoslovakia prior to World War I. To receive
”Royal Golden Vizsla” was an honor bestowed to only a very select few,
as the Queens of Italy and Spain, and Princess Iolanda di Savia, daughter
the King of Italy. The Vizsla bears the official title of the “National
Pointer of Hungary” and the breed is especially protected by the Magyar Ebtenycstok Orsagos Egyesulete, whose purpose is to maintain the high
standards of the breed.
The Vizsla is a rather privileged canine and holds a very high place in
Hungarian sporting circles and is not expected to sleep outside at the
finish of its day of work. The Vizsla always lived with the family, and
as much a part of the family as the children. It has been said that the
Vizsla must live with the family if the family is to benefit (deserve) the
loyalty and affection the Vizsla has to bestow. This breed has an
exceptionally good disposition, is very affectionate, and instinctively
of children. They are an apartment-sized family hunting dog.
The Vizsla is striking in appearance and never fails to attract attention.
They have a very beautiful and distinctive shorthaired rusty-gold coat as
well as a dignified and aristocratic bearing which sets them apart. They
present the picture of versatile aristocrat, well balanced and with a look
of intelligence and animation; a dog of great driving power, stamina,
constitution, in which the desire to hunt and the well-defined pointing
and retrieving instincts are deeply ingrained. They have extremely high
intelligence potentials and are exceedingly tractable and willing to obey
whenever they understand. They have a rare adaptability to new conditions.
The Vizsla is a robust animal of considerate skill at its work, a shade
taller and some pounds heavier than the English Pointer, and has a
natural instinct to point and retrieve. They are medium-sized, males
generally weigh from 45 to 57 pounds; females about 10 pounds less. Height
at the withers is generally from 19 ½ to 23 inches. The head is fine featured and aristocratic. The color of the iris of the eye should
correspond to the lighter or darker hue of the coat. The ears are carried
pendant, wide at the base and rather low set. Their tails are generally
docked to about 6 inches giving the animal a unique appearance and at the
same time avoiding the danger of having their flags whipped raw in heavy cover. Legs are straight, slender but well muscled. The feet are cat-like
rather than hare footed. The carriage is deliberate. In action the Vizsla
extremely fast, yet its movement is so smooth and graceful as to appear
Through centuries of careful selective breeding, the patient and thorough
Hungarian breeders developed a dog of great versatility. He is able and
willing to track down game with the gameness and keen nose of the
bloodhound; to point instinctively his feathered game with the sure
and staunchness of the Pointer and Setter; and in addition, with the
strength and fortitude to brave rough and icy water in retrieving
The Vizsla possesses all three traits.
They are dogs of unusual stamina and courage, no matter under what
conditions they are called upon to hunt. They have been used to hunt
partridge, pheasant, ducks, geese, rabbits, wolf, bear, deer, and boar.
Their nature is to work the ground carefully and pick up with their keen
nose, the faintest scent, working it out to a contact with game. Their
superb nose proves ideal for man trailing.
The Vizsla is trained to search diligently rather than to range too
to seek, track, point, and retrieve, thus serving a multiple purpose. The
robust Vizsla is commonly used for retrieving the huge 10 pound European
hares as found on the edge of the Hungarian puszta. He is a natural
retriever and is equally at home on land or water.
On upland game the Vizsla really comes into his own and combines the
of the pointer and retriever. He is very fast, extremely birdy, has an
exceptionally good nose, a finely discriminating bird sense and points by
instinct. He possesses an ideal “soft mouth” that does not mar the game in
John Fogarassy-Wallner (famed Hungarian born artist) states as follows:
”They had to take every hardship a human being could take; they had to
the heat of our August sun; sit with us in a goose pit; swim icy waters
after ducks; chase down wounded jack rabbits and retrieve them from half a
mile away at times. Be absolutely obedient, and serve just one Master, so
far as hunting was concerned. They were members of the family and we loved them but they had to have good manners and they had to behave”.
Comparisons are said to be rather “nefarious.” However, to properly
this breed, it probably is essential to quote from Continental
which compare the Vizsla with other pointing breeds. A European source
states that the German Shorthair, English and Vizsla pointers have
noses. The English pointer is extremely fast, the German the slowest and
Vizsla swift and not as wide-ranging as the English, but persistent on
trail. The English is a poorer retriever while the German and Vizsla are
excellent retrievers and the Vizsla more gentle mouthed. The Europeans
compare the Vizsla with the Weimaraner and state the Vizsla pointer is
smaller, much faster, has more pointing instinct, is a more gentle mouthed retriever and is of a distinguished color more suitable for use in the
To summarize, it appears that the Vizsla occupies a position between the
extremely fast English pointer and the slower German shorthair; combining
some of the known excellencies of both breeds together with a very
distinctive color, type and dignified aristocratic bearing which sets him
The finely discriminating bird sense is deeply ingrained, in that the
home country is and has been for centuries, the low lying Danube Valley
brad Hungarian plain where the grey partridge thrive on the grain bin of
Europe. The Vizsla breed has survived the Turkish Occupation, the
Civil Wars, World Wars I and II, and the Russian Occupation. The spread of
the Vizsla to other parts of the world had changed little from the Middle
Ages until 1945. As late as World War II the Vizsla enjoyed protection in
selective breeding, as only the remnants of the aristocracy and the large
estate owners were permitted by custom to breed.
At the end of World War I, the breed was almost extinct, but was preserved
by such men as Dr. Polgar Koloman and Dr. Kubes of Southern
Dr. Ferenc Korbas, Count Esterhazy and the large landowners of eastern
Hungary. Under the leadership of Dr. Koloman, careful selection
re-established the breed between World Wars, when, once again, the Vizsla
was threatened with extinction.
Throughout the ages the expert breed masters were far more interested in
fieldwork than show types. Hunting abilities were always paramount.
Breedings were carefully considered to produce only the best puppies and
never on a commercial scale. There were no so-called “puppy factories.”
the best pups were saved from a litter and those that were undesirable
The Vizsla was so closely held by the nobility of Czech and Hungary that
wasn’t until the Russians came that the specimens were taken out of the
country. When the Russians came in 1945 the nobility feared for their
and made an attempt to escape from the country. Many were put into prison
but others did escape, a few taking their favorite Vizsla as a most
cherished possession. The first Vizsla in America came with her master,
former leader of the Hungarian Democratic Party.
In searching through the various countries bordering the iron-curtain we
were able to find a handful of Hungarian emigrants who had brought their
Vizsla with them. Such emigrants were found in Austria, Germany,
and Italy. However, these people left in such haste that they neglected to
bring their official pedigrees and registration papers with them. Thus the
offspring of these fringe Vizslas were without a complete and official
In most instances they were forced to breed dogs of practically no
pedigree. In some instances only the common “call names” were listed and their
breedings were forced to take place without their once famous studbook.
Incomplete pedigreed pups of this undetermined ancestry can now be found
certain pocket areas where these refugees settled in countries bordering
iron curtain. Marshal Tito is one of the Yugoslavian enthusiasts of this
In the fall of 1951 we located some of the refugee breeding in Austria and
made arrangements to import a pair of pups. These Austrian Strain bore the
names of “Hess von Schloss Loosdorf” and “Marika Drvavolgy.” They were the
direct descendants of “Betyar” and “Panni”. However, their pedigrees were
only two generations and thus they could not be registered in this
Registration of a dog refers to the recording of its ancestors in a
studbook. “Betyar” and “Panni” have established the Austrian Strain since
the War and several of their descendants have been imported into the
States. This lack of complete pedigree with the Austria Strain was an
unfortunate circumstance as they were not eligible for registration.
It was our earnest desire to obtain complete pedigreed breeding specimens
eligible for registration in this country. Upon contacting a colleague at
European College of Veterinary Medicine, we were informed that it was
impossible now to find complete pedigree specimens even in iron curtain
Hungary, as the records of registration of the Hungarian OVC had been
destroyed in the war. They further advised that there was just one
in the world that now registered complete pedigreed Vizslas. This studbook
was the Czech SPKP, however, breeding specimens would be extremely
to obtain as they would have to come from a small section, deep behind the
iron curtain, in Southern Czechoslovakia on the north Hungarian border.
These Vizslas, as registered with the SPKP, were considered to have considerate breeding advantages in that their specific strains were
on a basis of championship field stock. Certain strains were also said to
entirely free of any hereditary faults.
My colleague immediately made contact with a refugee Veterinarian, an
ex-count refugee and former high official of the SPKP Stud Book and about
year later, in the spring of 1953, they were able to bring out my first
complete five-generation stud. This first specimen came form 700 km (434
miles) behind the iron curtain, directly from the Pusta. He was especially
linebred on the basis of their best Field Champion bloodlines. His
bore the names of 11 ancestors with the rating of Champion. Among them
Champion Vegvari Betyar, Champion Mira, Champion Ripp, Champion Szirka,
one of the greatest of all time, Champion Leanyvari Barat, his grandsire.
This import was classified as very, very sharp and with him were orders
his bold disposition, raggedness and hunting instinct were to be preserved
at all costs.
By working with the Veterinary College, we have since been able to import
over forty other Vizslas from behind the iron curtain, all of complete
pedigree and of the absolute very best championship breeding of their
motherland. This is the first recorded large scale Vizsla importation from
their native land behind the iron curtain. One of these specimens was
Rex-Selle “S.G.” top winner of the European International Vizsla
and at this writing the only rated import Vizsla in the country.
This import breeding stock was registered with the original listing by the
American Field Dog Stud Book. A total of 36 specimens were registered for
the entire country, 18 domestic bred pups and 18 import and FBAB (Foreign
Bred American Born). We registered 14 of the 18 in the import and FBAB
group, including 4 out of the 5 original import brood bitches.
Perhaps one of the greatest advantage of these genuine iron curtain
is not only the champion background or the complete six-generation
but the fact that we have been furnished with a complete breeding and
evaluation record on the ancestors of each animal. This will perhaps not
interest the novice, but the initiated or experienced will be able to read
the pedigree and thus be able to concentrate certain valuable and
desirable points of an ancestor or ancestors.
Under the guidance of these iron curtain Vizsla breeding experts, the
known litter of complete-pedigreed Vizslas to be bred outside of the iron
curtain, was born here in Minnesota in the first quarter of 1954. This was
truly a championship litter as the pedigrees bore the names of 37
with the rating of Field Champion. There no doubt would have been many
had not the political situation of the iron curtain prevented the
of new champions since the War.
The Vizsla is just now getting a start in this country and it is slated to
be a mighty rare specimen for a good many years to come. They are
rare now, even behind the iron curtain where a Vizsla house dog is taxed
the rate of 840 forints ($70.56) per year. The same law restricts general
dog breeding to pedigreed stock only and stipulates that all mongrel males
over one year must be sterilized. It is estimated that today there are
than 50 different Vizsla bloodlines behind the iron curtain. Less than 100
Vizslas per year are registered with the official stud book of the SPKP.
The records speak for themselves on the ability of our stock in field
competition with established breeds. Just about all of the famous winning
Vizsla bloodlines in the country stem from importations by this kennel.
have won at so many trials that we have actually lost count of the wins.
this writing, the three top winning Vizslas in this country were either imported or raised by this kennel. The greatest winning Vizsla in the
country was bred by this kennel and his record 19 wins with outstanding
pointers, and setters, weimars and shorthairs stands alone by itself. At
Camp Breckenridge, Kentucky, he came in “runner-up” over 18 pointers and 3
setters, nine of which were field champions with a total of 146 wins or
places. In 1957 he came in “runner-up” at the mixed breed Champaign
Dog Classic and in 1958 he came in “first place” winning over 38
representatives of just about all going breeds. The same dog came in
”runner-up” in the “Amateur All Age” stake at Charleston in open
with 18 pointers. A sister to the same dog placed in the derby of the
official all-breeds “Canadian Saskatoon Chicken Trial” and a few months
later won first on the class at the International Dog Show in Chicago. The
sire of the above two specimens won the Silver Trophy at the European
International and is America’s only rated import. He has sired more field
trial winners than any other stud outside of the iron curtain. Another of
our studs has a record of 13 wins including 4 first place wins at the
National. His record stands alone by itself and may never be equaled.
We believe our imports represent the outstanding foundation stock outside
the iron curtain today. We are America’s largest importer of the Vizsla
to date we have imported more Vizslas than all other importers combined.
yet, only one other importer, a Chicago individual, has been able to
penetrate behind the iron curtain to obtain their genuine registered
Our breeding stock has been hand chosen from a field of over 40 genuine
curtain imports and from the absolute very cream of their offspring of
The genuine iron curtain registered bloodlines of Olca, Selle, Mavidio,
Kubis, Hans, Povazia, Karpat, and Zabokreky all stem from original
importations by this kennel. We have introduced these bloodlines to the
American Sportsman and we believe they will leave a mark on the breed for
good many generations to come.