The Brittany Spaniel: An Extraordinary Bird Dog

By Michael Russell

The Brittany Spaniel originally was found in Breton. In a painting by Oudry in the early 1700s there is a portrait of a tail-less spaniel about the size and color of the Brittany that is pointing a partridge. The breed became popular with local poachers in the 1800s because of its agility and small size and its extraordinary ability to point and flush the birds, combined with a desire to retrieve and a willingness to work.

In modern times, the Brittany has become the most popular of the “pointing” breeds in the United States. It is extremely “birdy” and is tireless in the field. It will retrieve the birds also, which is not common with most of the pointers. The “Britt” also fits well into a household, being affectionate and friendly. He is a small dog with a love of the outdoors, being agile and compact he can fit into an urban household but needs to be well exercised. This is a dog whose first love is bird hunting and it is an independent dog. It loves nothing better than to work with its human master on a “partnership” basis to bring in the birds. There are many hunters who swear by this dog as being one of the best bird hunting dogs they have ever had, once they have had a “Britt” they will never switch their loyalties. This is a breed that has retained a strong hunting presence in both England and the United States and it is not uncommon for “dual championships” (championships in conformation and hunting trials) to be shown in the show ring.

The Brittany is a smaller dog, standing 17 to 20 inches in height, with finer bones than many of the larger pointers. The coat should be somewhat sparse and lying flat with some waviness, although the dogs shown in the ring have a fuller coat it is not necessarily part of the standard of the breed. The coat should not be so heavy as to catch the burdocks and weeds but rather thin enough and silky enough that the dog can travel through heavy underbrush with ease. Colors can be everything from orange and white to liver and white with orange and white being the most popular. Black is not allowed. The Brittany should be an athletic dog with the stride of the rear foot landing in the print of the front foot or beyond when moving. The tail is either short or bobbed.

In matters of temperament the Brittany is not overly aggressive and its behavior befits its function. It has never been used as a “guarding dog” but only as a “bird dog” and this is its first interest. It is friendly to humans but does not “crave” the human companionship as much as it craves the joy of the hunt. It is a willing worker and has a “soft” nature, it is a dog that is easy to train and does not need harsh discipline.

Michael Russell Your Independent guide to Dogs

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