Large Münsterländer

Stuart Fitzgerald
Dr Stuart Fitzgerald (MVB MANZCVS, University College Dublin)
 
Photo of adult Large Münsterländer

The Large Münsterländer is a versatile working breed from the Münster region of Germany, where it was developed as a hunting, pointing, and retrieving gundog. Although its ancestors were performing similar duties in the Middle Ages, the Large Münsterländer has only been recognised as a breed in its own right since the early twentieth century, and it did not make its way to the United Kingdom until the 1970s. While hunters value it most for its excellent working abilities, it is also a wonderful family dog once it is well exercised and mentally stimulated. Few reputable breeders will sell their puppies into non-hunting households, however, as it is difficult to achieve this balance if the dog is deprived of its natural outlet for its prey drive.

This drive is very strong; particularly, it seems, in continental strains of Large Münsterländers. For this reason, this is a not a suitable choice of dog for those owning other smaller pets. However, the breed’s steady, cheerful disposition means it is a natural fit for families with children, and it is supremely intelligent, meaning it can be trained to a high level of obedience. Though somewhat reserved with strangers, the Large Münsterländer is not shy or aggressive, and is not the most noisy or watchful of guard dogs. It is very sociable with other dogs, having been bred for collaborative work, and is likely to be happier in homes with canine company. Although there is a relatively high incidence of skin and joint problems in the breed, serious health problems are rare, and the Large Münsterländer has a life expectancy of 11–12 years.

About & History

Through works of art and literature, we can see that Germanic hunters have used particoloured and white pointing dogs for much of the last 1000 years. However, the Large Münsterländer only emerged as a distinct sub-type of the German Longhaired Pointer in the late nineteenth century, being denied pedigree registration under the Pointer’s breed standard because of its black, rather than brown markings. Early fanciers of the breed subsequently introduced spaniel blood into the line, and worked on standardising this new derivation, with the result that the German Kennel Club admitted it as a new breed in 1922, entering 83 individuals into its register at this time.

While it has never been the most common of the gundogs, the breed’s enduring appeal lies in its versatility. Rather than specialising in one facet of hunting, the Large Münsterländer is adept at tracking, pointing, and especially retrieving, and it is a particularly tenacious and determined character once on a trail. So strong is its prey drive that it will tackle almost any animal it encounters in the field, though it is most inclined to hunt water birds, its traditional quarry. Large Münsterländers have been known to pursue and kill wild boar, and hunters in the United States have been forced to select slightly less bloodthirsty individuals for breeding out of fears for livestock on farming lands! Denying a Large Münsterländer the opportunity to hunt runs strongly against every instinct in the breed, and even though they make great companions at the end of a long day, they require more exercise and stimulation than most homes can provide.

Appearance

Large Münsterländer Large Photo

The Large Münsterländer has a strong, muscular body, but is racy, rather than bulky. It has an elongated, noble head with a slight stop between the crown and the broad muzzle, the top of which is flat. Its jaws and teeth are strong, and the lips are clean and well-fitted. Its very dark, oval eyes are rimmed with black lids, and the pendulous, fringed ears are set just above eye level, and have rounded tips. The neck and back are very firm and well muscled, with a pronounced muscular arch marking the position of the loin. In profile, the Large Münsterländer has a square shape, with the length of the back and the height at the withers being equal.

In keeping with its athletic appearance, the breed has a deep and broad chest and a slim, well-tucked abdomen. Its tail is carried at, or just above, horizontal, and is used to signal to the hunter when it sniffs out its prey. Its shoulders are well laid back, giving its forelimbs good angulation through the joints, while its hindlimbs are more upright. Both sets of limbs of strongly boned and well muscled, and give the Large Münsterländer a springy walk that can erupt into an animated, driving gallop with ease.

The black and white coat is long and thick, and sits close to the skin in spite of its wave. The three recognised colour variations are:

  • White and black
  • Blue roan
  • Black

Males are generally around 60–65 cm (24–26 in.) in height, and weigh approximately 27–30 kg (59–66 lb), while females may be between 58 and 63 cm (23–25 in.) and weigh around 26–28 kg (57–62 lb).

Character & Temperament

The Large Münsterländer is a clever and biddable dog, but has extremely high energy levels that mean it may not reach its potential when kept as a pet, being likely to become frustrated and restless. A well-worked dog is calm and cheerful, and although it has the independence needed to work at ranges of up to two hundred metres from a hunter in the field, it is responsive and sensitive to its owner. The breed is very tolerant of children, but, when excited, can be too boisterous for the very young. It mixes very well with other dogs, but is likely to see cats and other pets as food, rather than family.

Trainability

Photo of Large Münsterländer puppy
Giddylake / Wikipedia.org

Those that know the Large Münsterländer well are always quick to point out its great intelligence; it also ranked very highly in a recent US study on the working abilities of the various hunting breeds.

Apart from being naturally gifted in the hunting arena, its cleverness and good nature mean that most owners should find it an easy dog to train to a high standard.

Health

Most Large Münsterländers are healthy dogs; they could not engage in their work if they were not. However, the most recent breed health survey conducted identified a high incidence of allergic skin disease and joint problems, issues that prospective owners should be made aware of.

  • Allergies – While dogs do get hay fever-like symptoms, most allergic reactions manifest as skin problems, with owners noticing itching and scaling. These are most commonly caused by exposure to plant materials or insects, including fleas. As many as one in three Large Münsterländers may be affected by allergies at some point in their lives.
  • Elbow dysplasia – A common developmental disorder, causing malformation of the elbow joints, lameness, and early onset arthritis. Adults should be x-rayed, have their joints scored, and removed from the breeding pool if necessary.
  • Epilepsy – Causes intermittent seizures, possibly necessitating the use of anti-epilepsy medications. Signs seen from six months of age.
  • Hip dysplasia – Deformation of the hip joints causing lameness in growing dogs and subsequent osteoarthritis. Another condition that is strongly inherited and is best prevented through screening of breeding adults.
  • Otitis externa – Like other breeds with pendulous ears, the Large Münsterländer is prone to ear infections because of the lack of ventilation within the ear canals.

Exercise and Activity Levels

The Large Münsterländer is inexhaustible, and has a massive capacity for exercise. It is essential to its wellbeing that it gets at least two hours of vigorous activity every day – running alongside a bicycle, for example. However, a long day running in pursuit of ducks or geese is what this dog really wants!

Grooming

The long, wavy coat needs to be brushed two to three times a week to keep it sleek and knot-free, as well as to remove the grass seeds and other detritus that it seems to attract. It should not be washed frequently, for this adversely affects its waterproofing. Because of the breed’s propensity to develop ear infections, the ears should be cleaned out at least once every two weeks with a proprietary ear wash.

Famous Large Münsterländers

As a breed used kept almost exclusively for hunting, the Large Münsterländer does not boast any celebrities among its ranks. In 2008, a young male named Doppelsorge Shady Geezer ("Chester" to his friends) won the Special Junior Dog class in Crufts, to become one of the few to excel in the show ring.

Cross-Breeds

The hunting community to which the breed belongs does not seem to indulge in cross-breeding, and there are currently no recognised Large Münsterländer hybrids.

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