Old Danish Pointer

Linda Simon
Dr Linda Simon (MVB MRCVS, University College Dublin)
 
Photo of adult Old Danish Pointer
Pleple2000 / Wikipedia.org

Medium-sized brown and white dogs, Old Danish Pointers are athletically built and well-adapted to their role as pointers and retrievers when hunting. Developed in the early 1700s by a Danish man named Morten Bak, they continue to be used as a working breed even today.

Even-tempered and affectionate with people, Old Danish Pointers make much-loved family pets. They do, however, require a lot of exercise, and are not suited to a sedentary lifestyle in the city. Happiest when outside and on the go, this breed relishes the chance to participate in all sorts of activities, including scent work and agility.

About & History

The Old Danish Pointer has a claim to fame, in that it is the only Pointer dog originating in Scandinavia. Its history is easily traced to the start of the 18th century, when a man named Morten Bak created the breed in Glenstrup, in north-eastern Denmark. There are two potential stories regarding the history of Mr. Bak and his dogs. One theory is that he purposely bred local farm dogs with ‘gypsy dogs’ to create a Pointer for hunting purposes. The ‘gypsy dogs’ were owned by the Roma people, and were possibly part Spanish Pointing dogs. Another potential story is that Mr. Bak bred the farm dogs with Spanish Pointers (also known as Burgos Pointers), that were brought to ports by Danish soldiers, possibly returning from ‘The War of Spanish Succession’, which occurred between 1701 and 1714.

While the source of the dogs used is difficult to pinpoint, the breed produced was known locally as the ‘Bakhound’, and so it is most probable that it was indeed Morten Bak that led to the creation of the breed, whichever the circumstances. The development of the Old Danish Pointer was likely a direct consequence of hunting becoming more accessible to the common man, rather than being a sport reserved for the elite. At this time, this was a trend that was occurring all over Europe, not just in Denmark.

The local Danish dogs used in the breed’s creation were likely Scent Hounds, and the Old Danish Pointer was (and still is) well-liked for its hunting ability and remarkable sense of smell. While used as a Pointer in the traditional sense (a dog who will stop and look or point towards their prey), they are also good retrievers. They are largely used to hunt birds and water fowl.

Throughout the 20th century, with the arrival of new hunting breeds from the rest of the world, and with two damaging World Wars, the breed numbers decreased dramatically. As a reaction to this, a breed club was formed within Denmark in 1947. Their aim was to prevent the extinction of the breed – a fate which was becoming a real possibility. In the 1980s, there was a surge in the popularity of Old Danish Pointer puppies, thanks to a nature show on the television called ‘En Naturlig Forklaring’ that featured a sweet Old Danish Pointer called Balder.

The United Kennel Club officially accepted the breed in the year 2006. While not commonly seen outside of their native Denmark, there are some breed members living within mainland Europe today.

Appearance

Old Danish Pointer Large Photo
Pleple2000 / Wikipedia.org

It is one of the main breed attributes that the male dog is noticeable larger and more muscular than the female. The gender of the animal should be obvious, even when the animal is seen from a distance. Males will weigh between 30 and 35kg and will stand at 54 to 60cm, while females typically weigh between 26 and 31kg and measure 50 to 56cm.

They are a medium-sized, powerfully built dog with relatively short heads, lean bodies and thin tails of a medium length. Their eyes should be dark brown and their ears flop downwards and are carried tight to the face. They have a short coat that is white with brown markings; the darker the shade of brown, the better.

Character & Temperament

The Old Danish Pointer is well-known for its stoic and calm nature. While active and engaged when on the hunt, in the home, they are well-adjusted and sensible pets who enjoy spending time with people. The Old Danish Pointer gets on well with other animals and has a lot of patience with children. Due to their hunting instincts, they should not be homed with pet birds.

Due to their intelligence and reliance on human company, they can bore easily and are prone to the development of anxiety if left alone for prolonged periods. It would be ill-advised to under-exercise this breed, or keep them in a confined space, as they can develop bad habits within the home.

Trainability

Photo of Old Danish Pointer puppy

A breed that excels when well-trained, they enjoy performing tasks to the best of their ability, and commonly form a close bond with their master, who they live to please. As they are a smart animal, they do best with varied and fun training exercises, and will not respond well to harsh or negative training methods.

They are instinctively good at using their nose and retrieving prey, even from a very young age, rarely needing to be taught.

Health

The Old Danish Pointer generally enjoys good health and will live into their early teens. Owners should be aware of the following problems reported within the breed:

  • Hip Dysplasia – This is a condition that is prevalent in many breeds of larger dogs. The hip joint fails to form properly, resulting in inevitable instability and eventually in localised inflammation and joint degeneration. Dogs will become increasingly lame on their hind limbs and will experience varying degrees of pain and discomfort. An early diagnosis can improve the prognosis, and for some dogs, surgery will be a potential treatment.
  • Elbow Dysplasia – Elbow dysplasia refers to a number of conditions that can occur within the elbow, resulting in mobility issues and pain suffered in the fore limbs. As with hip dysplasia, early diagnosis is key, and while there is no real cure for the condition, affected dogs can be managed using a multi-modal approach.
  • Eye Issues – These include entropion (eyelids fold inwards irritating the surface of the eye), ectropion (eyelids turn out, exposing the surface of the eye, causing irritation) and distichiasis (the growth of an eyelash from an abnormal location, which may rub on the eye). It is always a sensible idea to screen the eyes of any potential breeding animal.
  • Ear Infections – Ear infections can be difficult to treat, and in some dogs, may recur often, leading to both frustrated owners and pets. Signs to watch out for include a foul smell, redness inside the ear canal, thick discharge and head-shaking or rubbing. Any dog that has floppy ears is more prone to the development of infections, as moisture tends to get trapped inside the canal, encouraging the reproduction of yeast and bacteria. Keeping ear canals clean and dry can assist in the prevention of infections.

Exercise and Activity Levels

Lively and content when outside in nature, the Old Danish Pointer loves to spend time outdoors, and would not be suited to apartment life. Giving this breed the opportunity to participate in hunts, tracking and other canine activities will provide it with a great outlet for its energy. Swimming is an activity that many Old Danish Pointers appreciate, and are natural born swimmers.

Several long runs or hikes should be provided each day if the dog is unable to live in a rural setting with constant outdoor access. A well-exercised, worn out Old Danish Pointer appreciates being in the comfort of a home and will gladly relax with the family at the end of a busy day.

Grooming

A relatively low maintenance breed, the short fur of the Old Danish Pointer just needs to be brushed once or twice a week. Owing to their propensity for developing ear infections, it is important to get into the routine of checking their ears and cleaning them out as necessary. Claws should be routinely clipped, though this may not be essential if given plenty of outdoor access and the opportunity for them to be worn down naturally.

Famous Old Danish Pointers

Balder, the Old Danish Pointer that featured on Danish TV in the 1980s, is probably the best known of the breed.

Cross-Breeds

There are currently no popular Old Danish Pointer cross-breeds.

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