Vizsla

Photo of adult Vizsla

The Hungarian Vizsla and the Hungarian Wire Haired Vizsla are medium sized, all round gundogs that originate from Hungary. The breeds differ slightly in appearance but have a very similar character and temperament. They require little grooming, and brushing at home is sufficient to keep them from shedding around the house. They have been bred for function but their relatively small gene pool has meant that they can be prone to some illnesses, so it is important to try and select a healthy family line.

Both types of Vizsla are gentle, affectionate and loyal dogs and enjoy spending time with people. This means they can suffer from separation anxiety and should not be left alone for long periods of time as the ensuing anxiety and boredom can lead to unwanted behaviours. They are both extremely active breeds and only suited to households who can provide plenty of physical and mental stimulation. Vizslas are intelligent dogs and with sufficient exercise and a firm and consistent routine are very trainable and quick to learn. They are very good with children and protective of their families, which means they can also make good guard dogs.

About & History

The Hungarian Vizsla is a medium sized, multi-purpose gundog. They are one of the few breeds that is able to hunt, point, and retrieve and have good scent following abilities. Originally from Hungary, there are references to a Vizsla type dog from around the 1300s. Nomadic Hungarian tribes introduced them to the Carpathian Basin. These dogs subsequently became highly valued by the Hungarian aristocracy who cherished their hunting capabilities. By the 1800s they had proven themselves to be a useful and reliable multipurpose hunting dog and they competed extremely successfully in pointing competitions in Hungary. They are one of the smaller pointer breeds. Breeding of the Vizsla, as we know it today, began around 1920 but the breed suffered a blow to numbers after the Second World War and nearly faced extinction. More recently both types of Vizsla have faced a revival of their popularity and numbers in the UK are increasing.

The Hungarian Vizsla and Wire Haired Vizsla are recognized as two completely different breeds, although they have similar origins, characteristics and temperaments. The Wire Haired Vizsla was originally developed by two breeders who intended to establish a dog that was better suited to cold climates and working in water with a thicker coat and slightly heavier physique. This was achieved by crossing two pedigree Hungarian Vizsla’s with German Wire Haired Pointers, which were liver in colour in the 1930’s. During the Second World War it is thought that some other breeds were also used to develop the breed but there is limited information available detailing exactly which ones and to what extent.

Appearance

Vizsla Large Photo

Just one registration colour for the Hungarian Vizsla is permitted:

  • Russet Gold

The Hungarian Wire Haired Vizsla can have two coat colours which are accepted for registration:

  • Russet Gold
  • Golden Sand

The Hungarian Vizsla should be between 54 – 62 cm tall at the withers with female dogs in the lower half of this range. However, the breed standard allows for a variation of up to 3 cm if the dog is in proportion. The Hungarian Wire Haired Vizsla breed standard allows for a slightly greater variation in height than that of its relative, and should measure from 53 – 64 cm at the withers and weigh between 20 – 30 kg. There is variation between the coats of the two breeds, which is discussed further below in the ‘Grooming’ section.

The Hungarian Wire Haired Vizsla has a slightly more solid and robust look than the Hungarian Vizsla but other than this they possess a similar physical appearance. They should have a muscular, but medium length neck with no excess skin, leading on to muscular shoulders and elbows, which are held close to a strong trunk with even proportions. The chest should be deep and reach at least as far down as the elbows. The back should be level, with a slight slope towards the tail, which is low set. The body should be slightly longer than the height to the withers, and the depth of the chest to the withers should be the same as the distance from the chest to the ground. The back legs should be straight with well-developed thigh muscles. Feet should be cat-like with short toes.

The Wire Haired Vizsla should have a squarer appearance to the head than the Vizsla which should have a lean and noble look. Both should have heads of a medium width where the skull is slightly longer than the muzzle but is in proportion. Both types of Vizsla should have a strong jaw with a scissor bite and healthy white teeth. Their eyes should be oval and medium in size, and of slightly darker colour than their coat with securely fitting eyelids. The Hungarian Vizsla should have lower set ears than its Wire Haired cousin, but in both breeds they should be relatively long, thin skinned and downwards hanging with a rounded end.

Both Vizsla breeds should move with a lively, elegant gait and when they gallop each stride should cover a large amount of ground. Hind legs should be seen to drive the rest of the dog forward.

Character & Temperament

Both variations of the Vizsla have a gentle, loyal and extremely affectionate character. They are exceptionally sociable dogs and like to form part of the family. Interaction but firm and consistent rules are key to ensuring their usually good but lively characters do not become problematic. Both breeds are great with children and very loyal to their families. This means that they can also make good guard dogs, although they are also generally good with strangers if not perceived as a threat. If left alone, Vizslas can be prone to suffering from separation anxiety and this can lead to unwanted behaviours such as barking, house soiling, destruction, and obsessive compulsive habits.

Trainability

Photo of Vizsla puppy

The Hungarian Vizsla and the Hungarian Wire-Haired Vizsla are both sensitive dogs which require firm and consistent training from a young age. Although if they are properly managed they are very easily trainable and willing to please they can become rebellious if allowed to become bored and not exercised enough. Recall is not a problem at all in dogs that are appropriately trained and exercised. Both breeds are extremely sociable, and thrive and flourish when they have companionship but if left alone can resort to destructive, hyperactive or obsessive compulsive behaviours. A properly stimulated and exercised Vizsla with sufficient company will also be easy to house train, however, if they are left alone for long periods house training can be difficult to achieve.

Health

Both the Hungarian Vizsla and Wire-Haired Vizsla are relatively healthy breeds which have been bred as working dogs. However, more recently they have been found to be affected by some illnesses, which breeders should test and look out for.

The UK Kennel Club has the same requirements for breeders of both the Hungarian Vizsla and the Hungarian Wire-Haired Vizsla:

  • Hip Dysplasia

It is strongly recommended by the UK Kennel Club that breeders should follow the following advice:

  • 1) Female dogs should not be bred to have a litter of puppies before they are 2 years old.
  • 2) Female dogs should not have more than one litter of puppies every 12 months.

Both breeds can also be affected by:

  • Epilepsy – Epilepsy is a condition which causes seizures that can be either general or partial. Normally seizures have different phases to them and in the case when they are inherited there is no obvious abnormality. This type of epilepsy which is thought to be genetic is diagnosed by excluding all other possibilities. It can usually be treated successfully using anti-epileptic drugs if seizures become regular.

Conditions which affect the Hungarian Vizsla include:

  • Cancer – The Hungarian Vizsla seems to be over represented for occurrences of certain types of cancer, such as haemangiosarcoma (an invasive, fast growing cancer which forms in the lining of blood vessels) and lymphoma (cancers of blood cells which originate in lymphatic cells).
  • Glaucoma – A condition which affects the eye where improper drainage of fluid causes a build-up of pressure, this is often uncomfortable and can progress to eventually cause blindness if not treated. The Hungarian Vizsla is a Schedule B breed where a genetic component is suspected but has not been proven.
  • Vizsla Inflammatory Polymyopathy – This disease affects the muscles and ultimately causes them to progressively atrophy and degenerate. It causes severe symptoms such as problems when swallowing, regurgitation, excessive foamy salivation and wastage of muscles, particularly those of the head. There is no treatment but symptoms of the disease are managed to try and minimise discomfort. Dogs usually have to be euthanized as this condition eventually has a severe impact on their quality of life.
  • Immune Mediated Illness – There are numerous different types of immune mediated illnesses and a minimum of 16 different immune conditions have been found in Hungarian Vizslas in the UK. Research is being undertaken to further understand the extent of these conditions in the population. Some of the more common ones are:
    • Allergies
    • Polymyositis
    • Sebaceous adenitis
    • Steroid responsive meningitis
    • Immune mediated haemolytic anaemia
    • Thrombocytopaenia
  • Cerebellar Ataxia – A neurological disease which causes loss of coordination in movement, progressively becoming worse. If a dog is affected symptoms are seen between 2 – 3 months old. Although the condition is rare a DNA test is available to identify carriers but there is currently no treatment.
Some of the conditions which affect the Hungarian Wire-Haired Vizsla are:
  • Allergies – An allergy is when the immune system becomes over sensitive and reacts to something in a damaging way. Things which cause allergies (allergens) can be varied, either from the environment or in food. It is usually difficult to identify the exact allergen and there is often no definitive treatment, especially if the cause cannot be avoided. Unless the allergen can be identified treatment is normally based around relieving the symptoms. Hungarian Wire-Haired Vizslas seem to be especially prone to suffering from allergies.
  • Canine Hyperuricosuria – This condition means that there are higher than normal levels of uric acid present in urine. This can subsequently mean dogs are more likely to form stones in their bladders and occasionally kidneys, which can be painful and dangerous if they cause a complete blockage. This can be difficult to treat and surgery may be necessary to remove large stones. A DNA test is available for to check dogs for the condition.

Exercise and Activity Levels

Both the Hungarian Vizsla and the Hungarian Wire Haired Vizsla are very active breeds and require at least 2 hours of walking a day, if not more. They are only suited to extremely active families and/or working environments and the majority of this time should be spent off the lead. Sufficient exercise is essential to keep these dogs happy and healthy. They have been bred for work and can easily become bored if they do not have adequate mental and physical stimulation in their environment. In addition, they are happiest in a household, which can provide them with lots of outside space. Both breeds excel when given a purpose and structured training either as a gundog or for participation in field and working trials, agility or obedience.

Grooming

Hungarian Vizslas have a short but dense coat which should look shiny but feel slightly greasy if you touch it. Their coat requires very little grooming and is easily cleaned even after a day out working. Occasional brushing at home should be more than sufficient to keep it in good condition and prevent any shedding around the house.

As the name suggests the Hungarian Wire-Haired Vizsla has a different coat to its relative. It should be wiry but not long (no more than 4 cm long) and has an undercoat which becomes denser in the winter months. The wiry hair on their face and muzzle forms a beard and distinctive eyebrows giving them a more distinguished look. Despite their hairier appearance they require little grooming and brushing is enough to keep them clean and the house hair free.

Famous Vizslas

There are few famous examples of the breeds in popular culture but a some of these include:

  • Frakk from the Hungarian cartoon Frakk, The Nightmare of Cats
  • Kubrick the well-known director Sean Ellis’ dog.
  • Murphy who belongs to the radio producer and producer of The Howard Stern Show, Gary Dell’Abate.

Cross-Breeds

There are not many popular cross-breeds of either Hungarian Vizslas or Hungarian Wire Haired Vizslas but a couple have become popular mixtures:

  • Retrizsla or Labrala – Cross between a Hungarian Vizsla and a Labrador Retriever
  • BoxViz – Cross between a Hungarian Vizsla and a Boxer Retriever

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