The German Shorthaired Pointer began as a Continental Gundog …
“Here is a group of dogs that can follow wounded game or track deer and boar, work with the falcon, quarter ground close or wide, hold game on point, flush on command, mark and retrieve shot game, work in water and dense cover, withstand the cold and wet, and yet provide companionable loyalty and affection for their owners.” Also referred to as a “jack of all trades” or “canine triathlete” because of its ability to hunt, point & retrieve. “A good German short-haired pointer which knows its job is not simply part of the equipment, it is the most important member of the team.” – Hunter Pointer Retriever, The Continental Gundog.
Dogs that pointed were known to have existed in Europe as far back as the 13th century. In the 17th century Gesner, referred to them as vorstehund literally translated, dog that stands before. The Germans and French called them quail dogs while the Italians referred to them as net-dogs. Not easily identified by type hunting dogs were found in all shapes, sizes, coat types and used in all types of hunting. At the end of the 17th century de Selincourt coined the generic term “gundogs” which separated the braques from the spaniels. According him setting dogs were braques that hunted with a high nose and stopped at the scent while spaniels hunted with a low nose following track and were used with falcons.
Germany as we know it today did not exist rather it was part of a large area of central Europe that subsequently became 360 states ruled by various Kings and Princes’. When they weren’t at war with one another formal visits took place with invitations extended to go hunting and often time dogs in addition to other items were exchanged as prized gifts. Period writings indicate a braque or pointing dog was being used through out Central Europe, France, Italy and Spain and its conformation was very much like that of the modern German pointer. These dogs were white with brown marking or white speckled or brown spotted and hunted with their noses held high and highly sought after.
With the improvement of firearms it was popular to shoot birds on the fly and the use of pointers came into its own. By the middle of the 18th century pointers were being used all over Europe as well as the British Isles. After the 1848 revolution the non-aristocracy of Germany had an opportunity to participate in shooting and subsequently own gundogs. Prior to the beginning of the 18th century there were only a small number of pointers in Germany and it is during this century breeding experiments were done to improve the qualities of those German dogs. Since little was recorded not much was known about the results other than most of the crosses were done with dogs indigenous to Germany as Herr Seiger states, “There was no deeper knowledge in the art of breeding to play a major part in old-time Germany.” He further stated, that breeders bred as they liked but all were in agreement that they wanted a dog that would be an excellent performer in any type of work whether in the field, forest or water.
They knew where they wanted to go and it was pretty much an educated guess on how to get there, evident by some of the earlier breed prototypes. It is important to note the use of lower case “p” in the spelling of “pointer” as this is an indication of an attribute and not a proper name as in the English Pointer breed.
Italian, French and the mediterranean region of Spain pointer stock was used along with the original German pointer and subsequently the Hannover Hound. By 1872 breed development continued but a standard set in 1879 eliminated a large number of breeding stock for not exhibiting the legendary ancient German lineage, i.e. didn’t look like the early German pointers. In 1887 at a field trial the body type of Waldin(wh. 7/26/1884) brought renewed vigor and a turn in breeding development occurred.
As Germany unified, it along with the German pointer continued to evolve. Unfortunately two world wars involving Germany caused vast gaps in the breeding stock. Some kennels that flourished before WW II found rebuilding afterward difficult. There was little to no information about the kennels of East Germany as very little of the breeding stock was rescued or survived. Breeder Gustav Machetanz barely managed to escape with a few dogs ahead of the approaching Russian army and resettle in West Germany. This is significant because his dog Axel vom Wasserschling proved to be an important post-war sire. During WW II the fascist government controlled hunting and the breeding of all hunting dogs with Hermann Goering the minister responsible for all matters relating to both. It is during this timeframe his edict that all of the clear white & liver dogs were to be destroyed because they did not blend with the woods like the solid liver and liver roans.
Shortly after WW I Dr. Charles R. Thornton of Missoula, Montana saw an article with pictures in the National Sportsman about German Shorthair Pointers. After reading it several times he commented to his wife, “If those dogs don’t cost a million dollars, I am going to buy a pair.” which he did from Austrian breeder Edward Rindt with the bitch bred prior to shipping. Senta v Hohenbruck arrive after twenty-four days crated but not the dog having been killed in a car accident prior to shipping. On July 4, 1925 she whelped seven pups with one lost to pneumonia. The breed not yet recognized by the AKC the litter was registered with “Everyuse” in the Field Dog Stud Book early in 1926.
Having served on opposite sides in WW I Walter Mangold and Ernest Rojem met in the late 1920s on a pheasant hunt in Nebraska and found in common their love of the breed. They managed to import a breeding pair via Ernest’s brother in Germany. Not easy because the Germans were hesitant to let their good dogs leave the country. By 1932, Joseph Burkhart, a former German gamekeeper living in Wisconsin began to import dogs. His three dogs; Bob v. Schwarenberg, Arta v. Hohreusch and Feldjager’s Grisette would impact the American breed as the foundations for many kennels yet to come. Jack Shattuck of Minnesota bought a pup from the Bob/Arta litter and established the Schwarenberg Kennel. Mr. Shattuck can be given credit for bringing recognition to the breed when he campaigned Fritz v. Schwarenberg across the U.S. Fritz held to his credit, BOB at Morris & Essex and Westminster in 1940 and winning the Chicago International 4 years in a row. Fritz sired Rusty v. Schwarenberg the breed’s first field and dual champion. Hjalmar Olsen another noteworthy imported Denmark’s field GSP of the Year for fifteen years. Hjalmar Olsen like Jack Shattuck acquired dogs from Joseph Burkhart but Hjalmar is better known for acquiring Timm v. Altenau from Dr. Thornton and in the later years became synonymous with the Moesgaard line. It is also noteworthy to mention Richard S. Johns, Ralph Parks and Bob Holcolmb as other post WW II importers of the breed.
The American Kennel Club officially recognized the breed in 1935 and by 1938 the Shorthair was gaining breed strength in the Minnesota-Wisconsin areas with some over lap into Michigan. This allowed them to make application to the AKC for parent club status with Joseph Burkhart and Jack Shattuck being listed among the first officers. The charter was granted as the German Shorthaired Pointer Club of America, Inc. Their charge was to define the true type of the breed of purebred dogs for which it was organized to promote and improve. Their first standard was adapted from the original German standard and with slight variation it was officially approved May, 1946. The articles and provision of the charter and constitution would allow for changes should that be necessary in the future. The GSPCA, Inc. underwent a revision in 1947 but the Minnesota club remained the parent club until 1953 when the AKC mandated the parent club become a separate organization. In 1962, the GSPCA reorganized to its present structure. The first conformation standard approved in 1946 has undergone few changes with the most comprehensive in 1972 and again in 1992 to conform to the AKC format similar to that of other AKC breed standards.