A New Breed of Dog
The Wirehaired Vizsla is a relatively new breed first developed in Hungary in the mid-1930s. The idea came mainly from hunters and falconers, to breed a dog with the same outstanding traits as the Vizsla and of the same color, but of somewhat heavier and sturdier, with a thick wiry coat, to be more resistant to extreme winter weather and rough field conditions of the uplands of their northern Hungary. The idea of developing such a dog generated many differing opinions among various breeders, but finally Vasas Jozsef, owner of the Csaba Vizsla Kennel in the town of Hejocsaba, formally initiated the development of a Wirehaired Vizsla by submitting an application to the Hungarian Vizsla Klub in which he outlined the ways of developing such a breed. His proposal created controversy in the club with some who agreed to try developing such a breed and others who objected for the sake of preserving the historical purity of the Magyar Vizsla. Ultimately, the club approved the proposal with the specific recommendation to develop as many specimens as quickly possible and to exhibit them in shows and hunting competitions, reserving the right to give future permission for more development only after examining the individual characteristics and abilities of these dogs. The principal scope and guidelines of the new breed was to preserve all the inherent qualities and characteristics of the Vizsla, along with the historically accepted golden rust color of the coat, but with the coat structure being longer and wiry.
Vasas was joined in the effort by Gresznarik Lazslo, who owned the de Selle kennel and had great experience breeding German wirehaired pointers. Together, they began by crossing two Vizsla bitches with a solid brown German Wirehaired Pointer. The first individuals with three-generation pedigrees fulfilled the dream by inheriting the color and other characteristics of the Vizsla while at the same time passing along the somewhat heavier bone structure and wiry multi-layered coat of the German wirehaired pointer. Dia de Selle was the first WHV to be shown on June 6, 1943.
Dia had to withstand rigorous examination by expert judges and Vizsla fanciers and was found acceptable by the established guidelines. She had the same body type as the Vizsla, but her head more like the German Pointer along with the softness of her overcoat and lack of density in the undercoat were cited as needing improvement. Nevertheless, she was the promising beginning and the club encouraged other breeders to work hard on developing the new breed. They also created a semi-official stud book to keep track of all the new individuals until the breed earned official recognition. Only after the evaluation of these documents could the standard and final approval for the new breed be set. Even with difficulties in the beginning, registrations increased and by 1944, 60 WHV were registered. The development of the breed centered in certain geographical areas of Hungary, namely Csabai in Eszak-Magyarorszag (the northern part of Hungary) and de Selle in Felvidek (part of what is now Slovakia) and due to their pioneering devotion and success, other breeders from abroad joined in the efforts, notably the Haraska kennel from Austria and Povazia from Slovakia, but also Botond and others.
The Aftermath of War
WW II brought about the near extinction of both the Vizsla and Wirehaired Vizsla. The Csabai kennel was nationalized under the communist regime in Hungary but Vasas Jozsef remained the leader and even in those difficult times brought the breed closer to perfection. Almost all records were lost and information from the post-war period is sketchy at best, but those other kennels in Eastern Europe also remained involved in the preservation and further development of the Wirehaired Vizsla. According to anecdotal information about those early bloodlines, other breeds were occasionally infused into the developing WHV lines as well; Wirehaired Pointing Griffon, Pudelpointer, Irish Setter and possibly even a Bloodhound have all been mentioned.
Despite some disappointments the efforts continued and eventually, the Wirehaired Vizsla was recognized by the Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI) in 1966 as an independent Hungarian breed under Standard #239. In spite of the early struggle and later successes though, numbers of the new breed did not multiply as anticipated. Many of the Wirehaired Vizslas were in the hands of every day hunters who appreciated the many fine qualities of the breed, its devotion to the hunt, strong bond with people and love of water, but they never bothered much to show their dogs or popularize the breed outside their own circles. The Hungarian Vizsla Club decided to hold hunting tests exclusively for Wirehaired Vizslas in order to attract more attention to the new breed. The first such test was held in 1976 with a total of 26 dogs entered and it was such a success that it was decided to hold such hunting tests for Wirehaired Vizsla every other year, but there was little growth in the number of entries for many years.
With the importation of Wirehaired Vizslas abroad, the breed eventually began to catch on throughout Europe and WHV kennels are now found in the Netherlands, France*, Austria, Belgium, Finland, Sweden, Germany, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, as well as in Hungary. Breed fanciers in the United Kingdom imported their first WHV in the late 1970s. In North America, Wirehaired Vizslas were first imported in the early 1970s by Manitoba sportsman Wesley Basler and the breed began to attract the attention of hunters looking for an easy-handling gun dog that was “a bit off the beaten path.”
The Wirehaired Vizsla in North America
Although having been recognized in 1966 as the Wirehaired Vizsla in Europe by the FCI and accorded purebred status as such and in Canada by the CKC in 1977. The Wirehaired Vizsla remained unrecognized in America as the result of a sort of “identity crisis” when Charles Newman who had discovered the breed in his visits to Hungary in the 1960s, imported his first Wirehaired Vizslas in 1973 but called them “Uplanders” from the breed’s origins in the upland region of northern Hungary. He and other early U.S. promoters believed the Uplander name would help distinguish the breed from its smooth cousin, the Vizsla. They formed a club in Virginia with the aim of gaining support for “Uplanders” among American sportsmen and applied for recognition with the Field Dog Stud Book and the American Kennel Club. However, there were far too few Wirehaired Vizslas in the country for recognition and also because the Wirehaired Vizsla was recognized by that name everywhere else the AKC refused to recognize the breed by the arbitrarily chosen designation of “versatile uplander”. Further complicating the issue were some breeders who sought to circumvent the entire registration process and felt they could perpetuate the breed by conducting their own crossbreeding programs and calling them Uplanders, rather than utilizing imported, purebred registered Wirehaired Vizsla breeding stock. This subverted the efforts made by those who had imported purebred European WHV stock and both the AKC and the Field Dog Stud Book summarily dismissed dogs known as Uplanders as unregistrable. There was still very little known about the breed here in the US, the early effort to promote them as “Uplanders” died out and few records remain of them.
A few dedicated enthusiasts of the Wirehaired Vizsla in Canada and the U.S. persisted in their efforts to preserve the integrity of the purebred Wirehaired Vizsla through importing purebred registered European stock for their breeding programs and testing the dogs’ versatile hunting ability. NAVHDA tested the first WHV in 1974 and formally recognized the breed in 1986. By 2003, a total of 181 Wirehaired Vizslas, including those in Canada, had been registered in NAVHDA since the breed’s recognition and five new litters were registered. Despite the breed’s rarity in the U.S., the Wirehaired Vizsla Club of America was formed that same year in response to the need for a breed rescue organization here. By January 2006, over 350 Wirehaired Vizslas had been registered in NAVHDA and the United Kennel Club (UKC) in America recognized the breed as the Hungarian Wirehaired Vizsla when some individuals applied on their own behalf for recognition.
On August 18, 2012 the American Kennel Club voted to approve the Breed Standard as submitted by the Wirehaired Vizsla Club of America as the official breed standard effective January 1, 2013. The Wirehaired Vizsla became eligible for AKC registration, June 1, 2014 and was eligible to compete in the Sporting Group effective July 2, 2014.