The Vizsla, or the Hungarian Pointer, is a medium-sized dog prized for its golden rust-colored coat. An alert and active hunting dog, the Vizsla is classified by the American Kennel Club as a sporting group dog. The Vizsla displays many characteristics of pointers and retrievers. These combined traits made the Vizsla a favored dog among European nobility for many centuries.
The Vizsla breed can be traced back as far as the ninth century. During the Dark Ages in Hungary, Vizslas served as hunting dogs for the Magyar tribes. Stone artwork from the 10th century depicts a dog resembling a Vizsla, a Magyar hunter and a falcon. Magyar tribes continued to use the Vizsla as a hunting dog to help them retrieve wild fowl and other small game. At home, the Vizsla helped herd and guard livestock and became a faithful companion dog.
Middle Ages Through 19th Century
The Vizsla continued to prosper in Hungary during the Middle Ages. Artwork shows Vizslas serving as hunting and falconry dogs for the noble class. In 1375, a picture of a Vizsla appeared in the Illustrated Vienna Chronicle. Quite fittingly, the Vizsla's picture appeared in a chapter on falconry. Vizslas continued to show up as favored dogs of barons and warlords during the 1700s and 1800s.
During World War I and World War II, the Vizsla breed faced a drastic decline in numbers. Since breeding Vizslas had been mostly limited to Hungarian landowners and nobility, and since these dogs were usually given as gifts to royalty of other countries like Spain and Italy, the number of purebred Vizslas living around the world was limited. During World War II when Russia took control of Hungarian lands, the Vizsla line almost completely died out. Breeders smuggled dogs out of the country to preserve the breed.
1950s and Beyond
During the 1950s, Hungarian immigrants brought the Vizsla breed to the United States. The first dog, Sari, and her two pups arrived in America on October 7, 1950. It would be another 10 months before another Vizsla named Rex arrived in America. In 1952, Rex and Sari produced the first litter of Vizsla puppies bred in the United States. Efforts to raise the number of Vizslas had begun. The Vizsla breed in America, as in its native Hungary, continued to be a loyal and affectionate family dog. Its popularity as a hunting and retrieving dog continued as well. In 1960 the American Kennel Club officially recognized the Vizsla breed.
By Shannon Cathie
American Kennel Club: Vizsla History
American Kennel Club: Meet the Breeds: Vizsla
Hungarian Vizsla Society: History of the Vizsla
Vizsla.com: Vizsla Dogs: Vizsla History
Breeder Retriever: Vizsla History
Dog Breed Info Center: Vizsla
About the Author
Shannon Cathie has been writing for children, teens and adults since 2004. Her work has appeared in "Highlights for Children," "Ask!" magazine, "The Christian Science Monitor" newspaper, "Writing for Dollars" and "Northwest Baby and Child." She is also the author of several children's books about the human body. Cathie holds elementary licensure and a Bachelor of Arts in biology from the University of Colorado.