Back To Basics: A Comparison Of The Vizsla And The Weimaraner
Vizslas and Weimaraners were the dogs of noblemen and kings, and highly prized. Time and wars changed the function and ownership of these noble breeds.
Hungarian tribes migrated in 890 A.D. from Asia to the Carpathian Basin, bringing four types of dogs — one was the agile, ancestral Vizsla that hunted birds by scent but did not give sound. The first king of Hungary further developed the Vizsla-type dog for hunting quail, partridge, pheasant, waterfowl and small game. These dogs retrieved, pointed and tracked wounded game. The breed suffered in Europe during war time. In the 1700s, following liberation from Turkish occupation, Hungary was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire dominated by the Hapsburgs. Hunting switched from netting to the use of firearms. Wealthy landowners developed a multipurpose dog that worked fur and feather. With the introduction of English and German Pointers into Hungary around 1880, Vizsla bloodlines were lost. The two World Wars had a great impact on the breed, and the Vizsla population was devastated. Three times the Vizsla breed was almost lost. In 1950, the first US breeding program using imported Vizslas was started by Frank Tallman in Kansas City, Mo. By 1960 the Vizsla was recognized by the AKC.
The now extinct St. Hubertus Brachen, one of the oldest hunting breeds tracing back to 650 A.D., is the ancestor of the Weimaraner. When Henry VIII abolished papal jurisdiction and destroyed monasteries, the dogs were exported to Germany in 1530. The nobles of Weimar were avid sportsmen and hunted a wide variety of big game. They developed the Weimaraner with exceptional tracking ability, speed, courage and durability. These nobles controlled the availability of the dogs, and in the latter half of the 19th century, the Weimaraner was converted from a bear and deer hunter to a fur and feather dog. The first attempt to import Weimaraners to the US was by Howard Knight in 1929; however, the dogs sent to him were already spayed/neutered. In 1938, Howard Knight imported breeding stock from Germany. During and after World War II, most of the dogs and their breeding records were destroyed. By 1942 the Weimaraner was recognized by the AKC.
Most of the following discussion is based on the AKC breed standard for the Vizsla and the Weimaraner, as well as input from owners and breeders who have achieved longevity and success in their breeds.
Both breeds have a distinguished, aristocratic bearing and are of medium size with short coats. The words “distinguished” for a Vizsla and “aristocratic” for the Weimaraner should give you a feeling of their noble presence. Being of medium size among all breeds — not large or giant as a Newfoundland or a Mastiff, small as called for in a Cocker Spaniel or toy as in a Maltese — they fit perfectly as companions, performance and conformation dogs. The easy-care, short, smooth coats are of distinctive colors — solid golden rust in different shadings and solid shades of mouse-gray to silver-gray. They are bred to excel in the field, the forest and the water with power, drive and endurance.
The Vizsla is smaller (dogs 22 to 24 inches; bitches 21 to 23, with 1.5 inches over or under a DQ), lighter-boned and appears square but if measured will be slightly longer than tall. The Weimaraner is larger (dogs 25 to 27 inches; bitches 23 to 25 with 1 inch over or under a DQ), with more bone and substance, and appears moderate in length (the FCI standard gives a ratio of 12:11 for the Weimaraner, but the AKC standard gives no guidance). Size is of great importance to the correct breed type of both breeds — so much so that the standards call for a disqualification in the dog show ring if over or under the given parameters. There should be no preference within the measurements given for the Weimaraner, but if the exhibit is outside of the allowable inch over or under, it should be penalized. Likewise in Vizslas; anything outside of the range is less than ideal. When in doubt, judges should measure — even if they are not going to use the exhibit.
There are some similarities and differences between the Vizsla and Weimaraner heads. Though each owner and breeder would tell you something specific he or she likes in the head type of each breed, neither is considered a “head breed” as in some other Sporting breeds. The Vizsla head is lean and muscular with a moderately wide skull between the ears. There is a median line down the forehead. The Weimaraner in comparison has a moderately long and aristocratic head with a slight median line extending over the forehead. The proportions of muzzle to skull can be the same or different — the Vizsla has a muzzle and skull of equal length, or the muzzle can be slightly shorter, whereas the Weimaraner’s head from nose to stop is equal to the length of stop to occiput.
It adds to a pleasant head for both breeds to have parallel planes of skull to muzzle. In the Weimaraner, there is a rather prominent occipital bone and trumpets (equivalent to the temples in humans) that are well set back. This gives the head a chiseled appearance, which adds to its attractiveness. The muzzle of the Vizsla should taper slightly in width from stop to tip of nose, and be square and deep. In considering the head, both breeds have a moderate stop; the lips cover the jaw and are never loose or pendulous.
The eyes of the Weimaraner are light amber, gray or blue-gray, while the eye color on the Vizsla should blend with the color of the coat. A Weimaraner has a gray nose, but the Vizsla has a self-colored nose with a black nose being a DQ. Many comment on the difference in the size and shape of the nose in the two breeds. The standard for the Vizsla states that the nostrils are “slightly open.” This is in comparison to other Sporting Group dog breed. The Vizsla nose is not as prominent as a Weimaraner’s and appears small by comparison. The nose on the Vizsla does not extend past the end of the muzzle. Though not discussed in the standard, the Weimaraner has a large open nose that helps in the scenting of prey.
Ears on both breeds are rather long, but where the Vizsla’s ears are set fairly low and close to the cheeks, the Weimaraner’s ears are set high and close to the cheeks. Extreme caution is urged against selecting exhibits with hound characteristics. This is very important, as “houndiness” is the drag of both breeds. The teeth in both breeds should meet in a scissors bite. It should be noted that in a Weimaraner, more than four missing teeth is a major fault.
Neck, Body, Forelegs, Hindquarters, Feet and Tail
The Weimaraner and the Vizsla should both have moderately long, clean-cut necks with no dewlap. The neck is strong, smooth and muscular. The chest in a Vizsla is moderately broad and reaches to the elbow, whereas the Weimaraner has a well-developed and deep chest (the brisket should extend to the elbow). Both have ribs that are well sprung.
When discussing the body and tail, there are several important differences between these breeds. The Vizsla has a short back with a nonsloping topline. He has a firm backline with a slight rise over a short, well-muscled loin and a gently rounded croup. The Weimaraner has a back of moderate length, which is set in a straight line, strong and should be slightly sloping from the withers. He has a moderately tucked-up flank and a strong, straight loin.
The forequarters of the Vizsla should have shoulder blades that are long, wide, sloping and moderately laid back, with legs straight, muscular and elbows close. The feet are cat-like, round and compact with toes close. The nails are brown and short with claws removed. The Weimaraner’s shoulders are well laid back having a prominent prosternum with straight legs. Though prominent, the prosternum is never out of balance so as to give a front-heavy appearance. The forelegs are set well under the body, and elbows lie close to the body. A proportion measurement for Weimaraners is included, which gives the distance from elbows to ground as equal to the elbows to the withers. The feet are firm, compact and webbed. The toes are arched with pads close and thick. The nails are short and gray or amber with dewclaws removed.
The hindquarters on both breeds should be balanced with the forequarters in angulation. The Vizsla has moderate angulation of stifle and well let down, parallel hocks. Again, the Weimaraner calls for “more” — well-muscled hindquarters with well-angulated stifles and straight hocks.
Tails on both breeds are docked. The measurements given are ideals, but always remember that docking faults are manmade faults. The Vizsla standard states “a docked tail is preferred.” The Weimaraner standard states that “a non-docked tail is a very serious fault.” The Vizsla calls for one-third to be off and set just below the level of the croup and carried at or near the horizontal. The Weimaraner has a light, rather than heavy, tail, docked to an approximate length of 6 inches and carried with confidence. Although the Vizsla standard mentions the carriage of the tail should not be vertical or carried over the back, the Weimaraner standard does not address the carriage except to say “with confidence.”
Coat and Color
The Vizsla is a solid golden rust in different shadings with a coat that is short, smooth and dense with no undercoat. The Weimaraner’s short, smooth, sleek coat is of solid colors in shades of mouse-gray to silver-gray, sometimes blending into lighter shades on the head and ears. The white markings on a Vizsla that disqualify are specific — solid white extending above the toes or white anywhere else on the dog except the forechest and white extending on the shoulders or neck. The Weimaraner is permitted a small amount of white on the chest, which is penalized if elsewhere.
A blue or black coat is a Weimaraner DQ. Until the 1970s, the blue or black coat was allowed. A black mottled mouth as a very serious fault still appears in the Weimaraner standard. It should be realized that a black mottled mouth only appears in a blue- or black-coated Weimaraner and was a “hold over” from the old standard when these coat colors were allowed. It was a very serious fault then and was rarely seen even in the blues. There is a DQ in the Weimaraner and the Vizsla for a distinctly long coat. (Note: The long coat on the Weimaraner is allowed in all other countries — so if you are traveling abroad, you will most likely see it.)
It is important to state that a Vizsla is light-footed, with reach and drive consistent with moderate angulation. The dog gait is far-reaching, light and smooth. The Vizsla will single track at a fast trot.
The Weimaraner has an effortless, smooth gait and moves with his hind feet parallel to his front feet. In motion, the topline will remain level. Ideally, both breeds have conformation that indicates the ability to work with great speed and endurance in the field.
The Weimaraner is friendly, fearless, alert and obedient. The breed can be aloof with an “I’m better than you” attitude. It is interesting to note that if a Weimaraner is excited, his eyes might dilate and appear black. The Vizsla is lively, gentle mannered, affectionate and sensitive. He is outgoing and inquisitive, carefree and happy — perhaps less solemn than a Weimaraner. Young puppies of both breeds can be shy. Both breeds are naturally active, alert hunting companions in water and woods.
One Last Word
Notice in reading the standards how often the word “moderate” is used for the Vizsla and the Weimaraner; but the Weimaraner standard also uses “well,” where the Vizsla standard does not. Never should the words “moderate” or “medium” (which are both used frequently) be associated to mean “average” or mundane. Nothing can be further from the truth with either breed. By comparison, the Weimaraner is the larger of the two with more bone, substance and angulation than its counterpart, the Vizsla. A study of comparison photos is a must. It is of the utmost importance to breed type such that neither looks like the other, even though they are both elegant, athletic and balanced dogs.
[Editor’s note: The Wirehaired Vizsla, recognized by the FCI and in Canada, is currently shown in the AKC Miscellaneous Class.]
From the August 2014 issue of Dogs in Review magazine.
By: Dana Massey, Ph.D.