Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Pluto Story: Vizslas

I had cats and other pets growing up, but never a dog.  In 1992 my husband and I were living in the Bay Area, and went to a big dog show at the Cow Palace. Walking around with our son in a baby-backpack, we saw a lot of breeds we had never even heard of before, including a Hungarian breed, the Vizsla. My husband was born in Hungary, and escaped from the communist regime in Hungary with his family when he was a small child. The privilege of owning a real Hungarian dog was meaningful to him, and the more we learned about Vizslas the more interested we became.
We were told that the Vizsla is a breed dating back to the 9th century. A gentleman’s walking and shooting dog, the Vizsla may have been originally developed by the Magyars to hunt with falcons. The dog is a pointer/retriever, capable of finding prey birds, pointing, flushing the birds on command, and retrieving the bird after it is knocked from the sky by a falcon. If you ever wonder what inventive Hungarians are like, think about that Magyar, who contrived to train two animals to do most of the hard work of hunting.
Vizslas were also always intended to be family companions, as well, and I have not met one yet who is not a couch-potato in the home.
After the second World War, because of their associations with wealthy landowners, the breed was almost completely wiped out by the communists in Hungary. The story I read said that eleven purebred Vizslas were rescued by a Canadian breeder who smuggled them out of Hungary in the early 1950s to reestablished the breed abroad.  Today the AKC standard says that the dog should be “A natural hunter endowed with a good nose and above-average ability to take training. Lively, gentle-mannered, demonstrably affectionate and sensitive though fearless with a well-developed protective instinct. Shyness, timidity or nervousness should be penalized.”  I believe that this means those who make the best Vizslas do so by trying to meet this standard. I have not met Vizslas “bred for hunting” with the same outgoing, positive nature as those “bred for show.”
That having been said, I know that there are an awful lot of homeless pets in the world, and would encourage anyone interested in a dog or cat to consider going to find an adoptable companion languishing in a shelter. Both dogs and cats know when they’ve been given a second (or third) chance.

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