A Look Back at the History of the Mayger Vizsla Breed
|Mayger Vizsla as shown in FCI Breeds Nomenclature|
A favorite of early barons, Vizslas are depicted in etchings as far back as the 10th century. Dogs coming here with the Hungarian tribes settling in the Carpathian Basin most likely mixed with hunting dogs of the Slav people living in this territory at that time. Those dogs used by the Slavs probably included the descendants of hunting dogs of the era when the Romans occupied what is now the Western part of Hungary. It is likely that the populations that evolved this way were the ancestors of today’s Hungarian hunting dog breeds, that is, the Hungarian vizsla and the Transylvanian hound. This ancient type is nowadays called a Pannon hound. Separation among these breeds came about as a result of a selection caused by different uses, presumably during the 12th-14th centuries.
The word Vizsla, according to the Hungarian Etymological dictionary by G. Bordi, is documented first in the writings in the year 1350 as the name of a village on the Danube indicating that Vizslas may have been found in its environment. With the meaning "dog" it is documented in the Berstence Glossary compiled toward the end of the 14th Century. It is supposed to have come from the oldest layer of the Hungarian language, from a root -Vis- which means "to search." Early in the 16th century, people in mansion houses were involved in breeding vizsla – which is proven by several documents found in different archives. Therefore, we know that a vizsla type dog was used to hunt small game even before the time of Turkish occupation of Central Hungary in the 16th-17th centuries.
The Vienna Chronicle, a manuscript of the early Hungarian codes and laws dating from the time of King Lajos (Louis) the Great (1342-1382) contains a chapter about the falconry of the nobility with a picture of the Vizsla. Hungarian historians mention the favorite Vizslas of their heroes. Documents of the Turk occupations of Hungary (1526-1686) deal with the Vizsla breed chiefly in the correspondence between the Danubian provinces and the court of the Sultan of Istanbul.
The breed existed beyond question of doubt in the 1200's as the "Yellow Pointer." As the breed became progressively more popular, "Hungarian Pointer" gradually replaced the term "Yellow Pointer." Throughout the 100 years of Turkish Occupation, the now famous all-purpose dog frequently was mentioned in correspondences of the era. By the 16th Century we find "Vizsla generally accepted and used as the breed name.
One Janos Gyulai writes in Latin, in 1563, to Kristof Batthyani; "We know that your Honor possesses smaller sized hawks. Don't leave us without one or two of them. And do send us please a bird-chasing Vizsla too. (Sed et canem odoranium vulgo fyrejre valo Vizslath nobis dare velli)."
Mihaly Komlossy writes his brother, Tamas, on August 15, 1515: "…besides, my beloved brother, I ask you for a good Vizsle (sic), fit for birds. And let the squire know that Janos Koesis is in the know about the falcons because he worked with the falconer of Kristof Krassy and had to handle them." (Lampeath, Old Hungarian Letters 202).
During this Turkish occupation, the vizsla most probably also mixed with the Turks’ dogs, including the sloughi. The practical importance of the vizsla increased with the spreading of firearms in the 18th century. Early in the 18th Century, Zolton Hamyay (landowner of the county Gomor) and Istvan Barczy de Barczihaza (landowner and Cabinet Councilor) established purebred records in the form of a studbook, and the now famous "Golden Vizsla" was documented as "Magyar Vizsla." Of the ancient Hungarian noble families, many included passionate hunters, who also bred vizsla. Worth mentioning in this respect were the Zay, the Batthyány, the Nádasdy, and the Komlóssy families. In the 19th century, the Hungarian vizsla was widespread in northern Hungary (today southern Slovakia), Transdanubia, as well as in Szabolcs and Bihar counties in the East. Unfortunately, its number substantially decreased by the end of the century. The purposive, sports-like dog breeding saw prosperity in the 1860s Europe-wide. It was then that the English and German types of vizsla appeared in Hungary – to the detriment of the ancient Hungarian vizsla. The number of Hungarian vizsla was greatly reduced.
The golden Vizsla was the favorite companion dog of the early barons and warlords and, with the evolution of the nobility and large landowners, the breed was preserved in its purity through the centuries. There is little doubt that its ancestors were the hunting dogs of the various Asiatic tribes that invaded the lands of Central Europe until the 10th Century. The Vizsla presents several specific breed-marks, apart from the characteristic rusty-gold coat, that have never been found in any other variety of pointer. The Vizsla was an established and recorded breed at least 300 years before the Nobles of the Courts of Weimar set out to develop the Weimaraner around the year 1810, or before the first English Pointers were introduced into the Hungarian Kingdom in the year 1880.
In 1916, Tibor Thúróczi wrote an article in the Hungarian dog journal “Nimród” with the title “The old Hungarian yellow vizsla”. This article evoked a lot of response, with many people voicing their opinion in favor of the old Hungarian yellow vizsla. The movement was headed by Dr. Kálmán Polgár, Károly Bába and Béla Kerpely. It was in 1920 that – under the auspices of the Hungarian Kennel Club – the Association of Hungarian Vizsla Breeders was formed, and operated as a section of the National Vizsla Club.
A dog could get into the book of pedigree kept by the Hungarian Kennel Club only after judgement by a special commission, if that particular dog proved to be suitable by its look and at a hunting test. The first registered vizsla included Witti (see picture) Honvéd, Laura and Pax.
Following an extensive debate, the standard was developed with the leadership of Loránd Morvay, Dr. Emil Raísits, Jenő Puntigám and Béla Kerpely, which was accepted by the National Vizsla Club in 1928. The FCI (Federation Cynologique Internationale - World Canine Organisation) recognized this breed in 1936, and registered the standard under number 57.
The working features of the vizsla were characterized like this: ... the most obedient and teachable of all the vizsla types ... it follows instructions very well ... it is due to its unconditional obedience that it searches as wide of an area as we want... there is hardly a Hungarian vizsla that must be forced to retrieve ... with regard to tracking, considering its origin as a bloodhound, it is a real master. (Gyula Csizmadia ) The working conditions were set by the Competition Regulations and accepted in 1936.
The first large breeds were the Végvár, Gyöngyöspuszta and Kapos kennels. The famous vizsla trainers, who were also recognised abroad, like Endre Félix or Balázs Ötvös, did a lot for the popularisation of this breed. The creation of the breeding farm in Hévíz in 1937 produced a great boost in breeding. The owner of the farm was Duke György Festetics.
In 1936, the book of pedigree was closed. Therefore, only the pure blood descendants of dogs admitted into the book until that time were allowed into breeding. By the early 1940s, there were approximately five thousand thoroughbred Hungarian vizslas in the country.
Unfortunately, by the end of World War II, much of the Hungarian vizsla population was destroyed, a few of these dogs were taken to Western Europe or America. The original, central book of origin was also lost in fire, thus the origin of some of the remaining entities found was unknown. The National Vizsla Club re-launched the book of pedigree and began to reconstruct the breed. In this, great assistance was also provided by the state breeding farm established in Gödöllő, east of Budapest in 1947. In 1956, the Hungarian Kennel Club was recreated with the leadership of Mihály Kende, and it managed to settle its membership problems with the FCI in 1963. It was in 1966 that the FCI accepted the modification of the Hungarian vizsla standard.
In parallel with the improvement of the economic and political situation, in the seventies, the dog hobby began another development process that has not abated since. A perceivable change came about in the history of the Hungarian vizsla, as well. More and more hunting dog competitions of higher and higher standards were organised, and that had a favourable effect on breeding, too. Instead of the bulkier, bonier, skinny Hungarian vizslas with much tissue under the skin of the head, widespread after the War, it was the easy-build, dynamic Hungarian vizsla of galloping type similar to the ones dreamed up by Dr. Kálmán Polgár and his associates that came to the foreground, and which perfectly fulfil the hunting and competition requirements of our modern era.
Hungarian Vizsla Page: The breeding regulations of the Hungarian Vizsla Klub
History of the Vizsla