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Breed Breakdown: Which Wirehair is Which?


From left, the wirehaired pointing griffon, Deutsch Drahthaar and German wirehair.

To some people, wirehaired pointing griffons and German wirehaired pointers look similar. Both are outstanding versatile dogs, capable of rigorous upland bird work and waterfowl retrieving. Both have remarkable coats that can handle the cold and both have expressive faces characterized by shaggy mustaches and eyebrows. Puppy buyers sometimes confuse the two, but the truth is they are distinctly different breeds.

The German wirehaired pointer was developed through decades of crossbreeding dogs such as stichelhaars, pudelpointers and German shorthairs. They are strong, athletic, and physically designed to run and swim with exceptional control. They can find and point birds, track wounded game, and retrieve equally well on land or water. Personality-wise, German wirehairs can be intense, but they also are extremely biddable and learn quickly. Rarely are they “soft” dogs, which means novice trainers can make mistakes and the dogs will easily recover and relearn.

The Verein Deutsch Drahthaar is the breed’s parent club in Germany. Dogs bred under the VDD breeding regulations are called “Deutsch Drahthaars” to differentiate them from those bred outside the VDD under other registries such as the North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association or the American Kennel Club. Beyond that, the German wirehaired pointer and the Deutsch Drahthaar are essentially the same.

The wirehaired pointing griffon was also initially developed in Germany by a Dutch hunter named Eduard Karel Korthals who combined spaniels, braques, retrievers, shorthairs, pointers and several other breeds to create an all-purpose gun dog. In France and Quebec, the breed is still called the griffon Korthals; in the United States, it is the wirehaired pointing griffon.

The griffon is an adaptable bird dog, designed to work efficiently with the on-foot hunter. They are not known to range as far or as fast as many other popular pointing breeds. Although historically the griffons did not have as intense water drive as the German wirehairs, excellent breeding programs in recent years have improved their water performance significantly. The griffon’s nose and pointing ability are comparable to that of a German wirehair, but their temperament is a bit softer and tends more towards dependency. They are extremely sociable and people-oriented.

Physically, the griffon body shape is less defined than the German wirehair – the chest is not as deep or the waist arch as high. Griffons have bigger heads and more “furniture,” the shaggy long hair on their ears, muzzle and most notably the eyebrows. All griffons have thick full coats which can take up to three years to completely come in. The German wirehairs’ coats vary in length and fluff, but are tighter and lie flatter than a griff’s.

Griffons’ coloring varies from brown and brown/white/gray to tri-color and orange-and-white. Black or curly coats are not standard for the breed. German wirehairs are most commonly brown roan, some with large brown patches and/or white chest patches. Black roan and all brown are acceptable by German wirehair breed standards, but all black coats are not.

As with all breeds, a description of temperament and hunting characteristics can only be a generalization. Individual dogs – like individual hunters – can fit the mold or break it. Generalizations do have merit, however, and it’s safe to say that both of these breeds make wonderful hunting partners in the pursuit of upland game and waterfowl.

Nancy Anisfield, an outdoor photographer/writer, sporting dog enthusiast and bird hunter, serves on Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s National Board of Directors. She resides in Hinesburg, Vermont.

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9 Responses to “Breed Breakdown: Which Wirehair is Which?”

  1. Scott says:

    Unfortunately you have the description of the Verein Deutsch Drahthaar and German Wirehaired Pointer description reversed. The VDD was the start of the breed in Germany. The German Wirehair did not come into existence until they were brought to the US and registered by the AKC under the name German Wirehaired Pointer.

  2. Alicia says:

    This article has a lot of errors. What should have happened before writing an article on three separate breeds, is getting credible information on each. Info on drahthaars can be found at http://www.vdd-gna.org, while info on gwps can be found at http://www.gwpca.com.

  3. Kathryn says:

    Just rec’d a link to this article through a NAVHDA posting. *(concur) re Scott’s overture).

    Re the WPG; Per reference to “on-foot hunter”; not sure what other hunters are utilizing in-field, yet when hunting over ALL other Versatile Hunting Dogs (such as The Griff, Spinone Italiano, Vizla, et al), we’re all “on-foot”.

    Our dogs ALL range thoroughly and completely per their environment. They facilitate this stealthy in a diligent manner WITH their human hunting companion. TREMENDOUS dedication and never give up!

    One would not be correct in declaring a Griff breed in totality as to “tend more towards dependency”, nor should one (save if you are stating they require food, water, shelter, ‘out’-time, exposure AND great love). Then EVERY breed should be “dependent” in domesticated canine! They are a CLOSE-loving CLOSE-living dog COMMONLY referred to as one of SEVERAL dogs known to be “shadow dogs”, that of which MANY could only hope for in their Canine-companion hunting dog.

    They are LOVELY and LIVELY and DEDICATED to their human family, and we are SO blessed to have had them for decades, and can only hope to ALWAYS have them in our lives!

    *thank you for your article, notwithstanding. However please know that articles with SUCH err are a LOT of energy for those engaged with the breed to whom others look when completely confused by ‘insight’ such as this you’ve put forth

  4. Kathryn says:

    Quick sidebar – The WPG was NOT a “German” declared nor engaged to breed in Germany, yet The Netherlands by Dutchman Korthals.

    Thank you kindly!

  5. Ann Allen says:

    “Tri color” is definitely NOT allowed in the Griffon! It is NOT an accepted color in any Griffon breed standard. Here’s a link to a couple of articles explaining this fault: http://awpga.com/aboutklocus.html

  6. Nino says:

    Scott is right 100%

  7. Matthew says:

    Well, that escalated quickly.

  8. Nancy Anisfield says:

    Thank you all so much for contributing to this discussion. It’s difficult to present “definitive” descriptions of just about any breed because of variations in their recorded histories, different breeders’ perspectives and the challenge of generalizing about a breed since each dog is an individual. Apologies for the misunderstanding about the wirehairs coming from the original dogs in Germany — that’s what I meant by “parent club,” but my writing was unclear. One other note: my sources indicate that Korthals was living in Germany when he began the breeding that lead to the WPG.

  9. Chuck De Young says:

    There are two distinct wirehaired pointing griffons. The original is known as the Griffon Korthals or Korthals WPG and is reconnized by the AKC and NAVHDA registries. A group of breeders desiring a wider ranging Griffon introduced the Cesky Fusik into the blood line of the Korthals and discribes the resulting breed as a WPG. Hense there are two organizations that foster WPG’s American WPG Assoc. as well as WPG Assoc of America
    See the breed profile essay on Gun Dog Mag.com


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