Where are you from, Weimaraner?


Which breed is hiding under the coat of the animal, referred to as „gray ghost”, „gray demon”, „wonderful dog”, „a human in gray coat” or „aristocrat dog”?  
The origin of the weimar pointer (weimaraner) – hunting dog- is wrapped in mystery. The documents concerning the breed and origin of this type had been strictly guarded and highly privy ones, what is more, a part of them were lost or destroyed later on.
The popularity of weimaraner is still growing nowadays since the end of World War II and it is becoming a societal dog – due to its aristocratic appearance - what deliberately makes harm to this beautiful breed of hunting dog.
To be into weimaraner not only means that the breeder studies its behavioral psychology, but also knows perfectly the standard of the International Cynologic Federation, the FCI, and studies the evolution of the breed as well.
In the followings, I am going to try to give a broader overview on a few questions concerning the evolution of the short-haired variant.

The history and the theory of origin of the breed

The weimaraner was first recognized and officially registered as a separate German breed in 1896. As I have mentioned, the origin of the type is not clear, several theories and explanations were set up among cynologists, breeders, but even in laic public opinion, the fans of the type.
In the Cyclopedia of Dog Breeders in 1934 H.Zimmerman named incorrectly the weimaraner as the oldest German pointer type. In his work, he did not rely on convincing evidences, such as white spots on the chest, fluffy earflaps or the sorrel pigmentation of the head.
Pierre Rousselt Blan, French cynologist, thinks that the ancestor of the weimaraner might have been the „gray dog”, which had been bred until 1450 in the court of King Louis. Pierre Rousselt Blan takes the theory that the weimaraner is originated from France, and the Saxon monarchs of Weimar brought it to Germany and then they kept sublimating in the XVII. century. According to his supposition, the ancestor of the weimaraner had been a hunting dog until the XIX. century. He confirms this opinion with the fact that this breed is willing to chase rabbits.
Some of Pierre Rousselt Blan’s statements can be argued, a part of them are hardly justifiable.
First of all, some of his theses have to be corrected.

Some representatives of the French Kapet dynasty and some members of the Valois dynasty as well, bred the so-called grayish blue hunting dog. The breed and sublimation of this dog verifiably spread in the age of St. Louis. IX. That means the era between 1226 and 1270. Therefore we cannot agree with Pierre Rousselt Blanc’s statement, that the weimaraner had been sublimated by the Saxon monarchs of Weimar, especially not in the XVII. century. It can be proved that the weimaraner’s ancestor only appeared at the first time in the court of Carl Augustus at the beginning of the XIX. century.

Mainly after 1848, the sublimated pointer spread quickly in Germany. Later on, these were even more interbred, with local hunting dog types, and with the English and French types. The opinions of  A. Bakos, B. Fogle, F. Siget, and the J. Esther – J. Verhoef Verhallen couple, are the same over the supposition that the ancestor of the weimaraner might had been the extinct German grayish coloured type – the leithund. Those who believe in this statement, verify their theory with the extraordinary trailing ability and the special grey colour of the weimaraner.
Besides the laithund, Bakos names the English pointer and the German shepherd dog among the probable ancestors of the breed.

The theories of V. Hanzal, V. Vochozka and B. Fogle allude to the possible Czech origin of the weimaraner, that Carl Augustus just took the breed into Germany. According to their opinion, the special grey colour of the type could emerge as the mutation of the silver colour of the old-German pointer. Other theories assume that the origin of the weimaraner can lead us to the ranger dogs, in the evolution of which the  life-blood of the „dog” played an important role.

J. Kvíz takes the view that weimaraner is probably the one and only pointer-type that does not contain any other kinds of  life-blood. He thinks that one should search for the origin of this breed in the „rangers’” mutation and sees the justification of this in its trailing work.

Gillian Averis and Patsy Hollings –English breeders- think that the ancestor of the weimaraner can be find most likely in a dog which was sublimated in Belgium, by the monks of the St. Huber abbey. Patsy Holling considers that the primeval was the „painter or spotty”, a strong, long-boned dog of medium size with extraordinary sense of smell. According to Gillian Averis – one of England’s best dog breeders, who breeds other types as well – the theory of Pasty Holling should be supported. He adds that the dogs of the St. Huber abbey were black, with reddish spots above the eyes and on the legs; and they had a white spot on the chest. According to Averis, the fact that sometimes burnt look-like puppies appear in weimaraner litters, strengthens his theory.

L. Heck –a German professor- takes the view that the dog of the St. Huber abbey is the earliest hunting dog type, which laid down the founds of the breed of hunting dogs. The primevals of this dog were taken into Europe from the Middle-East during the crusades.

Patsy Holling got to the consequence that weimaraner is a mutation of the St. Huber dog, as the puppies of a black pair could be grey. He thinks that the weimaraner, interbred with the St. Huber dog, inherited great smell and tracking abilities.

The sublimation of the breed and the working-out of the standard

Anthonis Van Dyck, Dutch baroque painter  (1559-1641), painted the well-known portrait of Rupprecht von Pfalz monarch (1619-1682). Besides the figure of the monarch –who is the son of Fridrich Czech king and Elisabeth Stuart- there is a grey dog which resembles to a weimaraner. Proving the theory that this breed might have been brought in from Czech by Carl Augustus.

The members of the Auersperg monarch family, who are originated from Slovenia, had huge Czech and Moravian territories. From the middle of the XVII. century, the Auerspergs: Vlasim, Nasavrky and Zleby, were breeding dogs, similar to the weimaraner.
Carl Augustus great monarch (1751-1828) reigned from 1815. Weimar became the capital of the Saxon-Weimar-Eisenach great monarchy from that time. Thuringia, but mainly Erfurt and its neighbourhood and the floodplain of the Ilm River had rich reviers, which were suitable for pointer-kind dogs. According to Johann Wolfgang Goethe’s (1749-1832) descriptions, Carl Augustus saxon-weimar monarch was an extremely passionate man, full of energy. Goethe was living in Weimar from 1775 and filled in important position in the monarch’s court, for example as the minister’s secret advisor. He took part in many huntings with the minister and in his memorandums describes „chienns gris” (grey and grayish blue) dogs (as Pierre Rousselt Blanc did), which were bred in the Court of Louis IX. However, it is not proved yet, that Carl Augustus took it with himself to Weimar. Several authors refused this hypothesis unequivocally. What is more, Hans Rabel states, the dogs of Louis IX. did not have the weimaranerian silvery colour, but the so called „blau schimmel”.
Hans Rabel, in his extensive dog-type Encyclopedia, made several factual mistakes and inaccuracies, like many other authors of the topic. Historians state unequivocally that Carl Augustus great monarch could never met the ancestor of the weimaraner and the silvery dog in the court of prince Esterhazy Auerperg in the Czech Tiplitz, because such a prince has never existed. Another misleading information in Rabel’s statement is that Carl Augustus brought the dogs from his convalescence and then gave them to his hunter friends.
After a hunting on the hunting-revier of the Auerspergs, Carl Augustus was enthused over the dogs’ wonderful hunting abilities and their special steel-grey colour. He was fascinated by the body and the nature of them; and was especially attracted by the alertness and the protective instinct of the breed. He took some of them to his court and kept sublimating them, the details of which process were strictly guarded.

The monarch made the decisions about the process of breed himself, he chose the desirable attributes. The dog was bred mainly for noblemen. He was the one signing the ownership of the puppies. He paid attention to dog’s attributes shown during the hunting. The representatives of his sublimation spread mainly on the hunting-fields of Thuringia.
So in the sublimation of the weimaraner Carl Augustus great monarch played the greatest role; therefore the breed received its name after Weimar, the capital of the monarchy. It is likely that the certificates of the origin and the purposeful sublimation were lost or destroyed.
Only the narrations of the thuringian hunters confirm E. Ilgner’s information about the weimaraner, thus those can only be handled as further sources that still have to be checked.
There are much more reliable datas from the last third of the XIX. century. These are the artworks, on which weimaraner appeared. There are clear evidences of the assumption that Wintzingerode Knorr Adelsbarn bred dark grey weimaraner and L.Lindblohm sublimated silvery dogs.
From the eighties of the XIX. century, weimaraner breedings were established around whole Germany. Among the most famous breeders we can mention Pitschke Sandersleben, P. Wittenkop, and O. Bach. According to the territory of the breedings, weimaraner were split in to 3 groups; these were: sendersleben, weisenfels and Thuringian (so the neighbourhood of Weimar).

The german-austrian version of the standard

At the end of 70s, the beginning of 80s, German breeders -at the initiative of Hegewald- attempted to establish the club of weimaraner breeders. In the first version of the breed-description in 1879, the weimaraner was marked as the „blue” mutation of the German short-haired pointer.
The foundation of the breeders’ club at Hegewald’s initiative was successful in 1897. It took huge efforts of the representatives of the Thuringia-based club to make the weimaraner to be recognized as a separate breed. That was mainly due to the well-known cynologist, Brandt, who persuaded the commission to recognize the weimaraner as a separate German breed in 1896. During and after World War II., the subsistence of the type was largely threatened.
The opinions of the members of the club were not the same concerning all the distinctive attributes of the breed. After several modifications, the first official standard was adopted in 1935 by the leaders of the German and Austrian weimaraner club.
The Austrian club was formed 40 years after the German one, in 1924. In the formation of the final standard prince Hans von Ratibor Hohenlohe had a great role, who imported the first weimaraner into Austria with Otto von Stockmayerrel and Ludvig von Mérey, in 1913. The successful breed and sublimation of the weimaraner in Austria was founded by the „Graffenegg” breeding which was working on prince Hans von Ratibor Hohenlohe’s hunting-revier. Stochmayer’s commintment towards the type is well shown by the fact that he made the keeping of the weimaraner obligatory for each and every forester, working on the grafenegg hunting-field.
Hans von Ratibor Hohenlohe became the first chairman of the Austrian breeder’s club.
That is time when the permanent marker of the weimaraner was born; „the aristocrat dog”
Major Robert aus der Herbert made a stand for the subsistence of the breed with the following words:  The weimaraner is the aristocrat of the pointers.
As a result of Robert aus der Herbert’s successful breeding activity, the trustworthiness and alertness of the weimaraner towards the human had also been developed besides its hunting abilities, especially the protection of its keeper. This ability is almost outstanding among pointers.
Major Robert aus der Herbert is also often called as the „father of the weimaraner” because of his efforts for the sublimation and the subsistence of the breed. From 1915 he was dealing with the type with extra intensivity and wrote a detailed professional monography about it. He was elected for being the president of the German Weimaraner Club in 1921.
After World War I., the keeping and the use of firearm was prohibited. Therefore Heinz Ruper and others were trying to develop the indigenous attributes of the breed. They put a great emphasis on the concentration of its alertness and attention. 

The assessment of the FCI – the approval of the standard of the breed

The development of the breed is highly documented by the fact that conscious artificial selection slowly took the place of natural selection. The spread of the breeding activity and the creation of new types was especially peculiar in the XIX. century.
The FCI, The International Cynologic Federation ( Fédération Cynologique Internationale ), was established in 1911 by the Austrian, Belgian, French and Dutch breeders; and it recognizes and registers more then 400 pure-bred types. The recent direction of development was defined by the breeders and sublimaters. The meeting of the FCI in Jerusalem, in 1987, ranked the breeds into 4 basic categories. These were splitted into further groups in 1990. On the 8th of March in 1994, the FCI reranked the dogbreeds and listed them into 10 basic categories. The pointer-types are in group VII, and the weimaraner got the number FCI 99. D. by its international standard.
Each and every type of hunting dogs differs from the others by a specific attribute. The pointers are now splitted into continental and English breeds.

With the permission of the Vadászkutya (hunting dog) magazine