THE BRITTANY IN NORWAY
A Short History
by Jan H. Monsen
The brittany in Norway is used for hunting grouse in
the mountains and capercaillie and wood grouse in the forest. In late 1800 century English
nobility and landlords discovered the great grouse population in our mountains. They
brought English setters and pointers here and some of these were left behind. Since then
these two breeds have been and still are the most popular and largest breeds in numbers.
Gordon setters and Irish setters are also very popular. The brittany is still small in
number in comparison, but we notice a growing demand for puppies and in 1999 we have about
The first two brittanys came to Norway in 1954, not from France, but from the USA. The reason for this was caused by the fact that imports from France were impossible due to the hard Norwegian restrictions against rabies. There was a growing interest for a dog that differed from setters in the way they hunted, one with more contact and closer range.At that time there also were some problems with setters in Norway. A lot of small and nervous individuals, and also many what you can call "pleasure runners" - you were lucky if you saw the dog some time during the day. The reason why contact was made over the Atlantic is also due to the fact that it was people from the west coast of Norway that took the initiative from the city of Bergen. Bergen is a shipping town and during the war the whole Norwegian commercial fleet was in allied service in convoy from USA to England. Norway has since then and because of great emigration in the period of 1850-1900, always been Anglo/American oriented. Two females and a male, Holly Haven Major, Bilkarens Diane II de Beauch and Rickis Belle de Beauch, came to Norway 8/31/1954. One of the american bitches was coupled in 1956 with a french top dog in Denmark, Kalet de Keranlouan. These were the start but very soon others came to Norway from Denmark.
The number of members in the NBK (Norwegian Brittany club) grew from 23 members in 1957, 288 in 1977, 427 in 1990 and 650 in 1999. Numbers of dogs registered each year grew from 3 in 1955, 38 in 1960 and 58 in 1967. The fact that during the first 13 years 526 bretons were registered tells a little about the popularity at the start.
Today brittanys are spread all over Norway. The Oslo region counts 250 members out of the club's total membership of 650. Most bretons are in the care of active, everyday hunters and used in combination with being a family dog. "Father's little great hunter and mother's favorite in the kitchen, and also the children's pet". Not quite correct as many women now invade the mountains in Norway with shotgun and brittany! There is some pressure from dog lovers to use the brittany as a pet only. That's why we don't sell puppies if the buyer doesn't hunt! 110 to 120 puppies are bred each year. Out of the population only about 100 brittanys join yearly field trials. NBK is a small club in comparison to the great setter clubs. That has some advantages. We are a very homogenous group, with good internal cooperation and are able to enjoy each others success. As our leader, Gunnar Handberg, said in his speech during festival dinner in the summer meeting of 1999: "We are still so small that we enjoy other brittany owners successes. When we are growing like now, we must be eager to keep this attitude and mentality in the club." In favor of this, the board has worked out strategies and plans for coming years. Our goals for the little dog is that we want a dog both for forest and mountain hunting, who can be taken directly from a hunting trip to an exhibition.
In periods, the exterior (conformation) has been neglected in favor of hunting desire. Some breeders have been looking too much to speed and field trials in the open mountain landscape and therefore we have a problem with small, light dogs with long backs (the setter type). This combined with some late imports from the USA has give a population in which too many dogs differ from the French standard. A lot of work has been done to get a healthy dog, free of HD and with an excellent temperament. One problem with USA dogs is that the dogs of today give an exterior that differs from the French/Norwegian standard. The individuals imported in the 50's were more similar to the french ancestors, Why don't those who want this type buy setters or pointers immediately. It's not necessary to change the brittany!
At first the name was "Bretagne spaniel". This caused trouble as the dog was mistaken for being a spaniel and not a pointing dog. It was also classified as a continental dog who like the Vorstehe were not allowed to compete with the pointing dogs in field trials. Fortunately this mistake was changed and in 1971 the brittany was changed over to group C: pointing dogs, from group E, other birddogs. The name was changed to "Breton" in 1963.
Some excellent dogs of importance to the
Out of two American females and one American male and two French males in 7 years came 334 bretons. Some were too moderate hunters but some too hot. It lasted until the 70's before bretons really took up competition in the field trials. The breed got a real kick with Nydams Buster (Loriot de Largoat x Londa de Saint Tugen). Johan B. Steen, a famous Norwegian professor on grouse and judge in field trials, wrote in his book "Pointing dog's ABC": "We have lately seen some excellent brittanys in Norway and Denmark, fighting all the way in the top. This little compact energy bunch I have seen work equal to setters with the title Norwegian champions winning the Kings cup". He meant Buster. Kolbjorn Kolsvik imported him from Denmark in 1966. He had 30 litters with 22 different females. Altogether 176 puppies. Of course he has had a great influence on the breed. After him we got Sofus (Buster-Nina), owner Willy Brathen. After Sofus, Willy got Bitte (Sofus-Roioddens Nicki). Both were excellent field trialers and Bitte won the Norwegian championship in 1984 for both teams and as best individual.Ceasar, Bitte's brother, was sent to Finland to Opri Siik and bred with some other exports a contribution to the Finnish brittany breed.
The next import to Norway that gave many good brittanys was Vahr de Cornouaille (Orsa de Cornouaille x Narlik de Couaille). He came in 1974 and had 101 puppies. In the 90's there have been many imports that have influenced the breed more or less:
Langvads Valik (DK) (Plet de Gaulis des Hetres-Nico)
Unniek du Tetre qui Sonne (F) (Roull du Trieux-Prune du Trieux)
Seed from Nat du Buisson du Choissel (F)
PVNs Jocky (DK)
Apis de Saint Lubin (F) (Poker de Pigenettes-Urbelle de Saint Lubin)
Lorelei de Kerveillant (F) (Ibis de Kerveillant-Dama de Kerveillant)
Stenhoji Nicki (DK) (Langvads Unic-Nordfjordens Mille)
Nordfjordens Itro (DK,F) (Langvads Tjell-Ecu du Mouli des Fleuriaux)
Via Finland: Midtveijs Igor (DK,F) (Hakim de Saint Lubin-Gora de Coat an Duc)
Via Belgian: Ulle van't Gillieshof (Fanch de Saint Lubin-Rica van't Gillieshof)
Sugarloaf Charlie of Dorvalstan (I) (Dorvalstan Vagabond-Sugarloaf Lulu)
Fosscott Hier and Fosscott Herondel (E) (Boy du Hameau de Sorny-Fosscott Enchante)
Much used in many lines in Norway are the dogs after: Cargo de Britt, Princess White Tail, Ban Dee, Harmony Lane Path of Blue, Gringo de Britt, Colorados Jumping Gypsie, Hopedo Serena.
Other imports through frozen seed: Brittmont Buddy Jack, Highbrows Red.
All together, these imports have given in the period 90-99: 361 puppies. There has been discussion about imports from the USA.(editor's note: these are american brittany lines) In some of the setter breed USA imports have given great field trial stars. That's not so in the brittany breed in Norway. The best trialers come from the French/Danish lines, but in combination often with the "Norwegian breed". Still some breeders want some more USA bloodlines here. One problem with USA dogs is that they give an exterior that differs from the French/Norwegian standard. Very often they compete with the setters in wide-running. But as many true brittany lovers say: Why don't those who want this type buy Setters or Pointers immediately? It's not necessary to change the brittany! It's true that the first brittanys in Norway came from the USA, but when you study pictures of those individuals in the 50's, they are more similar to their french ancestors, while the later imports had been developed so that it differs.
A lot of work has been done to get a healthy dog free of HD and with a excellent temper. A new method called HD index system was put into work this year. In short, the method is a change from using only individual values in selecting dogs for breeding, to use values from the whole known family to get an individual index. We put it into a database to get the breeding index, values for each individul based on the whole family status concerning HD. These will be used by the breeding committee to give correct advice in "good HD free combinations". There are indications that this can reduce HD% dramatically in a breed. There are plans to use this method on parameters as hunting desire, bird finding ability, retrieving and co-operation. The problem here is to get methods for correct information and also how genetic dependent these values are. Of course, it is easier to do this in a small population with good control and cooperative breeders. In a five year period we have to get some dramaticly better results. It is better to try and fail than to do things the same way we always have done without any visible results up to now. In 1992 HD% had increased from 11% to 27% and to 45% in 1995. In 1998 it is back to about 15%. The one that doesn't dare doesn't win. Of course there are some critics as usual. We are very proud of our breeding committee who dares to go new tracks.
Yearly we have a summer meeting altering from region to region in this long country. In 1998 the summer meeting was in Alta in Finmark and in 1999 in Fosen just outside Tronheim. In the summer of 2000 the meeting will take place in the east Norway region not far from Hamar, June 30 - July 2. Interesting lectures, activities for the children and youth combined with different activities for the brittanys should give an interesting weekend. In the Oslo region we have two very popular meetings for dogs and the family. In the spring we gather from 30-50 families on a lovely peninsula almost at the border of Sweden where we have some informal competitions and a lot of social activities. In November we meet for a puppy/young dog show just outside Oslo. Last autumn nearly 100 brittany owners met there with 30 dogs in the show. Our chairman Gunnar Handberg led a member talk indoors after the show on the subject "What can the club do for you"? A discussion on our strategies for the 2000 century: greater interest for field trials, better brittany owners, better brittanys, a club that takes interest and care of each dog and owner.
There are fortunately many interested representatives in the club who have a great passion for our great little hunter, the brittany. Fortunately, also more hunters have lately noticed this little compact pointing dog with its charm and hunting desire and eagerness to satisfy its owner. Perhaps the ability to work in constant contact shows its eagerness to cooperate. Together with its suitable size and family friendly attitude, it combines all the qualities that can make it the pointing dog for the new millenium.
The French Brittany Gun Dog Association of America, Inc