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Brittany: A Hunter’s Companion
Every autumn, as hunting season begins, the Brittany spaniel goes to work. He waits alert at the hunter’s side, waiting until the game rises from the brush, waiting as the shots ring out, waiting until the signal is finally given by the hunter to retrieve the birds. Through it all, the Brittany stands at full alert, eyes watching, and paw raised, ready to spring to action.
The Brittany spaniel is also known, particularly in the United States, simply as the Brittany, as the breed’s hunting style is closer to that of a retriever than a spaniel. Most likely the early Brittany spaniels were crossed with retrievers, as hunters tried to create a dog that suited their needs. In the process, they developed a dog that has an excellent sense of smell, making them even better at tracking gamecock and other birds.
The Brittany has its origins in northwestern France, in the region from which it takes its name. Although the age of the breed is unknown, there are images on tapestries of dogs resembling Brittany spaniels engaged in hunting that date back to the 17th century. However, official documents discussing the breed don’t appear until 1850 when Reverend Davies wrote about a bobtailed dog that was skilled at pointing and retrieving.
It was around the early 1800s that the original Brittany spaniels had most likely been crossed with English setters. This resulted in many litters of dogs that were born tailless or with bobbed tails, passing along this trait to future generations. Today’s Brittany generally has a tail no longer than four inches, although some dogs may have a longer tail naturally. However, for show dogs in the US, the tail must be no longer than four inches. Oddly enough, the popularity of the short-tailed Brittany took time to develop, because many hunters thought that a pointer without a long tail was, well, pointless. However, once they gave the breed a chance, they soon realized how effective the Brittany was.
The Brittany is a compact, athletic dog, with the addition of long legs to help move quickly over distances. They stand between 17 and 20 inches tall, and generally weight between 30 and 40 pounds. The coat is dense, and can be flat or way, but it should not be curly. The coloring is warm and attractive, providing suitable camouflage during autumn months. Typically the Brittany is orange and white or liver and white, with roan patterns also occurring. Occasionally, a Brittany will have tri-coloring, which is a typical liver and white pattern, with orange markings on legs, as well as eyebrows, cheeks, and the muzzle.
As a dog bred for hunting and retrieving, it should come as no surprise that the Brittany is a highly energetic and active dog. Anyone considering getting a Brittany needs to be prepared to provide a solid hour of vigorous exercise each day. They are best for active owners, and obviously do well with owners who hunt, providing the dog with the activity that it was born to do.
Although this is an active breed, it’s also an easily trained breed that responds quickly. They do best with gentle training, because they can be somewhat sensitive. Harsh corrections are unneeded and can have a negative impact. Their ease of training and general desire to please helps make them an excellent family pet. They are generally very good with children and active children can be a great way to keep the Brittany properly exercised.
The Brittany is lively and curious and loves to play, so it is important to provide mental stimulation, as well as physical exercise. A fenced yard is a must, but so is regular attention and interaction. A Brittany who is bored can become destructive. Yet with the Brittany’s basic needs met, you will find yourself with a wonderful pet and devoted companion.
- The Brittany excels at both conformation shows and field trials. In fact, the Brittany has the most American dual champions of any breed.
- An orange and white Brittany named Boy was the first registered Brittany in France, leading to the Brittany being officially recognized as a breed.
- Brittanys are ranked among the top 20 intelligent dog breeds.
- The Brittany is known in French as the Epagneul Breton.
- The Brittany is the state dog of Missouri.