Sportsmen on both sides of the Atlantic cherish the agile, energetic Brittany as a stylish and versatile gundog. Bright and eager at home, and tireless afield, Brittanys require a lot of exercises, preferably with their favorite humans.
Brittanys are smaller than setters but leggier than spaniels, standing about 20 inches at the shoulder. Their beautiful, boldly patterned coat comes in combinations of white and vivid orange and liver (reddish-brown). They are rugged and strong but smooth, clean, and quick afoot. The face has the ‘softness’ prized by bird-dog lovers; high-set ears convey the breed’s essential eagerness. The zeal and versatility that make Brittanys peerless hunters can be channeled into dog sports. Obedience, agility, flyball, dock diving’you name it, this trainable breed is up for it. The Brittany is a nice fit for those seeking an all-purpose hunting partner, a dog-sport teammate, or a companion in sync with an upbeat, outdoorsy family life.
Brittany is the westernmost region of France, surrounded by the English Channel to the north and the Bay of Biscay to the south. It was here, hundreds of years ago, that French hunters developed what is today considered one of the world’s most versatile bird dogs, capable of working on duck, woodcock, pheasant, partridge—just about anything with feathers.
The Brittany first comes into historical focus in paintings and tapestries of the 17th century. The frequency with which Brittany-type dogs appear in the portraits and pastoral scenes by French, Flemish, and Dutch masters of the period suggests that liver-and-white pointing dogs were quite common in Western Europe.
The Brittany is a rustic dog whose original devotees were medieval peasants and poachers, people for whom thriftiness was a way of life. Unable to support a full kennel, they placed a premium on dogs capable of being all-purpose workers. The versatility bred into Brittanys in the long-ago French countryside has never left the breed.
The Brittany was introduced to America in 1931. In 1934, the AKC registered its first dog of the breed, then called the Brittany Spaniel. (In France, the breed is still known as “l’épagneul Breton,” or Brittany Spaniel.) During the 20th century, American and French lines diverged. By mid-century, the U.S. breed fancy considered their Brittanys more pointers than spaniels in working style, and the AKC breed named was shortened to Brittany in 1982.
Under any classification, Brittanys are happy, durable hunting companions prized for stamina and an excellent nose for birds. They are among America’s most popular and successful field dogs. Over the years, hundreds of Brittanys have earned the AKC’s elusive Dual Champion title, indicating a dog that is both a handsome showman in the ring and a capable gundog in the field.
The Brittany is a very healthy breed, with few genetic health issues. A responsible breeder will screen breeding stock for health concerns such as hip dysplasia and eye disease. Ears should be checked regularly to remove foreign matter and avoid a buildup of wax, and the teeth should be brushed regularly.
Recommended Health Tests From the National Breed Club:
- Hip Evaluation
- Ophthalmologist Evaluation
The Brittany’s flat or wavy coat is mostly fairly short and requires minimal grooming. A once-over with a soft brush or hound glove and a quick comb-through of his featherings should keep him looking his best. For the show ring there is some light trimming done to neaten the dog’s head and neck. The underside of the ears should be inspected regularly and wiped clean if needed, and the nails trimmed every month if not naturally worn down.