To the Vizsla: A Robust But Lightly Built Gun Dog

Understanding the Vizsla General Appearance | For many Breed Standards, there is a General Appearance description of the breed in the written standard for the purpose of providing an overall “look” of the dog. These descriptions are usually designed with a general framework or boundary that would encompass any dog meeting the breed’s general description, regardless of a dog’s specific structural qualities. Often, these descriptions are rooted in the dog’s history and purpose. There are certainly variations between dogs that fit the description, but all dogs should fit within this general description. The Vizsla Standard has such a description, but we would like to bring attention to the adverbs as well as the adjectives in the description in order to help frame the general appearance of the breed. This article focuses on two areas of the general description; robust but lightly built and coat color.

Understanding the General Appearance of the Vizsla
The Vizsla is a versatile gun dog used primarily for upland game.

Robust but Lightly Built

The Vizsla Standard General Appearance states: “That of a medium-sized, short-coated, hunting dog of distinguished appearance and bearing. Robust but rather lightly built, the coat is an attractive shaded golden rust. Originating in Hungary, the Vizsla was bred to work in field, forest and water. Agile and energetic, this is a versatile dog of power, drive and endurance in the field yet a tractable and affectionate companion in the home. It is strongly emphasized that field conditioned coats, as well as brawny or sinewy muscular condition and honorable scars indicating a working and hunting dog are never to be penalized in this dog. The requisite instincts and abilities to maintain a ‘dual dog’ are always to be fostered and appreciated, never deprecated.”

Understanding the General Appearance of the Vizsla
The Vizsla’s job is to locate game, point, and then retrieve downed game to the hunter.

The goal of this General Appearance description is to help define the true purpose of the breed, which is a hunting dog, as it relates to structure. The breed is built for hunting in many types of field conditions, and should be able to do so for hours at a time with their hunting companion. This means the dog is moving for long periods of time in the field. Unlike some breeds with a single purpose (i.e., retrieval of game), the Vizsla needs to be able to locate, maintain, and retrieve game for their hunting partner. These complete hunting dog elements are key to the general description of the breed, describing a robust dog, yet it must be lightly built in order to maintain the endurance needed to complete its task in the field.

Understanding the General Appearance of the Vizsla
A Vizsla on point is a striking visual in the field

Proper structure, including skeletal and muscular condition, coupled with the innate hunting abilities, are mandatory in order to be able to perform in the field. The General Appearance in the Standard goes to great lengths to reward dogs that fit the athletic dog, and penalize dogs lacking in such athletiscism. Hunters need a dog that has the stamina and structure to efficiently cover ground in the field. A dog that can effortlessly navigate the show ring will be able to transfer that ability to the field. A dog that appears to be lacking in structure in the show ring may find the field difficult. Ask yourself when examining the dog, “Does it look strong and healthy, and can it efficiently navigate rough terrain and hunting environments and pick up a downed pheasant and bring it to its hunting partner?”

A Vizsla of proper structure and movement is one of the most elegant things to witness in the field. Invite yourself to any of the Vizsla Club of America’s two national field events (VCA National Field Trial and VCA National Gun Dog Championship) and get a first-hand look at how form follows function in this versatile, athletic breed.

The Vizsla coat color has a broad range of golden rust tones.

Understanding Color

A Vizsla on point in the field in full view of the morning or afternoon sun is an incredibly striking visual.

The Vizsla Standard calls for a golden rust coat color. As with many colors, there are varying hues. The best way to evaluate color in the Vizsla breed is to think about a color scale or wheel. Ask yourself, “How far to the left or right is too far away from the central description of golden rust?” The Vizsla breed will have dogs ranging in coat color (see coat color examples above) and all are perfectly acceptable. Pale yellow and mahogany brown are most likely outside the desired color boundary for the breed and should be faulted.

Understanding the General Appearance of the Vizsla
Vizslas are high-performance dogs that can match their human hunter’s endurance
Few breeds can match the speed and work ethic of a Vizsla.

The Vizsla Color Standard states: “Golden rust in varying shades. Lighter shadings over the sides of the neck and shoulders giving the appearance of a “saddle” are common. Solid dark mahogany and pale yellow are faulty. White on the forechest, preferably as small as possible, and white on the toes are permissible. Solid white extending above the toes or white anywhere else on the dog except the forechest is a disqualification. When viewing the dog from the front, white markings on the forechest must be confined to an area from the top of the sternum to a point between the elbows when the dog is standing naturally. White extending on the shoulders or neck is a disqualification. White due to aging or scarring must not be faulted. The Vizsla is self-colored, with the color of the eyes, eye-rims, lips, nose, toenails and pads of feet blending with the color of the coat.”

The robust but light build of a Vizsla enables its endurance in the field.

As with any breed, there are things that are allowed by the Breed Standard—but less of some things that are allowable is the preference. Coat color in the Vizsla is no different. While white is acceptable when within the approved boundaries, less white is the preference when all other attributes are equal. However, white as a result of aging should never be faulted. Also, it is common in the breed for the Vizsla to have a saddle, which is a lighter coloring around the shoulder area. This is perfectly fine and should never be faulted.

Understanding the General Appearance of the Vizsla
Vizslas often have a pronounced lighter-colored coat over the shoulders, called a saddle.

The nose color blends with the coat, so that a darker dog should have a darker nose and a lighter dog can have a lighter nose. It is a brownish-red or brownish-pink color, not quite liver or dark brown and never black. Noses that are chapped, freckled or discolored from the sun, field work or age are not to be penalized. However, a black nose is a disqualification in the breed.

As always, if you want to get more information or clarification on the breed, reach out to any of our breed mentors or visit our breed’s Illustrated Standard at: https://www.vcaweb.org/download/VCA_Illustrated_Standard.pdf.

Understanding the Vizsla General Appearance

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  • Tad Walden has been involved with Vizslas for nearly two decades. He is approved to judge Vizslas conformationally and in the field. He is an AKC Breeder of Merit. Tad has trained and handled his dogs in the show ring and in the field, earning Best of Breed at national events and eight AKC Master Hunter Titles. He has also trained and shown the only Weimaraner in US history to achieve an AKC Best in Show and an AKC Master Hunter title. Tad is a Board Member of the Vizsla Club of America and has chaired the breed’s Illustrated Standard Committee. He is also President of the Vizsla Club of Colorado, President of Evergreen Colorado Kennel Club, and President and Show Chair of Roaring Fork Kennel Club. Tad is the founder and Chairman of FidoTV Channel, a cable television network dedicated to canine programming, reaching more than 65 million people.

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