Why is it not frequently seen as a shooting dog in the UK? David Tomlinson explains the breed ...
“Is that some sort of a large spaniel?” One of my fellow Guns was pointing at a large, longhaired black-and-white dog with an impressive white flag of a tail. I set him right, telling him that in fact the dog was a large Munsterlander (LM). To be fair, it’s not really surprising that my companion thought the dog might be a spaniel because the large Munsterlander is a very spaniel-like German breed, looking very like a black and white springer.
The large Munsterlander can be black and white
Of its German relatives, the breed has the closest affinity with the small Munsterlander and the German longhaired pointer. The conformation of the breeds and style of working is very similar. However, unlike the large Munsterlander, the small Munsterlander and the German longhaired pointer cannot be black and white, as puppies in the wrong colour cannot be registered.
The large Munsterlander (LM) is an attractive and tough dog with natural ability so it’s strange that it has not become more popular in the UK. I asked Rory Major, one of Britain’s leading trainer of HPRs, to name his top 15 breeds earlier this year and he put the LM in at number four, ahead of both the German longhaired pointer (five) and the German shorthaired pointer (six).
Not enough people working the breed
Rory agreed: “This is another breed that I can’t understand why it’s not more popular: the trouble is that there are not enough people working them. They have bags of enthusiasm and will go all day, but you only see one or two decent ones in field trials. However, this is a breed on the up, as the recent import of German dogs seems to have improved their hunting ability. Remember that this is traditionally a woodland dog.”
You won’t find many large Munsterlanders in Germany either. I didn’t see one either time when I went shooting in the north German province of North Rhine-Westphalia, close to the town of Münster. I did see plenty of other HPR breeds in action, including small Munsterlanders and Weimaraners.
Small Munsterlanders are misnamed really because they are hardly any smaller than the large ones but they are usually brown-and-white roan. They have never really caught on in this country, despite various attempts.
Take time when training
Peter Hartley is a reader of Shooting Times and long-time LM enthusiast. I asked him why he thought the LM had never become established as a serious shooting dog in the UK, let alone a rival to the GSP or GWP.
He thinks it might be that they are relatively slow to mature and that training one satisfactorily takes “a lot more patience than the average gundog owner/trainer is prepared to spend. I always started fundamental house training and basic obedience at 10 to 12 weeks, with ‘fun’ retrieves at six months. Like all intelligent animals — and the LM is extremely intelligent — their junior growth period is quite long, and so serious gundog training is best delayed until 12 months.”
Peter added: “Between nine and 16 months, these dogs tend to go through a ‘teenage’ rebellion phase, so be prepared. Not until the LM is two years old should it be taken out on a shoot, and then with caution. However, at three years old, the LM is fit for proper work and it just gets better every year, until selective hearing occurs at eight- to nine-years old.”
LMs are very much people dogs, far happier living in the house than kennels. This does cause one problem: they are great shedders of hair.
Though I’ve seen LMs running in tests and trials, I’ve only twice been in the shooting field with them. On both occasions the dogs I saw performed admirably. Guy Wallace, in his book The Specialist Gundog, describes the LM as a “much-underestimated gundog having a lot of natural ability and natural sense… They hunt with great style and will point and retrieve naturally, are good stalking dogs and can be worked under longwings [falcons] or shortwings [hawks].”
If you want to learn more about this good-looking German, visit the Large Munsterstander Club which will tell you more about breeding and working.
The club, mindful of the breed’s origins, holds two natural aptitude tests a year. “Ideally every LM would do at least one natural aptitude test during its lifetime as it is helps to preserve the working origins of the breed”. A great idea and one to be encouraged.