Officially, the Cesky Fousek (Bohemian Wire-haired Pointing Griffon) is a relatively new breed on the versatile gun dog scene. FCI recognition was not granted until 1964. Nevertheless, references to Bohemian hunting dogs, generally assumed to be the Fousek’s ancestors, can be found in documents dating as far back as the 14th century. So, is the Cesky Fousek a modern creation? Or is it the grandfather of all rough-haired continental pointing dogs?
Those who argue in favor of an ancient origin invariably quote a 14th century letter written by a nobleman named Vilem Zajic of Valdek:In the year 1348, King Charles IV presented to the Margrave of Brandenburg, Ludwig, fine hounds known as Canis bohemicus for the Margrave’s hunting pleasure. The author’s use of the term Canis bohemicus (Bohemian dog) is considered proof that hunting dogs native to Bohemia existed at the time. However, Zajic makes no mention of their color, size, coat type or even the kind of hunting they were used for; they could have been tracking dogs or sighthounds or water dogs. It is unlikely, though, that they were true pointing dogs. In the mid-1300s, hunters still had to train their dogs to set or point for the net. The few dogs that did have a natural tendency to point were just starting to appear in Italy, Spain and southern France at the time. Nevertheless, we can assume that Bohemia was indeed home to some kine of hunting dog talented enough to warrant the attention of its great king.
Another frequently cited reference is found in a fascinating book, Der Vollkommene Teutsche [Deutsche] Jäger (“The Complete German Hunter”). Written by Johann Friedrich von Flemming around 1724, this richly illustrated two-volume encyclopedia mentions rough-haired dogs from Bohemia used mainly for water work. However, once again, no other details are provided. Like Zajic of Valdek, Flemming was describing a type of dog, not a specific breed. By 1724, some of the Bohemian dogs may have even had a natural inclination to point. Most, however, were probably still used as flushers and retrievers.
It wasn’t until 1883 that a specific reference to a Czech Rough-haired dog appeared and, for the first time, clearly identified it as a pointer. In a six-volume set entitled Huntsmanship – Handbook for Hunters and Hunting Friends, author Josef Vilém Černý provides a description of the Český Ohar, a brown and white or all-brown, medium-sized, rough-haired Czech pointing dog. Three years later, the word Fousek appears in the record. It is found in an official Czech registry for purebred dogs that lists 19 Pointers, 17 English Setters, nine Irish Setters, 17 Gordon Setters, two Griffons, 81 German Shorthaired Pointers, and 41 Hrubosrstých ohařů – Fousků (Rough-haired pointing dogs – Fouseks). And, finally, in that same year, the words Český and Fousek were formally combined when a group of hunters and breeders in a town south of Prague decided to form a club. They named it the “Society for the Rough- Haired Pointer – Český Fousek – of the Czech kingdom based in Písek”.
At the time, crossbreeding was still a fairly common practice among hunters who simply wanted a good hunting dog. So the Cesky Fouseks of the late 1800s were more of a type of dog than a pure breed. There was probably considerable variation among them in terms of appearance, but in general they must have had similar qualities as versatile gundogs and were much appreciated by Czech, German and Austrian hunters.
Depending on where they were bred, they went by different names. The Czechs used the term Český Fousek. In Germany, experts such as Dr. Hans von Kadich used Stichelhaar or Straufhaarige Hühner- hund and breeders such as Franz Bontant from Frankfurt, called them “Hessian Rough-beards”. Despite the different names in use, all agreed that the dogs came from the area encompassing Bohemia, Moravia, Brandenburg and Hesse.
The political upheaval of the early 20th century was particularly violent in Eastern Europe. For the Cesky Fousek, it was nearly fatal. As war raged across the region, breeding came to a standstill. At war’s end in 1918, the Austro-Hungarian Empire had ceased to exist and a new nation, Czechoslovakia, had been proclaimed. But the Fousek was nearly extinct.
In 1924, a new association was formed with the expressed purpose of restoring the breed, but there were very few dogs left. Even worse, due to massive importations of English Pointers, Setters, and German Shorthaired Pointers, the Cesky Fousek had been relegated to a sort of second-class status among hunters. Undaunted, the few remaining Fousek enthusiasts continued their efforts. When, in 1931, they drafted a new breed standard and enacted new breeding regulations, the Fousek seemed to be on the road to recovery. But in 1939, war once again broke out in the region, and the breed was dealt another devastating blow.
After the Second World War, efforts to revive the breed got under way once again. The association of breeders, which somehow managed o remain intact throughout the war, issued new guidelines for its members. The Cesky Fousek was to be bred only by and for hunters, and the top priority of all breeders should be to retain the excellent hunting abilities and character in their dogs. Due to the breed’s small population and narrow genetic base, crossbreeding to other breeds such as German Shorthaired and Wirehaired Pointers was permitted for a time. However, when Czechoslovakia joined the FCI in 1957, and the breed club sought recognition for the Cesky Fousek, the stud book was closed and the club was required to prove that they had at least three generations of “clean” lines, free of any foreign blood. The breed also faced strong resistance from the VDH (German Kennel Club). The Germans opposed the idea of recognizing a breed they considered to be genetically identical to the Stichelhaar.
It was not until 1964, after an in-depth report on the origins of the Cesky Fousek was submitted to the FCI and the club had finally met all the requirements for pure breeding, that the breed was officially recognized as pure and independent, and its standard, FCI No. 245, adopted. Today, the breed is still represented by a strong and dynamic club in its native land where approximately 500-600 pups are whelped annually. Breeders are also active in Slovakia, Austria, Germany, France, Holland, the US, Canada and New Zealand. Slowly, but surely, the word is getting out about the Cesky Fousek, and its reputation as a dynamic, cooperative gundog is growing around the world.
The BWPGCA gratefully acknowledges Craig Koshyk for contribution the above article. Craig offers a wealth of on-line and print materials on hunting dogs. Find them here.