Bird Dogs & Training  |  04/21/2014

Breed Breakdown: Which Wirehair is Which?

To some people, wirehaired pointing griffons and German wirehaired pointers look similar. Both are outstanding versatile dogs, capable of rigorous upland bird work and waterfowl retrieving. Both have remarkable coats that can handle the cold and both have expressive faces characterized by shaggy mustaches and eyebrows. Puppy buyers sometimes confuse the two, but the truth is that they are distinctly different breeds.

Pictured: from left, wirehaired pointing griffon, Deutsch Drahthaar and German wirehair.
The German wirehaired pointer was developed through decades of crossbreeding dogs such as stichelhaars, pudelpointers and German shorthairs. They are strong, athletic, and physically designed to run and swim with exceptional control. They can find and point birds, track wounded game, and retrieve equally well on land or water. Personality-wise, German wirehairs can be intense, but they also are extremely biddable and learn quickly. Rarely are they “soft” dogs, which means novice trainers can make mistakes and the dogs will easily recover and relearn.
The Verein Deutsch Drahthaar is the breed’s parent club in Germany. Dogs bred under the VDD breeding regulations are called “Deutsch Drahthaars” to differentiate them from those bred outside the VDD under other registries such as the North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association or the American Kennel Club. Beyond that, the German wirehaired pointer and the Deutsch Drahthaar are essentially the same.
The wirehaired pointing griffon was also initially developed in Germany by a Dutch hunter named Eduard Karel Korthals who combined spaniels, braques, retrievers, shorthairs, pointers and several other breeds to create an all-purpose gun dog. In France and Quebec, the breed is still called the griffon Korthals; in the United States, it is the wirehaired pointing griffon.
The griffon is an adaptable bird dog, designed to work efficiently with the on-foot hunter. They are not known to range as far or as fast as many other popular pointing breeds. Although historically the griffons did not have as intense water drive as the German wirehairs, excellent breeding programs in recent years have improved their water performance significantly. The griffon’s nose and pointing ability are comparable to that of a German wirehair, but their temperament is a bit softer and tends more towards dependency. They are extremely sociable and people-oriented.
Physically, the griffon body shape is less defined than the German wirehair – the chest is not as deep or the waist arch as high. Griffons have bigger heads and more “furniture,” the shaggy long hair on their ears, muzzle and most notably the eyebrows. All griffons have thick full coats which can take up to three years to completely come in. The German wirehairs’ coats vary in length and fluff, but are tighter and lie flatter than a griff’s.  
Griffons’ coloring varies from brown and brown/white/gray to tri-color and orange-and-white. Black or curly coats are not standard for the breed. German wirehairs are most commonly brown roan, some with large brown patches and/or white chest patches. Black roan and all brown are acceptable by German wirehair breed standards, but all black coats are not.
As with all breeds, a description of temperament and hunting characteristics can only be a generalization. Individual dogs – like individual hunters – can fit the mold or break it. Generalizations do have merit, however, and it’s safe to say that both of these breeds make wonderful hunting partners in the pursuit of upland game and waterfowl.
-Nancy Anisfield, an outdoor photographer/writer, sporting dog enthusiast and bird hunter, serves on Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s National Board of Directors. She resides in Hinesburg, Vermont.