Many of us know and love the Brittany, but others may have never met one here in the UK where they are still quite unusual, they are a medium size gun dog, popular across mainland Europe, smaller than the setters and pointers, often born tailless (or if not commonly docked), bred as a hunting dog and noted for being easy to train, their superb nose and turn of speed, as well as their excellent good natured temperament. They tend to be sensitive and gentle, a particularly loyal breed, they are usually happy to join you wherever you go, involved in whatever you do. They need lots of exercise and human company, and they can make wonderful, intelligent, faithful companions. A young Brittany might make a great choice for agility, flyball, canicross or trail running.
Brittanys are known as Bretons in Spain and Brittany spaniels in America, they are not in fact spaniels. Unlike the springers and cockers in the uk, Brittanys are true continental HPR gundogs, the all-rounders for Hunt, Point and Retrieve. Brittanys air scent unlike the British spaniels that ground scent and Brittanys will also point to game.
Brittanys come in many colours;
Orange and White, Liver and White, Black and White
And more unusually Black Based Tricolour and Liver Based Tricolour.
With all of these colourways the coat will be described as clear (solid white blocks) or roan (speckled). Officially at least 25% of the body should be white, this allows the dogs to be seen when working.
Brittanys can be born tailess (like a manx cat), with a bob tail (just a stub) or with a full tail. In Spain most pups with a full tail will be docked so we rarely see a Brittany with much tail.
A Brittany should be a happy, ‘go anywhere, do anything’ dog, they typically have a confident, friendly, affectionate nature, they are out-going dogs that make good eye contact, and have a great desire to please and relate to you. Brittanys are intelligent, they are sensitive by nature and will not thrive with harsh handling. A Brittany wants above all to be out there doing something with you, they have great enthusiasm and drive, and are certainly not a good looking fireside rug.
The Brittany has been bred to find scattered game, in a variety of terrains. They need to persevere despite frequent disappointment, and this may well account for their perpetual optimism and inexhaustible enthusiasm.
Brittanys also needs the stamina to keep working all day. All HPR breeds face these challenges but the Brittany is by far the smallest HPR breed and needs to conserve its energy. Therefore economy of movement is very important, and the Brittany has a limited stride length which avoids unnecessary extension of the limbs and joints. This is achieved by having a short loin (the lumbar area between the last rib and the pelvis). Being so compact the dog is unable to achieve an exaggerated stride length (like a greyhound), but instead runs with a short, choppy gallop that it can keep up for hours at time and also allow them to be very nimble on uneven surfaces, to turn quickly or stop on a sixpence. The Brittany should be compact, sturdy, stocky and strong, square in profile, and often compared to a cob.
Pointing comes from inherited insecurity, like a pointer the Brittany wants to chase but cannot, and this insecurity can express itself in fearful reactions to unknown things and sometimes as separation anxiety.
The Brittany has a single coat which easily dries and mud and sand mostly fall from it. The longer fur in the feathers need to be kept clear of burs and rubbish, but there is little need for grooming. Sometimes trimming around the feet, bum and back of ears is needed for dogs with a fuller coat, but no overall trim should be attempted as it can damage the coat. The coat should feel silky and very soft, some dogs will have thicker coats than others as there is quite a variety within the breed.
The history of the breed is not well documented, but they do come from Brittany France, initially around 1850, from a time when English gentry would travel with their dogs to France for the hunting season. The dogs are a mix of French native hunting dogs and English Pointers, and possibly Setters. By 1900 they were an established breed which soon spread across continental Europe and into North America. The American Brittany is a slightly different dog to the French Brittany, larger, clear orange and white (or occasionally liver and white) coat and with lighter pigmentation.
The Brittanys we bring from Spain are mostly casually bred by hunters. Occasionally we find a pure bred dog, but many are a gentle mix of Brittany, spiced here and there with something else. They have often had hard starts in life, they will have fears and it may take weeks or months for their personality to shine through, but these are wonderful dogs, active, affectionate and loyal, hoping to share your adventures and your sofas.