It turns out that my dog, Maggie, is half Viszla, but it took me a long time to figure that out. She was a pound puppy, and they weren’t sure what she was. They labeled her as a lab/ redbone hound mix. And that was quite believable.
Actually, I didn’t own her as a puppy, although I knew the person who did. This meant that I had seen her from the first time she came from the humane society. When she was about two years old, she came to live with me.
Over the next couple of years, on several occasions, someone would say to me, “Oh she’s one of those... one of those.... I can’t remember, but it’s...” followed by “some funny name, ” or “some dog from Europe.” Eventually, at a toll booth on the Indiana Toll Road, the man there said, “Oh, I know what she is, she’s a Viszla.” (Say VISH-luh). Fortunately there was no one behind me, and I took the time to write down how it sounded.
After some searching on the internet, I was sure that the toll-booth man was right. She has all the characteristics, except that she does not care for water!
Viszlas originally came from Hungary, probably as early as the 10th century, although the first written record is from 1357. They are hunter-retriever dogs of a medium size, and were associated with the Magyar royalty. The reason they are so seldom seen is that the breed was nearly wiped out in World War II. It is possible that the breed was reduced to 12 pure-strain dogs. From those, the breed was rebuilt. Recently, more of them have appeared in the United States, and the American Kennel Club recognized it as a breed in 1960.
-The flat red-gold coat- in fact Viszlas have no undercoat, and should never be kept outside. Indeed, Maggie is cold most of the time, even inside, and likes to be under a blanket.
-Red nose and toenails- If you think you have a Viszla and the nose and nails are not also red, it is certain that your dog is not purebred. (Maggie is half yellow lab, but she has the Viszla coloring.) The eyes should also blend with the coat color. Maggie has golden eyes, and it took me a long time to get used to those.
-Very defined muscles- Viszlas are slim and look similar to Weimaraners or German Shorthair Pointers.
-Good pointer-retriever traits- Even though Maggie has never been trained in any of these skills, she naturally tends to do both. She has what would be called a “soft mouth, ” which is very good. It means that she carries things without biting into them. Hunting dogs need to retrieve game birds without damaging them.
-Medium size- They are smaller than some other retrievers. Females are usually 40-55 pounds, and males 45-60 pounds.
If the dog is going to be trained or shown it is to have the tail docked to 3/4 length. Maggie’s isn’t docked, but she has never been used for hunting. This isn’t cruel, as many people believe. The reason hunting dogs have their tails docked is because the tips can be damaged by thorns, brush, etc. This can be serious enough that the tail must be amputated as an adult. This is much more traumatic, and serious of a surgery than to shorten the softer tail of a young pup. Viszlas carry their tails either horizontally or slightly turned up.
Viszlas are high-energy without being too high-strung. They are loyal and affectionate. If they don’t get enough exercise, they can become destructive. This was the reason I ended up with Maggie. She was spending 20 of 24 hours in a kennel, and she began chewing up her mat, dishes and anything she could grab. As soon as she was able to be let out of prison and get enough exercise, she immediately stopped chewing things.
Just in case I needed a final confirmation of her breed, I received it while looking at a poster of puppies of various breeds. The poster actually had a Viszla! And instead of a chubby, stub-nosed ball, the baby Viszla was a skinny, long-nosed miniature adult. And that is exactly what Maggie looked like as a puppy!
Maggie is now 11 years old. Her health is good, but her face has gone all white. I hope that I will have a couple more good years with her. Their life expectancy is similar to other dogs, at 12-15 years.