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The Pointer’s history explains its intense drive to find birds and loyal companionship in the field and at home. A traditional breed with speed and endurance to spare, this medium-to-large-sized gundog shares its name with its job.

The Pointer’s Beginnings

From the earliest history, dogs have been used to catch game. Were these Pointers? While Pointers are thought to be an ancient breed, their origins have never been confirmed. Breeders and dog writers W. Enos Phillips and William Arkwright researched literature and art sources, and traveled extensively throughout Europe to pinpoint the Pointer’s beginnings.

In his book “The True Pointer and His Ancient Heritage,” Phillips theorizes that the Pointer is one of the oldest breeds. He bases his opinion on a 3,000-year-old Egyptian tomb in Thebes with a barely visible image of hunting dogs. He writes, “This is the only dog of antiquity whose back top line as portrayed is identical with the proper specimen of today.” Phillips adds, “No other breed has ever owned a tail or this peculiar construction.”

Pointer on point in a field.
Tim Alford via Getty Images

He’s referring to the Pointer’s hallmark topline and tail characteristics. “The Pointer’s slight rise of the croup and the tail in the shape of a cone and carried no higher than 20 percent off the back keep the dog in balance and proper movement,” says Danny Seymour, Judges’ Education Chair of the American Pointer Club.

Additional historical data is limited, but other accounts of a pointing dog date back to the Middle Ages.

The Pointer in England

“The original Pointer was the Spanish Pointer,” Seymour says. The breed existed throughout the European continent and arrived in England around 1650. In the 17th century, before the invention of firearms, the Pointers located hares for Greyhounds to pursue in the field. Once wing shooting became popular, the Pointer proved a devoted field companion.

British Army officers brought Spanish Pointers home following the War of Spanish Succession in 1714. The Spanish Pointers were heavy with a solid pointing instinct but too slow for energetic hunters. Throughout the next century, the British developed the English Pointer by outcrossing it to French Pointers, who were more refined and faster. Other crosses were made to Bloodhounds to increase scenting ability, English Foxhounds for temperament and endurance, and Greyhounds for speed.

Pointer standing in the forest.
©liramaigums -

Pointers in the United States

Pointers were brought to the U.S. by the mid-1800s and became a popular gundog for several reasons. Puppies demonstrated their hunting instinct at an early age and frequently pointed at two months. The breed’s short, dense, smooth, and glossy coat and recognizable outline added to its notoriety.

The breed laid the groundwork for the Westminster Kennel Club in 1877. The club offered sportsmen the opportunity to display their gundogs. At Westminster’s first show of 1,201 dogs, 200 were Pointers. The club’s logo is the Pointer, “Sensation,” an English import. Pointers were one of the first eight breeds registered in the U.S. in 1878 and recognized by the AKC when founded in 1884.

Pointer standing in profile in a field.
©Ricant Images -

Pointer colors are liver, lemon, black, or orange, either solid color or in combination with white. In 1820, Daniel Lambert, an English sportsman, developed solid black Pointers. “Fifty years ago, the major Pointer colors were liver and white,” Seymour says. “Today, we see very few liver and white Pointers.”

Pointers Over the 20th-Century

According to Seymour, Pointer tails have changed over the years. “Tail placement is critical. You don’t want to see kinks — you want to see a straight line, like a bee stinger. The tail is the rudder of the dog and keeps it in balance and nice, easy movement,” he says. “If the tail goes up more than 20% over the back, it impacts the balance of the rear and affects the smooth movement of the front.” In the field, the Pointer should be able to run all day without tiring, and good extension in the front and drive from the rear help that, he says.

Although Seymour’s first dog was an Irish Setter, he bought his first Pointer after seeing Champion Shandown’s Touch Of Kings win Best in Show at the Harrisburg Kennel Club. “The dog took my breath away. He was so handsome,” he says. Seymour bought his first Pointer in 1974. “It was the heyday of the modern Pointer with a lot of competition,” he says. “Pointers are a magnificent breed of dog. They’re loyal, intelligent, easy to live with, and wash and wear. Once you have a Pointer, you’ll never have another breed.”

Pointer puppy sitting in the tall grass.
Viktoria Hadlaczki via Shutterstock

The Ideal Pointer

American Pointer Club mentor Helayne Parker has owned Pointers for 35 years. “I don’t hunt, but when I saw Luftnase Albelarm ‘Bee’s Knees’ show at Westminster in 1981, she took my breath away, and I knew I wanted a Pointer,” says Parker. “I don’t hunt with my dogs, but I show them.”

Parker loves the breed’s stately head, sweet temperament, and intelligence. “My friend’s 2-year-old Pointer, ‘Sunny,’ liked to lie in front of the fireplace in the winter. When the weather warmed up, my friend stopped lighting the fire, but Sunny wasn’t happy,” Parker says. “Sunny would go outside and bring in little branches and place them next to the fireplace. He figured out that’s what people did to turn it back on.”