If you're not familiar with the term, 'Pointing' is when a dog is tracking a scent and they instinctually freeze once they have located their quarry. The typical pointing position involves the dog holding one paw up in the air, the tail will point upwards, the body is stiff, and the nose is directed towards the scent.
Pointing breeds tend to be active, enthusiastic, intelligent and eager to please. They often excel in tracking and nose work sports, and, invariably, they're skilled retrievers with a great love of water. A rigorous exercise routine is vital for these driven dogs.
It's not just the English or German Short-haired Pointer that are up to the task. Learn more about the history and temperament of eight popular pointing breeds below.
01 of 08
Also known as the Italian Pointer, the Bracco Italiano has roots that go back as far as the 5th century. They're often referred to as being one of Europes oldest pointers.
In the early 20th century, a dedicated breeding programme was set up to revive their numbers. Previously there had been two strains of Bracco, a smaller variety from the Piedmont region of Italy, and a larger dog from Lombardy. The two types were merged as part of this programme, resulting in the Bracco we know today.
Known for being incredibly reliable in the field, the Bracco tends to be more docile at home than some pointing breeds. They're gentle and affectionate dogs that form strong bonds with their family members. You should be prepared for a fair bit of drool and Braccos can be rather vocal. They're also still relatively rare in North America.
Height: 21 to 27 inches
Weight: 55 to 90 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Large athletic dog with pendulous ears; short, dense and glossy coat that comes in solid white, white with orange or chestnut patches, orange or chestnut roan
02 of 08
Despite often being referred to as Spaniels, the Brittany is actually a pointing breed.
As the name suggests, these dogs were first developed from around the 17th century in the Northern region of Brittany, France. These versatile hunting dogs are the most compact on our list. Their size, skills and temperament mean they're much in demand in many other parts of the world now too.
They tend to be good with other dogs and gentle children. Brittanies can be sensitive souls, but they're eager to please and respond incredibly well to positive and gentle training techniques.
Because they thrive in company, Brittanies are best suited to a home where someone will be around for them most of the day. They can be prone to separation anxiety.
Height: 17.5 to 20.5 inches
Weight: 30 to 40 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Medium-sized, long-legged dog, athletic dog that can have a bobtail. They have a flat or wavy, dense coat that comes in orange and white or liver and white markings and sometimes with roan patterns
03 of 08
The English Pointer is often referred to simply as the Pointer. Although they have origins dating as far back as the 17th century, it wasn't until the following century that the breed really took shape. With the advent of wing-shooting in England, these dogs grew in popularity as a result of their dependable and diligent natures.
Nowadays, English Pointers are known for being one of the most versatile, hard-working and popular of all the pointing breeds. They excel in field trials, but, with their dynamism and ambition, they also do well in other dog sports including agility, canicross and obedience. At home, English Pointers are known for being loving, loyal and sweet-tempered.
While they'll be suited to a house where they'll have company for most of the day, it's a good idea to work on helping them to relax if they're left on their own for short periods. This will help to prevent problems with separation anxiety developing. These strong dogs can also be rather exuberant. Practising keeping four paws on the floor will be vital, especially if you have small kids.
Height: 17 to 21 inches
Weight: 45 to 75 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Lean, muscular medium to large-sized body with a short, dense coat; color combinations of white with liver, lemon, orange, or black markings; may have solid coloring
04 of 08
The English Setter is the most popular of three silky-coated setters to originate in the United Kingdom. Like the Bracco Italiano, this breed has a long heritage. 15th-century pieces of artwork have been discovered featuring dogs that look similar to the setter.
Although regarded as a pointing breed, these dogs were originally developed to lay down, or 'set', when they detected their quarry - just like their relatives the Gordon Setter and the Irish Setter. These dogs grew in popularity in the 18th century with owners of grand English Estates that enjoyed hunting.
Wealthy breed enthusiasts Edward Laverack and R. Purcell Llewellin were credited with providing the foundation stock of the English Setters we have today. The breed is known for being incredibly mellow, and they tend to enjoy the company of gentle children and other dogs. Although English Setters still need plenty of exercise, they're often calmer around the home than some pointing breeds.
Height: 25 to 27 inches
Weight: 65 to 80 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Large breed, athletic dog with plumed tail, feathering on the legs and pendulous ears; long, flat, silky, and a little wavy coat; white coat base with 'Belton' markings that can be flecks or intermingled roan; Belton colors are orange or black (referred to as blue) and can also be tricoloredContinue to 5 of 8 below.
05 of 08
Germany is well-known for its diligent development of skilled hunting dogs, and the German Shorthaired Pointer (GSP) is no exception. Some experts believe them to be the most versatile and capable all-around hunting dog.
It's thought the GSP was landed upon as the result of crosses between English and Spanish pointers and the, now extinct, German Bird Dog. By the late 19th century, the breed had an official studbook and they started being imported to other countries.
The GSP has gone on to become the most popular pointing dog in the United States, and they currently sit within the top ten of the AKCs overall most popular breeds. It's no surprise really given GSPs are so intelligent, eager to please, happy and affectionate. If you own a GSP, you can expect them to have a great love of water, and with their webbed feet, they tend to excel at this activity. The German Wirehaired Pointer is a close relative of the GSP.
Height: 21 to 25 inches
Weight: 45 to 70 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Athletic build, large dog; they have a short, smooth coat, which is solid liver or a combination of liver and white in color
06 of 08
The Spinone Italiano is the second Italian pointing breed, alongside the Bracco Italiano. These dogs hail from the Piedmont region of the country. They got their name from the thorny 'Spino' undergrowth that they often had to negotiate when out hunting.
Their coarse fur and thick skin helped protect them when they were tracking in this type of terrain. However, the breed almost became extinct after the World Wars. Although they're still one of the rarer pointing breeds, their numbers have steadily increased.
Despite being one of the biggest of the pointing breeds, Spinoni appeal to some owners as they can be less busy and more docile than some of their relatives. They aren't always quite as eager to please, though, and can sometimes be stubborn. You might need a little more patience and a few more tasty treats when it comes to training.
Height: 22.5 to 27.5 inches
Weight: 65 to 90 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Muscular, powerful, square-built, large dog; harsh, coarse, dense, flat single coat with a distinct set of bushy eyebrows and beard; come in solid white, white and orange and white with brown markings; markings can be roan or solid colors
07 of 08
The Hungarian Vizsla's origins can be traced to when the ancient Magyar clans roamed the country as far back as the 8th century. These agile dogs had great endurance, making them invaluable hunting partners for the tribesman.
Over the centuries, these dogs were gradually refined into the Vizsla that we know today. They were highly prized by the nobleman of the country and known for their speed and versatility.
This is largely attributed to the fact that Vizslas are known for being incredibly big-hearted, always willing and adaptable. Often referred to as 'velcro' dogs, they love being in the company of their humans. It does mean, however, that they can be prone to separation anxiety. There's also the Wirehaired Vizsla, which is considered a separate breed.
Height: 22 to 23 inches
Weight: 45 to 50 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Athletic, muscular and well proportioned large bred with a copper or rust-colored short, smooth, dense coat
08 of 08
The Weimaraner is another German breed that is known for its pointing skills. Unlike a lot of the dogs featured on this list, the breed doesn't have such a long history.
Although they were originally used for hunting big game, the Weimaraner began to gain popularity as an all-round gun dog. They showed a natural aptitude towards pointing and retrieving and became much prized in their homeland, and subsequently, further afield.
These dogs are known for being smart problem solvers. They need lots of enrichment to keep them entertained and prevent them from creating their own amusement around the home. Like many of the dogs on this list, Weimaraners adore being in company. Although they might not be as eager to please as the likes of the Vizsla, who they're often confused with.
Height: 24 to 26 inches
Weight: 70 to 85 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Athletic, robust and streamlined large breed. They have a short, smooth mouse gray or silver-gray coat
If you have a love of the great outdoors, you could have a perfect companion in one of these pointing dog breeds.
None of them, however, will be suited to apartment living with an owner that isn't prepared to give them long daily walks and plenty of additional physical and mental enrichment.