The breed started life in an area of France called Callac. In the village of Callac itself, there stands a statue of a French Cob horse, on which the Brittany is reputed to be based.
French Cob horse
In the 1800’s it was usual for the landed gentry in England to shoot partridge and snipe in France, and, of course, they took with them their best gundogs, mostly setters and pointers. These were often left with the French landowners from one season to the next, and resulted in a number of matings between the popular Fougeres, a very highspirited spaniel from the area, and these English Pointers and English and Gordon Setters – A HOT gundog was born – THE BRITTANY!
Brittany model dog
photo by Guy Bagshaw
Due to the variety of colours in the English Pointers and Setters, and the black and tan of the Gordon Setter, the Brittany also appeared in many coats. (Contrary to some opinions, the Welsh Springer Spaniel is not generally regarded as being related, even though the colouring is similar to the orange and white version of the Brittany, their basic origins being substantially different!)
It was such a popular combination of dog that by 1900, the animals produced from planned matings had become more or less typified. The Brittany has a very strong nose, is an excellent hunter, and can sometimes be spectacular in pointing game, since it works the ground at a great speed, and may suddenly stop or leap on to point.
The first French Champion in the breed was a liver and white dog named MAX DE CALLAC. Another outstanding dog in France was SKA DE SAINT TUGEN (a black based tri-colour), himself a Grand Champion and Grand Trialler, and also sire, grand-sire and great-grand-sire of many champions and triallers. SKA was the epitome of the Callac horse, being well ribbed, short-coupled, well muscled, and having great presence. Many British bred dogs are related to him.
The breed is becoming increasingly popular in this country, particularly with those sportsmen interested in rough shooting and falconry in its various forms. It is a very stylish dog in field trials, and six Field Trial Champions have been made up since 1982. Three of these have been converted to Dual Champions – an unbelievable record in a numerically small breed, as well as being the highest accolade in the gundog world.
Dual Champions are those dogs which are both a Field Trial Champion and a Full Champion or a Show Champion.
It is also popular in the show ring and the Kennel Club granted Challenge Certificate Status in 1997, and there are now a number of Show Champions and Full Champions