Information about the Small Münsterländer

The Small Munsterlander (SM) (or Kleiner Münsterländer) is a versatile hunting-pointing-retrieving dog breed that reached its current form in the area around Münster, Germany. The Large Munsterlander is from the same area, but was developed from different breeding stock and is not related as the names would suggest. Small Munsterlanders bear a resemblance to both spaniels and setters but are rather more versatile while hunting on land and water. The Small Munsterlander is recognized by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale under Group 7, Section 1.2, Continental Pointing Dogs of Spaniel type, and it is related to the Epagneul Français and the Drentsche Patrijshond.

The breed is often described as about 35 pounds (16 kg) and 18 to 20 inches (0.45 to 0.5 m) at the shoulder, but the average is somewhat heavier, around 45 pounds (20 kg) with some males reaching or slightly exceeding 60 pounds (27 kg) and up to 22 inches (0.55 m). The body is lean yet powerful and not prone to becoming overweight due to an active nature and natural athleticism. Coloration is large patches of brown (plates) on a ticked or solid white background. The soft coat is medium length, requiring grooming after hunting in heavy cover or weekly otherwise. The breed is now registered with the American Kennel Club under the Foundation Stock Service program. In the US Small Munsterlanders may also be registered with the United Kennel Club, North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association or the Small Munsterlander Club of North America.

Small Munsterlanders are very intelligent, trainable, and attentive but require gentle and patient training, which provides excellent results. They are also strong-willed and an owner who is inconsistent or indecisive might find that his dog is hard to control. Both voice and hand signals are used, and an SM looks back at the hunter for silent signals at intervals when on hold or pointing. They have a very strong drive to follow their keen sense of smell, and thrive with hunting or comparably challenging exercise for an hour or more every day. They love swimming, too. Lack of regular and sufficient exercise and mental challenge will likely result in unwanted behavior, which is common in highly intelligent, driven breeds. They mature rather slowly over 2.5 to 3 years but a well-trained, mature SM is a hunter without peer, and the upland bird hunter hunting over such a dog will enjoy both the experience and great success. The Small Munsterlander is a happy, affectionate family pet when in the house, while remaining a keenly focused, even driven, hunter-pointer-retriever when in the field. They are not suited to life in a kennel because of their sociable nature and need to interact with people, they need to live in the home of their human family. SMs will pick an individual person to bond most closely with, typically the one who hunts with the dog, but will revel in the company of the rest of the family, too. When raised with other pets in the household, such as cats, they can coexist happily though they may enjoy a game of chase and point. Unfamiliar small animals outdoors will not be tolerated in the same way.

Originally a dog bred to work with noble families’ falconers before guns were used in bird and small game hunting, ancestors of the Small Munsterlander had to work in upland areas to flush prey for the falcon, then allow the falcon to keep the prey until the falconer could retrieve it while the dog pointed at the catch. To this day the Small Munsterlander has excellent close searching and pointing drive. With wider availability of guns and personal time for commoners, hunting became more popular, and the breed was further developed as a retriever that worked equally well in the field and water. Owners of the breed consider it to be uniquely effective in working as a team with the huntsman in all phases of the hunt, akin to the close cooperation between a sheep herder and Border Collie.

By the 1800s the breed had fallen into obscurity. Small Munsterlanders were little known, kept by a few families on farms around Munster. For a half century the few dogs that were bred were primarily companions, and used when hunting to feed the family rather than for sport. It developed a local reputation as the dog to have when a hunter’s success or failure determined whether his family would have enough to eat. At the end of the 19th century, a concerted effort was made to re-establish the breed from the remaining lines in the Munster region. The fortunate outcome of the companion phase in the Small Munsterlander history was its excellent in-home personality.

The Small Munsterlander is a rare breed in the United States, numbering perhaps in the low thousands, and demand from hunters outstrips the number of available dogs, so breeders typically give preference to hunters. They’re especially hard to come by for nonhunters there. They are more numerous in Germany, the Netherlands, and the Czech Republic.

In the United Kingdom, the breed is rarer still. Recognised by The Kennel Club as an imported breed in 2006, they are still to be established in the hunting community.