Information about the Brittany

The Brittany is a breed of gun dog bred primarily for bird hunting. Although the Brittany is often referred to as a Spaniel, the breed’s working characteristics are more akin to those of a pointer or setter.

The name “Brittany” is taken from a region in northwestern France. Images of Brittanys were first seen on tapestries and paintings from the 17th century. These images depicted orange and white dogs hunting and retrieving game. The first written and verifiable record of Brittanys comes from a hunting description written by Reverend Davies in 1850. Davies described hunting with small “bobtailed” dogs who were pointed and were excellent retrievers. It was around the same time that the modern Brittany is rumored to have been bred by mating with English Setters. First shown at the Paris Dog Show in 1900, the brittany had already been known in Europe for centuries.

The Brittany was first recognized as a breed in 1907 when an orange and white male named “Boy” was registered in France. As a result, the first standards were outlined in the same year. America first recognized the Brittany in 1931 and the breed was approved by the American Kennel Club in 1934. In 1982 the “Spaniel” was officially dropped from the name and the breed became simply known as “Brittany.”

A Brittany is typically quite athletic, compact, energetic, and solidly built without being heavy. Other characteristics include long legs and floppy ears. Their expressions are usually of intelligence, vigour, and alertness. Their gait is elastic, long, and free. They generally learn quickly and are known for being sensitive, loyal, and attached to their owners.

Some Brittanys are born with naturally short tails and others with long tails. If born with a long tail it is normally docked to a length of 3 to 10 centimeters (or 1 to 4 inches).

Brittanys come in a variety of colors: orange and white coat or liver and white are most common in the American Brittany; other colours include orange roan and liver roan, all of which are acceptable in the show ring. The American Brittany Standard does specify an acceptable tri-colour of liver, orange, and white with very specific color placement which is also acceptable in the show ring.

Brittanys should range in a height of 17 inches to 20.5 inches at the withers (17.5 to 20.5 in America), with females at the lower end and males taller. The measurements of 17.5 to 20.5 inches were adopted and approved by the AKC as the standard in 1990.. A properly constructed and healthy Brittany maintains a weight between 36 and 43 lb (16 to 19 kg), depending upon height. North American field lines tend to be larger, with many dogs reaching a healthy weight of 45 to 50 lb (20 to 23 kg).

Brittanys are medium-sized dogs, and measure on average 50 cm at the shoulder.

Many breeders differentiate between “American” Brittanys and “French” style Brittanys due to the (disputed) addition of English Setter blood to the original French breeding. Although generally recognized as sub-sets of the same breed, there are recognizable differences between the two. The Brittany appears more “spaniel-like” in that it is smaller and the French Brittany generally works more closely to the guns, but will work according to the local terrain. However, some breeders consider these “differences” to be unsound generalizations and that American standards should be updated to reflect the breed’s standard in its country of origin, i.e. France, where black has become an acceptable coat colour since 1956 while it is still considered a fault in America. Originally known as the Brittany Spaniel, the word “spaniel” was dropped in the U.S. some years ago, as the American Brittany Club persuaded the American Kennel Club to discontinue the use of the term “spaniel” for this breed. When translating the Latin version of the Brittany’s name, it was assumed that spaniel was attached, as the Brittany does resemble a spaniel-like dog. Spaniels, such as Springers and Cockers, are used for flushing game, while Brittanys are more akin to pointers and all-purpose sporting dogs. Known in the United Kingdom as an HPR breed (Hunt, point, and retrieve), they are expected to point and retrieve all birds and ground game up to and including hare. These unique qualities of the Brittany have given it top spot as the breed with the most Dual Champions of all the AKC Sporting Breeds. This landmark was reached in 2006 with the 500th Dual Champion Brittany.

The breed was originally bred as a hunting dog and noted for being easy to train and sweet-natured. The breed is generally more sensitive to correction than other hunting breeds, and harsh corrections are often unnecessary. Brittanys are all around sound dogs, as they are excellent family pets as well as working dogs in the field. Brittanys are eager to please, friendly, and sometimes sensitive dogs. They are great with kids. Brittanys are energetic dogs, and need at least an hour of vigorous exercise every day. The dogs are active and require frequent exercise and room to run, and a fenced yard is essential. At least one long walk is required daily to satisfy the needs of most Brittanys, and many Brittanys will need more than this. The Brittany makes an ideal companion for an active owner. The breed sometimes gets a reputation for being crazy or uncontrollable, but these problems are almost invariably due to lack of exercise and training, and are not commonly seen in well cared-for dogs.

Brittanys can become very shy if not thoroughly socialized, and even among well-socialized dogs there is significant variation in levels of friendliness. Socialization is very important, and they must be socialized at a young age. These breeds are easy to train, and are eager to please.

With more American dual champions (dogs with titles in both conformation shows and field trials) than any other breed, the Brittany maintains strong hunting instincts in all bloodlines.

Brittanys are generally healthy and hardy dogs. The average lifespan of the breed is 12 to 14 years. Because of their floppy ears, which tend to trap moisture in the ear canal, Brittanys should have their ears cleaned regularly. Hip dysplasia is known to affect some members of the breed, and statistics compiled by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals show that 14.9% of Brittanys tested between 1974 and 2009 were considered dysplastic, with the incidence of hip dysplasia being reduced to 10.3% for dogs born 2003-2004. Epilepsy has also been known to occur in the breed. American fanciers encourage owners of affected dogs to submit DNA to UC Davis Veterinary Genetics Lab for their ongoing research into the Brittany and canine health.

Brittanys are also listed among the breeds that are commonly affected by Canine discoid lupus erythematosus.

Aside from plenty of exercise, Brittanys are low-requirement, healthy dogs and are easy to handle. They need minimal grooming, as, unlike Labs and Shepherds, are “single-coated”. The hair that sheds from other dogs comes from the very fine undercoat. The Brittany lacks this undercoat and is, therefore, known by owners to shed little. A bath only when necessary is all that is needed.