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rec.pets.dogs: Wetterhounen Breed-FAQ


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Archive-name: dogs-faq/breeds/wetterhounen
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Last-modified: 24 Feb 1998

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                                Wetterhounen
                                      
Author

   
          Steve Deger, 12 July 1996
          
          This article is Copyright 1996 by Steve Deger. All rights are
          reserved. Individuals may download and print a copy for their
          personal use. Non-commercial distribution without profit is
          encouraged, provided this Copyright and the article remain
          intact, and provided the recipient is not required to pay for
          it. It may not be copied to another website nor otherwise
          distributed in whole or in part without the author's written
          permission. Individuals wishing to include information from
          this FAQ in their own publications may contact the author for
          citation information.
          
   Special thanks to Gerard van Klaveran.
     _________________________________________________________________
                                      
Table of Contents

     * History
     * The Wetterhoun Today
     * Characteristics and Temperament
     * Health and Medical Problems
     * Breed Standard
     * Breed Club
     * References
       
     _________________________________________________________________
                                      
History

   The northern sections of the Netherlands have historically been rather
   isolated. As a result, the people of these regions have developed
   their own unique dialects, customs, and even their own native dog
   breeds. One of the most striking examples of the latter is the
   Wetterhoun (pronounced VETTERHOWN), a distinctive, curly-haired dog
   native to the Dutch province of Friesland. Originally used to hunt
   otters and polecats, it is known by a variety of names including the
   Otterhoun, the Dutch Spaniel, and the Dutch Water Spaniel. It is among
   the Fresian breeds recognized by the Dutch Kennel Club in 1942.
   
   As with most dog breeds, the Wetterhoun's precise origin is in
   dispute. Spaniel-like dogs have been a part of Friesland's rural
   history for as long as people can remember. However, there is no
   historical data indicating that curly-haired dogs of Wetterhoun type
   existed in Holland earlier than the 19th century. It is therefore
   believed that the Wetterhoun is a breed of fairly recent origin,
   possibly arising from crosses between the native Fresian farm dogs and
   dogs of water spaniel and/or spitz ancestry. This latter componant may
   have been imported from Russia, Greenland, or any of the neighboring
   Baltic countries with whom the Fresians had a significant trade
   relationship in centuries past.
   
   Around the time of the Second World War, Dutch dog fanciers took it
   upon themselves to recognize, preserve, and promote the Wetterhoun as
   a distinct breed. Among these fanciers was a man by the name of Jan
   Bos, who led the efforts to identify and register a group of
   Wetterhounen that conformed to a loose standard of type. Bos
   reportedly approached a number of owners and breeders whose dogs met
   his ideal image of a Wetterhoun, and persuaded these people to bring
   their dogs to the first "inspection days" which were held in the town
   of Leeuwarden. Dogs with suitable conformation were then put through a
   hunting test which measured their abilities to dig for vermin, to
   retrieve from water, and to track an animal on land. Names of
   acceptable specimens were then entered into an appendix of the Dutch
   Pedigree Register. Inspections and hunt tests were held periodically
   in and outside of Friesland up until the early 1960's, allowing
   several dozen Wetterhounen to be registered. At that point, the
   appendix was closed to further entries, and these initial dogs became
   the standard group from which all future purebreds were derived.
   
   In an effort to gain exposure for their breed, members of the
   newly-formed breed club took their Wetterhounen on the road, attending
   dog shows in Rotterdam and Amsterdam. To highlight the breed's
   regional development, these enthusiasts rented traditional Fresian
   costumes and horse-drawn Fresian buggies. Their appearance earned them
   headlines in major metropolitan newspapers, and from that point on,
   the Wetterhoun and its Fresian heritage became increasingly well-known
   to dog fanciers throughout the world.
   
     _________________________________________________________________
                                      
The Wetterhoun Today

   Early Wetterhounen varied greatly in appearance. Colors included black
   and white, white, grey, dogs with red patches, and even black and tan.
   There was also a great diversity of coat texture ranging from tighly
   curled to loosely curled to completely flat. Despite the devisive
   opinions of various enthusiasts as to what the "ideal" Wetterhoun
   should look like, the breed club adopted a written breed standard,
   which has helped to bring increased uniformity to the Wetterhoun in
   recent years.
   
   Although no longer restricted solely to Friesland, the Wetterhoun
   nonetheless remains a rare breed, rarely seen outside of Holland. It
   is not a popular hunting companion, although a few have excelled in
   hunt tests and have earned diplomas from the Royal Dutch Hunters
   Association. The dogs currently compete in Holland's "B"
   classification of spaniels, alongside other dogs of similar type, such
   as the Irish Water Spaniel. A few others compete in bench
   competitions, but the breed is still primarily known as a "yard
   dog"---keeping the Fresian farm buildings free from polecats, and the
   farm fields free from moles. It is most common in the water-laced
   southcentral and southwestern sections of Friesland.
   
     _________________________________________________________________
                                      
Characteristics and Temperament

   Historical information perhaps incorrectly refers to the Wetterhoun as
   "fierce". This may be in part due to the rather intimidating
   "snarling" expression of the dog. The true personality of the
   Wetterhoun is that of a gentle but independent dog that is reserved
   with strangers.
   
   Many people describe the dog as being stoic and brave. Long-time breed
   fancier J.P. Otto recalls watching a Wetterhoun "stare down" a stray
   German Shepherd that once dominated and attacked all the local dogs in
   the town. Otto feels that this stoicism and tenacity is what gives the
   Wetterhoun its name---he insists that "Wetterhoun" is not a literal
   translation of "water hound", but instead comes from the German
   hunter's phrase _wittern_, meaning, "to steal his last breath".
   
   The Wetterhoun is a natural retriever of both fur and feather. It
   takes to the water well, has a strong prey drive, and its dense, oily,
   water-repellent coat makes it especially suited to working in rough
   terrain or climates. Its hunting desire is hard to satiate, and when
   thwarted in the duck blind, it will turn to stalking mice. It has an
   excellent nose and its used a flusher in the uplands. However, the
   breed is often not a consistent performer, and it usually considered
   too stubborn to be taught advanced retrieving skills.
   
   The personality of the Wetterhoun is truly unique. Its hunting
   instincts and reserved nature have led to comparisons with sporting
   dogs such as the Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Curly Coated Retriever, and
   the American Water Spaniel, or to earthdogs such as the Fox or Jack
   Russell Terrier.
   
   It is not easy to gain dominance over a Wetterhoun; owners must first
   build a good rapport with the dog. Training should begin early and
   should be carried on throughout much of the dog's adult life. Patience
   is essential; too much haste or overwork will produce the wrong
   results. A Wetterhoun is quickly influenced and any undesirable
   handling will be remembered for a long time.
   
   Because of its dominant nature and prey instinct, the Wetterhoun may
   not be the best choice for homes with other pets, unless introduced to
   them at an early age. Former Fresian horticulturalist Frans Haven
   often had problems with stray cats---which had a habit of making
   litter boxes out of the bedding areas in his nursery. On more than one
   occasion, Haven's Wetterhouns made short order out of a few of these
   night-time visitors.
   
     _________________________________________________________________
                                      
Health and Medical Problems

   The Wetterhoun is generally not susceptible to the range of diseases
   that afflict more popular, widely-bred dogs. However, the initial gene
   pool of registered Wetterhounen was very small, and epilepsy and
   canine hip dysplasia are now prevalant. In light of these problems,
   efforts have been made in recent years to reopen the registry in order
   to bring in "fresh blood" to enhance the genetic qualities of the
   breed.
   
   Wetterhounen occasionally suffer from hair loss. A few dogs have
   apparently been treated successfully with vitamin therapy, but other
   cases suggest an autoimmune disorder similar to that which
   occassionaly surfaces in other curly-haired breeds.
   
     _________________________________________________________________
                                      
Breed Standard

   _GENERAL APPEARANCE_: A simple dog which, from old, hunted otters
   "without cumber or splash". Strongly built, square and stocky, tight
   skin without excessive throatiness or loose flews.
   
   _NATURE_: A gentle but stubborn dog. Reserved with strangers. A good
   watch dog.
   
   _HEAD_: Large in relation to body, strong and powerful. Skull and
   snout equally long. The skull is slightly curved appearing to be more
   broad than long, rounder over the cheeks with reasonably well
   developed cheek muscles. Moderately defined stop. The snout is strong
   being only a little narrower than the nose with little inclination
   toward snipeiness. The bridge of the nose, seen from the side, doesnt
   appear round or hollow. The bridge is broad and the nose well
   developed with open nostrils. The lips are well closed and not
   overhanging. Strong, sharp teeth.
   
   _EARS_: Starting low, the ear is not strongly developed. It is
   desirable for the ear to hang without touching the head. The ears are
   of average length and trowel shaped. The hair on the ear is curled,
   long at the base becoming shorter as it goes down to the tip of the
   ear.
   
   _EYES_: Medium size, egg shaped with good eyelids without sight of the
   conjunctiva. They sit back on the head giving a fierce impression but
   should not be sunken or bulging.
   
   _NOSE_: Black for dogs with black base color and brown for those with
   brown base color. Not split. Good open nostrils and well developed
   surface.
   
   _NECK_: Short and strong, round with blunt corners running into the
   line of the back so the head is carried a little low. Slightly curved
   without hang or bulge.
   
   _CHEST_: Seen from the front, broad, more broad than deep and
   consequently the front legs are far apart. Rounder under chest
   reaching only as far as the elbows.
   
   _BODY_: Powerful. Rounded ribs. Well developed straight short back
   with an only slightly tapering topline. Strong loins and slightly
   pulled up stomach.
   
   _TAIL_: Long and rolled to a spiral.
   
   _FRONT QUARTERS_: Shoulders well fitted to the body. Shoulder blades
   sloping and well cornered. Underside is strong, straight and not
   sagging, rounded feet, well developed hidden toes and strong soles.
   
   _REAR QUARTERS_: Powerful and well angulated without excessive
   legginess. Back feet well developed with strong soles.
   
   _HAIR_: Except for the head and legs, covered with thick curls. Strong
   and tufty curls. Multiple curls or curls in thin tufts giving a woolly
   appearance are incorrect for the breed. The hair is quite course and
   feels greasy. Hair on the head tends to be a little less greasy.
   
   _COLOR_: Brown, black, or either color mixed with white.
   
   _SIZE:_ Ideal size is 59 cm for the males and 55 cm for females.
   
     _________________________________________________________________
                                      
Breed Club

   _Nederlandse Vereniging Voor Stabij En Wetterhoun
   Breeding Commission, c/o W Van Duijn
   Siegenlaan 88
   2231 PE Rijnsburg
   The Netherlands
   a.van_duijn@pkl.medfac.leidenuniv.nl_
     _________________________________________________________________
                                      
References

   Alderton, David. _Eyewitness Handbook of Dogs_. Dorling Kindersley,
   Inc. New York: 1993
   
   De Prisco, Andrew, and Jane B. Johnson. _The Mini Atlas of Dog
   Breeds_. TFH Publications. Neptune City: 1990.
   
   Kalkman, Hans. "Wetterhoun in Holland."
   hunting-retriever@citabra.uark.edu (18 May 1996).
   
   Otto, J.P. "De Wetterhoun". _De Honden Wereld_, Vol. 17, September
   1980. Page 767.
   
   Palmer, Joan. _Illustrated Encylopedia of Dog Breeds_. Wellfleet
   Press. Edison: 1994.
   
   van Klaveren, Gerard. _Die Friese Stabij en Wetterhoun_.
   Beetsterzwaag: 19??.
   
   van Klaveren, Gerard, and Binne de Haan. _Die Fryske Hounen_.
   Beetsterzwaag: 1987.
   
   Wilcox, Bonnie, DVM & Chris Walkowicz. _Atlas of Dog Breeds of the
   World_. TFH Publications. Neptune City: 1993.
   
     _________________________________________________________________
                                      
   
    Wetterhoun FAQ
    Steve Deger, steved@scisoc.org
    
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