German shorthaired pointers and German wirehaired pointers are much different than their names imply. Beyond the difference in coat length, they are two distinct breeds.
As with several other versatile breeds, German shorthairs were developed in the mid 1800s when the average European hunter needed one dog that could do it all – find and point upland game, retrieve waterfowl, track furred game and running birds, and perform optimally on varied terrain in a range of temperatures. The early lines of the breed are believed to have been created primarily from Spanish pointers, with English pointers and setters mixed in among different German hounds. German wirehairs were also developed by hunters seeking the all-purpose dog but using stichelhaars and pudelpointers as the basis of most early breeding programs, later crossing in griffons and German shorthairs among several other breeds.
Paragraphs could be devoted to the history of each breed – how its story was affected by the politics and demographic movements surrounding WWII, the viewpoints of the breeds’ parent clubs, and the inevitable differences today between the German breeders of the Deutsch Kurzhaar and Deutsch Drahthaar and the American breeders of the German shorthair and German wirehair. For most of us, however, the basics of appearance, temperament and hunting style are more important.
German shorthairs come in a variety of colors from all liver and all black to roan, brightly ticked, or predominantly white, some with large brown or black patches, some without. Their coats should be short, somewhat harsh and easy to maintain. They are considered medium-size hunting dogs with a medium to wide range and medium to fast ground speed.
German wirehairs’ coats have a similar variance, with the brown roan most common. The amount of “furniture” – the facial hair – also varies from shaggy all over to just a touch of longer hairs over the eyebrows and on the chin. Some wirehairs have fuller coats with more wiry coverage; others are tighter and smoother. They do require a little more maintenance, particularly after picking up debris in the brush. All wirehair coats should be dense and able to shed water. Their size, range and speed are comparable to the shorthairs.
Within any breed you can find dogs of widely varying personalities and appearances. Live with several and hunt over dozens more, and some generalities will surface. I live with two of each – my husband has two GWPs and I have two GSPs. We’ve hunted over many more dogs of each breed as well.
On point, the shorthairs are more elegant and sexy, body planed into the scent. The wirehairs’ points tend to be less angular and more solidly balanced, like they are rooted to the ground. The shorthairs and wirehairs are equally intense. Their noses, drive and desire are equal. A notable difference is that the wirehairs can handle very cold waterfowling better; the shorthairs fare better in warm upland work.
Both breeds live well in the house and with the family. In our pack, the wirehairs are a bit more intense and take themselves too seriously sometimes. The shorthairs are more exuberant and have a better sense of humor (or at least they seem to think so). Both crave exercise and love to work. And when it comes to space in our bed, they all get equal dibs.
Story and photos by Nancy Anisfield