Drahthaar or GWP? Is there a difference?

Before I tackle this question in depth, let me first define a few terms that will be used in this article.
the Verein Deutsch-Drahthaar, the official breed club and registry of the Drahthaar breed in Germany. The VDD only registers Drahthaars.
Deutsch-Drahthaar or DD
a dog registered by the Verein Deutsch-Drahthaar.
the American Kennel Club, the most popular purebred registry in the USA. The AKC registers *many* breeds, and is adding more each year.
German Wirehaired Pointer or GWP
a dog registered by the AKC as a 'German Wirehaired Pointer'.
the German Wirehaired Pointer Club of America, the breed club for the AKC representing the interests of the GWP. The GWPCA sets the standard for the breed in the USA.

The main reason for this being on a whole separate page is that this is the question that causes more trouble than any other, when speaking of DDs in the United States. I have personally come under quite a bit of fire from breeders and owners of GWPs, mostly on the 'rec.hunting.dogs' Usenet newsgroup, for stating what I believe is a simple truth:

The Drahthaar and the German Wirehaired Pointer are separate breeds, and should be recognized as such.

This shouldn't seem like that big a revelation, and really shouldn't be such a point of contention, but for some reason it is. The most telling thing that I've found is that the people who holler the loudest when I say this are the AKC breeders. The DD breeders just shrug and say "so you think I didn't know that?"

To explain why the breeds are different now in 1996, it's important to know a bit about the the structure of the two registries, and some history. Let's start with the registries.

The American Kennel Club is an all-breed registry for purebred dogs in the United States. They are actually a 'club of clubs', as each breed represented in the AKC is governed by a breed club, which in turn is a member of the AKC. For the German Wirehaired Pointer, the breed club is called the German Wirehaired Pointer Club of America. The AKC doesn't have control over the breeds they register- the clubs do. The standards for the breeds are set by the breed clubs, and the breed clubs determine the direction of the breed.

It's a common misconception that the AKC controls the breeds, sets the rules, and so forth. The AKC is only a registry and a governing body for AKC all-breed events such as shows, field trials, hunt tests, herding tests, lure coursing tests, and so on. It's also a great misconception that AKC papers are some guarantee of quality in a dog. This is untrue in any registry, even the VDD. The registries cannot guarantee you a quality dog- it's outside their abilities to do so.

The VDD is structured quite differently from the AKC. It is a breed club (like the GWPCA) and it is also a registry (like the AKC). The VDD belongs to a higher governing organization, called the Jagdgebrauchshundverband, or JGHV for short. This translates basically to 'Hunting Dog Association'. The VDD is based in Germany, and consists of 'groups'- something like regions. There are twenty-six groups, twenty-four of which are in Germany or Austria. The other two are Group Canada, and Group North America. The VDD itself not only registers the Drahthaars, but they also set the standards for the breed.

What's the difference, you might be wondering at this point? Well, it's one very important item. The VDD has set very strict rules regarding the breeding and registration of Drahthaars. The AKC and GWPCA have only one- that both parents be purebred representatives of the GWP breed, or a recognized import from a foreign registry of what the AKC considers an equivalent breed. Americans have a great distain for restrictions on their activites, especially things they generally consider their hobbies. Because of this, there has never really been a movement in the USA for the breed clubs to adopt rules such as German clubs have had for over 100 years.

Now on to the history... In 1953, there was no such thing as the GWP- the AKC did not recognize the breed. So several fanciers of the Drahthaar breed formed a club called the 'German Drahthaar Club of America'. In 1955, they petitioned the AKC for recognition of their breed. It took four years of effort, but in 1959 the AKC recognized the breed. At that time, the dogs recognized were renamed 'German Wirehaired Pointers', and placed in the Sporting Group of the AKC.

From 1959 to today (1996), the GWP's development has been in the hands of individual breeders, who have a variety of interests. Some are hunters, some are field trialers, some are only bench show fanciers. Some breeders round out their interests, and seek a dog that fulfills all of it's intentions, hunting and conformation. However, each of these groups will admit that the published standard and winning shows or field trials don't always match. Field trialers or hunters breed dogs that don't meet conformation standards- they're interested in hunting and field trials, not 'beauty contests' (as I've often heard shows referred to). Show breeders will breed what wins in the ring, and it's just the honest truth that what wins in the show ring is not always what's to standard- the show ring is notorious about following 'fashion trends' in various breeds. A 'show only' breeder will often totally ignore a dog's hunting abilities when choosing to breed- they're showing, not hunting. The only hope any sporting breed has are the breeders who attempt both field and show work- the ones trying for a 'Dual Champion'. Unfortunately, they're quite the minority.

The Drahthaar, on the other hand, has been under a tightly controlled development environment. The VDD breeding regulations require that a dog pass several tests before it can be bred, including both conformation and performance tests. Dogs not within the breed standard for conformation have their pedigrees stamped 'Züchtverbot', and that dog is out of the breeding program, end of story. Dogs which are unsound mentally, which won't hunt, are manshy, gunshy, or gameshy are out of the breeding program, period. The breeders have no choice in this matter- the standards are set, and every dog is tested within the same standardized testing program. Also, the dogs don't get opportunity after opportunity to pass these tests- twice is it. In the AKC, a dog could attempt the Master Hunter test 1000 times and fail, yet finally pass it six times and get his pedigree marked 'Master Hunter'. An AKC dog could show for years and win only rarely, yet by attrition gain a show Championship.

So, what are the differences? Well, let's look at the differences in the standards for the breeds, that is the best place to start. In body conformation, the differences are slight. The major differences are in coat, color, and disqualifications.

Coat - AKC - "from one to two inches in length (2.5 to 5 cm)" VDD - "two to four centimeters." I have seen an incredible number of GWPs with coats of more than 8 cm. The GWP, especially among the field breeders, tend to a very wooly coat. Some DDs will have wooly coats, but on average far fewer. Smooth-coated examples of both breeds are found, but in the VDD, they are not bred.

Color - AKC - "liver and white, usually either liver and white spotted, liver roan, liver and white spotted with ticking and roaning or solid liver. The head is liver, sometimes with a white blaze. The ears are liver. Any black in the coat is to be severely penalized." VDD - "Brown roan (braunschimmel), black roan (schwarzschimmel), with or without patches; brown (braun) with or without white spot on the chest (brustfleck). Other colors are not permitted." The most interesting note here is the way the AKC discourages black dogs. The AKC also allows white dogs, which are expressly forbidden by the VDD. As an interesting side note, please see the picture at this link. It shows an AKC GWP and her pup. Notice the white coloration, on her head- a white patch that covers an eye is not a 'blaze', it's a white head. The puppy in the picture has a blaze. The AKC standard calls for a liver head, "sometimes with a blaze." The dog in the picture was bred, and her pups registered, even though she is outside the published standard. AKC dogs tend to be lighter in color than VDD dogs, on average.

Disqualifying faults that will prevent a dog from being bred - AKC - there are none. VDD - "Lack of assertiveness; not steady to gunshot or game-shy; over and undershot bite, irregular bite, missing teeth except for P1; entropion, extropion; innate bob or stump tail, kinked tail; faulty pigmentation, eyes of different colors. Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum." The VDD removes animals from their breeding program that have undesirable problems, such as bad bites, poor temperaments, and other problems such as extropian eyes. The AKC does not remove any dogs from it's breeding program, that's up to the breeders, and it's strictly voluntary.

The upshot of all this is that for nearly 40 years, the Drahthaar and the GWP have been following different development paths. This period represents better than 40% of the total development of the Drahthaar itself. The GWP has been bouyed somewhat by frequent imports of Drahthaars from Germany, which are then registered into the AKC. The VDD will not accept AKC dogs to their registry.


I've taken heat for saying these breeds are different, but without exception, the people who are mad at me have somehow come to the conclusion that by saying so, I'm putting down the AKC dogs, and saying that they're all bad. Not so. I'm going to repeat the line that always starts the howling:

The Drahthaar and the German Wirehaired Pointer are separate breeds, and should be recognized as such.

In school, where I learned the finer points of the English language, I was told to speak plainly, mean what you say, and don't try to make something mean something it doesn't. Let me list a few things that the above line does not mean:

It does mean that it's my belief that the Drahthaar and the German Wirehaired Pointer are separate breeds, and should be recognized as such.

I've been a member of the 'electronic community' for nearly 20 years now, ever since Ward Christensen started the first BBS in the Chicago suburbs, and 110 baud modems were king. For some reason, this medium invites misreading, and if I ever figure out why, and how to fix it, I'll be rich beyond my wildest imagination. In the meantime, I'll have to hope that this page will help stop this particular problem, and work on the others one at a time....

Should you feel that anything in this article is incorrect, or if you'd like to make a rebuttal or comment, please feel free to write me. If you request it, I will post your message, verbatim, without editting, here at the end of the page. The information on the AKC is taken from The Complete Dog Book, 18th Edition, an Official Publication of the American Kennel Club.

Last modified May 24, 1996 - copyright (c) 1996, Todd Hedenstrom

Any questions, comments, or concerns about this page should be directed to: toddh@drahthaar.com