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40 Years DEUTSCH-DRAHTHAAR in East Germany

By Dr Horst Rambusch

Translated by Jon Prescott

With the 100th celebration of the VDD this year, the Fläming-Havelland group has published a chronicle of the extraordinary efforts and dedication of those breeders and enthusiasts who resurrected the DD in East Germany after World War II. The book is a compilation of contributions in many areas from more than two dozen writers, starting with the breeding challenges immediately after the war and ending with colorful descriptions of the DD in action on the favorite game of East German hunters.

World War II took a heavy toll on the DD and left a small, poorly distributed genepool. It became obvious that a divided Germany, especially in the east, would be split apart and that a cooperative effort among breeders in the east and west would not be possible. Meeting in Berlin in March of 1949, the east German members started their own efforts to bring the DD back to its premier place in the hunting community. As in West Germany, it was decided that out crossing with the former foundation breeds would be allowed. In order to restore the breed, DD were bred to DD, Dst, PP, GR and DK, with and without Ahnentafel. Full testing resumed in 1951 with the first post war VGP in East Germany as did the recording of litters, followed in 1954 by the establishment of a breeding registry. In 1951 a total of 20 litters were registered, rising to 87 by 1958.

There were difficulties along the way. First and foremost was contact with the west. Early exchanges between breeders in the 1950’s became increasingly difficult until by 1964, the East German breeders were more or less on their own. The political climate made even training and hunting difficult. All hunting weapons were kept by the police. If a shotgun was needed to train or hunt, weapons would be issued for a period of three days after which they would be returned. During these three days, issued weapons were required to be kept in a safe when not in use. Inspections by the police to insure these conditions could be expected at anytime. Even the shells were issued and accounted for. Impromptu training or hunting was not an option.

Perhaps most interesting is the way in which the East German organization managed the reestablishment of the breed. Starting in the early 1950’s, through increasingly more rigorous breeding and testing regulations, the overall health, ability and performance of the breed steadily improved. New breeding regulations appeared at regular intervals (1951, 1960, 1968, 1979, and 1987) were carefully designed to improve the performance and physical traits. In an effort to enlarge the genepool, the regulations of 1951 recognized two classes of stud dogs – A and B. B class dogs were dogs without a performance rating but ALL dogs had to pass a sharpness test as well as be rated at least good in conformation and coat. Steady progress prompted the Anlagenkennziffern (instincts evaluation) as adopted in 1968 to require scores of 4 (!!) in hare track and nose and 3 in cooperation, pointing and duck search. “B” class stud dogs were dropped. In 1968, East Germany also adopted a mandatory HD testing and dictated that only HD Frei dogs would be allowed in the breeding genepool. With an average 15-20% of dogs tested, the rate of HD Frei dogs hovered at 93-97% until the reunification in 1989. (Dr. Rambusch, the organizer of the book notes that with the import of West German breeding stock after the reunification, the incidence of HD increased.)

The DD in East Germany did differ in type somewhat from his West German counterpart but not in purpose. The East German dogs tended to be larger and exhibit more coat. In order to incorporate the East German dogs, the standard for the unified club was changed to allow males up to 68cm (27.2 inches). Although testing was still aimed at the complete versatile dog, the East German DD was more likely to be a large game or furred game specialist (and explains the need to maintain the proper “sharpness”in the breed). The proliferation of the wild pig necessitated in many areas constant harvesting to maintain an ecological equilibrium.

The overriding impression that this book leaves is the dedication that so many have given over the years to the breed. The list of those honored for their service to the breed is long. Many pages are given to recognizing the officers, breeders, judges and mentors whose work has been instrumental in reestablishing the DD as the preeminent versatile dog in East Germany (as it is in West Germany). And, that preeminence is undisputed. By 1984, of 6,309 registered continental pointing dogs in East Germany, the DD accounted for 3,225. Over half the dogs in East Germany that successfully passed a VGP were Deutsch Drahthaar.

Dr Horst Rambusch, the editor in chief for this book wrote four short lines which seems to sum up the priorities of this extraordinary effort:

Jagdgebrauchshunde zu zuechten ist ein Kunst

sie zu vermehren eins Gunst

Das Erbgut zu erhalten ist Zunft

es zu verbessern ein grosser Wunsch

To breed versatile dogs is an art

to increase their numbers a blessing

to maintain the inheritance is duty

to improve it, our biggest wish

Ed. Note: This book was available at the 69th Hegewald and Jon Prescott graciously agreed to read and translate and report on the book.

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