The exact origin of the Brittany is shrouded in mystery to this day, but it is known that in the 1850’s English gentry travelled to Brittany to hunt woodcock, taking with them their well trained Pointers, English, Irish, Gordon and Llewellyn Setters.
At the end of each shooting season, the dogs were often left behind with the local people until the next shooting season. It is commonly thought that the Brittany residents mated their liver and white “native” spaniel type dogs with the English pointers and setters – thus accounting for the variety of colours seen today in the majority of Brittany’s.
Records indicate that in 1896 at the Paris exhibition, a Brittany was shown and won a prize. The first French champion was “Max de Callac” shown in 1904, owned by Monsieur Patin. The breed gained official recognition in France, when a French breed club was formed in 1907. It is known to this day as the ‘Club de L’Epagneul Breton – (France)’. The first breed standard
was drawn up in Nantes, France in 1907 and officially adopted by the club on 7 June 1908.
The first Brittany’s to be imported into the United States of America arrived in 1928 and the breed standard was first adopted by the American Kennel Club in 1934, reviewed in 1946 and a new standard approved in 1966. This standard was also reaffirmed in 1977.
The first Brittany’s imported into the United Kingdom arrived in 1982 and the first litter registered in the same year, while here in New Zealand, the first New Zealand Kennel Club registration was in 1975.
A recent review of our standard to bring it in line with the UK was adopted in 2006.
It should be noted that it is only the American Kennel Club and Canadian Kennel Club breed standards that disqualify the black colouring .Thus the colour is not seen in the American and Canadian show rings.
The breed is sometimes called Brittany “spaniel” but most countries have dropped the reference to “spaniel” in recognition of the fact that this breed points, rather than flushes its game – and as such, the Brittany does not compete in spaniel field trials or spaniel shows.
It is also suspected that the word “spaniel” arose from an error in translation of the original name “Epagneul” – a word derived from the French verb “s’espaigne”, which means to lie flat. Before hunters used firearms, the pointing dogs would indicate game by lying flat on the ground. The hunter’s then threw nets over the gamebirds and the dogs that had found them.