The Braque d’Auvergne is a breed of versatile gun dog native to France. The Braque d’Auvergne was named for the region of Auvergne, located in South Central France. The breed was developed to hunt in the forests and mountains of the region, specifically to locate, point at, flush, and retrieve birds. The Braque d’Auvergne nearly became extinct as a result of World War II, but is making a recovery in recent years. The Braque d’Auvergne is also known as the Braque d’Auvergne Pointer, Braque du Auvergne, Auvergne Pointer, Auvergnese Pointer, Auvergne Pointing Dog, Auvergnese Pointing Dog, Auvergnian Pointer, Auvergnian Pointing Dog French Pointer (Auvergne), Bleu de Auvergne, and Bleu d’Auvergne.
The Braque d’Auvergne was developed in an era prior to the keeping of written records of dog breeding. As a result, much of its early history has been lost to time. What is known for sure is that this breed was one of the oldest local breeds of French Braque, and that it was developed in the region of Auvergne prior to the end of the 1700’s. The Braque d’Auvergne is a breed of Braque, a term used to describe a group of closely related smooth-coated French pointing dogs.
Although there is substantial dispute among fanciers and canine historians, it is almost universally agreed that the Braque Francais (Gascogne) was the original Braque breed, and that all other Braque’s are primarily descended from it. There are two major theories about the Braque Francais’s (Gascogne’s) origins. Many claim that it was developed from the Chien d’Oysel, a Spaniel-like bird dog once common in the South of France. If this is the case, crosses with French scenthounds such as the Grand Bleu de Gascogne and the Petit Bleu de Gascogne were almost certainly used to refine the breed. Others believe that the Braque Francais (Gascogne) was created by crossing Spanish and Italian pointing dogs such as the now-extinct Spanish Pointer and the Bracco Italiano. Similar dogs are thought to have been the ancestors of the English Pointer. However the breed was developed, the Braque Francais (Gascogne) became immensely popular with hunters throughout France, and was ubiquitous throughout the country by the end of the 1600’s.
France is a large country by European standards, and contains incredibly varied climactic, geographic, environmental, floral, and faunal features. Different regions of France require very different hunting dogs. Because of this, the Braque Francais (Gascogne) was heavily crossed with local hunting dogs, primarily scenthounds, throughout France. This resulted in a number of unique Braque breeds. One of the oldest of these, and perhaps the oldest of all, was the Braque d’Auvergne. The Braque d’Auvergne first appears in historical records in the 1700’s. It is unclear whether the Braque d’Auvergne was developed entirely from local Braque Francaises (Gascognes) or whether it was developed by crossing the Braque Francais (Gascogne) with local dogs. If other breeds were used, the Grand Bleu de Gascogne and the Petit Bleu de Gascogne are the most likely based on shared coat coloration with Braque d’Auvergne. Auvergne itself is divided into several sub regions, of which one is Cantal (often known in English as Chantal). Cantal is home to a very large number of puys, and is possibly the most rural region in all of France. The Braque d’Auvergne is particularly associated with Cantal, where it has traditionally been more common than anywhere else.
Since it first appeared in history, the breed has always been closely associated with Auvergne and a few surrounding areas. Auvergne is one of the most geographically unique and least densely populated regions of Western Europe. The region is very hilly and contains a large number of eroded extinct volcanoes known as puys. Auvergne’s population has traditionally been much smaller than most part of France, and vast tracts of Auvergnese land remain largely uninhabited to the present day. This has created a paradise for wildlife, and the Braque d’Auvergne has always found plenty of birds to hunt. Auvergnese hunters carefully bred their Braque d’Auvergnes to work in the unique conditions of their homeland, as well as the local species.
The Braque d’Auvergne was probably never especially common outside of its region of origin, but it was known to hunters throughout France. The breed made somewhat regular appearances at early French dog shows, but was never as popular or successful in the show ring as the Braque Saint-Germain. In 1913, the Reunion des Amateurs de Braque d’Auvergne (RABA) was founded to protect and promote the breeding of pure bred Braque d’Auvergnes. The club began to work closely with the French Kennel Club and the French Ministry of Agriculture, and eventually came to be officially recognized by both organizations.
World War II proved devastating to the Braque d’Auvergne. The war saw the breed’s homeland occupied by the Nazi puppet state of Vichy France, while the great upheaval caused by the conflict brought immense hardship. Breeding of Braque d’Auvergnes almost entirely ceased during wartime years, and many individuals perished in the fighting or because their owners could no longer afford to keep them. By the time that the fighting ceased, the breed was almost entirely extinct. The rural nature of the breed’s homeland only provided limited protection, and it is thought that only 25 individual dogs may have survived the war. Fanciers began to use these few individuals to revive the breed.
The recovery of the Braque d’Auvergne has proven slow but steady. The breed remains relatively uncommon, but is no longer in imminent danger of extinction. In recent years, breed members are beginning to be imported to other countries. A few Braque d’Auvergnes have been imported to the United States, and a small number of American breeders have been working to increase the breed’s American population. The breed is currently registered with the North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association (NAVDHA), and most breed members that have competed in North American hunting events have done so through that organization. In 2006, the United Kennel Club (UKC) became the first major English-language kennel club to grant full recognition to the Braque d’Auvergne.
Unlike most modern breeds, the Braque d’Auvergne is still primarily a working dog. Almost every breed member currently alive was bred primarily for hunting ability, and the vast majority of Braque d’Auvergnes are either active or retired gun dogs. As most breed fanciers are primarily interested in its hunting abilities, this situation will likely continue for the foreseeable future. While this breed has made enough of a recovery that it is no longer considered to be on the verge of extinction, it remains a very rare breed especially outside of France.
The Braque d’Auvergne is very similar in appearance to other French pointing dogs, but still retains a unique set of features. The Braque d’Auvergne is medium to large in size. Males typically stand between 22½ and 24½ inches tall at the shoulder while females typically weight between 21 and 23 inches. While weight is heavily influenced by size of the dog, condition, and gender, most breed members in proper hunting condition weigh between 48 and 62 pounds. The Braque d’Auvergne is first and foremost a working gundog and should always appear as such. This breed should be completely devoid of any exaggerated feature which would impair its working ability. The Braque d’Auvergne exemplifies the lithe and athletic look common to most Continental gundogs, and should appear very fit and heavily muscled. The tail of the Braque d’Auvergne is traditionally docked to approximately half its natural length, about 6 to 8 inches in length. However, this practice is falling out of favor and is actually banned in some countries. The natural tail of the Braque d’Auvergne is between 12 to 14 inches in length, set relatively high, strong at the base, and always carried straight.
The head and face of the Braque d’Auvergne are relatively large for the size of the dog’s body, especially in terms of length. The skull of this breed is oval in shape. The head and the muzzle of the Braque d’Auvergne are quite distinct from each other but still blend in relatively smoothly. The muzzle itself is quite long (approximately the full length of the skull) and also quite wide. This provides the breed with the greatest possible area for scent receptors. The upper lips of the Braque d’Auvergne completely cover the lower lips, giving the muzzle a square appearance. The ears of the Braque d’Auvergne are relatively long and hang down close to the sides of the head, although they often face forwards. The eyes of the Braque d’Auvergne are large, deeply set in the head, and dark hazel in color. The expression of most breed members is kind and gentle.
The coat of the Braque d’Auvergne is short and shiny, but not to fine. The skin should be loose over most of the body, but never wrinkly or droopy. The Braque d’Auvergne only comes in one acceptable color pattern, black with white markings. These markings may be ticked, roaned, or a combination of the two. What this means is that the Braque d’Auvergne has a large number of small black spots that make it appear as though the breed is covered in ticks and or larger, solid black markings. It is preferable for the head and ears of this breed to be solid black, and white blazes are especially favored. However, these are not necessary. Sometimes a Braque d’Auvergne is born in an alternate color, such as solid black, solid white, or brown with white markings. Such dogs are ineligible in the show ring and should not be bred, but otherwise make just as acceptable pets as normally colored breed members.
The Braque d’Auvergne is primarily bred as a working gundog and has the temperament one would expect of such a breed. The Braque d’Auvergne is known for being extremely affectionate with its family, to whom it is intensely devoted. Many of these dogs are fawningly affectionate, and breed members want nothing more than to be in the constant company of those they love most. When on the hunt, the breed usually stays very close to its master, and does so in the home as well. This devotion can become problematic as this breed is known to suffer from severe separation anxiety. When properly trained and socialized, this breed usually gets along very well with children. In fact, many breed members become especially fond of children, especially those that provide them with extra attention and playtime. Some Braque d’Auvergnes make effective watchdogs, while others do not. This breed would make a very ineffective guard dog as most examples would warmly welcome an intruder and follow them home before they would every show aggression.
When properly trained and socialized, most Braque d’Auvergnes get along very well with other dogs, and the majority of breed members would greatly prefer to share their lives with at least one other canine companion. Although generally quite friendly with humans and other dogs, the Braque d’Auvergne has a considerably more mixed reputation with other animal species. This dog is bred primarily to hunt and has a strong prey drive. These dogs naturally trail and point at birds even without training. Because the Braque d’Auvergne was never supposed to attack its game, they can be properly socialized to live in peace and harmony with cats and other pets. However, this breed still may pursue strange cats, and most are probably not trustworthy with small creatures such as hamsters or gerbils.
The Braque d’Auvergne is both highly intelligent and extremely eager to please. This breed is said to be one of the easiest to train of all pointing dogs, especially when it comes to hunting. Even novice hunters and trainers have been able to work with this breed with great success. That being said, the Braque d’Auvergne is generally better suited to the casual hunter than the serious hunting competitor. This is because the Braque d’Auvergne is notorious for staying very close to its master and hunting at a slow pace. While this makes the breed ideal for a weekend bird hunter, it also means that it is unable to cover ground at a high enough speed for many modern gundog trials. Because the Braque d’Auvergne is rarely used for anything other than hunting, it is difficult to say whether its trainability would extend to other canine activities. Based on what is known about the Braque d’Auvergne’s trainability and athleticism, it is almost certain that the breed would be highly skilled at most canine events such as competitive obedience, agility, and fly ball.
The Braque d’Auvergne is not only a highly skilled bird dog, but one that genuinely seems to love its work. This dog will eagerly work for countless hours in the field, and is just as energetic as one would expect of such a dog. The Braque d’Auvergne has very high exercise requirements, and this breed should receive an absolute minimum of an hour of vigorous physical activity every day. The Braque d’Auvergne makes an excellent jogging companion, but this is a breed that absolutely craves an opportunity to run around freely in a safely enclosed area. It would be almost impossible to meet this breed’s needs in an apartment setting, and the Braque d’Auvergne really requires large yards, preferably acreage. Braque d’Auvergne’s that are not provided the proper exercise will almost certainly develop behavioral issues such as destructiveness, hyperactivity, over excitability, nervousness, and excessive barking. That being said, the Braque d’Auvergne adapts better to life as a companion animal than most working gun dogs, and a number of families do keep these dogs primarily as pets (especially those that only hunt occasionally). This breed will make an affectionate and loving companion for those active families that are willing and able to meet its needs.
The Braque d’Auvergne has very low grooming requirements. This breed never requires professional grooming; only a regular brushing is necessary. Owners do have to carefully and regularly clean this breed’s ears. Otherwise its drooping ears will trap dirt, food, water, and other particles which can lead to irritations and infections. There do not seem to be any reports on the shedding of the Braque d’Auvergne, but this breed is almost certainly a shedder, and probably a heavy one.
It does not appear that any health studies have been conducted on the Braque d’Auvergne which makes it impossible to make any definitive statements about the breed’s health. Most fanciers seem to believe that the dog is in average to good health. This breed may be at risk for a number of health problems due to its small gene pool, as the entire breed descends from around 25 individual dogs that survived World War II. French breeders are most concerned about hip dysplasia, and have settled on a number of breeding restrictions designed to reduce its occurrence in the breed. The life expectancy of this breed is usually estimated at between 10 and 14 years, although it is unclear what these estimates are based on.
Because skeletal and visual problems have been known to occur in this breed (especially hip dysplasia) it is highly advisable for owners to have their pets tested by both the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) and the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF).
The OFA and CERF perform genetic and other tests to identify potential health defects before they show up. This is especially valuable in the detection of conditions that do not show up until the dog has reached an advanced age, making it especially important for anyone considering breeding their dog to have them tested to prevent the spread of potential genetic conditions to its offspring.
Although health studies have not yet been conducted on the Braque d’Auvergne, they have been for closely related breeds. Some of the issues which have been discovered include: