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Pointer (dog breed)

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English pointer.jpg
A liver and white Pointer
Other namesEnglish Pointer
Classification / standards
FCI Group 7, Section 2.1 Pointer #1 standard
AKC Sporting standard
ANKC Group 3 (Gundogs) standard
CKC Group 1 – Sporting Dogs standard
KC (UK) gundog standard
NZKC Gundog standard
UKC Gun Dogs standard
Domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris)

The Pointer, often called the English Pointer, is a medium to large-sized breed of dog, developed in England as a gun dog. It is one of several pointing breeds.[1]

Orange and white Pointer pointing
Solid black Pointer female and puppies
Portrait of an orange and white Pointer


Coat and color

A lemon and white Pointer.

The coat of a Pointer is short, dense, smooth with a sheen.[2] They are generally white with either liver, lemon, orange or black markings. Although pointers may have solid coloring in any of these hues, most Pointers are primarily white with some body markings.

Lemon and white dogs have flesh-colored noses, while Pointers with orange, liver or black markings have dark (black or very dark brown) nose pigmentation.


Most countries' breed standards prefer symmetry and balance to perfect size, and most will allow an amount of variation if a dog's size does not encumber it in the field.[weasel words] The approximate measurements in the United States, from the Pointer standard, are as follows:

  Height Weight
Males 60–70 cm 25–28 in 25–34 kg 55–75 lb
Females 58–66 cm 23–26 in 20–30 kg 45–65 lb

However, The Kennel Club sizes are female 24–26 inches and males 25–27 inches.[3]

General temperament

Pointers are even-tempered, congenial dogs, and despite their large size, make good house pets so long as they get sufficient exercise due to their extremely high energy levels. Pointers are intelligent, affectionate, clean and intensely loyal. Their aggression level is very low to non-existent and they normally happily coexist with other dogs and cats. They are not typically territorial but can be reserved with strangers. They are very good with children and fit in well with family life generally. Pups can be somewhat boisterous, and their long legs make them appear somewhat clumsy in a charming way as they grow. They will bark at suspicious noises, but are not a great watchdog breed. While Pointers were bred to be hunting dogs, they are perfectly content to be given adequate exercise by other means. Since they are a galloping breed, regular exercise is important for them, as it is for all sporting breeds. A good-sized, securely fenced yard is a must to keep a Pointer safe, since they are bred to hunt and pursue scents a good distance from their person. Pointers are habitual "couch potatoes" who enjoy relaxing on the family's chairs, sofas and beds. This is a natural part of their desire to feel part of the pack.


The Pointer has a median lifespan of 12.4 years in a UK Kennel Club survey.[4] Pointers are fairly genetically sound as a breed. Some problems that can occur in the breed include hip dysplasia, cherry eye, epilepsy, and allergies. The Acral mutilation syndrome is a hereditary sensory neuropathy with progressive mutilation of the distal extremities.[5]


The pointer is employed to find upland game. In performing its task as a hunters' aid, these skills may be expected from Pointers when hunting:

  • Point – The dog finds and points out the location of birds.
  • Honor – The dog stops immediately or within a few steps, usually in a pointing stance, upon observing a bracemate on point.
  • Retrieve – Pointers are not expected to be natural retrievers, but are often trained and expected to find dead or wounded game.


English Pointer
Marie Fox, aged three, with her Spanish Pointer Ella, painted by George Frederic Watts

The history of the Pointer, like many breeds, is a reasonably debatable topic.[6] Records of Pointers in England trace as far back as 1650.[6] According to one source, the Pointer came to be in the 16th and 17th centuries, when pointing breeds, including the Old Spanish and Portuguese pointer, were brought from the European mainland to England.[7]

Through both history and anatomical evaluation, at least four breeds appear to have been instrumental in Pointer crosses: Greyhounds, Foxhounds, Bloodhounds, and Bull Terriers.[6] Each of these were established breeds with unique qualities the Pointer could use to do its job.[6]

Pointers were brought to the United States, where the breed flourished in the abundant open hunting land. At that time (late 1800s), the Setter was considered to be the bird-hunting dog and pointers were not even permitted to compete in field trials with setters. Around 1910, however, the Pointer began to beat the Setter at its own game. The Pointer has dominated the pointing breed field trials since then. (Fergus, 2002).

One of the earliest dogs to exert influence on the breed in the US was a dog imported from England in 1876 – "Sensation". He is well known as the dog on the emblem of the Westminster Kennel Club.[8]

One modern American kennel, established in 1936, and known for breeding large quantities of Pointers, Elhew Kennels produced a popular and successful line of gun dogs. Elhew pointers were well-known competitors at field trials for several decades.[9]

In the southern United States, where the dog is so dominant it is often simply referred to as the "bird dog," Pointers are found in abundance. The bobwhite quail is the primary game bird there, and is considered classic English Pointer game, as the bobwhite will hold well for a pointing dog. Pointers also work game birds such as the pheasant, grouse, and woodcock with success.


While the dog is often called the "English Pointer" colloquially, the official breed name according to the British Kennel Club is simply "Pointer". The same is true of the Fédération Cynologique Internationale, the American Kennel Club, and the Field Dog Stud Book.

Famous pointers


The first Pointer was entered at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in 1877. Three Pointers have won "Best in Show" there, the first being Ch. Governor Moscow in 1925, second being Ch. Nancolleth Markable, [10] and the most recent being Ch. Marjetta's National Acclaim in 1986.

See also


  1. ^ Sawer, Patrick (November 16, 2019). "Unloved English pointer 'could become extinct' as breed is sent to the doghouse by social media stars" – via
  2. ^ "Pointer breed standard". American Kennel Club. Archived from the original on 2 March 2013. Retrieved 12 September 2014.
  3. ^ "KC breed standards". The Kennel Club. Retrieved 2011-08-19.
  4. ^ "Purebred Breed Health Survey 2004".
  5. ^ Cummings, J. F.; De Lahunta, A; Braund, K. G.; Mitchell Jr, W. J. (1983). "Hereditary sensory neuropathy. Nociceptive loss and acral mutilation in pointer dogs: Canine hereditary sensory neuropathy". The American Journal of Pathology. 112 (1): 136–138. PMC 1916311. PMID 6574711..
  6. ^ a b c d Cavanaugh, Wayne R. (June 12, 1997). "Assessing the Show Pointer" (PDF).
  7. ^ Fergus, Charles (2002). Gun Dog Breeds, A Guide to Spaniels, Retrievers, and Pointing Dogs. The Lyons Press. ISBN 1-58574-618-5.
  8. ^ "Sensation, the Westminster Kennel Club's famous Pointer". Westminster Kennel Club. Retrieved 2008-07-14.
  9. ^ Trotter, Patricia V. "Extinction is forever". American Kennel Club. Retrieved 13 September 2015.
  10. ^ "English River Website - Nancolleth Markable Litter". Retrieved 21 March 2018.