Dog trains man

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Mystery Of The Blond Hovawart

When you see this photo of a Russian yellow retriever, it is compelling to believe his supposed ancestor, the Russian tracker, could be a Hovawart ancestor as well. Especially when you know it was used for guarding life-stock and had the size of the current Hovawart. On top of it, it would explain how we ended up with a blond Hovawart.

As the myth goes, the creator of the Russian yellow retriever, Col. William Trench, roamed the Russian mountains for these dogs and brought them back with him to breed Golden retrievers.

Kurt F. König, by many seen as the creator of the Hovawart, had a reputation for trying different dog breeds to create the Hovawart, and had tried with Siberian wolves among others. Could he have found and used Russian trackers too in his breeding?

The problem is though, Col. William Trench never did find a Russian tracker. He needed the story to give his line of retrievers some history. Because we do love our breeds to be ancient, he simply made up the story to market the dog. There was nothing Russian about his Russian yellow retriever. His invented dog breed quickly went extinct, as well as its alleged ancestor, soon after Col. William Trench's passing in 1920.

The dilemma of Kurt F. König was the opposite. He had a marketing story. The ancient Germanic "guardian", or "Hofe wart", a protector of people and property. But he lacked the dog to go with the story. And in particular, to make it Germanic, a blond one.

The breeds we know of that were used all originate from the records of breeders other than König. we know they used Newfoundland, German shepherd, Kuvasz, and the "type" dogs - dogs found on farms that resembled the image of the Hovawart. Some used Leonbergers as well.

König was notoriously known for not sharing records of his "re-creation attempts". Maybe he was just sloppy, maybe it was intentional. In 1958 he was forced to show his breeding records to a judge in a legal case who owned the "original breed book", a complaint filed by the RVZ-Coburg, one of the leading Hovawart clubs at that time. Even then König refused.

After his death, the book was burned by the executioners of his will in a last attempt to protect König's reputation to be "the" creator of the Hovawart.

Though there are some very strong indications of the other breeds that were used by König in the Hovawart generation up to and after the Second world war. First there were the puppies that kept surfacing with characters so shy, they seemed closer to a wild animal then a domesticated dog. König instructed other breeders to cull these puppies in an attempt to cover up his mistake of using Siberian wolves.

Secondly, Hovawarts surfaced that had treats closely resembling Sighthounds, with their distinctive build and muzzle, and some mail correspondence was discovered of the actual use of a Saluki in breeding.

Last but not least, in an attempt to have the Hovawart recognized as a breed, König let his request be accompanied by a letter from the German "Reichsverband für das deutsche Hundewesen" in which they concluded, probably much to his dismay: "The blond Hovawart can only be explained by the use of red/blond Setters in breeding".

It is the most plausible explanation for the blond Hovawart, Setters were indeed used by König. After all, they were used in the creation of Golden retrievers as well, explaining the color we have in common.

Luckily for the Golden retriever enthusiasts, they could leave the myths and fairy tales from Col. William Trench behind them based on some sound breeding records by Majoribanks. We will never have that luxury with König, who in a way, made the perfect cover up.

We are only left with the question why it was so important for König to hide the use of Sighthounds, Setters, Siberian wolves and probably others too, from the public eye. In the light of König convictions as a member of the SS he shared their beliefs on race, and in his attempt to "recreate" a "Germanic" dog, Sighthounds and Setters must hardly have fit well into that picture.

The German shepherd does of course fit that picture. The Kuvasz was believed to descend from mountain dogs roaming Eurasia, and we still believed in that time the Newfoundland was a descendant of the dogs the Vikings brought with them on their quests. Which all must have sounded quite "Germanic" to König.



  1. Sight Hound??? Perhaps that is where River gets her speed from !!!

  2. Wow. Saluki? This is fascinating! I love this series :-)

  3. Hi! what are the sources of this article?


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