The Pointer's history is quite an old one, traceable through writings and artwork back to the middle of the 17th century. While the Pointer was refined in England, many canine historians credit Spain as the breed’s actual country of origin. The Pointer’s ancestors probably include Spanish pointers and a number of other breeds, such as the Foxhound and Bloodhound for their scenting instincts, the Greyhound for its tremendous speed and the Bull Terrier for its “bull-headed-ness” and tenacity. Spanish setters were almost certainly part of the mix. Spanish pointers were much heavier and more course than the Pointers we know today. These dogs appeared in Britain in 1713, at the end of the War of Spanish Succession, when British army officers brought them home. Italian pointers were also brought to England around the same time and were crossed with Spanish pointers, contributing to the Pointer as we know it today.
Early on in their development in England, Pointers were used to hunt and point to hares in the field, so that coursing Greyhounds could locate them and chase them down. The Pointer’s type, temperament and hunting ability were fairly well-standardized by the end of the 1700s and actually have changed very little since then. Pointers in America can be traced to the Civil War period, when they were brought to this country by their English owners.
The Westminster Kennel Club was organized in the early 1870s, primarily for the development and improvement of the Pointer in the United States. Some of the very first officials of the Westminster Kennel Club imported an English Pointer named “Sensation” and used him to help build the breed in this country. An engraving of that dog is still displayed on the Westminster Kennel Club’s logo.
Today, Pointers are regarded as among the finest bird-hunting dogs found anywhere in the world. The American Kennel Club recognized the Pointer for full registration in 1884, as a member of its Sporting Group. The United Kennel Club recognized the English Pointer shortly thereafter, in the early 1900s, as a member of its Gun Dog Group.
The average life expectancy of the English Pointer is between 12 and 17 years. The increased health risks associated with the breed include cherry eye, epilepsy, hip dysplasia, and skin allergies.