The Vizsla originally was used by nomadic Magyar hunters who used it to flush game birds as an aid for falconry, as well as to track and drive birds and other game into nets. Vizslas were favored by warlords and barons as both hunters and companions. Once firearms were common, the type of dog that hunters needed changed to one that was faster but still stealthy enough not to rouse the quarry unnecessarily, with a keen nose for tracking, good eyesight and a willingness and capability to retrieve. Most canine historians believe that the Vizsla’s ancestors probably include the Transylvanian Hound and the Turkish Yellow Dog, which is now extinct, with subsequent additions of pointer blood. Authorities generally accept that the Hungarian Vizsla predates its German counterpart, the Weimaraner, although some argue that the Vizsla comes from crosses between Weimaraners and assorted pointer breeds.
The Vizsla almost disappeared in the late 1800s. A Hungarian survey of hunting establishments concluded that only about twelve Vizslas were left in the entire country by that time. This led to a concerted effort by breed enthusiasts to save the breed. The people who support the theory that today’s Vizsla derives from the Weimaraner crossed with other pointer breeds suggest that these crosses occurred during this period of rebuilding the breed. Hungarian dog authorities reject this view.
As with many other breeds, the Vizsla suffered a steep decline in numbers during the world wars and was practically exterminated in its homeland. A few staunch breed devotees refused to let it disappear, scattering to neighboring countries such as Austria, Italy and Germany before the Russian occupation in 1945, taking their dogs with them. Other Vizslas survived in Turkey, Czechoslovakia and southern Russia.
The first Vizslas came to North America in the 1950s. An American breed club was organized in 1954. The Vizsla was recognized by the American Kennel Club and admitted to its Stud Book in 1960, as a member of the Sporting Group. The first AKC Triple Champion was a Vizsla, with titles in field, obedience and conformation. The first AKC quintuple champion was also a Vizsla, this time titled in obedience, agility, field, amateur field, master hunter and conformation.
Today’s Vizsla is highly competitive in all disciplines, including conformation, hunt tests, obedience, agility, field trials and tracking. Vizslas have served on archaeological excavations and participated in search-and-rescue efforts at Ground Zero after the Septbember 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York. They are highly trainable and have been used as therapy dogs, guide dogs, service dogs, drug and explosive detection dogs and search-and-rescue dogs. This is an active breed with a gentle, sensitive nature, and it thrives on attention from the people it adores.
The average life span of the Vizsla is 11 to 15 years. Breed health concerns may include allergies, ectropion, entropion, epilepsy, hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, immune-mediated thrombocytopenia, cataracts, progressive retinal atrophy, sebaceous adenitis and von Willebrand disease.