Today’s Weimaraner is a product of many years of careful, selective breeding and decades of linebreeding to set type. Canine historians generally agree that the Bloodhound is among the Weimaraner’s many ancestors, probably through its association with the Red Schweisshund. The Weimaraner shares ancestors with a number of other German hunting breeds, including the German Shorthaired Pointer, which is apparent in their similar body type. Some dog authorities suggest that the Weimaraner came from an albino mutation in some ancient German gundog breed. Other breed experts theorize that the Weimaraner descends from the German Braken, or from crossings between unnamed pointers (huenerhunden, or generic bird dogs), an unusual yellow pointer and possibly some French hounds as well.
Whatever its precise ancestry, the Weimaraner is generally recognized as being developed in a pure form at least by 1810, when it was well-known at the court of the Grand Duke Karl August of Weimar in east-central Germany. Nobles of that court enjoyed a number of different types of hunting and decided to develop one breed capable of expressing all of the traits they found desirable in an all-around hunting dog: a keen nose, good vision, great speed, stamina, courage, determination and brains.
Early in its development, sportsmen used the Weimar Pointer to hunt big game, including deer, mountain lion, wolf, bear, boar and bobcat. Breed enthusiasts during that time were wealthy and hunted for sport rather than profit. The Weimaraner was a rich man’s dog. In 1897, the Weimaraner Club of Germany was formed to “protect” the breed and prevent its acquisition by the general public, or so-called “commoners.” The Weimaraner Club adopted a breed standard to suit its members’ hobby, which made it difficult for anyone else to acquire a Weimaraner in Germany and almost impossible to obtain one in any other country. The Club had strict rules about who could own or purchase a Weimaraner puppy. Litters that were not approved by club members could not be registered in the breed’s studbook, and dogs from approved litters that did not turn out to be physically and temperamentally suitable (again, according to the Club) had to be destroyed. Of course, no one but club members was permitted to own a Weimaraner in any event. Obviously, these rules did not promote a surge in popularity of the breed.
As big game available for sports hunting in Germany dwindled, the Weimaraner was increasingly used to flush and retrieve game birds on land, and to retrieve waterfowl from lakes and streams. It became especially known and prized for its soft mouth. In 1929, Howard Knight, an American sportsman and dog breeder from Providence, Rhode Island, was permitted to join Germany’s Weimaraner Club – only after he spent much time hunting with its members to prove his dedication to the breed. He imported a pair of Weimaraners to the United States. Apparently, unbeknownst to Mr. Knight, these dogs had been sterilized by their German breeders, so they obviously could not be bred.
Thankfully, this did not deter Knight, and while it took him nine more years, he eventually acquired acceptable breeding stock. Just before the beginning of World War II, Knight purchased a male Weimaraner named Mars and two bitches named Dorle and Aura. These three dogs became known as the foundation of his American Weimaraner “dynasty.” Knight was instrumental in forming the first Weimaraner club in the United States – the American Weimaraner Club – in 1941, and he served as its first President. In 1943, the Weimaraner was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club as a member of its Sporting Group. The Weimaraner reached Britain by the 1950s and soon became popular worldwide.
Today’s shimmering silver Weimaraner continues to be used in its homeland and elsewhere as a talented personal hunting companion that can track, point and retrieve with equal skill. It also excels in obedience trials, field trials, tracking trials, agility and the conformation ring. The Weimaraner makes an alert, fearless, affectionate and gentle family companion.
The average life span of the Weimaraner is 10 to 13 years. Breed health concerns may include bloat (gastric dilatation and volvulus), elbow and hip dysplasia, hypertrophic osteodystrophy (HOD), tricuspid dysplasia, peritoneopericardial diaphragmatic hernia, pododermatitis, generalized demodicosis, neutrophil function defect of Weimaraners, meningitis, spinal dysraphism, entropion, distichiasis, eversion of the cartilage of the nictitating membrane, refractory corneal ulceration and von Willebrand disease.