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Subject: rec.pets.dogs: Wetterhounen Breed-FAQ
This article was archived around: 21 May 2006 04:23:02 GMT
Posting-frequency: 30 days
Last-modified: 24 Feb 1998
There are many FAQ's available for this group. For a complete
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This article is Copyright 1997 by the Author(s) listed below.
It may be freely distributed on the Internet in its entirety without
alteration provided that this copyright notice is not removed.
It may NOT reside at another website (use links, please) other
than the URL listed above without the permission of the Author(s).
This article may not be sold for profit nor incorporated in other
documents without he Author(s)'s permission and is provided "as is"
without express or implied warranty.
Steve Deger, 12 July 1996
This article is Copyright 1996 by Steve Deger. All rights are
reserved. Individuals may download and print a copy for their
personal use. Non-commercial distribution without profit is
encouraged, provided this Copyright and the article remain
intact, and provided the recipient is not required to pay for
it. It may not be copied to another website nor otherwise
distributed in whole or in part without the author's written
permission. Individuals wishing to include information from
this FAQ in their own publications may contact the author for
Special thanks to Gerard van Klaveran.
Table of Contents
* The Wetterhoun Today
* Characteristics and Temperament
* Health and Medical Problems
* Breed Standard
* Breed Club
The northern sections of the Netherlands have historically been rather
isolated. As a result, the people of these regions have developed
their own unique dialects, customs, and even their own native dog
breeds. One of the most striking examples of the latter is the
Wetterhoun (pronounced VETTERHOWN), a distinctive, curly-haired dog
native to the Dutch province of Friesland. Originally used to hunt
otters and polecats, it is known by a variety of names including the
Otterhoun, the Dutch Spaniel, and the Dutch Water Spaniel. It is among
the Fresian breeds recognized by the Dutch Kennel Club in 1942.
As with most dog breeds, the Wetterhoun's precise origin is in
dispute. Spaniel-like dogs have been a part of Friesland's rural
history for as long as people can remember. However, there is no
historical data indicating that curly-haired dogs of Wetterhoun type
existed in Holland earlier than the 19th century. It is therefore
believed that the Wetterhoun is a breed of fairly recent origin,
possibly arising from crosses between the native Fresian farm dogs and
dogs of water spaniel and/or spitz ancestry. This latter componant may
have been imported from Russia, Greenland, or any of the neighboring
Baltic countries with whom the Fresians had a significant trade
relationship in centuries past.
Around the time of the Second World War, Dutch dog fanciers took it
upon themselves to recognize, preserve, and promote the Wetterhoun as
a distinct breed. Among these fanciers was a man by the name of Jan
Bos, who led the efforts to identify and register a group of
Wetterhounen that conformed to a loose standard of type. Bos
reportedly approached a number of owners and breeders whose dogs met
his ideal image of a Wetterhoun, and persuaded these people to bring
their dogs to the first "inspection days" which were held in the town
of Leeuwarden. Dogs with suitable conformation were then put through a
hunting test which measured their abilities to dig for vermin, to
retrieve from water, and to track an animal on land. Names of
acceptable specimens were then entered into an appendix of the Dutch
Pedigree Register. Inspections and hunt tests were held periodically
in and outside of Friesland up until the early 1960's, allowing
several dozen Wetterhounen to be registered. At that point, the
appendix was closed to further entries, and these initial dogs became
the standard group from which all future purebreds were derived.
In an effort to gain exposure for their breed, members of the
newly-formed breed club took their Wetterhounen on the road, attending
dog shows in Rotterdam and Amsterdam. To highlight the breed's
regional development, these enthusiasts rented traditional Fresian
costumes and horse-drawn Fresian buggies. Their appearance earned them
headlines in major metropolitan newspapers, and from that point on,
the Wetterhoun and its Fresian heritage became increasingly well-known
to dog fanciers throughout the world.
The Wetterhoun Today
Early Wetterhounen varied greatly in appearance. Colors included black
and white, white, grey, dogs with red patches, and even black and tan.
There was also a great diversity of coat texture ranging from tighly
curled to loosely curled to completely flat. Despite the devisive
opinions of various enthusiasts as to what the "ideal" Wetterhoun
should look like, the breed club adopted a written breed standard,
which has helped to bring increased uniformity to the Wetterhoun in
Although no longer restricted solely to Friesland, the Wetterhoun
nonetheless remains a rare breed, rarely seen outside of Holland. It
is not a popular hunting companion, although a few have excelled in
hunt tests and have earned diplomas from the Royal Dutch Hunters
Association. The dogs currently compete in Holland's "B"
classification of spaniels, alongside other dogs of similar type, such
as the Irish Water Spaniel. A few others compete in bench
competitions, but the breed is still primarily known as a "yard
dog"---keeping the Fresian farm buildings free from polecats, and the
farm fields free from moles. It is most common in the water-laced
southcentral and southwestern sections of Friesland.
Characteristics and Temperament
Historical information perhaps incorrectly refers to the Wetterhoun as
"fierce". This may be in part due to the rather intimidating
"snarling" expression of the dog. The true personality of the
Wetterhoun is that of a gentle but independent dog that is reserved
Many people describe the dog as being stoic and brave. Long-time breed
fancier J.P. Otto recalls watching a Wetterhoun "stare down" a stray
German Shepherd that once dominated and attacked all the local dogs in
the town. Otto feels that this stoicism and tenacity is what gives the
Wetterhoun its name---he insists that "Wetterhoun" is not a literal
translation of "water hound", but instead comes from the German
hunter's phrase _wittern_, meaning, "to steal his last breath".
The Wetterhoun is a natural retriever of both fur and feather. It
takes to the water well, has a strong prey drive, and its dense, oily,
water-repellent coat makes it especially suited to working in rough
terrain or climates. Its hunting desire is hard to satiate, and when
thwarted in the duck blind, it will turn to stalking mice. It has an
excellent nose and its used a flusher in the uplands. However, the
breed is often not a consistent performer, and it usually considered
too stubborn to be taught advanced retrieving skills.
The personality of the Wetterhoun is truly unique. Its hunting
instincts and reserved nature have led to comparisons with sporting
dogs such as the Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Curly Coated Retriever, and
the American Water Spaniel, or to earthdogs such as the Fox or Jack
It is not easy to gain dominance over a Wetterhoun; owners must first
build a good rapport with the dog. Training should begin early and
should be carried on throughout much of the dog's adult life. Patience
is essential; too much haste or overwork will produce the wrong
results. A Wetterhoun is quickly influenced and any undesirable
handling will be remembered for a long time.
Because of its dominant nature and prey instinct, the Wetterhoun may
not be the best choice for homes with other pets, unless introduced to
them at an early age. Former Fresian horticulturalist Frans Haven
often had problems with stray cats---which had a habit of making
litter boxes out of the bedding areas in his nursery. On more than one
occasion, Haven's Wetterhouns made short order out of a few of these
Health and Medical Problems
The Wetterhoun is generally not susceptible to the range of diseases
that afflict more popular, widely-bred dogs. However, the initial gene
pool of registered Wetterhounen was very small, and epilepsy and
canine hip dysplasia are now prevalant. In light of these problems,
efforts have been made in recent years to reopen the registry in order
to bring in "fresh blood" to enhance the genetic qualities of the
Wetterhounen occasionally suffer from hair loss. A few dogs have
apparently been treated successfully with vitamin therapy, but other
cases suggest an autoimmune disorder similar to that which
occassionaly surfaces in other curly-haired breeds.
_GENERAL APPEARANCE_: A simple dog which, from old, hunted otters
"without cumber or splash". Strongly built, square and stocky, tight
skin without excessive throatiness or loose flews.
_NATURE_: A gentle but stubborn dog. Reserved with strangers. A good
_HEAD_: Large in relation to body, strong and powerful. Skull and
snout equally long. The skull is slightly curved appearing to be more
broad than long, rounder over the cheeks with reasonably well
developed cheek muscles. Moderately defined stop. The snout is strong
being only a little narrower than the nose with little inclination
toward snipeiness. The bridge of the nose, seen from the side, doesnt
appear round or hollow. The bridge is broad and the nose well
developed with open nostrils. The lips are well closed and not
overhanging. Strong, sharp teeth.
_EARS_: Starting low, the ear is not strongly developed. It is
desirable for the ear to hang without touching the head. The ears are
of average length and trowel shaped. The hair on the ear is curled,
long at the base becoming shorter as it goes down to the tip of the
_EYES_: Medium size, egg shaped with good eyelids without sight of the
conjunctiva. They sit back on the head giving a fierce impression but
should not be sunken or bulging.
_NOSE_: Black for dogs with black base color and brown for those with
brown base color. Not split. Good open nostrils and well developed
_NECK_: Short and strong, round with blunt corners running into the
line of the back so the head is carried a little low. Slightly curved
without hang or bulge.
_CHEST_: Seen from the front, broad, more broad than deep and
consequently the front legs are far apart. Rounder under chest
reaching only as far as the elbows.
_BODY_: Powerful. Rounded ribs. Well developed straight short back
with an only slightly tapering topline. Strong loins and slightly
pulled up stomach.
_TAIL_: Long and rolled to a spiral.
_FRONT QUARTERS_: Shoulders well fitted to the body. Shoulder blades
sloping and well cornered. Underside is strong, straight and not
sagging, rounded feet, well developed hidden toes and strong soles.
_REAR QUARTERS_: Powerful and well angulated without excessive
legginess. Back feet well developed with strong soles.
_HAIR_: Except for the head and legs, covered with thick curls. Strong
and tufty curls. Multiple curls or curls in thin tufts giving a woolly
appearance are incorrect for the breed. The hair is quite course and
feels greasy. Hair on the head tends to be a little less greasy.
_COLOR_: Brown, black, or either color mixed with white.
_SIZE:_ Ideal size is 59 cm for the males and 55 cm for females.
_Nederlandse Vereniging Voor Stabij En Wetterhoun
Breeding Commission, c/o W Van Duijn
2231 PE Rijnsburg
Alderton, David. _Eyewitness Handbook of Dogs_. Dorling Kindersley,
Inc. New York: 1993
De Prisco, Andrew, and Jane B. Johnson. _The Mini Atlas of Dog
Breeds_. TFH Publications. Neptune City: 1990.
Kalkman, Hans. "Wetterhoun in Holland."
firstname.lastname@example.org (18 May 1996).
Otto, J.P. "De Wetterhoun". _De Honden Wereld_, Vol. 17, September
1980. Page 767.
Palmer, Joan. _Illustrated Encylopedia of Dog Breeds_. Wellfleet
Press. Edison: 1994.
van Klaveren, Gerard. _Die Friese Stabij en Wetterhoun_.
van Klaveren, Gerard, and Binne de Haan. _Die Fryske Hounen_.
Wilcox, Bonnie, DVM & Chris Walkowicz. _Atlas of Dog Breeds of the
World_. TFH Publications. Neptune City: 1993.
Steve Deger, email@example.com