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Get to Know the Pointer: A Hardworking Hunting Dog

Pointers freeze in a point position when they locate a bird, staying in position until their owner releases them.

Caroline Coile  |  Dec 14th 2015


One of the most popular sporting dogs of all time, the Pointer seems to be on the decline in terms of popularity. This enthusiastic, stylish dog needs lots of exercise, but he’s fun-loving, hard-working, and great at home or in the field!

Pointer by Shutterstock.

Pointer by Shutterstock.

Most interesting things about the Pointer

  • The Pointer maybe confused with the German Shorthaired Pointer, but the Pointer always has a long tail and has little or no ticking (flecks of color). It may also be confused with the Dalmatian, but the Dalmatian is smaller; has a wider, shorter head; and usually has distinct spots instead of ticking or large patches (though occasionally patches are seen).
  • The earliest Pointers were used in the 17th century to point hare, which coursing Greyhounds were then unleashed to pursue.
  • When wing-shooting became popular in the 18th century, the Pointer’s job turned to bird finding.
  • Pointers freeze in a point position when they locate a bird, and they stay until the hunter releases them or shoots.
  • Pointers became popular for recreational hunting on large estates. Two Pointers were ideally used so that the hunter could locate the bird precisely by cross-referencing the dogs’ points.
Pointer by Shutterstock.

Pointer by Shutterstock.

  • When dog shows came in vogue in the late 19th century, Pointers were among the most prominent of the breeds shown.
  • In 1878, the AKC started to register dogs. It included just nine breeds — one of which was the Pointer.
  • The Pointer is in the AKC Sporting group. In some other registries, the group is called the Gundog group.
  • The breed comes in black, liver, orange, or lemon; either solid or with white.
  • A Pointer named Sensation is the dog on the Westminster Kennel Club’s logo.
Pointer by Shutterstock.

Pointer by Shutterstock.

  • Pointers have competed at the Westminster dog show since 1886 and won Best in Show there three times, most recently in 1986.
  • This once extremely popular dog is now the 114th most popular AKC breed, down from 104th five years ago.
  • Owners include General George Custer and Benjamin Harrison.

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About the author: Caroline Coile is the author of 34 dog books, including the top-selling Barron’s Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds. She has written for various publications and is currently a columnist for AKC Family Dog. She shares her home with three naughty Salukis and one Jack Russell Terrier