Get to Know the Vizsla: Hungary’s Most Popular Export

Find out why this red-headed Hungarian is becoming one of America's favorite breeds.

Caroline Coile  |  Feb 23rd 2015


The Vizsla is a versatile hunting dog, but that’s an understatement. They’re a fun, versatile companion, and, well, an anything dog! This red Hungarian is steadily rising in popularity and with good reason! He’s good-looking, fun-loving, and obedient. Well, sort of.

More interesting things about the Vizsla

  • The Vizsla may be confused with the Weimaraner, but the Viszla is red. He may also be confused with the Redbone Coonhound or Rhodesian Ridgeback, but the Vizsla is smaller, more lightly built, and in North America he usually has a shorter (docked) tail. And he has no ridge, of course.

  • The Vizsla is the National Pointer of Hungary. The Vizsla’s home country is the low-lying Danube Valley and the broad Hungarian plain.

  • The breed is also known as the Hungarian Vizsla or Magyar Pointer.

  • The Vizsla’s ancestors probably arrived in Hungary in the 8th century with the nomadic Magyar tribesmen and warlords who invaded from Eastern Europe and from China.

  • By the 10th century, a dog resembling a Vizsla can be seen in tribal art of a Magyar tribesman with his falcon and dog. A dog resembling a Vizsla is also seen in the 1375 Illustrated Vienna Chronicle in a chapter on falconry.

  • Vizslas trailed mammals and pointed and retrieved game in the Hungarian plains for centuries.

  • By the late 19th century, the breed’s numbers had declined. It was rebuilt from just a dozen or so good specimens — and possibly a Weimaraner and German Shorthaired Pointer.

  • Vizslas were often given as a gift from one royal family to another. Recipients included the queens of Italy and Spain.

  • The Vizsla has been called the “Gift of Kings” because with few exceptions, the only ones allowed to leave the country were those presented to foreign royalty.

  • When Hungary was occupied by the Soviet Union in 1945, some aristocrats who fled the country were able to bring their dogs with them, but it’s estimated that 80 to 90 percent of the Vizsla population was wiped out.

  • Those taken to America and elsewhere gained supporters because of their hunting ability.

  • A wirehaired version of the Vizsla was created in the 1930s by crosses with German Wirehaired Pointers, but these dogs are considered a separate breed, the Wirehaired Vizsla.

  • The AKC recognized the Vizsla in 1960.

  • The Vizsla is the 34th most popular AKC breed, up from 45th a decade ago.

  • The first, last, and only Vizsla to win the Sporting Group at the Westminster dog show was in 1983. None has ever won Best in Show there.

  • Vizslas are known for their versatility. A Vizsla named Legacy’s DeChartay was the first quintuple champion and most-titled dog of any breed in American Kennel Club history, holding titles in the show ring, obedience, field work, and agility. Her full name is FC AFC OTCH MACH CH Legacy’s DeChartay 5xUDX MH VC MX MXJ HOF. Chartay was awarded her own seat with VIP status from American Airlines.

  • Clifford the Big Red Dog is thought by many to be a Vizsla, but he was supposed to be a Bloodhound initially!

  • Owners include Jill Clayburgh, Mark Buehrle, and Wil Shriner.

Do you own a Vizsla? Have you spent time with one? Let’s hear what you think about this fascinating breed in the comments! And if you have a favorite breed you’d like us to write about, let us know that, too!

Interested in other breed profiles? Find dozens of them here. 

Read more on Vizslas on Dogster:

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. 

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