The Hungarian Vizsla (smooth coat), and the Hungarian Vizsla (wire coat) are doing well in the UK. These are popular breeds, especially the short coated variety, which are regularly seen in the winning line ups at both Championship shows Group and Best In Show level. These breeds have also gained in popularity amongst the Gundog fraternity. Registration figures for the UK have seen a steady rise, with births in the smooth coated variety rising annually from 340 registrations in 1995, to 867 in 2004. The Wire Haired variety were introduced to Britain much later than the smooths, but they too are increasing steadily with a mere 16 births registered in 1995, rising to 183 in 2004.
Sadly the same cannot be said regarding the remaining Hungarian breeds present in the UK. These have declined in both numbers and popularity over the past decade.
The Kuvasz had a limited band of supporters when it first came to the uk, but fewer and fewer have been seen at shows in recent years, with little breeding being done to maintain the population. In 1995 there were 13 new registrations, compared to only two in 2004, whilst in five of the intervening ten years no litters at all were recorded. At Crufts 2005 only two Kuvasz entries were received, both entered by Mr & Mrs Van Meijden (Belgium). These were the bitch Dutch & Belg.Ch. Baratsagos Bolyhos Egyik (BOB) (Besnyofalvi-Bojtor Bohem ex Dutch.Int.Belg.Ch.Baratsagos Bolyhos Cifra). The dog was Dutch.Ch. Magasztos Janos (Baratsagos Bolyhos Edes ex Dutch.Ch. Magasztos Imre).
The Komondor is another breed where ownership is limited to around five or six devotees, who are trying very hard to maintain the breed both in ownership, and at exhibitions. In the Centenary year, Crufts attracted 18 exhibits in the four classes, but in 2005 the number was down to eight Komondors entered in six classes (all UK owned). There were only three (3) registered in both 1998, and 2004. Their numbers peaked from 1997 to 2,000 with a maximum number of 22 registrations reached in 1998. There were none born in 2002, but 11 in 2003. This indicates a fluctuation in numbers as compared with the completely downward trend of the Kuvasz. In both these varieties, there are similar breeds which originated in Italy, with which they have to compete, the Bergamasco and the Maremma sheepdog. the Bergamasco is still on the UK import register, and struggling to maintain it’s numbers, whilst the Maremma, though sharing some similarities to the Kuvasz, has been in the UK longer, and although it’s numbers rose in the early years, is also on the decline at present.
One of the biggest problems with the Komondor is it’s size, which requires ample exercise, and it’s coat. Preparation of the breed for exhibition is extremely time consuming, with regular bathing of great necessity. This combination of essentials mean that the breed will never appeal to anyone looking for a low maintenance breed.
The Puli has always been the most popular of the heavily coated breeds. It’s ability to fit into a family environment has ensured a fairly regular ownership over the years. Even so registrations figures show a definite downward trend since it’s peak of 186 registrations in 1997 (there were 132 in 1995), to the current figure of 66 in 2004. Show ownership is fairly constant though, with 66 entered at Crufts in 2000, and 54 in 2005. At other shows the breed seems to attract entries of around 30 to 40 per show, whereas in previous years the breed club championship show could attract about 90 Pulis. In fairness though one must admit that show entries generally seem to have been declining in a great many breeds, as the costs of holding a show are reflected in ever increasing entry fees.
A further problem which has affected so many breeds, especially those from Europe, spring directly from the effects of the second world war. This brought about a decimation in the bloodlines available, to such an extent that the gene pool became extremely small. It is a great tribute to the early breeders that they managed to bring about a rebirth of their breeds.
Obviously in the past there was little or no knowledge about hereditary problems. The reduced gene pool meant that many of these problems only came to the surface in more recent years, and it is only during the last twenty or so years that attention has focussed on the need to monitor health issues. Current day breeders are much more concerned about health issues, and mostly keep a careful check on hip scores and eye status, as well as breed type and conformation. The breed club has been very active in this respect by arranging eye testing clinics to be held at club events, and by the setting up of an “Abnormalities Fund” aimed at underwriting the cost of this important screening.
Due to the easing of our national quarantine restrictions, International travel with dogs has become possible throughout Europe and various other Continents. This has undoubtedly brought about some variations in type, and with such a heavily coated breed these differences could be ignored, to the long term detriment of the breed. It is more important than ever at the present time, for prospective owners to check out all the basic health requirements, and would be exhibitors and judges, need to consider a searching hands-on examination of each exhibit to determine that the correct breed type beneath the coat is preserved.
The other Hungarian breeds, the Magyar Agar, the Mudi, and the Pumi, have never entered the country as show dogs. The only examples one is likely to see, (and that very rarely), are those that have entered the country as pets with their owners. This is probably due to the fact that our native breeds, the greyhound, and the various collie breeds, overlap a great deal in their areas of work, and it is of course very difficult for a “new” breed to compete with similar animals that are already established and very popular on their home ground.