Currently, we are in an upturn. From an all-time low of just a few years ago, it looks like things are set to improve dramatically over the next few years.
Because Xavier Thibault is back.
Xavier is a hunter and gifted dog trainer who has amassed an impressive collection of awards. He is also the polar opposite of a diplomat. He’s the kind of guy that will tell you straight up what he thinks of your dog’s hunting abilities…good or bad. That sort of honesty can cause ripples in any breed. In a breed dominated by show breeders and non-hunters, it can cause a lot of panties to get all bunched up.
For over 20 years, Xavier did his best to breed top quality Braque Saint Germain and raise the overall hunting qualities of the breed. But several years ago, facing an impasse with the breed club and a series of personal difficulties Xavier abandoned dog breeding entirely; and the Braque Saint Germain lost the last hard-core breeder of world class hunting dogs.
Fast forward to December of 2009. A notice appeared on one of the French gundog forums that I frequent announcing that Xavier was back. He’d bred a litter of pups from a combination of two of the lines he established when he was active. The pups represent a new start of his kennel and the culmination of over 20 years of dedication to the breed as a hard hunting gundog.
So what is a Braque Saint Germain like? Well I’ve seen a few over the years and I can honestly say that the dogs from Xavier’s line are head and shoulders above anything else in the breed. Comparing them to the average Saint Germain is like comparing a late model Ferrari to a Minivan with bald tires and empty gas tank.
When I first saw his dogs Muse and Malice in the field, they were, to me, exactly what a Braque Saint Germain should be. They ran fast and wide with the grace of a Pointer, yet with the ease of handling of a Braque. Around the house they were as affectionate and calm as any dog I’ve ever met. In fact, Malice had her head in my lap within five minutes of meeting me.
In terms of appearance, they do look like white and orange Pointers - almost. The head is definitely more ‘Braque’ in shape with a much less defined stop. The coat seems thicker, the muscles less pronounced. The eyes are round, the ears are rather long and attached lower on the head than those of a Pointer. My wife and I agreed that they had a softer, kinder look than many of the Pointers we’ve met.
In action they were really something to see. They ran with long, flowing strides, head held high. Their range was a comfortable 100 meters in open areas, although I am told that they would sometimes run much wider than this. Points were sudden and intense, their coulé very stylish. Compared to Pointers, there is a definite difference in the style of movement. But it is hard to describe. The Braque Saint Germains just seemed to run with a more elegant stride. Xavier explains the difference this way: “if a Pointer can be compared to Mozart, then a Braque Saint Germain would be more like Chopin.” ( for you rock and roll fans, 'if pointers are like Black Sabbath, Braque Saint Germain are more like U2)
The other Braques Saint Germain I’ve seen in field trials in the north of France where less impressive. They were not terrible, but they were definitely not in the same league. It seems that there is a deep split between show and field lines in the breed, and that’s a shame. The Braque Saint Germain deserves more: more attention from hunters, more support from its club for field activities, and more respect among hunters.
If you are interested in finding out more about the breed or about the pups Xavier has available, drop me a line or leave a comment. This may be an excellent opportunity to get in on the ground floor of a GREAT line of Braque Saint Germains that could be exactly the kind of gundog you are looking for.
Read more about the breed, and all the other pointing breeds from Continental Europe, in my book Pointing Dogs, Volume One: The Continentals