Both types of Braque Français are built for work. The Gascony type is more muscular, has a larger head, longer, lower-set ears and a more pronounced dewlap. The Pyrenean type can resemble a German Shorthaired Pointer in some ways, but has a different head shape and is generally smaller than the average GSP. The main difference between the two types of braque français is size. A male Gascony can be as much as 22 cm taller than a Pyrenean female, at least on paper. In reality, the difference is not that great and the preferred sizes for both differ by about 10 cm.
Coat and Color
Both breeds are short-haired but their standards mention that the Gascony type should have a coat that is rather thick and well-furnished, while the coat of the Pyrenean type is described as finer and shorter than that of the Gascony type. The coat color for both is usually a brown and white roan or white with brown patches. The standard also permits what is effectively a tri-colored coat: chestnut brown marked with tan (above the eyes, at the lips, and on the legs). It also mentions an all-brown chestnut coat, but none of the breeders or owners I’ve spoken to has ever seen a coat without at least some white in it.
Traditionally, the brown and white roan coat was the most common, but over the last 20 years the trend has been toward a white coat with large brown plates, or spots.
Like their appearances, The differences between the hunting styles of the two types are greater on paper than they are in the field. Both are strong, dynamic workers, solid pointers and natural retrievers. The main differences are speed and range.
The Pyrenean type is faster and generally runs fairly wide. But the Gascony is far from being a bootlicker. They generally run at a medium gallop out to about a hundred meters in open terrain. Jean-Paul Oustrain, a long-time breeder of Gascony type Braque Français, says:
In the past, the Gascony was more or less a trotter, and some still are. But most of them gallop now, especially in trials. Of course, they do not run like the Pyrenean type, and we don’t want them to. We want them to be able to keep up a good, strong pace all day long, and not tire out after just a half hour. Above all, we want a dog that shows a lot of passion in its search, whatever the pace.
The ones I have encountered run big and fast. I would describe them as high performance hunting dogs that are capable of performing well in walking field trials and hunt tests.
Both types are very solid pointers that typically develop early. Michel Gélinas
, a breeder in Québec and the first person to import Braques Français to North America, uses his dogs for banding woodcock in the spring.
Both types can be strong, natural pointers. But my current dog, a young Gascony, is the most cautious, careful dog I have owned. It normally takes two or three seasons for me to develop a good woodcock banding dog. But she got the hang of it in her first season, and she was just a pup.
Both types are considered to be excellent retrievers. Jean-Paul Oustrain
believes that this is one of the strengths of the Gascony type.
They are born retrievers. We rarely have any issues of hard mouth and they are excellent trackers of wounded game.
Mine love to unravel a track left by running pheasants. My male will track and relocate on running birds, which makes pheasant hunting with him very exciting. I once witnessed him track a rabbit in a manner that would make hound owners drool—and I speak from experience as a Beagler! (Wade Landreville)
French breeders generally tend to put less emphasis on water work than breeders in other countries. Nevertheless the Braque Français takes to water easily.
I was pleasantly surprised when I saw my second Braque Français, Addie, take to the water very enthusiastically with an aggressive entry. She is passing this on to her offspring as well. My friend has a pup from her that has as much confidence in the water as any German Shorthaired Pointer or German Wirehaired Pointer I have ever seen. (Wade Landreville)
Throughout our travels, Lisa and I have come across a number of Braques Français, most often the Pyrenean type. We’ve seen them in Québec, Ontario, Minnesota and, of course, in France. But it wasn’t until we traveled to the breed’s historic heartland that we saw the Gascony type.
Near the town of Astaffort in southwestern France we met with Jean Paul Oustrain, who raises, trains and hunts with the larger of the two types of Braques Français. Just as the breed has always been passed from one generation to the next in the Gascony region, Jean-Paul got his first dog from his uncle. When I was young I hunted with my father and my uncle who had a Braque Français. When I was old enough to hunt on my own my uncle gave me a dog; naturally it was also a Braque Français.
My first impression of the Gascony types was that they were indeed larger than the Pyrenean types we’d seen, but not as much as I had anticipated. They were also faster and more agile than I thought they would be. They showed a strong, medium gallop out to 75 meters or so. When they hit bird scent, they slammed on point. When two ran together, they backed each other naturally.
In terms of their appearance, they definitely had a more old-fashioned look to them, but it is clear that the Gascony type has been modernized in the last 20 to 30 years. The skin is tighter, the head less houndy and, while they are still powerfully built dogs, they no longer look like the old photos
I’ve seen that show them as similar to the Burgos Pointer
or even the Bracco Italiano
. They are handsome dogs, with just enough of the classic look to give them the distinguished bearing of a serious gundog that knows how to get down to business.
Then there are the Pyrenean types we’ve seen. Whether running in trials in northern France or working the lush fields of Québec or Minnesota, every one showed the zippy, slam-on-point kind of style that a lot of hunters look for. And that, I believe, is the secret to the success of the breed. Both types appeal mainly to hunters. There are virtually no show-breeders of either type, no puppy mills breeding them by the dozen, no political battles between opposing clubs or fights over which is the “true” standard. There are just hunters and field trialers who have found a breed of gundog that is born to run, hunt and fetch, and that comes in two flavors: small and fast, and big and sturdy.
Read more about the breed, and all the other pointing breeds from Continental Europe, in my book Pointing Dogs, Volume One: The Continentals