The first time I ever saw a Wirehaired Vizsla was at an informal training day arranged by a group of enthusiasts right here in Manitoba. The only Vizslas I’d seen before had smooth, short coats, so i was quite surprised to see one that looked like it needed a shave! I was soon corrected by the dog’s owner who told me that the Wirehaired Vizsla is a completely separate breed.
Watching that young dog work through the mud and reeds of a local marsh—we were training for an upcoming NAVHDA test—was a real treat. He had a lot of drive and his coat looked ideally suited to the cover. Over the next few years, I saw other Vizsla here and there, but I never really got the chance to speak to any breeders or owners. It wasn’t until Lisa and I travelled to Hungary, and met an extraordinary young woman, that we finally began to learn more about the breed.
Zsófia Miczek does not look like your typical gundog breeder. In fact, she looks like she should be on a movie set or at a fashionable café in downtown Budapest. Her pretty face, blond hair, and youthful personality do not exactly shout “hard-core hunter”. But looks, as they say, can be deceiving. Not only is Zsófia perfectly at home in the hunting field, she’s a familiar face on the field trial, hunt test and dog show circuit in Hungary and beyond. In fact, she’s the founder one of the most successful Vizsla lines in the world.
Lisa and I met Zsófia at her home just outside Budapest and spent the better part of a warm spring day with her and her dogs in the field. Having photographed a number of smooth-haired Vizsla the day before, we were curious to see how the two breeds compared. The first thing we noticed, obviously, was the harsh, wiry coat. It seemed to be a slightly lighter shade of “russet gold” than the coat of the smooth-haired Vizslas, but still very appealing. Some coats were longer than others. Zsófia mentioned that breeders have now achieved better consistency in this regard, but that her oldest dog had the “old style” coat— noticeably longer and softer than the others. Dogs from more recent generations had harsh, flat-lying coats with just enough facial furnishings to give them a distinguished look without being too fuzzy. In the field, the dogs were all business. They showed a lot of desire as they hunted at a medium gallop out to about a hundred meters. They responded instantly to Zsófia’s whistle as she handled them across the rolling terrain.
Compared to the smooth-coated Vizslas, the Wirehairs seemed a tad bigger with a stronger, more forceful stride. In terms of character, they were a lot like their smooth-haired cousins: happy, friendly and eager to hunt. The strongest personality that day actually belonged to Zsófia. She is a fiercely competitive young woman determined to prove herself and her dogs in the male-dominated gundog scene in Hungary. Lisa asked her if all Hungarian women were so strong-willed and tenacious. Zsófia smiled, and replied:
I don’t think Hungarian women are known for being particularly tough. I guess I am just an unusually strong woman. I have had to deal with the fact that being blond, female and young is a disadvantage in this sport, because most judges and competitors are men, who just can’t accept my success. It’s as if some of them do everything they can to prove that I am not as good as my record shows. Emotionally, it is very difficult and I have a hard time accepting it because, if there is one thing I hate, it is discrimination. But I am not going to step back. I will continue to prove the quality of my dogs, no matter what!To me, Zsófia’s reply perfectly echoed the kind of determination the breed’s creators must have had in the early days. It is nice to know that the Vizsla is still in the hands of such tenacious people today.
Here is a video of one of Zsófia’s dogs working a (planted) quail.
2. Gresznarik owned the “Selle” kennel until the 1960s. It was taken over by Stefan Hrncár in 1971.
Read more about the breed, and all the other pointing breeds from Continental Europe, in my book Pointing Dogs, Volume One: The Continentals