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Through words and images, we are on a mission to share our passion for pointing dogs, upland hunting and sporting dog photography. 

Window Into the Past

Pointing Dog Blog

Window Into the Past

Craig Koshyk

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Manufrance (Manufacture Francaise d'Armes et Cycles de St. Etienne) was a French mail order company located in St. Etienne France. It opened in 1885 and specialized in shotguns and bicycles but also sold a vast array of other products, ranging from fishing rods to clocks. The company closed in 1985, but was revived under new ownership in 2010. Old Manufrance catalogues and books are fascinating. The company spared no expense in printing and distributing them far and wide. Long considered collectors items, many of them are now available to view online for free! Manufrance catalogues not only listed the products the company offered but they contained illustrated guides to gundog breeds, hunting rules, regulations and tips and even descriptions of how field trials were run in France.  The Illustrated guide to field trials I've posted below was made up of 4 pages, each with three panels explaining the various steps of a field trial in chronological order.  Below are the individual panels, you can click them to see a larger version. I've also translated the captions and posted them below the corresponding panel.

The set-up of a field trial (heading out to the field): This illustration shows the very start of a trial, when everyone is heading out to the field: A: Handlers with their dogs on leash.  B: Three judges, one of which is on horseback so that he may move in quickly to evaluate questionable points. C: Members of the sporting press who have been allowed to follow the proceedings. D: The gallery (club members and their guests who have written invitations) getting ready to watch the trial.  E: Law enforcement officials (gendarmes) in charge of making sure all game laws are followed.

 

Posting the names of the dogs: The dogs' names are posted in the following way: A man sets up a board equipped with grooves that allow for slips of cardboard that can be switched out as the trial goes on. Each piece of cardboard has the name of a dog written on it. When two dogs enter the field, the placards with their names on them are taken from the leather carrying case containing all the placards and are then slipped into the groves on the board when the judges declare that those dogs are to run. This way, it is clear to everyone in attendance which dogs are running.

 

Casting off the dogs: When two dogs are designated to run, they are given different coloured collars, one wears red, the other blue so that they may be distinguished from each other. The judges have two flags at their disposition (one is white, the other is red), and at the end of each brace, they are to raise a flag in the air corresponding to the colour of the collar worn by the dog they feel had the better performance. If both dogs worked equally well, both flags are raised at the same time. In order to avoid having their dogs take of willy nilly at the cast off, handlers take care to 'drop' their dogs (have them lay down) just before the start so that they will not cast off until told to do so.

 

The Grande Quête Trial: (in French the term is 'Grande Quête' literally, "large search" i.e. for wide ranging dogs) In a 'grand quête' trial handlers cast their dogs off in opposite directions so that the dogs' casts will cross each other in the middle. The two handlers then arrive at the edge of the terrain at about the same time, one at extreme left end of the field, the other at the extreme right. They then turn their dogs towards the other direction and cast the dog so that it's search crosses that of the other dog in the middle. Grand quête trials are naturally full of excitement and therefore quite interesting for spectators.

 

The Point: As soon as a dog goes on point, his brace mate, upon seeing the other dog, must stop and remain still. This is called 'backing'. The handler must slowly make his way towards his dog giving it ample time to demonstrate the solidity of its point. Seeing a dog hold its point magnificently long is without doubt the most pleasing thing that a true sportsman can experience, and the same thing applies to a field trial for everyone in attendance.

 

The Flush: While the dog holds its point, the handler goes towards the dog and then walks slowly out in front, the dog must remain motionless. The handler then flushes the birds and as soon as they take off, the dog that was pointing and its brace mate that was backing must drop (lay down) and not move. Nothing is more thrilling for the followers of St. Hubert than to witness a lovely flush of birds and then seeing dogs immediately, automatically drop and remain absolutely still as they watch the birds with only their eyes.

 

A dog stealing point from its brace mate: A dog sees its brace mate establish a point but then doesn't back and moves ahead of it has committed a serious error even if he then points or drops at the flush. Stealing point not only reveals poor training, but also a very bad habit that is hard to break. In the same way that skittishness and bolting is a fault for horses, stealing point is a fault for dogs.

 

The dog that chases a bolting hare: Chasing game has always been a terrible fault, to the point at which, in the old rules, it was cause for the immediate elimination of a dog from competition. In the rules that are in force this year, chasing a running hare, while still noted as a serious infraction, does not preclude a dog from continuing its turn as long as it doesn't chase for more than 50 meters and that it drops immediately upon command from its handler. No effort should be spared to prevent a dog from chasing.

 

Steady to shot: From a fair distance, and on a signal from the judge, an assigned gunner will let off a shot. The dogs that are running must then immediately drop. Even dogs that are on leash, if there training leaves nothing to be desired, must do the same. Dropping immediately to shot, without any hesitation and staying completely motionless is a quality that will always been greatly appreciated in a dog, so much so that dogs that do well in this phase of the trial will be richly rewarded.

 

The end of a turn: After one brace runs, the handlers exit the field bringing with them the dogs that were under judgment. Meanwhile, the judges get together to share and discuss their views while the field marshal announces the names of the two dogs that are to next to run and whose qualities will publicly demonstrated. Then the names on the two dogs are posted to the board by switching them out with the names of the previous brace.

 

The retrieve: Retrieving is only obligatory for dogs running in 'petite quête' trials (literally 'small quest' i.e.: trials for close working dogs). A marshal carries a dead rabbit in his game bag and after a while tosses it out a fair distance. The dog is sent for the retrieve and must pick it up smartly and return promptly to his handler, sit and release the rabbit when told to do so.  The dog is also given the command "drop!" just before he is about the pick up the rabbit. He is only allowed to pick it up when told to "take it!" and then told to "bring it!" when he is closer to the handler who then tells the dog to sit and then takes the rabbit when he says "give".

 

A few types of field trial dogs in France.  A) Pointer  B) English Setter  C) Gordon Setter  D) Braque de l'Ariège  E) Épagneul Français (French Spaniel)  F) Wirehaired Pointing Griffon  G) Boulet Griffon