Saturday, August 31, 2013

Hungarian Royalty in the Hills of San Francisco Bay

 We took a hike with Hungarian royalty today. 

 We had a pair of both the Hungarian Empire's hounds and the pointers in the East Bay Hills. 
  The only royal hunting dogs of the Empire for over 900 years.
 In the upland areas of Briones Regional Park Scott and Maria brought a couple VERY RARE (fewer than 1,000 in the world) Transylvanian Hounds (Kopo'), Hannah and Avar, to run and enjoy the morning with Bailey and Chloe. 

Coming for a drink in a highland pond was a dear 16-year-old Vizsla with 2-year-old Kopo' - Avar
My camera speed setting was too low for these shots

View of "the lagoon" from a ridge road

Head comparison between the two related breeds
This was these Kopos's first off-leash run in open spaces.
 At the end of a good six-mile hike the dogs had enjoyed themselves completely.
It was Scott and Maria's first visit up into these hills and we all had a great time.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Vizsla and Kopo': Two Hungarian Hunters

Transylvanian Hounds and Vizslas—Different but the Same 

By Scott Maze-

Five years ago we acquired Hannah, a Transylvanian Hound puppy (in Hungarian, erdélyi kopó) purely by chance, just to save her from going to the pound.  We already had one dog, but Hannah opened a whole new world for us.  She led us to Puerto Rico, where she won her pedigree, to new friends and to Hungary and Transylvania, where her breed began. 

Transylvanian Hounds share a common ancestry with Vizslas, the two breeds probably diverging in the early Middle Ages.  These dogs descended from the Asian hounds accompanying the Magyars when they arrived in Transylvania in the 900’s.  Those hounds mixed with local dogs and the Celtic Hounds of the Romans.  While Vizslas developed along different lines, Kopós were used to hunt large game such as bison, bear, deer, boar and lynx in the heavily forested slopes of the Carpathian Mountains that ring Transylvania on three sides.  Both breeds were pretty much the exclusive property of the Hungarian nobility, who used them over the centuries for sport hunting all over Transylvania.  With only a small number of owners, there must not have been many of these dogs even in the best of times. 

Kopós hunt in packs of no more than four, sent out alone to flush the game and drive it back toward the hunters for the kill.  Kopós have been known to cover as much as one hundred miles in a single day during a hunt.  The hounds do not attack the game, they worry it into moving toward the hunters instead of toward safety. Depending on the sounds made by their hounds, hunters can tell the type and condition of the game coming toward them.   

The good times for hunting began to end in 1918, the power slipped away from the Hungarian nobles.  After that date, the popularity of hunting for sport must have declined and with it the numbers of these dogs as well.  Less than twenty years later, World War II marked the final end of the good times for the owners of both breeds.  At the War’s end, the arrival of the Russian Army in Transylvania meant the installation of a communist government, while Hungary suffered the same fate. 

The Communists set about destroying all images of the power and supremacy of the Hungarian ruling class.  That policy resulted in the 1947 edict that all Vizslas and Kopós were to be eradicated (the official excuse was that they damaged crops and game).  By the mid-1960’s, the few Kopós left in Transylvania were hidden deep n the recesses of the Carpathians, while the few Vizsla in the world had apparently been spirited out of the country years earlier.  From 1944 to 1968, no Kopó puppies were recorded as being born (the few births were apparently kept secret).   

In the mid-1960’s, however, a few Kopós were smuggled out of Transylvania by some intrepid Hungarians.  With those few dogs, the Hungarians began a revival that is still underway.  And since the fall of their Communist government in 1989, Transylvanians--both ethnic Hungarians and Rumanians--have begun to slowly join in that revival. 

Today, there are still less than one thousand Kopós left, with a much smaller number of actual breed stock. But we are picking up the beat here in the U.S.  Worldwide last year, about one hundred Kopó puppies were registered for pedigree with the FCI, all of them born in Hungary or Transylvania.  This year, twenty puppies have already been registered in the U.S. and the prospects for 2014 are even better, with the number of breeders expected to double.   

Hannah and her Hungarian mate Avar (now a U.S. citizen) are the parents of eight of those puppies, the first U.S. litter ever registered for FCI pedigree and the start of our own breeding colony, called California Transylvanians.  We are working closely with other breeders in the Transylvanian Hound Club to help with the revival of this breed in a way that preserves its qualities, which have not changed in a millennium. 

So, what makes Kopós worth saving?  First, they are an ancient breed, virtually unknown outside their native land and relatively unchanged in over a thousand years, unlike so many breeds today.  Second, they are bred to hunt but they are very mellow.  They are still used today to hunt wild boar in Transylvania, but at home they are warm, affectionate and easy-going.   A Kopó forms a strong personal attachment that does not change once established.   They learn quickly and excel at recognizing patterns—a Kopó barks at the mailman the first time, but never after that.   They are cautious—they don’t charge into a fight—but they are courageous when the need arises.  And they are simple, beautiful, clean-lined animals with short coats who thrive in heat and cold.

Five years after Hannah’s arrival, we happily live and play with a pack of four, including her mate and two eight-month old puppies from her first litter, with more litters planned.  When people ask why we didn’t just save a “pound puppy”, we tell them we are saving an entire breed!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Vizslas Seen through the Good Lens

I normally shoot with a little Nikon Coolpik Camera, but tonight I felt like taking my good camera.
 The Nikon D70s digital camera is about 6 years old and the Nikon 18-70mm lens is really a quality piece of equipment.
 These were taken on our short "Green Valley" hill walk tonight.   The Pacific breeze blew in from the west and it was cool and refreshing after a few days of dry winds out of the east. 
  These pictures were from the ridge overlooking the Diablo Valley.
On a normal walk there are many photo opportunities.
Nothing exciting or exotic but hopefully the "peaceful-easy feeling" translates to the computer screen.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Home in the Hills

Last Sunday's hike in Briones Regional Park out of Martinez, California.  Almost 10 miles of hiking for me and "hunting" for Bailey and Chloe.  They run maybe 25 to 30 miles.
 Another week of hiking in the East Bay hills.
Chloe jumped into this tree.  Squirrels can do it.  Why can't she?

Tuesday night's walk up in Green Valley Open Space. 
 Our "go to" quick 3 mile hike area.
Out of Borges Ranch (south of town) for a Thursday night hike.  6 miles.
 The Open spaces let the dogs stretch out their legs. It was hot.  90 degrees at 6:30pm.  Between the three of us, we drained my three liter camelback water pouch.
 Yesterday's hike into another section of Briones Regional Park.
8 miles.
Bailey and Chloe know every pond and water trough in these hills.
They jump in and cool off as they drink deeply.
After not seeing a soul for over an hour, we found ourselves on a part of the half marathon being run in the hills.  Luck we got through this section before the running "pack" came along.  We saw only the lead runners.
 The trails range from 12 foot wide fire roads to very narrow heavy wooded trails.  Most walks are a mixture of open space and forest.
 Nearing the end of yesterday's walk the dogs were tired.  They had run hard for over two hours. 
The last little bit of open space before getting back to the Jeep.
These ten pictures, I hope, capture why we hike the hills as much as we do.  These hills are open to well mannered dogs. Even though we see a few dogs on our hikes, I am amazed we don't see more people, in the Bay Area, taking advantage of a wonderful opportunity.  We hit the trails 3 to 5 days a week.  Bailey and Chloe LOVE it.  They have hiked with me in these hills since they were young pups. 
 Now at 5 and 6 years old they are a little more sore and beat up by the time we get home. 

The hills are our home. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Viz Whiz Up North

  Vizsla folk are unique as their dogs.

Great way to spend a lazy summer mid day in the company of good people and great dogs.


I liked it up there a lot.  Good time for Bailey and Chloe. 

Lots of room to run both on nice green grass and a pasture behind the fenced yard.

John and Dawn were both great hosts and really good people.

And they love their Hungarian Pointers. 
What's not to like!