Hawkwise Brittanys - The Future

Since 1987 our line of working Brittanys has developed in four stages so far.

Stage 1 The start was with Nem (Walgoreg Emerillion), and her daughter Villain (Hawkwise in the Brambles) who through years of hard work, on very varied terrain, reassuringly confirmed that they were physically sound, had great temperaments and excellent working abilities. Both, on their single foray into the show ring, enjoyed some success so they were genuinely dual purpose Brittanys. The culmination of this stage of our breeding was Villain's son Trouble (Hawkwise Higlander) who 'put us on the map' and introduced the Hawkwise name to a wider audience.  

Stage 2 Highlander's working ability and show successes launched his career at stud. This was the beginning of our second stage through his many direct progeny and grandchildren These now number nealry 400 to date and counting - so the Hawkwise name is being carried on an ever-widening range of pedigrees. We bought back a grand-daughter, Broadwing Corn Dolly at Hawkwise, as we wanted a brood bitch that was not too closely related. Her first litter, to a totally unrelated dog, produced Hawkwise Fair Copy - who would eventually be mated back into Highlander's bloodlines. Her second, to Ch Dag at Skinfaxi, was a successful test mating to check the risk of this line-breeding back to Highlander.

Stage 3 After 6 generations had worked successfully with many falconers across the UK, and gained an enviable reputation as effective hawking dogs, we sought to establish Hawkwise breeding in the shooting field as well. H. Fair Copy has been a perfect ambassador for this, being a joy to work and achieving wide recognition on a variety of shoots. By mating her to Ch Dag at Skinfaxi, and then to Pouilly Fume (both sons of Highlander), we have further consolidated our bloodlines. These 21 pups have been of a consistent physical size and excellent type and have shown great potential in the field. We went for a complete outcross with her third mating, to Rochus Huxley, to enable us to line-breed back to Fair Copy in a generation or two if we wish. In all Fair Copy produced 29 pups in 3 litters!

Stage 4 It is this crop of direct sons and daughters of Fair Copy that we hope will form the nucleus of the fourth stage. Let's hope the Hawkwise legacy continues to thrive through H. Inayah, H. Iduna, H. Iceman, H. Land Agent, H. Nugget and their other siblings. To date (Nov. 2018) H. Iceman and H. Inayah have both produced 6 pups, H. Land Girl has produced a big litter of 12 (the 4th successive generation to have 12 in a litter) and H. Land Agent has sired 13 pups from 2 litters - that's 37 8th generation pups so far!

Hawkwise Nugget retrieving a cock pheasant during her first season on the beating line. She works responsively - quartering thoroughly, pointing staunchly and retrieving her birds cleanly when they have been shot. She is admired by the keepers on the two shoots we regularly attend.

AT STUD - Hawkwise Land Agent (Pouilly Fume x Hawkwise Fair Copy). This docked, orange & white dog is now at stud to approved bitches. He has a great, responsive temperament and the usual Brittany sunniness of nature. Physically he is notably cobby and moves very well. HD score 6/8, free from sable gene. At 11 months old H. Land Agent (aka Toby) won the prestigious Stan Smith Memorial Cup, for the TAN, at the Brittany Club's 2016 Le Weekend - and later on the same day won the novice Retrieve Trophy and his REEP (Deep water retrieve) diploma. He had already won his puppy class at 5 championship shows.

Hawkwise Land Agent - at 4 months                     - at 10 months pointing partridge

Hawkwise Land Agent with the prestigious Stan Smith Cup for the Test d'Aptitudes Naturels, and the Novice Retrieve Shield - both achieved at 11 months old at the Brittany Club's Le Weekend 2016.

Toby has worked 3 days every week in his first season, on 2 local shoots. He hunts extremely well - being both highly energetic but very biddable, and points and retrieves fur and feather gently to hand. He is a great water dog and faces the heaviest cover without a qualm. He is very steady to rabbit, hare and deer - all of which are exceedingly common where he is worked. Physically he measures 54cm to the shoulder and has a very correct, short back. He complies with the breed standard in every respect and it will be interesting to follow his summer show career. This is a genuine dual-purpose Brittany. Stud fee is negotiable to establish him at stud. Contact Steve Wright on 01789 772413 or email stevewright.falconer@virgin.net. Can be seen in Warwickshire.

Toby's show career has started well! At Bath he was Reserve Best Dog and followed this up at Windsor by winning the Dog CC - his first. At City of Birmingham He went Best of Breed but no Challenge Certificates were available. Latterly he has taken his second CC and gone Best of Breed at Darlington Championship Show.


2nd Litter by Hawkwise Land Agent: A repeat mating with Lilymoorland Grace (Edam de Keranlouan x Tillybirloch Chantelle) after Brynn McDonagh's home-bred working bitch - sister to Novice Trial winner Lilymoorland Gypsy, produced 6 orange & white pups (3 dogs, 3 bitches) in October 2017. These are good-looking pups with their sire's responsive and happy temperament.

This next litter of 6 bitch and 1 dog (all orange & white again) arrived safely on 21st November and should be ready for sale in January 2019. Contact Brynn on 07793 860162 or email him at brynnmcdonagh@yahoo.co.uk (Birmingham). Also, for more information, contact Steve Wright on 01789 772413 or email stevewright.falconer@virgin.net.

About Brittanys

There are only a few litters of Brittanys bred every year in the UK. This is perhaps a good thing as the breed is 'high maintenance' and is not one that should be taken on lightly. Anyone thinking of buying one should ask themselves 'What do I want a Brittany for?' This is very relevant as the breed, charming though they may be, need an active role in life. Being 'just a pet' is an honourable job for any dog but the Brittany will not find it sufficient to keep them occupied. They have a great need to do something, and if you do not provide them with a purpose in life they will simply do everything - but at a million miles an hour.

What Brittanys can do
The Brittany is a hunt/point/retriever (HPR) and is basically a nose on legs. In fact it is a very good nose on very good legs. It has bottomless stamina and will keep running as long as its nose can keep picking up scent, ie. pretty much for ever. Therefore it will need physical and mental exercise.

Probably falconry and hawking offer the most natural outlet for the breed. Brittanys will readily form an 'unholy alliance' with their master's birds of prey and will work tirelessly to find game. Steadiness is not something they do well, and in the hands of the falconer this is of small consequence. The hawk will always be faster, and get there first, while the dog will quickly learn respect for their hunting companion. Most working Brittanys are involved in falconry but live very happily as family pets when off duty. Their sunny temperament and general happy approach to life make them great companions for children, and they will be mauled about, dressed up, etc. without ever tiring of the game.

If you want a dog for rough shooting and 'walked-up' days then the Brittany would be one of the first candidates. They will find and point fur and feather, and will mostly retrieve well - provided you have put time into their early training. They enter cover and water readily and, despite their diminutive size, are able to cope with the deepest heather and carrying game as big as brown hare.

Taking a novice Brittany on a driven shoot is an ambition you should approach with caution. They will become over-excited by the sheer amount of game and will appear to be completely out of control (which may actually be the case). It is a good way to lose friends and make yourself and your dog unwelcome, so, if you are seeking a 'different' breed to avoid the endless spaniels, springers and labradors, they may not be the answer. However an experienced dog handler can work a steady, well-trained Brit very successfully on driven game. A combination like this can soon find themselves in demand as the "go to" team for tricky jobs, such as working very deep cover, retrieving runners or picking up behind the pickers up!

This sport is increasingly popular and is one that is suitable for all active members of the family. There are different categories and annoyingly most Brittanys fall into the same class as the ubiquitous Border Collie, with whom nothing much can compete. However there are competitions specifically for non-Border Collies. Some smaller individuals can creep into the next smallest category and do very well. For Brittany owners who are not into field sports this offers an energetic outlet that Brits do well at. However it has been known for a Brittany to do a sudden, but unauthorised, ninety degree turn in pursuit of an elusive scent of rabbits! Hawkwise Bedouine over Gefni, and her daughter Gefni Free Flow, are the two highest graded Brittanys in the UK - both having reached Champion Stakes status!

Trail running
This sport is fairly new in the UK (with dog and owner running as a team) and should be ideal for the Brittany. They will happily run into a harness for hours and will keep up this pace over marathon distances. In North America Brittanys are sometimes crossed with huskies to put extra speed, stamina and sharpness into sled racing teams! A lot of active, urban-based 'Bretonniers' are taking this sport up and the breed should quickly gain a reputation. Their metronomic hand-gallop lends itself to the sport.

Obedience and heelwork to music
Brittanys have been trained for both these pastimes and love doing anything with their owner. It is fair to say that if you are aiming very high they may let you down more than they will bring home the trophies.


While we are very proud of our Hawkwise breeding, and of the quality of the youngsters we have produced, we have also been caught up in a continuing problem within the breed. Brittanys are a multi-coloured breed and can be orange & white (the most common colour by far), black & white, tricolour, liver & white, liver & tan tricolour and sable (which is not recognised by the Kennel Club). Including breeding both parents of the same colour together this gives 21 possible colour combinations that can be mated. Of these only four, orange to orange,  tricolour to tricolour, liver tricolour to liver tricolour and liver tricolour to tricolour, can guarantee not producing sables.

H Berkutchik at 7 weeks - orange & white pups are born with very pale lemon markings, which slowly get richer and darker.

When we started nobody spoke about sable and even experienced breeders would record sable pups as tricolours (sometimes even as orange & white or liver), as there were three different coloured hairs on their body. In French pedigrees some dogs are described as 'maron' - which can be translated as both liver and chestnut. It is pretty likely that some of these were sables as we know them today. As you can see from the show success of Hawkwise Highlander (and his mother H. In the Brambles) it was possible to win well at shows if the dog was otherwise good enough. Another well-known sable dog, Duncliffe Noix, actually became a champion.

Different degrees of sable - on the left H. Highlander has only a few black hairs on the ear tips, and is a rich chestnut colour. His son H. Woodworker, on the right, has a much heavier cast of black guard hairs over his whole body.

More recently French breeders (and by default breeders on this side of the English Channel) have worried about the increasing frequency of sable stock. It is a dominant characteristic, although it can be present but not evident in orange & white individuals. In consequence there has been great hand-wringing over the appearance of sable and it is currently not recognised as an acceptable show colour within the breed.

As the owners of the most used sable stud dog we are obviously very aware of the responsibility we have with our stock. Nevertheless we believe that "there was never a good horse that was a bad colour". If it is built like a good Brittany, works like a good Brittany and has a good temperament, we think it probably is a good Brittany. We see no point in pursuing a breeding plan based on appearance alone. Therefore we intend to avoid using sables wherever possible - unless they are so good we would be stupid not to!

The Inheritance of Sable

Sable is evidence that the genetic make-up of a dog contains both red and black chromosones. Neither of these two separate colours is dominant to the other and this incomplete domination can express itself in a variety of different, well-known, coat patterns. In some breeds it produces brindle, in others black & tan with specific facial markings e.g. Rottweilers, or Airedale Terriers. Liver is also a product of mixing black and red chromosones. Agouti is an example too and sable another. In Brittanys this incomplete dominance has two forms, tricolour or sable. Sometimes tricolours arrive that have wholly orange heads instead of the correct markings and this is also frowned upon by the purist.

H. Witchcraft (sired by the sable H. Highlander) is clearly a tricolour, but would be eliminated for incorrect head markings in France. Although the two incorrect coat colours are not thought to have a common genetic base she is the litter sister to the 'dark' sable, H. Woodworker, shown above. As a good working bitch, and an otherwise good specimen, she was twice bred from. Not all her progeny were mismarked and her daughter Broadwing Corn Dolly at Hawkwise (centre) was orange & white and tested clear for the sable gene, producing conventionally marked tricolours like H. Hattie Mae (on the right).

The problem is that we have so many pedigrees that contain more than one colour of ancestor that we have let the genie out of the bottle. It will keep appearing. It is now possible to screen for the sable gene and to select only from the breeding stock that are clear of it, but we may find it very hard to source too many that are clear. And they may not have the qualities we are looking for. Already, in pursuit of the tailless Brittany, breeders are choosing stock because they throw taillessness even when they are also known not to point. The resulting offspring may look like good Brittanys, but if they don't work like good Brittanys then, in our view, they are not good Brittanys.

Geneticists advise that it is good policy to maintain as wide a gene pool as possible, but in pedigree dogs we already narrow this by breeding for specific, visible, physical or functional qualities. Further narrowing, by eliminating those carrying sable, is potentially harmful as we do not know what other beneficial genes may travel on the same locus of the DNA and would be lost at the same time. Brittany breed clubs across the world must be wary of taking extreme measures against this supposed threat to our breed. Clubs only represent a small proportion of the Brittany owning population, as many pet owners and working homes are unaware of the finer points of confirmation, etc. In consequence there will always be a substantial number of Brittanys being bred from that do not comply with the breed standard in one way or another. They provide a wider genetic resource and should not be excluded by arbitrary law-making - we may yet be grateful for their existence.

Whether the breed societies in France and other countries outlaw sables is yet to be seen. With 17 of the possible 21 colour matings being able to produce them it seems an impossible task. Individual breeders will manage to keep their own lines clear but may have to sacrifice other criteria to achieve this. Sable is not an unattractive colour so it may be that it will eventually be recognised and accepted. In the meantime we will, as a policy, try to avoid keeping sable breeding stock and would advise puppy purchasers that sables should not be bred from if that is their intention. But if their sable pup turns out to be a really good worker, and an otherwise good specimen, we would applaud their choice to breed from it and would not be put off its progeny ourselves.

Sourcing a Brittany

Because Brittanys are very demanding dogs to own they are not generally available through the dog press or your local paper.

To buy a well-bred puppy you will need to source several breeders and put your name down for a puppy with each of them. This will give you options and does not commit you to buying one if you do not want to.

2018-19 Litters with Hawkwise Bloodlines

Brittany owners, intending to have Hawkwise related pups available, throughout the UK, in 2019 are as follows:

Hawkwise Land Agent x Lilymoorland Gracie (Edam de Keranlouan x Tillybirloch Chantelle). Breeder: Brynn McDonagh on 07993 860162 or brynnmcdonagh@yahoo.co.uk (West Mids). Gracie is a hawking dog and is litter sister to Novice Trial winner, Lilymoorland Gypsy. All pups booked at 3 weeks old.

Pouilly Fume x Hawkwise Nugget (Rochus Huxley x H. Fair Copy). Owner: Steve Wright on 01789 772413 or stevewright.falconer@virgin.net (Warks). Litter planned for May/June, for sale end July. No deposit needed until pups are born - but get on the waiting list.

? x Hawkwise Inayah over Gefni (Ch Dag of Skinfaxi x H. Fair Copy). Owner: Maurice Cooke on 01789 415271 or at maurice@gefni.co.uk (Warks). Choice of sire undecided at present. Bitch has already produced an excellent litter to Sh Ch Curacao Tank Calzaghi at Sultair and is a reliable worker on local shoots.

Breeding the breed

Statistically only 3% of any breed will constitute its breeding population. In the case of the Brittany in the UK, with only around 1,700 individuals, this means that our breeding nucleus is probably no bigger than 50+ animals. Of these the vast majority will be females whilst only a few, less than 10 probably, will be males. So very few male dogs ever get used at stud and only a tiny percentage of those will sire a significant number of litters.

This small gene pool places a great responsibility on breeders. A few have gone out of their way to import fresh blood from France and one or two other European countries. We have not gone down that route ourselves as we are not in a position to evaluate the wider family connections of an individual dog. It is this knowledge of type and quality that enables breeders to 'fix' a kennel style. At Hawkwise Brittanys we have selected our stock from the best working lines we can source, while trying to maintain the breed standard. This means we have often looked beyond the show ring and have used dogs of less fashionable pedigrees. In consequence the stock we have bred, and their descendants, are seldom closely related to more fashionable lines, and can provide a useful outcross.


Pouilly Fume: (Hawkwise Highlander x Cos d'Estournel) Another orange & white son of Hawkwise Highlander and father of Hawkwise Land Agent. Pouilly Fume was bred by Jonathan & Catherine Grassi, from their line of home-bred bitches - all the progeny are named after wines! This 2010 dog had his first mating to our Hawkwise Fair Copy and proved to be a keen, competent stud dog. He is a pet and was sourced for the exceptional quality of his bloodlines, which avoid many of the faults that are prevalent in UK Brittanys. When I first examined him I was impressed by his true cobby appearance and very correct movement. Couple these with a confident, pleasant temperament, and a great head and expression, and you have a really admirable dog who is difficult to fault. "Crumble" has been tested clear for the sable gene and carries the double recessive for tricolour, so would be a suitable mate for any bitch you hope to get this colour from. His hip score is 4/5 and both his parents (themselves from stock with uniformly good hips) each scored an impressive 4/3. Contact Clare Gillon on 01420 89717 or email  angclare@hotmail.co.uk (Hants/Surrey) ____________________________________________________________________________________