History of the Kleine Münsterländer Vorstehhunde in Germany, the motherland of the breed

For several centuries, dogs have played an important role in the success of a hunt in all of Europe and naturally in Germany too.  In past centuries, hunters were primarily the nobility, as hunting enjoyed a high degree of societal recognition at this time.  It required the ownership of large pieces of land upon which one could hunt, as well as courage and skill in pursuing and shooting game.  All in all, hunting was a challenging, diverse free-time activity.  Consequently, good hunting dogs had a very high value—similar to birds of prey, which are still kept today by well-to-do Arabs for falconry and which are hardly affordable for normal citizens.  In Germany, tracking and searching dogs were in demand above all.  These dogs were trained and cared for in large kennels by specially trained personnel.

The systematic breeding of hunting dogs began, however, only in the middle of the 19th Century.  And so it was with the Kleine Münsterländer.  Two breeders are documented, who regularly bred Kleine Münsterländer in their kennels:  a school teacher named Heitmann from Burgsteinfurt in the Münsterland and the gamekeeper Wolberg from Dorsten in the Münsterland.  In the blood of their KlM flowed the blood of north German tracking and pointing dogs hundreds of years older.  It is likely also that their blood lines where intermingled with Belgian and French Epagneuls and Spaniels.  Both of these breeding lines, the more delicate Heitmann line and the sturdier Wolberg line, formed the foundation of the “Kleine Münsterländer Vorstehhunde” breed.  The sibling pair “Boncoeur” and “Herta von Lohburg” from the Heitmann line, as well as “Rino-Hervest” and “Mirza I-Hervest” from the Wolberg (Dorsten) line, are documented.  The Kleine Münsterländer Vorstehhunde were medium-sized, long-haired, intelligent, and worked tirelessly in the field, water and forest.  As hunters, they were passionate tracking dogs and dependable retrievers.  But it still took another 50 years until the breed had established sufficiently itself with hunters, before a breed club named “Association for Kleine Münsterländer Vorstehhunde (Heidewachtel)” was founded in the year 1912, and that a studbook could be created.

From this time until the middle of the 20th Century breed selection was handled pragmatically:  breeding was done above all with very good dogs, which came from the region and were known because of their hunting performance.  This method had great advantages, as breeders and stud dog owners knew each other and their dogs from hunting.  And so both the specific strengths and weaknesses were known, and the pairings could be coordinated accordingly.

Edmund Löns, a brother of the famous writer Hermann Löns, was a dedicated breeder and enthusiast of the Kleine Münsterländer.  He made the breed known through numerous articles in the German hunting and international press and in this way advanced the rapid spread of the breed.  In 1927, he also brought brown roan to the breed, which until then recognized only brown-white dogs.  A brown roan female had so impressed him with its intelligence, desire and independence that he purchased and used her as a breed dog.  This color prevailed and was also officially recognized by the association as an approved color.  The genetic strength of this color demonstrates itself in that nearly half of all Kleine Münsterländer are roan.

By 1921, Edmund Löns and Dr. Friedrich Jungklaus had formulated and published the breed characteristics of the Kleine Münsterländer, which were the basis for the further development of the breed.  The breed characteristics and the performance requirements were not determined by the association until 1936, however, and then codified for a longer period of time.

Since the end of the 19th Century (1899) a special organization with German hunters concerned itself with the development of test regulations for versatile hunting dogs:  the “JGHV” (Jagdgebrauchshundverband).  With this organization the performance requirements of the various hunting dog breeds were defined.  By this means hunting dogs could be systematically and comparably evaluated for their suitability for hunting and breeding.  As early as the middle of the 19th Century test regulations were developed and still practiced today in England and later in the romantic countries.  In these countries, however, work in the field was and still is the focus (field trials).  For the use of hunting dogs in the forest, water, in the field or for retrieving, specialists were preferred in this part of Europe.  And not much has changed until today.

In contrast to this practice, hunters in Germany were more likely to handle versatile hunting dog breeds, like the Kleine Münsterländer, for these diverse capabilities were required on most hunting grounds.  Once versatility had been genetically established in these breeds, most dogs could easily specialize and be trained to excel as competitive experts in their disciplines.  Since then, versatility has been a central breed attribute of the Continental pointing dog breeds and thus also of the Kleine Münsterländer Vorstehhunde.  Since 1936, the JGHV test regulations have been applicable for the breeding of the Kleine Münsterländer.  Until today, a successfully completed VJP (natural ability test) in the Spring and a successful HZP (advanced natural ability test) in the Fall are the indispensable prerequisites for breeding.  For a select breeding, both parents of a pairing need a successfully completed VGP (association utility test) along with consideration of other details.

In the decades until 1961 the fate of the Kleine Münsterländer breed developed eventfully.  And so, in the period from the Twenties until after the Second World War, Edmund Löns went his own way, because he had different ideas about a rigorous performance breeding of the Kleine Münsterländer Vorstehhunde.  He established his own club, which he named the “Deutschen Heidewachtelklub” (German Heidewachtel Club).  In the end, however, this Heidewachtel Club was unable to prevail.  In 1961 he integrated his club back into the original founding club, which had maintained and further developed the breed since 1912.  In the thirty years since the beginning of the club, the friends of the Heidewachtel were unsuccessful in developing the necessary broad breeding base and to keep the club together.  The political division of Germany led to the creation in the GDR in 1952 of the “Special Breed Association KlM” under the leadership of Otto Capsius.  In 1990, this group, which had professionally maintained the breed of the Kleine Münsterländer Vorstehhunde in Eastern Germany for two decades, was also joined and integrated with the original founding association.

In breeding, it is necessary to think and work in terms of many generations of dogs.  Successes and failures alternate periodically, and it takes a long time, until a breed has developed a dependable and healthy profile in performance and physique.  With the Kleine Münsterländer Vorstehhunde there were also numerous problems, hopes and disappointments for decades with both breeders and handlers.  Countless breeding attempts, interbreeding and failures were necessary, until a stable, broad and healthy breed base was developed about fifty years ago.  The typical breed characteristics established themselves and led to the breed profile of a medium-sized, longhaired, versatile and intelligent Kleine Münsterländer, which can both hunt enthusiastically and feel at home in its family.  Hereditary diseases – epilepsy or HD, for example – were treated successfully through consistent and long-term breeding strategies.  For more than 20 years an important role in the whole breed supervision has been played by electronic data management.  Our database “dogbase”, which contains about 45,000 Kleine Münsterländer, has become meanwhile an indispensable instrument for breed planning among the breeders.  In consequent of this, many breeders no longer plan their pairings regionally, but are willing to travel throughout Germany in order to get to the optimal stud dog.  The supply of interesting and dependable data for planning of pairings by the breeders, as well as the breed supervision of the association has improved significantly.  With now more than 5,000 members, the entire administration and breed accounting of our association is no longer conceivable today without information technology (IT).

In 2004 the F.C.I. concluded breed standard Nr. 102, which is still valid today.  At the same time, the official name of the breed was changed to “Kleine Münsterländer”.  Through the omission of the term “pointing dog”, the versatile profile of the breed was meant to be underscored in the international standard.

In Germany, Kleine Münsterländer Vorstehhunde have required a lot of time to become accepted by all hunters as a complete, high-performance hunting dog, which can work at the same level as the other versatile utility dog breeds.  Kleine Münsterländer demonstrate their extraordinary hunting capabilities daily, as well as the ability to socially adapt to the most widely differing work and living conditions.  We wish to preserve and further develop these qualities in the motherland of the breed and in all international breed clubs.  Edmund Löns once expressed this goal in a charming rhyme:

“Im Schilfwasser heute und morgen im Feld,

Im Walde verwiesen oder verbellt,

Raubzeug gewürgt, das Verlorene gebracht,

das ist es, was den Gebrauchshund macht!”


“In the watery reeds today and tomorrow in the field,

Recovered and revealed in the forest,

Predators subdued, the lost retrieved,

That is what makes a versatile hunting dog!”


(Used by permission of the author, Bernd-Dieter Jesinghausen, former President of the Verband für Kleine Münsterländer Vorstehhunde e.V. and the founder of KlM International.)