Our breeders have always been the backbone of our breed. In Germany, the parent country of the breed, we owe it to the professional commitment of KlM breeders that this likeable breed of hunting dogs has been stably maintained in its health, character and versatile performance profile for 150 years.
In the years since 1921, the KlM has found more and more fans abroad. After the Second World War this development gained new momentum. In the second half of the last century, clubs and private initiatives in many European countries and in North America were established and began to breed KlM. For the most part, breeders were guided by the F.C.I. standard for the KlM and the traditional and specific hunting conditions in their countries.
Since 1968, the Federation Cynologique Internationale (F.C.I.) has managed the “standard” of our breed globally and ensured internationally harmonious breed guidelines for the KlM. Unfortunately, this Standard Nr. 102 primarily covers outward physical attributes (physique and coat). As to performance abilities and characteristics, in Standard 102 we find only the explanation that the KlM is a “versatile hunting dog”, which may not be gun-shy or game-shy. In contrast to the specification of physical attributes, details about the definition of a “versatile hunting dog” are missing.
The established national KlM organizations follow the F.C.I. standard for the KlM. In this way, the uniform outward appearance of the breed remains intact globally. But the situation is different, however, with the performance abilities of the KlM. In this area, the F.C. I. has not given its members any internationally unified guidelines for breeding. They have left this to the national member countries, whether their KlM may be bred with performance or special character attributes. Internationally uniform for all countries is only the guideline, that the parents must have passed a conformation show for physique and coat and that they may not exhibit aggressive behavior. And with this, the puppies are issued F.C.I. pedigrees. In addition, in many countries there really are tests, whereby various hunting performance abilities can be determined. In most cases, these tests conform, however, to special areas of focus dictated by the respective national hunting environments, for which the hunting dogs are traditionally utilized. But performance ability tests are not, unfortunately, the international requirement for the issuance of globally recognized F.C.I. pedigrees—with the exception of Germany. In many countries, at least additional health requirements are established, for example for the hips or the eyes of the breeding animals. In Switzerland, a special character test is even required.
In the member clubs of KlM-I today we have documented about 10,000 members. Except in Germany, breeders in other F.C.I. countries can obtain F.C.I. pedigrees for their puppies without a membership in a national KlM club. The number of these breeders varies from country to country. All together we expect about 3,500 – 4,000 recognized KlM puppies in the F.C.I. countries per year. Of these, about 2,500 puppies are bred for hunting, though without internationally uniform performance characteristics. This corresponds to a general, internationally active breed population of about 1,200 KlM (females and stud dogs) per year. Today, there are a total of about 20,000 – 25,000 KlM internationally from general F.C.I.-recognized breeding. In the parent country of the breed there is an active breeding population of about 200 KlM annually, which gives birth exclusively to puppies from performance breeding as a classic KlM.
These figures show that over the long term it will become more difficult to maintain the profile of the KlM as a versatile hunting dog at a sustainable level. Today both large and small populations profit from the strong genetic core of the breed, but the most important question is, how long this situation will last?
The performance profile of the “classic KlM”
The classic KlM has been systematically bred for 150 years as a medium-sized, healthy and passionate hunting dog with versatile performance abilities for work before and after the shot in the field, forest and water. The classic KlM is bred as a “generalist”, which can easily be trained for specific kinds of work later on. For breed approval, the traditional, required basic natural abilities include use of nose, desire to retrieve, field search, pointing, tracking ability, desire to work, love of water as well as cooperation. The KlM cannot be mute or bark without game present and must have strong character. These performance and character qualities have been evaluated at Spring and Fall breed tests in the homeland of the breed since 1928.
With these performance abilities and qualities of character, the classic KlM can be used for nearly any task. They work dependably when hunting rabbits, predators and feathered game; they search and retrieve waterfowl; they are intelligent, independent and companions of strong character when hunting wild boar, deer, red deer and many other kinds of game in the forest. They find and pursue game as a team with their handlers – if game has fled on shot, they lead hunters to the wounded or dead game.
In many countries, hunting conditions have changed in the last 150 years. On account of its versatility, the classic KlM has remained as it was before. It can still be used for hunting nearly every kind of game; it works alone, as well as in a group together with other dogs. But the KlM can also specialize in specific types of hunting due to its broad, general performance abilities. For example, for field work or the search; I have even successfully used the KlM hunting in the mountains for wood grouse, black grouse and chamois (Gams).
The classic KlM is born to hunt. It is the owner’s best comrade for a fulfilled life in hunting. It loves contact with people and feels at home in “its” family, just as well as when working in nature in all kinds of weather. Times have changed, but not the classic KlM! That’s why it still has its good health, stable temperament and versatile performance profile.
Where does international breeding of the KlM stand today?
Comparable tests of hunting abilities, as there are in Germany, have also been done in Austria, the Czech Republic and France for decades. Thus, within Europe, there are only a few countries with breeding regulations, which consistently breed KlMs for their versatile abilities. The largest European contingent of KlM bred from performance breeding is in its homeland Germany, because in Germany alone, the KlM club issues pedigrees and makes sure that dogs are bred only according to German KlM breed regulations.
All KlM around the world today come originally from German breeding. For many generations, small KlM populations arose in neighboring countries around Germany, which sometimes grew quickly, sometimes slowly. But these populations had and still have a fundamental breeding problem: the genetic basis abroad was always too small and regularly needed “replenishment”, otherwise, health risks (inbreeding depression!) would have quickly developed. This genetic refreshment came primarily from Germany at first and naturally later from other countries too. Today there are very good classic KlM from other foreign KlM clubs which can be successfully used for breeding. In 2012, German breeders used stud dogs from abroad about 25 times. For the entire new generation of puppies in Germany in 2012, for example, 74 stud dogs were used.
These concrete figures make it clear that the gene pool of classic, versatile KlM is getting smaller and smaller. For breed populations with a foundation of fewer than 40 active breeding dogs per year, it is difficult to maintain a healthy, strong-charactered, high performance, uniform basis for breeding by relying on one’s own resources. Also the core of the breed, solidified over numerous generations, will become weaker and weaker over time without coordinated, consistent breeding strategies. From this we must conclude that only a stronger, broader international gene pool for breeding versatile, high performance and strong-charactered KlM, free of serious hereditary diseases, can be the long term basis for the preservation of the classic KlM!
Only the KlM bred as a “generalist” can be easily specialized for the practical aspects of hunting; while the KlM, which is narrowly bred for special kinds of performance, increasingly loses its broad performance spectrum. Naturally, this has consequences for character and health. These problems come quietly: in some circumstances, it is then too late in terms of breed strategy.
Many KlM are bred in countries where less attention is paid to hunting performance and more to sporting accomplishments (or the market value associated with it). For example, in some national test regulations, unconditional obedience is required when making contact with game. When on game during a hunt, giving “laut” is a fault. Thereby, the focus of testing is no longer on the natural abilities of the dogs but on dressage and above all on experience. The result is, of course, that better performance will be confirmed only with increasing age. Since test results are important criteria of performance breeding everywhere, actual natural ability criteria are neglected over the long term in these situations. Also the one-sided fixation with pointing or field work leads in the long term to the reduction of breed abilities in the areas of independence and intelligence, willingness to work, capabilities on game which defends itself, and on work in the forest and water. For example, it has already been shown, that the elimination of “Laut” leads to a lasting change of the performance profile and character of the KlM.
Such dangers already threaten the pure-breeding of the classic KlM today. This has an impact not only on one country or another, or only on small populations. Many hundreds of KlM are affected!
International breeding can only tolerate markedly different national KlM profiles within narrow limits over the long term. For this reason, common, comprehensive breed strategies must be developed and coordinated. The motto could be: as much national breeding freedom as possible, but as much international breeding coordination as necessary.
Need for action in the future
- Performance breeding of the KlM must be fundamentally acknowledged in the F.C.I. member countries and be documented in the pedigrees. This does not mean that the previously valid F.C.I. standard has to be changed. In fact, the present F.C.I. definition of the KlM as versatile hunting dog would be underscored and put in more concrete terms for practical breeding and more carefully carried out. It cannot be right that each breeder or every F.C.I. member country has its own conception of a “versatile hunting dog” and thereby endangers the pure-breeding of the KlM over the long term.
- In the F.C.I. standard the performance characteristics must be put in such concrete terms that practical natural ability tests can be derived from them in the F.C.I. member countries. The homeland of the breed is always responsible for updating the breed standard with the F.C.I. – KlM-I has conveyed detailed proposals regarding this to KlM-D in the Annual Meeting 2012. These must be dealt with and also decided upon in the next Annual Meeting. After this, they should be submitted to the German Kennel Club VDH, which must then discuss and pass them on to the F.C.I.
- The national kennel clubs, which issue F.C.I. pedigrees, must be convinced that the performance characteristics anchored in the F.C.I. breed standard are to be taken into account through national concepts for natural ability testing. KlM, which have passed such tests, need to have an additional clause added to their F.C.I. pedigrees “from certified performance breeding”, in order to be able to differentiate them internationally from still valid “normal breeding” and use them specifically in breeding. This cannot happen without the agreement of the individual KlM clubs and the kennel clubs responsible for these matters. – We can only work toward this goal together within KlM-I. The “KlM-I certificate”, which has already been agreed upon by KlM-I, should be a joint intermediate step, as it will be a long road until all national kennel clubs can be convinced of the sense of “certified performance breeding”. In addition, performance-oriented, professional breeding in various national member clubs of KlM-I could profit in some circumstances from the title “from certified performance breeding”.
- An international breed commission at KlM-I shall be given the task of working out a concept for the development of meaningful breeding strategies, as well as the creation and organization of international KlM breeding. Finally, this concept must be discussed and agreed upon in the KlM-I member meeting. In this framework, there could be a basic level and a selective level, for example. Breeding animals, which have passed either the basic or selective level in the relevant tests, could carry a special performance mark. The same could apply for breeding kennels. We need the active interest of breeders and handlers in international breeding. And we must support this interest with perseverance. Furthermore, it is important to develop rules for cross-border breeding which are as uniform as possible. A broader, healthier gene pool must be promoted. – The inaugural meeting of the international breed commission is planned for the summer of 2013.
- Discussions should be started with the national KlM-I member clubs, in order to specifically learn how the current natural ability tests are being practiced, whether all of the criteria for a versatile hunting performance breeding are being covered or which problems might arise for further development. Tests are not always solely the responsibility of the national KlM clubs, thus all open matters must be discussed or planned together. It will certainly not be easy and will become a long journey, until the basis for breeding the classic KlM as a versatile hunting dog is established within KlM-I for the long term. If we wish to achieve this, all of us in our KlM organizations must meet the challenge of conducting negotiations with our responsible national and international organizations with patience, close cooperation and determination. – With the support of KlM-D and KlM-I Denmark has already begun to implement these conclusions in practice.
- Information, exchanges of experience and shared events are the seeds for the growth and deepening of international cooperation. Especially in the field of genetics and both avoiding and fighting diseases, the veterinary sciences have made tremendous progress for years. Cynology and the behavioral sciences are continually developing further. Here we can work together for KlM breeding. Along with breeders and handlers, performance judges can also benefit from activities abroad. Each can learn something from others and this in turn fosters solidarity. This is becoming increasingly important in light of the opposition encountered by hunters and dog owners in some places in Europe. If we stick closer together, this can only make us stronger. – The test runs organized by KlM-I in Austria and Germany for the new IMP test were good examples for the cooperation of performance judges, handlers and officials from many European countries. On top of that, they were fun – to the extent that this is possible at dog tests.
- International and healthy performance breeding must become important marks of quality of the KlM for hunters. It must receive a growing significance and market value for breeders and handlers. In this way, all concerned can only win: the KlM breed, breeders, owners and principled, humane hunting. It is worth working for this and promoting it.
In Germany, we have had a saying as advice for breeding for many generations: “breed less, but breed better!” This principle has proven itself well in the breeding of the classic KlM. In light of the rapid international growth of our breed, it could well sum up all of our experiences for the international breeding of the KlM in the future.
(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.)