Breed History


Prior to the 19th century hunting was the privilege of landed upper class who had the financial resources to breed, train and manage large kennels of specialty dogs. The middle class arose in the 1800’s and gained access to hunting through land ownership. These hunters wanted companion dogs with diverse hunting skills. Within Germany, however, aristocratic hunters strove to preserve the traditional hunting ethic with its profound respect for game animals. This ethic necessitated versatile hunting dogs skilled in recovering lost and wounded game, and not just in locating or retrieving downed birds or animals. Thus, the concept of the versatile hunting dog, Jagdgebrauchhund, became popular at the beginning of the 20th century, and several versatile hunting breeds were founded at that time.

In the Münsterland area of Germany (roughly east of Holland to Hannover and north through the moors) a search began about 1870 for a versatile long haired Wachtelhund (quail dog) breed. Hunting dogs in this part of Germany were already noted for their staunch point, their enormous search drive and their outstanding nose, capable of both air scenting and tracking. Several hunting aristocrats as well the famous poet, Hermann Löns, and his brother, Edmund, were among the leaders of this group (see “History of the Small Munsterlander” by Edmund Löns below).  On March 17, 1912, a group of 68 formed the Verein für Kleine Münsterländer Vorstehhunde (Heidewachtel) – the Small Munsterlander Pointer (Heath quail) Club–in the town of Osnabrück, north of the city of Münster.

The Small Munsterlander Pointer was accepted by the versatile hunting dog club (Jagdgebrauchhund Verein, or JGHV) that had been founded in 1899. To this day this club administers the tests that form the foundation for any versatile hunting breed. However, an acceptable breed standard did not appear until 1921 when Dr. Friedrich Jungklaus published a scientific work on Small Munsterlanders and their breed characteristics. His description of the breed is still fundamentally valid today. The smaller stature of the Small Munsterlander Pointer is distinctive among long haired German versatile hunting dogs.

Small Munsterlanders at that time were mostly plated, with many color variations (except black). Braunschimmel (roan) dogs first appeared in the mid 1920’s, probably through one or more crossings with German Shorthairs. Liver and white are now the predominant colors for Small Munsterlanders, although glints of auburn are often apparent in their coats, particularly around the ears.

Germany is recognized as the parent country for Kleine Münsterländer by the FCI.


The Small (Kleine) Munsterlander was known in early days by a variety of names. Hermann Löns called them “heathland quail dog” or Heidewachtel. Some named them “The little Spy” or Spiönken after the characteristic fashion in which their small hunting dogs worked in the field. Many clergy and teachers owned the dog so they were soon nicknamed ‘Little Master’s Dog’ or Magisterhündlein. But when a club was formed in 1912 the Small Munsterlander name was chosen. The Small Munsterlander is a long haired versatile dog that maintains the strong hunting qualities that were found in them in the early 1900’s.

The little dog takes up the staunchest, intense point when encountering all game holding tight, keeping the point until the hunter arrives  – then the game is flushed, the dead game is fetched, the crippled downers tracked, and securely retrieved with the utmost skill. – Rudolf Löns

The Small Munsterlander also known as the Kleine Munsterlander is an elegant strong dog with much self-confidence. It is a versatile hunting dog that combines intelligence, desire, and devotion enabling him to quickly adapt to the varied terrain or game and its masters hunting style. It is also a very clean dog that is most happy living in the home of its master. Typical characteristics are diligent ingenuity during fieldwork, solid pointing instinct, meticulous tracking ability, great endurance-even under difficult conditions. It has a great love for retrieving and enthusiasm for water work, voice on the trail and easy handling. Small Munsterlanders can be used for agility trials, obedience, or confirmation. The SM is a cooperative dog that seeks to please. But they can also be intense and stubborn. When training it is important to be consistent, not overly repetitious, and teach the dog what is expected of him. The stubbornness is a trait that can help make the dog a very persistent hunter. The Small Munsterlander is intelligent and needs regular mental stimulation and adequate exercise. If left alone in a kennel or not trained a SM can be bored and become destructive. The Small Munsterlander is many times slow to mature and usually reaches its full potential at about 2.5 years of age.

Origins of the Small (Kleine) Munsterlander

In the 17th century, German, Italian and Dutch artists included dogs that looked like our Small Munsterlanders in their artwork. However, the true origin of the dogs of that time is not exactly proved.

For several hundred years these small, handsome dogs had been the true companions of the hunters on the vast moors and bogs in the northwestern part of Germany, mainly in Westphalia. In 1840 when land reforms changed the viability of hunting as a trade, so Small Munsterlanders gradually lost their popularity, and it appeared that their extinction was inevitable. Only on remote farms on the moors did the farmers keep the line pure by keeping just one bitch for breeding and culling the rest of the females in the litters.

The development of the Small Munsterlander occurred in the middle of the 19th century. After the change of the German hunting law, with the increasing number of hunters and hunting enthusiasts and the systematic cultivation of the game stock the breeding of new German Pointing Dogs began. There are reports saying that around 1870 long coated “Wachtelhunds“(German Spaniels) were well known in the Munsterland region. These dogs were firm or staunch in pointing; they had enormous scenting abilities and were also able to retrieve.

In 1906 the well known heath poet Hermann Löns placed a public appeal into the magazine “Unser Wachtelhund” (Our Hunting Dog) to give him a report on the still existing specimens of the red Hanovarian Heath Hound or Hannover Bracke. However, instead of that he and his brothers, Edmund and Rudolf Löns, discovered a pointing Wachtelhund on the farms, that they called “Heidewachtel “(heath quail dog) on the farms of Lower Saxony. His brothers Edmund and Rudolf Loens found instead a dog, which they called “heath quail” or Heidewachtel, on the farms of Lower Saxony. They proceeded together to look for a basis for a breed.

Edmund Lons, in cooperation with Dr. Jungklaus, worked tirelessly to improve the breed and they came in contact with schoolteacher Clemens Heitmann from Steinfurt in 1907 and found in his dogs the basis for a breeding program. For 40 years Heitman had been breeding the same line, and was able to trace it as a purebreed for nice looking dog, short in the back, long legged with a great gait, plenty of smooth hair and with beautiful feathers on the tail. The head was long, and the nose often showed a slight downward curve. The mouth was strong, moderately full, but never short. The ears were small, about middle-length, with good coat and they give the head a refined expression; they were set high and at the bottom they become too small, good closure and they gave the dog a pretty and trustworthy expression. The height of the dogs was from 38 cm to 50 cm and none of them showed a distinct forehead stop. They had excellent hunting qualities, were dapper, easily handled, very social, and they bayed hen tracking.

In 1911 Löns discovered another breed family, the so-called “Dorstener Schlag”, which was bred near Velen, Reeken and Coesfeld. The Dorsten line was an excellent looking dog with a great chest, front legs and shoulders. The back was a little longer and the height was slightly taller than the Heitmann dogs often above 50 cm. The mouth was straight with tight lips and appeared a little more pointed. They had beautiful brown eyes, well-formed ears, a good coat, a beautiful tail with feathers, was an excellent expressive bird dog and they had in opposition to the Heitmann dogs a distinct forehead stop.

So, Heitmann’s stock was soon augmented by gamekeeper Wolberg’s in Dorsten-Hervest. This line could be traced back to the 1860s without a break. One of the ancestors was named “Caro”. In 1907, Wolberg had acquired three dogs, one male and two bitches, from watchmaker Heinrich Brüning in Tungloh. He kept two of these dogs, ‘Rino Hervest 36’ og ‘Mirzel I Hervest 37’, which were siblings out of a mating between another pair of siblings, ‘Caro’ og Polly’.

*All pictures above of Edmon Lons


By Edmund Lons
Originally published as “Der Kleiner Munsterlandische Vorstehhund und seine Zucht” in Deutche Jager-Zeitung, 8 December 1912. (In English by Paul Jensen)

Small Munsterlander News, 30 March & 6 October 1994
Hunters have received my earlier writings about our smallest pointing dog with tremendous interest. Many hunters have joined the club, and the future looks promising for our historically “old” breed of dog, for which we have good breeding stock today.

We started the breed registry with the well-developed dogs bred by Mr. Heitmann, who kindly told me of all the dogs he had line bred. To his knowledge, I added information picked up from other veteran breeders. I viewed not only young dogs, but also their parents, grandparents, and even great-grandparents. After I had studied them well and compared them with other “wachtel-dogs,” I came to the conclusion that in the small “Spy” we had the remains of an old national working dog breed with good hunting instincts. I reported that conviction and my experiences in the papers.

Understandably, the sudden appearance of this little pointing bird dog that people believed was extinct was a surprise and even a disappointment to many cynics. Equally surprising was it that there suddenly was a demand for the small bird dog, and many tried to discredit the club. However, hunters who heard about the dog made trips to experience for themselves the excellence of the dogs, and we received only acknowledgements and praise from them.

Our growing membership is the best proof that there is a seemingly unlimited demand for our little bird dog.

In the course of my research and writings, I also learned about the other line of our Heidewachtel. We had known about the existence of this line and the great hunting abilities of these dogs, and now I can serve my readers with a more accurate account. Both breeders and potential breeders of our favorite dog surely will be interested in learning more details about both lines, their characteristics, and their differences.

A strange fact — and one possibly unique in breeding history — is that both lines of this old Heidewachtel have been bred entirely by families. These individual breeders were intent on maintaining pure line breeding and avoided any cross breeding with other similar breeds. So appreciated was the hunting ability of these small dogs that the breeders even violated the age-old rule against back-breeding (which can have such detrimental effects) in their determination to maintain pure breeding.

The dogs from which our Dorsten dogs are descended were bred for years in the area around Belen, Relken, and Coosfeld. It is believed that they were well known on the surrounding moors and bogs. Originally, these dogs came from the same lineage as Heitmann’s dogs (there is only a few hours travel between the locations of those breeders). However, no cross breeding apparently took place for many years, and the result is that the two lines show distinct traits. In addition, there were few dogs in each line, because not too many people were breeders and bitches were not very popular.The Heitman line, whose dogs often became too light and fragile, sometimes needed a sound blood infusion, which, of course, could not be obtained from outside the breed. The new blood was now available from the Dorsten line. Single breeding took place between Dorsten dogs and the best of the Heitman’s dogs, and visa versa. In this way, two parallel lines were continued, and when a new infusion of blood was needed, it could be obtained from the other line.

I am told that a retiree named Ludwig von Hainem of Coosfeld in Munsterland bred these pointing bird dogs. Some of his puppies were bought by an avid hunter named Feldhaus, who practiced law in the community. He in turn bred his dogs and sold some to a watchmaker, Heinrich Bruning of Tunglo near Gescher in Munsterland in early 1860. The Bruning family has continued to breed these dogs.

Today, a single bitch – unfortunately sterile – still lives with Mr. Bruning’s brother. Mr. Bruning himself died at an advanced age in 1910, shortly after he in 1907 had sold a male and two bitches to a game warden named Wolberg in Hervest-Dorsten. The Wohlberg dogs were named “Rino” and “Mirza I”, and they were from the same breeding as that of another previous pair “Caro” and “Polly”. Both were excellent hunting dogs.  The painter Dr. C.C. Haniel in Bonn presently owns “Rino”, and he is well known among hunters, especially because of his excellent retrieving work. “Mirza I” died of poisoning and Dr. Haniel tried in vain to find another bitch. He failed because Mr. Wohlberg did not know of the existence of the Heitmann line.

In the course of the breeding, the dark brown markings became dominant, because breeders preferred dogs with heavy markings.

Because only the best dogs were selected for breeding, it was possible to improve the hunting abilities to the extent that in the middle of 1860 the Small Munsterlander had become famous in hunting circles. And male dogs from Bruning’s breeding obtained higher prices than had ever been heard of when the dogs were sold to the Dutch Court.The ancestors of our Heidewachtel were the dogs of meat hunters, people for whom hunting was both an avocation and a source of income.  For very low cost – often only a couple of marks – those hunters leased land as far as the eye could see.  During the summers, they tended a small plot of land, worked in the peat bogs, or worked as farm hands. When the fall came and the maple leaves fell to the ground, they became avid hunters, never letting their guns get cold, and felt sorrow only when they didn’t get a sufficient big bag. The hunt after small game was not as productive as it is today, because great herds of sheep grazed on the moors, leaving little room for small game.

Game management was not known either. Deer and Uhr hens were late in making inroads, but ducks were plentiful in the peat bogs and small ponds in the wetlands; duck flights were good, and snipes or phalaropes either bred in the bogs or passed overhead during their flights. The hunter’s main game though was the hares; they paid for the lease of the land and could provide a nice profit. Every hare was counted as money, with one hare equal to a day’s pay. Obviously, it was of greatest importance to these “professional” hunters that they bagged as many hares as possible. It was also clear that these hunters had to have a dog that was very dependable and that they with certainty could find the hares on the extensive moors and ensure that no cripple was left in the fields.In the dogs, the ability to find crippled game, intense point, and excellent retrieving ability were what the hunters were looking for. They found these traits well combined in the small local longhaired dogs. However, a majority of these dogs disappeared when lease payments for the hunting rights increased and city dwellers started competing for the spreads. Hunting changed from being an avocation or vocation for some to being a hobby for the “rich.” Only a few of the meat hunters, for whom the small loyal dogs had become part of their lives, continued to breed them, partly because of necessity and partly because of reverence for the role the dogs had assumed as part of their families.

The reverence lasted. Until very recently, the old moor hunters did not part with their dogs, even if they got a new puppy. They simply had to have one of the small dogs around, even the Munsterlander farmers, who are not normally great dog lovers. I once saw a couple of very old Heidewachtels on a farm in Nordwalde. They were so feeble that the farmer had to carry them into the house at night. When I asked the farmer why he didn’t just put them to sleep, he said: “I believe that all my horses would hardly be able to pull the game I have killed over these two dogs, so I am going to take care of them in their old age.”We younger hunters feel the same way; the dog’s loyalty and intelligence is without doubt. These dogs immediately realize what is expected of them, read our desires in our eyes, and become one of the best working dogs even with minimal training.

The game warden, Wohlberg, was an understanding hunter and breeder who knew how to handle the breed, how to use it for its intended purpose, hunting; and how to work with dog after dog. He succeeded in developing an excellent hunting dog. Many a hunter has hunted over these dogs in Bergish Land, and many an owner of a larger dog has viewed enviously the small Heidewachtel’s work in the field. For many years, Wohlberg’s main worry was that he couldn’t find good sires. This worry vanished after the “find” of the Heitmann line; today we have the litter after the wonderful “Flora-Hervest” and the splendid “Blitz von Loburg.” “Mirza II” is also pregnant after a breeding with the best dog from the Heitmann line, the perfect hunting dog “Boncoeur.”

When we view the two lines, we can see significant differences between them. The dogs of the Heitmann line are built more fluidly than the ones from the Dorsten line. “Flora von Westerberg,” “Flora von der Bokelwarsh,” “Diana von Nettitak,” and “Hertha von Loburg” are dogs of clean Heitman heritage, elegant and dapper dogs, short in the back, long legs with a wonderful gait, plenty of tight coat, and nice feathers on the tail. The head is long with a curved nose. The ears are of middle length and they make the head look right. The ears are placed high on the head, and they are somewhat pointed at the end. The eyes are dark brown, not too small, nicely closed, and they make for a lovable and loyal expression. The tail, which should never be cropped, shows in the closest one-third a downward curve and in the last one-third a sharp upward curve, which gives because of the heavy growth of feathers an exceptional thoroughbred appearance in distinct contrast to the tail of English bird dogs.The dogs in the Dorsten line are of heavier build, though with no coarseness or plumpness. They too are elegant, with an excellent chest, coat, and shoulders that are not quite as long and sloped as in the dogs from the other line. The hind legs are often less angular than those of the Heitmann line; the back is somewhat longer; and the snout is straight with tight-fitting lips and appear somewhat pointed. The Dorsten dogs have great expressions in their faces and they have beautiful dark brown eyes. They have correct formed ears that are carried high on the head, the smooth coat and wonderful tail feathers give the dog a fairly fascinating expression.

As for hunting abilities, it can be said that the Dorsten line is no second to the Heitmann line. They have a more determined and more controlled search and they don’t seem to have as much desire. The nose is excellent and they are good bird dogs in the field, even though hunting in the woods and water work is the decisive domain of the Heidewachtel. A significant difference is that the dogs in the Heitmann line – without exception – bark while they are tracking fur game, while most of the dogs of the Dorsten line only indicate that they have pushed fur game.

If we compare the build of the Small Munsterlander with other breeds, it appears that the comparison does not leave the Small Munsterlander behind. Dogs like “Flora von Westerberg” and “Blitz von Loburg” will please the eye of the most fastidious bird dog fancier.

In spite of its elegance and beautiful lines the Heidewachtel does not have the character of the English Setter whom it resembles. In type, build, work habits, and temperament, it is quite different. The Heidewachtel is a unique type, a bird dog of the purest breeding – though the practical English have used it in setter breeding. The French claim that all setters and spaniels have descended from Epagneul, and that the Epagneul and the Small Munsterlander are quite similar breeds cannot be denied. But the character of the Heidewachtel is its very own and there are only a few breeds in which such an overwhelming intelligence is combined with such loyalty and even temper.

In conclusion, I would like to make the following comment. In spite of opposition, there is a growing interest in our little bird dog, and I am happy to note that a club of avid hunters have taken it upon themselves to assure us that there will be nice examples of our ancestor’s beautiful, useful, and versatile bird dogs available for future hunters. The Small Munsterlander is also the answer to today’s demands for a small easily placed hunting partner, needed with the larger city apartments, auto driving, and small hunting areas. It is impossible today to predict the potential distribution of the Small Munsterlander. However, I believe it will perform excellently everywhere, where terrain and amount of game do not require a wide searching dog. Already, the requests from many countries prove that there is a great future for our little pointing bird dog.