What to Know About Wirehaired Vizslas

Medically Reviewed by Vanesa Farmer, DVM on June 10, 2022
6 min read

Skillful hunters with a natural point and retrieve, wirehaired vizslas are a delight to the eyes. A golden rust from head to toe, this Hungarian breed has a strong and graceful build. Hunters and falconers bred these dogs to work closely with their human companions. In the field, they're all business. In a family setting, they're laid-back and affectionate. 

Wirehaired (WH) vizslas are medium-sized hunters, about the same height as Labrador retrievers but lighter. Males weigh from 55 to 65 pounds, females about 10 pounds less. The American Kennel Club (AKC) breed standard says males should measure 23 to 25 inches at the withers. Females should be 21 1/2 to 23 inches.

Like vizslas, their smooth-coated cousins, wirehaired vizslas are self-colored. That means their whole bodies are the same shade, with only the smallest of variations. The vizsla's nose, eyes, lips, and toenails are a golden rust, very similar to the color of the coat. A small amount of white on the chest and toes is acceptable. 

Wirehaired vizslas were bred for rugged, weather-resistant coats. The wiry outer coat is about an inch long and is paired with a softer undercoat. The face is furnished with eyebrows and with a beard of modest length. 

Unlike some sporting breeds, wirehaired vizslas weren't bred for fancy hunts staged by aristocrats. Their masters were working men who wanted to feed their families. The usual hunting party included one human, one gun, and one dog. The dogs worked in close partnership with their masters. They learned to hunt game birds, waterfowl, rabbits, hares, and foxes. Some could even stalk deer.

Today, wirehaired vizslas are known as versatile hunters. They can work in fields and forests. They work well in water and can follow a scent across a stream. They're still a favorite breed of falconers.

The wirehaired vizsla's temperament is affectionate, loyal, and sensitive. Training is easy if you avoid harsh methods. You'll find your dog both intelligent and eager to learn.

The wirehaired vizsla's lifespan is typically 12 to 14 years. 

Wirehaired vizslas are low-maintenance dogs when it comes to grooming. Try this routine:

  • Monthly bath
  • Rubdown with a damp cloth between baths
  • Extra grooming when your dog is shedding
  • Toenail trim once a month

WH vizslas are not low-maintenance when it comes to exercise, though. They must have movement and may become destructive or ill-behaved without it. 

Owners who like to hike, bike, or jog will have a willing partner in a WH vizsla. Although they are happiest with their humans, they will also get a lot of exercise in a fenced yard. Of course, they will also enjoy walking with you. Don't trust them off leash, as their hunting instinct is strong. They may dash off in pursuit of small prey. 

Hunting with your WH vizsla will provide the needed exercise and stimulation. Hunting dogs usually go through obedience training before learning to hunt. When you take your dog into the field, follow these safety procedures:

  • Make sure your pet is in good condition.
  • Give your dog all the vaccinations that your veterinarian recommends.
  • Don't let your dog drink from streams or ponds. Carry water and a collapsible bowl.
  • Carry a first aid kit. 

Wirehaired vizslas can take part in hunting events, including:

  • Pointing breed field trials
  • Pointing breed hunt tests
  • Scent work
  • Tracking

With their athletic ability, they also excel in events like agility and AKC rally. 

Wirehaired vizslas have a lot of variation in their caloric needs depending on how active they are. Even an athletic dog can become overweight. Food motivates a WH vizsla, but be sure not to overdo the treats. If you have questions about your dog's weight or nutrition, ask your vet.

Don't neglect your pet's teeth and gums. Most dogs have gum disease by the age of 3. Prevent tooth and gum problems by brushing your dog's teeth regularly. Use toothpaste designed for dogs, as human toothpaste could be harmful to your pet. You can also buy specially designed dog toothbrushes.

Schedule a wellness exam for your dog at least once a year. Puppies and older dogs should have more frequent visits. Your veterinarian can help you prevent problems with fleas, ticks, heartworms, and other parasites.

Your vet can also advise you about immunizations. All dogs should receive core vaccines. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) recommends vaccines for:

  • Distemper
  • Parvovirus
  • Canine adenovirus-2 (hepatitis)
  • Rabies

Depending on your area and your dog's activities, your dog may need noncore vaccines like the one for Lyme disease. Ask your vet.

Like all breeds, wirehaired vizslas are at risk for several health problems. Some are hereditary. Responsible breeders test their dogs for genetically transmitted conditions. Such screenings aren't 100% effective at preventing the transmission of diseases. 

Wirehaired vizslas may have an above-average chance of having these health conditions: 

  • Hyperuricosuria. Affected dogs are at risk of getting kidney and bladder stones. 
  • Elbow and hip dysplasia. Problems in joint development can lead to lameness. 
  • Subaortic stenosis. A narrowing in the heart can cause a slowing of blood flow.
  • Eye problems. Many breeds of dogs are vulnerable to eye problems. Some are treatable. Others will progress to blindness. WH vizslas are somewhat at risk for progressive retinal atrophy, glaucoma, and cataracts.

It would be hard to overstate what great pets wirehaired vizslas can be. 

  • They are affectionate family members and good with children. 
  • They usually get along with other dogs.
  • They are highly trainable.
  • They are playful and fun to be around.
  • They are open to strangers but still make moderately good watchdogs.
  • They adapt well to different situations.

Like most breeds, they also have a few drawbacks.

  • Wirehaired vizslas are not a hypoallergenic breed. 
  • They are moderate shedders and droolers.
  • They require a lot of mental stimulation and physical exercise. 
  • They aren't the worst breed in terms of barking, but they aren't the best, either.

Some dog breed origins are lost in the mists of history. That's not true of the wirehaired vizsla, which was developed in the 1930s. History tells us how and why the breed came to be. To learn about the wirehaired vizsla, you first need to know about the regular vizsla, which has a more obscure and enthralling history than its wirehaired cousin.

The Magyars were fierce raiders who rode swift, hardy horses and needed dogs that were equally tough. When they settled in Hungary in the 800s, they took their red-coated dogs with them. This breed became the vizsla, prized by the people of Hungary for its versatility and hunting ability. 

The Hungarian people happily coexisted with vizslas for years, but some dog lovers wanted to tinker with the breed. They believed that a sturdier, wirehaired version would be an even better hunter. Proposals to alter the breed always stirred up controversy. In the 1930s, Vasas Jozsef got the breed club to allow him to create a wirehaired vizsla. With help from another breeder, he crossed two female vizslas with a German wirehaired pointer. 

Creating the dog they wanted wasn't an easy task. The breeders wanted to preserve the vizsla's beautiful coat color and other marks of the breed. The pair displayed their first example of the new breed in 1943. They kept careful records and had registered 60 dogs by 1944.

World War II was disastrous for many dog breeds. It almost wiped out both the vizsla and the WH vizsla. But the developers of the wirehaired dog didn't give up. In 1963, the new breed was recognized in Hungary.

Other countries weren't quick to seek out the new breed. An American, Charles Newman, saw the dogs in Hungary in the 1960s. In 1973, he decided it was time for their American debut. To distinguish them from vizslas, he called the dogs Uplanders. 

Some American dog lovers were intrigued but didn't want to order expensive breeding stock from Europe. The dogs they produced weren't up to breed standards and didn't win many fans. Eventually, the Uplander breeders abandoned their efforts.

A second wave of interest resulted in breeders importing stock from Europe. The number of wirehaired vizslas in Canada and the United States began to grow. In 2014, the American Kennel Club recognized the breed and added it to the Sporting Group.

Despite its close ties with the vizsla, the wirehaired vizsla is a separate breed. It is still somewhat rare. One source estimates that there are fewer than 500 in the United States and around 3,000 worldwide. In 2021, the AKC ranked it 144th in popularity out of 197 breeds.