In South Africa, we hold two types of Field Trial competitions for Pointing breeds, 1)
the British Breed Field Trials, and 2) the Hunt, Point and Retrieve breed Field Trials.
Both types of Field Trials (British or HPR) in South Africa are run on natural game as
closely as possible to a real-time hunt as can be.
Western Cape Field
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- In the British breed trials, those birds that are found are "saluted" by the
handler with a blank shot. Read more.
- In the HPR breed trials a minimum number of pointed birds are shot by
designated guns in order to assess the dog's land retrieving ability, and a
water retrieve is also required. Read more.
- In both types of trial, three qualified Judges assess the dogs over a period
of one to two days, according to the highest standards of performance, in
order to find the winning and placing dogs. Typically, 1st - 3rd Places and a
few Certificates of Merit are awarded in each Stake. Read more.
The sport of field Trialling with Pointing Dogs in South Africa is 105 years old. The
South African Field Trial Club was founded in 1908. It was a logical development out of
wingshooting over pointing dogs. Claims by owners of dogs or their naturally biased
friends as to who owned the best gundog could be settled until the next Field Trial.
The formation of the Border Field Trial Club followed in 1945, the Natal Field Trial Club
in 1980 and our Western Cape Field Trial Club in 2000. It is ironic that we are the
newest kids on the block given that there is a proud history of wingshooting over
pointing dogs in the Western Cape, especially in the Overberg.
The most important aspect of our trials is that it is on natural game under normal
hunting conditions. We do try to make the best of the prevailing climatic conditions,
but do not have trials under contrived circumstances in homogenous fields. (An
example of this would be that if a certain beat can be run into the wind, it will if
logistically possible, etc.)
Our trials are designed to ensure that a championship dog on average gets about one
to one and a half hours of exposure to the panel of judges from its commencement
until the stake is complete. This is done in rounds and is subject to a draw until round
Thus the names of the competing dogs are drawn in pairs taking care that they belong
to different handlers. They are taken to a suitable venue. The duration of the time that
a brace of 2 dogs is down is announced prior to the commencement of the round
(10-20 minutes on average). Each contestant is handed a gun. Game is not shot,
merely saluted. They are asked to proceed on foot. There are 3 judges and a field
steward. Generally one judge each 'tags' a handler and the Chief Judge aspires to get
as much of an overall view as possible. At the end of a round (all the braces) the
performances are discussed by the judges and the dogs with eliminating faults (such
as chasing, breaking to shot, etc.) are left out of the draw for the next round of braces.
After the first two rounds dogs can be eliminated for faults less severe than described
eliminating faults. Dogs are eliminated, it is not a head on in the brace, in fact the first
brace of the day can end up being placed first and second for the entire two day trial.
At the end of the two or more day trial the aim is to decide which few dogs in what
order would one take along to hunt that terrain under those circumstances for those
days. It's as simple as that. ("I would take that dog, then that one and that one and
then those two for spares") is what the panel is actually saying at the conclusion of
the stake. The verdict is reached by consensus.
Judges look for dogs that hunt energetically with enthusiasm, make good use of the
wind, terrain and circumstances. It must complement the handler and be in harmony
with him or her. It must master the birds and serve them to the gun in a practical way.
Style is important but not the be-all and end- all - it must be pleasing.
"To watch a fine pointing dog in action, rimming the field edges with a graceful, ground-devouring stride, is to be mesmerised. And to see
it strike point is to witness one of the most breathtaking- and definitive - acts in the universe of sport." Tom Davis
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