The Brittany, a compact, energetic hunting dog, has long been cherished by sportsmen on both sides of the Atlantic. But in recent years, a debate has been growing within the dog-loving community: should the American Kennel Club (AKC) recognize the American Brittany and the French Brittany as two separate breeds?
History of the Brittany Breed
The Brittany breed originated in France, in the region of Brittany, from which it takes its name. It was developed as a versatile gun dog, prized for its ability to point and retrieve game. In the mid-20th century, the breed began to diverge into two distinct types: the American Brittany and the French Brittany12.
While they share a common ancestry, the American Brittany is typically larger and leggier than its French counterpart, with a longer, deeper chest3. Despite these physical differences, the AKC currently registers both types as Brittanys1.
The Debate Over Separation
The question of whether the AKC should recognize the American Brittany and the French Brittany as two separate breeds has been a contentious one. On one side are those who argue that the physical and temperamental differences between the two types are significant enough to warrant separate breed status. On the other side are those who believe that splitting the breed could potentially harm the French Brittany, particularly if it were to become an AKC show dog.
Potential Risks for the French Brittany
The French Brittany, like its American cousin, is a working dog at heart. This means that it has been bred primarily for its hunting abilities, rather than its physical appearance. If the French Brittany were to become an AKC show dog, there is a risk that breeders might begin to prioritize appearance over ability, potentially compromising the breed’s working qualities4.
Moreover, the French Brittany has a distinct temperament, characterized by high energy and a sweet nature4. If the breed were to be split, there is a risk that these characteristics could be diluted or lost altogether in the quest for show ring success.
The question of whether the AKC should recognize the American Brittany and the French Brittany as two separate breeds is a complex one, with valid arguments on both sides. However, given the potential risks to the French Brittany’s working abilities and temperament, it may not be in the breed’s best interest to become an AKC show dog. Instead, efforts should perhaps be focused on preserving the breed’s unique qualities, ensuring that future generations of French Brittanys continue to excel in the field, as well as in the hearts of their owners.
Allow me to include a letter written by another steward of the breed and field trial judge Josh Ruiter. If you are in support of keeping things as they are, as we are, please reach out to me to add your name to the list of folks that want to preserve the French Brittany as a working breed.
Dear friends and fellow lovers of the Breton or field trialing, attached is my petition/letter to the ABC to not have a breed split for all of the reasons mentioned in the document.
I would and will add that there is also no prior ground to my knowledge in having multiple parent breed clubs in one country successfully.
And lastly, while I’m not going to add it to this document as ABC shouldn’t care about UKC – it will also likely damage UKC and CEB-US long term to have a competing parent club with a much larger footprint both in field and in show. So even if you are not a Breton owner or lover – this will long term impact the growth and/or decline of UKC field trials (which were largely built for the French trialing system) as well as the CEB-US.
This letter isn’t meant to raise debate between us on an email chain, but to raise support and signatures. However, if there is anything you see that you have questions about please ask me and I’ll answer them or find you the answer. I understand not every point is of utmost importance to each of you, but my goal is rather the collective whole who agree that an AKC breed split is detrimental could come together and present in unison a document we can agree with!
Please read it and share it with others, and respond with a yes or a No and I’ll add or not add your name to the petition!
Dear ABC Board of Directors,
This email serves as both a petition against a breed split and a more comprehensive request to rethink the current split altogether. This letter/petition will include ___ signatures as a petition against a breed split coming from both American and French Brittany owners, breeders, trainers, and handlers, as well as other breed owners who are working dog (field trial) folks who feel the conversation is of pertinent weight and necessity as to weigh in with a signature and willing statement.
As I begin this letter let it be clear that the discernment and hope for retaining the breed in congruity without a breed split is based upon one common and unifying reality, THESE ARE WORKING DOGS. With that being stated everything that will follow should be read and understood to be within that initial framework that we view the Brittany (American and French) as working dogs primarily where show or dual champions is secondary and, in some cases, detrimental to the overall health of a working dog breed.
Moving into the proposal phase of what this letter contains there are TWO main categories (both of which have to come under and follow the overall goal and common understanding that the Brittany is first and foremost a working dog or sporting breed, which should have to and ought to be proven in the field as the highest priority for the breed standard). Those two categories which we will dive into are health and longevity of the French Brittany (Epagneul Breton) as a breed, and secondly the health and longevity of the field trial community which is and has been built around the field trials of proving a working/sporting dog MORE SO AND FURTHER THAN a show dog.
All of these things being stated as plainly and fairly as possible, the remainder of this letter will focus on the two possibly affected groups (the health and well being of the French Brittany as well as the Field Trial community within the Brittany and the broader AKC FT community).
The first and more expansive portion of this petition then resides in the health and well being of the French Brittany, even as it will and should pour over into the broader Brittany community.
The separation of the French from the American under the category of Brittany under the AKC will:
1) Immediately remove the French Brittany from being eligible to enter and compete in AKC field trials or hunt tests UNLESS AND UNTIL a new parent breed club is ESTABLISHED AND RECOGNIZED by the AKC as valid a functional parent breed club in the United States. Under this prohibition the few but mighty number of French Brittanys would for the next number of years be prohibited from registering and competing in any field trials or hunt tests until a national breed club was established and recognized by the AKC. As it currently stands, the request to separate does not have an identified parent breed club to take over and house the French Brittany as its own club, only adding to the concern that many dogs would be unable to test or trial in the AKC for the foreseeable future.
a. As many of us know the French Brittany is a small but vibrant participant in both field trials and hunt tests. They are a dog that enhances both the level and number of dog(s) entered as Brittanys in AKC field trials.
b. If the French Brittany cannot enter field trials, hunt tests, or Brittany specific trials the AKC and ABC will lose out on many entries, even resulting in a number of regional championships being unable to be held because we are already struggling to attain sufficient numbers of entries to have championships in the current climate of AKC field trial entries.
c. Will inhibit and restrict the number of dogs (French Brittanys) able to enter regional trials, not just Brittany only trials, but if the breeds separate until a new parent club is recognized all French Brittany registered dogs could not compete in any AKC field trial or hunt test.
2) Hinder the number of entries for AKC and NAVHDA field tests and field trials in an already struggling sport seeking to find new members and rejuvenation with a new demographic.
a. As previously stated, if we do indeed face a breed split, we face a reality not only in AKC but also in NAVHDA of reduced engagement and interest for the long-term health of field trials and hunt tests due to an inability to test or trial the French Brittany over a breed split.
b. NAVHDA has voted not to approve a breed split and as such have suggested that a performance evaluation of the Brittany is not worn by the differences between the French and American Brittany but more upon their ability to perform the working standards as expected from all of the AKC, UKC, and NAVHDA testing programs.
3) It will devastate the French Brittany as a breed in the United States.
a. The breed does not have nearly enough field trial or hunt test entries nation wide to suggest that we have a sustainable “breed” specific dynamic that would sustain a working dog breed in the United States. It can be relatively shortly named which French Brittany dogs are competing and regularly (Moose, Atos, Nalko, Toga, Parker, etc) which does not suggest that there is a sustainable number of working dog folks presenting dogs in the AKC to overcome the show dog problem (next point) over breed health and substance as a sporting and working breed in the AKC.
b. If the split happens and we have 10? Regularly trialed or tested dogs we leave open the world of monetary gain to the show world, a world we all know is the prominent place for the AKC overall. In the next point I will look into which breeds have suffered this fate as a small breed being recognized only to doom their own breed in the working/sporting dog world.
4) Which breeds have suffered from the AKC show world due to under appreciation as working/sporting dogs in their venue?
a. Llewellyn Setter
b. Gordon Setter
c. Irish Red/White Setter
d. German Shepherd
e. Standard Poodle
f. Boston Terrier
g. Bull Terrier
h. All of these breeds listed have seen one of two things: (1) a drastic shift in confirmation or (2) a steep decline in working/sporting ability as they were shaped by the show ring over a few generations
A NOTE FROM THE FRENCH BRITTANY CLUB OF THE UNITED STATES (Club l’Epagneul Breton de United States):
“Besides the limited resources and reach available to the CEB-US to protect and promote a small-exposure breed, there are numerous case studies of breeds permanently changing under the AKC. Examples include:
– German shepherds were originally a medium-size dog with a straight back and sturdy legs, but now they are considered a large breed with a slanted back highly susceptible to hip and elbow dysplasia and a host of other predisposed health issues.
– Bull Terriers were once muscular, agile and considered easy to train, but now have a completely different body shape leading to musculoskeletal issues and known for compulsive behavior issues.
– Boxers were bred to be strong athletes with great endurance, but now are short-faced with an upturned muzzle that has led to breathing complications and difficulty regulating body heat.
The argument that breed changes can be attributed to judges’ biases or market influences gains complexity when considering the AKC’s role as overseer. Despite the potential influence of biases or market trends, the AKC has not taken proactive measures to safeguard breed standards.”
5) With Field and Show concerns being stated:
a. We can all with eyes wide opened see the problems that have come to pass within the AKC in the Llewellyn, Gordon, Red/White Setter, the German Shepherd, the Poodle, the Boston and Bull Terrier and more all show us how quickly the show ring can and will transform and diminish a dog breed based on money and ribbons in the show ring!
6) The lack of field dogs for the French Brittany.
a. There are so few, and yet such wonderful, working dogs represented in the field trial and hunt test world of the AKC that we do not have a critical mass to hold onto the historical and present reality of this breed being first a WORKING DOG and only secondarily a show pony.
b. IFF (if and only if) the breed has a substantial number of regional Brittany Clubs hosting well attending field trials and hunting tests will there be a satisfactory and sufficient reason to split the breed.
c. If the French Brittany is cut out from the AKC field trial and hunt test as it stands it will only hurt the sport as the loss will be felt and the new breed cannot sustain additional events to add a gain!
d. We run the real risk of an already dying sport being even further depleted as the ABC IS NOT GROWING AS IT IS, AND WILL ONLY SHRINK WITH A SEPARATION THAT HELPS NOONE.
Lastly, as I said, this petition includes field trials folks who are not Brittany people but who agree with the above statements and want to see the continued excellence and longevity of AKC field trials! Removing the French Brittany hurts not only the ABC but all field trials in the short term. In the long term, you invite the creation of a show breed because more folks with money than dog folks will engage the breed if it is recognized (this is made clear by the ability for those people to participate in field already and the only gain to be had is in the show ring with a split).
If you are in agreement with the above statement, please submit your name to attached as a signatory on the petition against a breed split between the American and French Brittany in the breed currently recognized as “Brittany” in the AKC.