Vizsla Breed

Why Do Vizslas Have Docked Tails? Vizsla Tail Docking Explained

Written By: Rachel

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Vizsla tail docking is still common practice in many countries but why do vizslas have docked tails?

With the tail docking of dogs increasingly being banned, many people question why the vizsla docked tail is still part of the breed standard in countries like the US.

So in this article we take a look at the history of vizsla dog tail docking, the reasons presented for it and why it continues today.


This article is based on research and personal experience as a Vizsla owner. I’m not a qualified dog trainer, Vet or dog behaviourist.


Why Do Vizslas Have Docked Tails?

There is no single answer to address the question of why Hungarian vizslas have docked tails. The reason is likely a combination of the following factors:

  • The reduce the risk of tail damage when hunting
  • Centuries old decisions to segregate and/or tax dogs owned by nobility vs commoners
  • Embedded tradition over time
  • Vizsla dog breed standards.
Hungarian vizsla dog sitting next to owner with docked tail.

A Short History Of Vizsla Tail Docking

Hungarian vizsla dogs were bred by the nobility in central Europe as sporting gundogs.

Their agility, speed, superb sense of smell and their success on all terrain including fields, scrub and water made them one of the most versatile hunting dog breeds.

Historical paintings from Hungary as far back as the 1300s all the way through to the 19th century show vizslas with an undocked tail.

But by the 17th and 18th century the practice of tail docking was becoming more common for hunting dog breeds like the Vizsla, Weimaraner and GSP in England and Europe.

The reasons are complex and include a desire to tax people for dog ownership and the misperception that docking may enhance their hunting abilities.

The First Vizsla Breed Standard

By the late 19th and early 20th century, the population of vizslas through Europe had diminished to alarmingly low numbers.

Those passionate about the breed formed the first Hungarian Vizsla Club and began work to create a breed standard to protect the breed and ensure it’s survival.

Despite the increasing popularity of tail docking, this article suggests that drafts of the first official vizsla gun dog breed standards in Hungary in 1918 specified a full tail and not a docked one.

Somewhat surprising then is that just 10 ten years later in 1928, when the first approved Hungarian vizsla breed standard was published, the standard states the tail should be docked by 1/3.

Hungarian vizsla breeders were required to follow the breed standard, hence embedding the custom of docking vizsla tails.

This preferred vizsla tail docking length was maintained when the American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1960, and it persists in the American vizsla standard to this day.

With ongoing advocacy of veterinarians and animal rights groups to ban tail docking, many Vizsla clubs around the world such as Australia have modified their breed standards to accommodate both undocked and docked tail vizslas in competition.

So it seems the tradition of the vizsla docked tail is not overly long – so why does it continue today?

Hungarian vizsla standing on tree trunk in Autumn forest.

Why Does Vizsla Tail Docking Continue Today?

Not withstanding the tradition and historical reasons for the docked vizsla tail, there are two primary reasons why vizsla tail docking continues today.

Dog Health

Many experienced vizsla owners and breeders highlight the health and safety benefits of a docked tail.

Vizslas hunting dogs are popular thanks to their adaptability and skill.

They are used for pointing, hunting and retrieving across fields, through thick scrub, forests and in water.

However their short coarse hair, long tail and furious wagging tail action means they don’t always fair very well after a day out hunting.

The vizsla tail tapers to a thin point, with little fat, hair or muscle to protect the skin and bone from thorn bushes, thickets and brambles.

As a result vizsla tail problems are not uncommon and tail injuries can be painful, time consuming and difficult to heal.

Their long whip like tail can also be troublesome at home – particularly when kennelled. Unfortunately split tails are not that uncommon in non-working dogs either.

So the primary justification for ongoing tail docking in vizslas is to prevent future potential tail damage due to their susceptibility to tail splitting.

Unfortunately there are limited large scale studies published on this issue, but small scale studies like this one look to validate this argument.

Vizsla Breed Standard

The other reason docking continues is simply because in countries where tail docking is not banned, the breed standards often do not make allowances for undocked dogs to be shown in competition.

This puts reputable breeders who may wish to breed undocked dogs at a significant disadvantage in conformation shows.

It is unlikely there will be any change in the ratio of docked vs undocked vizslas bred in those countries until the vizsla breed standard is changed.

Wet vizsla with undocked tail hunting with duck in mouth.

Pros And Cons Of Vizsla Tail Docking

So as you can see the history and reasons for tail docking are varied.

In the table below we have summarized the pros and cons of tail docking dogs.

ProsCons
Is done when puppies are less than 7 days old and the tail bone and nerves are not fully formedInflicts unnecessary pain on young vizsla puppies with new research indicating nerve cells are present and pain is felt
The 1/3 crop removes the thin part of the tail while allowing for canine expressionDeprives vizslas of full canine expression through their tail
Reduces the risk of tail tip injury in working dogsIs considered an unnecessary cosmetic procedure for non-working dogs
Reduces the risk of possible future painful amputation should injury or infection occurIs not considered in the best interest of the dog to inflict pain to prevent a potential accidental injury in the future
Pros and Cons of Vizsla Tail Docking

Where Is The Vizsla Docked Tail Banned?

Tail docking is banned in most of Europe, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Israel and some provinces in Canada.

North America and most of Asia and South America continue to allow the docking of dog tails.

It is worth noting there are exceptions in many countries with bans.

Countries such as Scotland, Germany and Denmark have amended their tail docking laws to exclude hunting breeds from the ban.

This is based on research like this on tail injuries due to undocked tails in hunting breeds.

Mature vizsla pointer with full tail standing on path in forest.

Tail Docking vs Amputation vs Bobbed Tail

Before we conclude, below are the differences between tail docking, tail amputation and the natural bobbed tail.

Tail docking is the removal of a portion of the tail and must be performed within the first week of a puppy’s life. The tail is removed either through surgery or constrictive ligature of the tail and typically done without anaesthesia.

Dog tail amputation is the removal of all or part of a dog’s tail due to injury, self-trauma or infection. Surgery is performed under anaesthesia by a qualified vet.

Bobtails are a naturally occurring tail that looks like a docked tail. Breeds where this can occur include the Australian stumpy tail cattle dog, Boston terrier and the Corgi.

Conclusion

Vizsla dog tail docking is a divisive and contentious topic for vizsla breeders and owners.

Many historical reasons and beliefs that justified tail docking cannot be supported in modern times thanks to research and better health care for dogs.

However a lack of long term published research studies on the risks and impacts to undocked hunting dogs prevents a definitive decision being made on its value.

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About Rachel

Founder of It's a Vizsla, Rachel is a vizsla owner who loves to research and share practical tips to help other vizsla owners care for their fur babies. She loves getting outdoors and hanging out with her vizsla, Lottie.