The late Alan Stuyvesant said it best: “A Brittany should remind one of no other breed. He should look like a Brittany.”
If you were able to identify the silhouette as a Brittany, you’ve affirmed Stuyvesant’s opinion: A Brittany doesn’t look like any other breed. A leggy dog (for a spaniel) that’s not too fine boned, neither is the Brittany a heavy boned dog as neither would serve this versatile dog in the field. In fact, at one time, if not still, there were more dual champions in this breed than any other breed (at one point, it was 608 dual champions!)
In evaluating the only gun dog indigenous to France, one must be mindful of the breed’s “function.” This rustic worker has to be able to navigate all manner of terrain and negotiate all manner of vegetation as he seeks game. Every aspect of the AKC Brittany standard is written with this in mind:
“Well open” nostrils detect game (Jane Harvey writes that the breed’s scenting ability surpasses 90% of all Utility gun dog breeds), eyes set well into the head and a prominent brow prevent eye injury in heavy brush, his feet need to be tight and well arched;
The coat ( “too little is preferable to too much”) should protect it in all types of cover because while hunting, no one wants to wait for the dog to stop and tend to an irritating burr, and neither is anyone going to want to spend the evening removing weed heads after a day of hunting;
A medium neck length that flows into well laid shoulders are sufficiently sloped to enable galloping, and a smaller size allows a Brittany to get into spaces that would deny a larger dog. Longer legs make it easy for the dog to cover ground quickly.
It’s form following function.
As an aside, old timers still refer to the breed as the Brittany Spaniel, possible as a result of the direct translation of its French name, the Epagneul de Bretague. It’s true that in 1934, the AKC registered its first dog of the breed as a Brittany Spaniel, but in middle of the last century, American Brittany fanciers considered their Brittanys to be more pointer than spaniel in their working style, and in 1982, the AKC breed named was shortened to Brittany.