To Begin With …
"The little dog takes up the staunchest, intense point when encountering all game holding tight, keeping the point until the hunter arrives – then the game is flushed, the dead game is fetched, the crippled downers tracked, and securely retrieved with the utmost skill".
Thus writes Rudolf Löns in 1921 of the dog we know as the Small Muensterlaender, or SM. He is the famous author-brother of Edmund Löns’, "the rediscoverer" of “The little Spy" (German: ‘Spiönken’), as affectionate owners named them after the characteristic fashion in which their small hunting dogs worked in the field.
In the 17th century, German, Italian and Dutch masters included dogs looking very much like SMs in their works. For several hundred years these small, handsome dogs had been the true companions of the hunters on the vast moors and bogs in the northwestern part of Germany, mainly in Westphalia. However, in 1840, land reforms changed the viability of hunting as a trade, so SMPs gradually lost their popularity, and their extinction loomed ahead. Only on remote farms on the moors (German: Heide) did the farmers keep the line pure by keeping just one bitch for breeding and culling the rest of the females in the litters.
Löns, once again commenting on the dogs, wrote:
“It was also characteristic that the farmers had the dogs around them in the house, which was not usual at that time. It may well have been because the farmers had realized that not only was it comforting to them to have the handsome, small dogs indoors, but they also showed much better performance as hunting companions because of the continuous dog-human relationship that developed in the house.”
In 1906, during his years as a graduate in forestry, Edmund Löns discovered some of these small bird-dogs at teacher Heitmann's in Burgsteinfurt. For 40 years Heitman had been breeding the same line, and was able to trace it as a purebreed for another 70 years back.
Because of the prevalence of the breed among clergy and teachers it was soon nicknamed ‘Little Master’s Dog’ (German: ‘Magisterhündlein’).
Later, Löns discovered the heavier, darker and somewhat larger ‘spies’ bred around Belen, Reeken, Coosfeld and Hervest-Dorsten, also in Münsterland.
In 1907, Wolberg had acquired three dogs, one male and two bitches, from watchmaker Heinrich Brüning in Tungloh. He kept two of these dogs, ’Rino Hervest 36’ og ’Mirzel I Hervest 37’, which were siblings out of a mating between another pair of siblings, ’Caro’ og Polly’.
Oil paintings by 17th Century German, Italian and Dutch masters depict dogs very similar to today’s breed.
This is a reproduction of a copperplate titled ’After the Day’s Work’ by Adolf Elberle
’Illustrierte Jagdzeitung, Leipzig, (1883).
The Small Muensterlaender was finally acknowledged as an independent breed in 1912,
and afforded its own FCI approved standard of conformation.