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What do I need to know about the Wire Hair Coat of a Griffon?

 
 

Wire-Coat Page

You may be interested in seeing the different descriptions of coat that are included in the Breed Standards for the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon.

  • German Standard

    Grooming the Hunting Griffon

    Ear Care for the Griffon


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Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

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The Griffon Coat


 

The genetics of the Wire Coat are indeed difficult to understand. In one litter, you may see a variation in coat type from short coated individuals with almost no undercoat, to individuals with an abundance of soft undercoat. The ideal coat is an all-weather, all terrain, easy care coat which consists of harsh outercoat, dense soft undercoat and protective furnishings (beard and eyebrows). This is the coat type that breeders strive for.

The Wire-Coat that is preferred for the Griffon is a "man-made" coat, which does not occur in naturally in any wild dog. Through the selections for the wire-coat it can be observed that the coat does not occur consistantly in domestic, wire-haired breeds, either, even after a century of selection.

 
 
       
 

 


The amount of coat that a Griffon carries can change seasonally, but there is not a distinct seasonal shed or molt as there is with some breeds. Typically, the coat is stripped either through the normal activity of hunting through dense cover, or through manual removal of coat before the hair matures or is in "telogen".

To inspect the coat, feel for a stiffness to the outercoat, look at length which may vary from 1 inch to 4 inches. Some Griffon breeders evaluate the harshness of the coat by blowing against the direction of growth - if the hairs stay stiff, against the breath, the coat is harsh. Varying degrees of harshness and density can be seen.

Undercoat can be inspected by parting the coat across the back, if the skin is easily apparent, the coat density (hairs per square inch) is low. If you cannot easily see the skin, the coat is dense. The undercoat should be apparent in this inspection, and will sit just under the outercoat, consisting of fine, down-like insulating hairs. A good time to inspect undercoat is when the dog has just come out of the water, this way one can see how well the undercoat functions.

Head furnishings refers to the variation of longer coat on the face, and can be viewed at a glance, and are the result of a mutation of the RSPO2 Gene. Heritance of Furnishings is dominant but a dog displaying furnishings can still carry the gene for the non-furnished (satin) head coat. Do not forget that a Griffon who has been used in the field will have a headcoat that has been stipped by bushes in the process of protecting his head. When the head furnishings are repeatedly pulled out, the new hairs often come in harsher and may not grow as quickly.

The Griffon's coat will change over the course of his life, becoming harsher. A mature coat is most often seen by the time the Griffon is 3 to 5 years old. Appearance of the adult harsh coat will be seen first in the croup area, harshness and stiffer hairs will then seem to spread over the back, the last spot is usually the neck and chest area. A female Griffon's coat will change in luster during a pregnancy, often dropping out after weaning with the hormonal changes that come about.

Griffons who have the shorter, stiff coats lacking undercoat will often get a thicker coat in the winter, but will never grow the characteristic protective head furnishings that the Griffons with a typical coat will get. These short coated Griffons will often come into an adult coat when they are about two years of age.

Purebred Griffon Coat Type Examples

Ideal wirecoat with dense undercoat and head furnishings here on a young Male Griffon

male puppy with an ideal dense harsh coat and furnishings

 

Mature Female Griffon with Short outercoat, minimal undercoat and almost no head furnishings

Mature Female Griffon with Short outercoat, minimal undercoat and almost no head furnishings

7 month old puppy with soft, thick coat and head furnishings, this puppy is developing a stiff, harsh outercoat and retains the thick undercoat

puppy with dense medium harsh coat, this coat stayed dense and became more harsh

 

Mature Male with harsh, protective head furnishings

mature male with harsh
protective head furnishings

pupsoft.jpg (36138 bytes)

Griffon puppy displaying normal looking puppy coat that developed into variable coat at right

ginaside.jpg (21269 bytes)

 

Variable Coat on 2 year old Bitch
Very Harsh, dense coat on tail, topline and sides,
dense but softer coat on legs and belly.

This coat may get harsh on legs and belly
 as the dog gets older.

 

softcoatpuppy.jpg (41742 bytes)

 

Puppy with plush coat that remained soft and developed into the ringletted coat at the right

softcoatside.jpg (63970 bytes)

Soft Coat
This is a full Blood Griffon that has an atypical coat, silky and hangs in ringlets.  
On inspection, the coat is mainly 
dense undercoat with few guard hairs

This pup had a couple of interesting traits
that may be tied to a coat like this...
 for example no puppy teeth 
until 11 weeks of age, and toenails that were
white until 12 weeks of age.

The Griffon is a relatively recent breed, with the patriarchs having a variety of coat types. Even now there are inconsistancies in coat quality. It is likely that the same genetics are at play for the Griffon coat as are evident in other wire-coated breeds such as the German Wirehair Pointer, the Petit Basset Griffon Vandeen and the Wire-Haired Dachshund.

In all of these breeds, there is some speculation as to the genetic formulas for the ideal wire-coat with undercoat and furnishings. Wire-coated breeds seem to all have the occurances of short-coated, soft-coated and ideal coated puppies in litters even when the parents have ideal wire-coats.

It is not clear whether the ideal wirecoat with undercoat and furnishings is a group of recessives which all must match in order to not be masked by dominants for short or soft coats; or whether the coat is an incomplete dominant, where the wirecoat may be expressed as a WW or a Ww with an allele for length or lack of length for undercoat (say, L).

For example, IF the genetics for an ideal wirecoat are a dominant, the inconsistancies would be as follows.

  • If the adult Griffons, WW and WW are bred, the puppies will not show the allele which alters the undercoat.
  • If the adult Griffons Ww and Ww are bred, then the ww puppies may show the allele, with the ww puppies expressing the allele L for length of undercoat
  • On the other hand, if an allele for a shorter undercoat is carried (say l) when Ww and Ww are bred the puppies that are ww will allow the allele to become apparent. If they have an allele l which either causes a shorter coat (or perhaps it allows a different allele to effect coat) accompanied by lack of undercoat, the ww puppies will express the shorter coat and lack of undercoat.

It appears that the true genetic nature of the Wire-Coat is still unclear, and the ideal coat may be a group of recessive genes that occur with each other. We are learning more all the time. Perhaps in the future, breeders will be better able to understand the variations of coat and open coats that can occur.


Many thanks to the Genetics Experts and Veterinarians who have consulted with me, and to the Griffon Breeders and Owners who have shared this information which is vital to a healthy future for our Griffons.


References

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/326/5949/150.abstract

Breeding Better Dogs, Kyle Onstatt, Howell 1983, ISBN 0-87605-400-9

Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook, Carlson, DVM & Giffin MD, Howell 1992, ISBN 0-87605-537-4

Genetics of the Dog, Malcolm B. Willis, Howell 1989, ISBN 0-87605-551-X

Practical Genetics for Dog Breeders, Malcolm B. Willis, Howell 1992, ISBN 0-87605-782-2

Your Dog, His Health and Happiness, Louis L. Vine, DVM, ARCO 1982 ISBN 0-668-02876-9

 

 

 
       
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For further information, contact


Griffonpoint Kennel

Katy Steuhm katy@griffonpoint.com
California - USA

Shannon Ford shannon@griffonpoint.com
Alberta/British Columbia, Canada

 
 
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All Rights Reserved. Copyright ¬© Shannon Ford 1997 - You may copy this page for personal use only, providing it is not changed, and that credit rests with the author, Shannon Ford.. ¬©Shannon Ford 1997