The Kooikerhundje: Dutch Decoy Dog
By Michael Russell
The Kooikerhundje has existed in the Netherlands since before the 1500s. The Kooikerhundje is a unique dog which is directly related to the dog which is known in the United States as the Nova Scotian Duck Toller. It is believed that the Toller is descended from the Kooiker. The body build of the Kooikerhundje is quite similar to the Duck toller but the coloring of the Kooiker is red and white. Like the duck toller, it is the heavily fringed white “feather” of his constantly moving tail which lures the ducks to the hunter, thus the term “decoy dog” is used to describe the function of the two breeds. In the case of the Kooikerhundje, the dog historically could be classified as a working dog rather than a hunting dog, for the Dutch people used the dog to lure the ducks into various blinds which a farmer would set up alongside the canals. A “decoy dog” would disappear into a blind only to reappear on the other side and the ducks would follow out of curiosity. Eventually the farmer and the dog would have captured a number of ducks which could then be taken to market. Gradually the industrial revolution took over and marketplaces which sold live animals became less plentiful. By 1939 the breed was nearly extinct in Holland but through the passionate work of Baroness van Hardenbroek the breed began to regain its former status and by 1966 the Dutch Kennel Club officially recognized the breed. Also it is interesting to note that the Kooiker of today is again performing its original function, being used by conservation organizations in Holland to lure the ducks into holding pens for the purposes of classification.
The Kooikerhundje history includes an interesting note that a Kooikerhundje belonging to Prince William of Orange saved his life by alerting him of an attack by the Spanish. He is a loyal and faithful dog as a pet in a household and is a useful and intelligent hunting dog for the duck hunter of today. In the F.C.I. this dog is registered within the gundog group. The Kooikerhundje breed is also recorded with the Foundation Stock Service of the A.K.C. The first litter of a Kooikerhundje was registered as recently as 1999 in the United States.
This medium sized dog is red and white in color and of a size similar to that of a Brittany Spaniel. He has proven himself to be a loyal and affectionate companion dog and is considered to perform well as a Therapy Dog and as an Assistance Dog. Search and rescue groups are also beginning to utilize this breed as a Search Dog and value him for his focus and easy trainability. The dog possesses a strong willingness to work. Historically it is the working breeds which seem to produce the type of dog which will function well in these areas.
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