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Old Danish Pointer

Nicole Cosgrove

June 18, 2021
The Old Danish Pointer is a large breed from Denmark that was originally bred to be a hunting dog. Its other names include Old Danish Pointing Dog, Old Danish Bird/Chicken Dog, Gammel Dansk Hønsehund, Continental Pointing Dog and Altdänischer Hühnerhund. It has a life span of 12 to 14 years and is not the same as the Danish or Swedish Farmdog, but in the English speaking world there is sometimes confusion. This is because of an error made in Bruce Fogle’s ‘Encyclopedia of the Dog’ which depicted a picture of the Farmdog with the chicken dog name. In fact the Farmdog was never known as chicken dog, the chicken name refers to the translation of the Danish name for the Old Danish Pointer, Gammel Dansk Hønsehund, which in English is Old Danish Hen/Chicken Hound.
The Old Danish Pointer at a Glance
Name Old Danish Pointer
Other names Old Danish Pointing Dog, Old Danish Bird/Chicken Dog, Gammel Dansk Hønsehund, Continental Pointing Dog, Altdänischer Hühnerhund
Nicknames ODP
Origin Denmark
Average size Large
Average weight 57 to 77 pounds
Average height 20 to 24 inches
Life span 12 to 14 years
Coat type Short, smooth
Hypoallergenic No
Color White with small brown specks and larger brown patches
Popularity Not a registered member of the AKC
Intelligence Very good
Tolerance to heat Good
Tolerance to cold Very good
Shedding Moderate – some hair will be around the home
Drooling Moderate to average – some drool but not excessive
Obesity Average – measure its food and make sure it is well exercised
Grooming/brushing Low to average – brush once or twice a week
Barking Low to occasional – some barking but not constant
Exercise needs Very active – needs active owners
Trainability Easy to train
Friendliness Very good to excellent
Good first dog Good but probably easier for experienced owners
Good family pet Very good to excellent with socialization
Good with children Very good with socialization
Good with other dogs Good to very good with socialization
Good with other pets Good to very good with socialization
Good with strangers Good but wary – socialize well
Good apartment dog Low – needs a yard and space
Handles alone time well Low – does not like being alone for long periods
Health issues Quite healthy – some issues include eye problems, hip dysplasia and ear infections
Medical expenses $485 a year for basic health care and for pet insurance
Food expenses $260 a year for a good quality dry food and dog treats
Miscellaneous expenses $255 a year for toys, license, basic training and miscellaneous items
Average annual expenses $1000 as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $1,000
Rescue organizations None breed specific, check local shelters and rescues
Biting Statistics None reported

The Old Danish Pointer’s Beginnings

The widely accepted origin story of the Old Danish Pointer is that it was bred in the early 18th century by Morten Bak in Glenstrup, Denmark. He is meant to have crossed 8 generations of gypsy dogs with local farmdogs and eventually created the Bakhound or Old Danish Pointer. It is suggested that those gypsy dogs came from Spanish pointing dogs and the local dogs were some kind of hound, possibly descended from St Hubert Hounds. Before the 18th century hunting with dogs was meant to be something only the aristocracy were allowed to do but some reforms changed that so more common people started breeding dogs they could hunt with.

There are some though that think the gypsy story is just a story. Gypsies were not viewed with favor and were persecuted, hunted or deported. This makes it unlikely time would have been taken for Gypsy to breed over 8 generations of dogs without trouble or that people would want Gypsy dog mixed into their hunting dogs. These people also argue that Gypsy dogs were not pointers in anyway. Close by were Danish ports where it is possible soldiers and sailors returning home form war may have brought with them Spanish dogs.

Whichever theory you believe the result of the breeding created a stable and quiet dog that was brave and determined. It kept in close contact with the human hunter moving a lot slower than other hounds on the hunt. It was named for pointing and hunting birds. However by the early 1900s the Old Danish Pointer started to decline in popularity as other breeds like the German Short-haired Pointer became more so. Then as with a lot of dog breeds the arrival of World War II had a hugely negative impact on the breed’s numbers. It was now at risk of extinction.

New Lease on Life

After World War II efforts in the country were made to revive its native breeds including the Old Danish Pointer. In 1947 a breed club was formed and the members of the club started the process of a breeding program in efforts to bring the population up. Their efforts were fairly successful and in 1963 the dog was recognized by the FCI. Thanks to a Danish TV show the Old Danish Pointer became more well known in the 1980s and increased in popularity once more. However this was not a good thing for the breed as it did lead to uncontrolled breeding and the quality of dogs dropped for a time. Today it is at a stable number but it is an uncommon dog. It does have some fans though not just in Denmark but also a few in Holland, Germany and Sweden. This is not a dog breed recognized by the AKC.

Old Danish Pointer

The Dog You See Today

The Old Danish Pointer is a large breed weighing 57 to 77 pounds and standing 20 to 24 inches tall. Males are a lot more powerful and larger than females who tend to be lighter. It is a well built dog though with a strong back, a medium length tail and a rectangular shape to it. The coat is short, dense and hard to touch and usually liver and white with some small amount of ticking. The medium sized head is broad and short and there is a flap of skin beneath the lower jaw, a somewhat loose dewlap. The ears are low hanging and wide with tips that are slightly rounded. Its eyes are dark brown.

The Inner Old Danish Pointer


This dog is an intelligent breed, it is quiet and steady, calm and resolute. It is only calm like this though when it is raised well and gets enough physical and mental activity, without that it can become destructive, restless and hard to live with. Outside it is more spirited and lively and wants to play and have fun. It is a hard worker and when hunting it is brave and determined and can display a stubborn side sometimes.

The Old Danish Pointer can be a loyal, devoted and friendly companion too. It can be a good family dog and it is worth mentioning that females tend to be more spirited than males. It does not like to be left alone and can suffer from separation anxiety if you do. It is alert and will let you know if there is an intruder by barking. Its barking varies from not a lot to occasional and it is best with experienced owners in general. With strangers it is good with socialization but it is wary at first.

Old Danish Pointer

Living with a Old Danish Pointer

What will training look like?

Training the ODP is easy when you approach it the right way. Keep the sessions short, fun, positive and interesting. Offer your dog treats, praise and encourage it but still maintain a firm manner, being consistent and patient. It can have a stubborn side so does not obey blindly but it is clever and can focus do well. As well as giving it basic obedience training it should have socialization starting young too. Give it opportunities to adapt to different people, places, sounds, animals and situations. Teach it what appropriate responses are and this will give it a chance to grow into a more confident and happier dog.

How active is the Old Danish Pointer?

The Old Danish Pointer is a very active dog that needs active owners so everyone is happy with how things need to be. It loves to hunt but if you are not doing that with it regularly you need to find other ways of keeping it busy with plenty of mental stimulation as well as physical exercise. Walk it at least twice a day giving it long and brisk walks along with some physical play sessions with you. It is best suited to rural settings, but needs at least a large yard and space in its home so it is not an apartment dog. If it is kept indoors too much inactive it will become bored, hyperactive, restless, destructive and hard to live with. Expect to spend at least 90 minutes with it being active each day.

Caring for the Old Danish Pointer

Grooming needs

There is not a huge amount of grooming to be done but it is an average shedding dog so there will be some hair in the home to deal with, and it should be brushed and combed a couple of times a week using a firm bristled brush. The coat can also be rubbed down with a chamois or hound mitt to give it a nice shine. You can dry shampoo it when needed and save proper baths for when it is really dirty using a proper canine shampoo only. Bathing too often or using incorrect products can damage its natural oils.

The ears need checking and cleaning weekly for ear infections. Then use a damp cloth or cotton ball with dog ear cleanser to clean them. Do not insert something into the ear, it will hurt it and can cause damage in some cases. Then with dog nail clippers the nails should be clipped if it does not wear them down naturally. Avoid cutting too far down into nerves and blood vessels as that hurts it and causes bleeding. Oral hygiene is also a concern so it should have its teeth brushed regularly, at least two to three times a week. Use a dog toothpaste and dog toothbrush.

Feeding Time

The Old Danish Pointer is going to need to eat somewhere between 3 to 4 cups of a good to excellent quality dry dog food a day, and that should be split between at least two meals. The amount can vary though depending on factors such as how big the dog is, its level of exercise, age, health and rate of metabolism. Make sure it has water that is changed often.

How is the Old Danish Pointer with children and other animals?

When raised with them and with socialization the ODP is very good with children. It can be affectionate, it is playful and they are both happy to be energetic and have fun together. Make sure that you teach the children how to play and touch it appropriately. It can get on well with other dogs and likes to socialize with them. With other pets socialization and care should be taken as being a hunting dog it has a high prey drive.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

The life span of the ODP is about 12 to 14 years and it is a healthy dog in general but some issues could include eye problems, hip dysplasia and ear infections.

Biting Statistics

The ODP is a hunting dog and can be bold and aggressive when it is hunting its game, but it is not people aggressive and in fact stays close to the people even when hunting. It is not a common dog in North America though so it is less likely to appear in reports of dogs attacking people and causing bodily harm, over the last 35 years. There are no canines that are 100% safe, things can trigger them and dogs can have a bad day. There are steps you can take as its owner though that can lessen the chances of it being involved such as good socialization, at least basic obedience training, being well exercised and mentally challenged, giving it a good level of attention and proper feeding.

Old Danish Pointer Pupppy

Your Pup’s Price Tag

The Old Danish Pointer puppy will cost about $1000 from a respected breeder with experience. Being rare there may be time you spend on a waiting list. For a top breeder with a great reputation, one who perhaps breeds show dogs, you can expect to pay a fair bit more. Do not look at less respectable options like pet stores, backyard breeders or puppy mills, these are not places anyone should give money to and keep open. You can consider another alternative and that is getting a rescue dog. Looking at shelters or rescues where so many dogs need new owners the fees are just $50 to $400.

Upon finding the dog you love there are some requirements it has in terms of items and initial health checks. Items it will need include things like a crate, carrier, collar and leash, bowls, bedding and such and these come to around $220. Then those health needs include a proper physical exam, deworming, shots, blood tests, micro chipping, spaying or neutering and that comes to about $290.

It is important if you are going to be a good owner to make sure you are prepared for the ongoing costs that come with it. Miscellaneous annual costs like a license, basic training, miscellaneous items and toys come to about $255. Feeding it a good quality dry dog food and treats will cost about $260 a year. Pet insurance and then basic annual health care like shots, flea and tick prevention and check ups will be around $485 a year. This gives an estimated yearly starting figure of $1000.


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The Old Danish Pointer can be a lovely companion and hunting dog especially for hunters who like to hunt bird and stay close to their dog. It can be socialized and raised to be good with other pets, dogs and children. It needs to be in an active home though as it does need a lot of mental stimulation and physical action each day to stay calm and happy. It can be loyal and affectionate but it has more numbers in Denmark and few European countries than it does else where.

Featured image credit: No-longer-here, Pixabay

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.

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