EAR TAGS/FUTAKI HORNS
By Susan J. Mulley
Smooth-coated Vizslas are perhaps unique among the pointing breeds in having small appendages, tags or 'horns' along the upper front edge of their ear flaps. In Hungarian these horns are called 'szarv' (plural 'szarvas'). In their early days in North America, Vizslas from the Futaki line bred by Count and Countess Bela Hadik were thought to exhibit these ear decorations more frequently and in a more noticeable size than Vizslas from other lines (this may or may not be true) and so in North America they were labelled 'Futaki horns' because of this.
Horns can occur on one ear or both; in singles or multiples (I once saw a Vizsla with four horns on one ear); and in varying size from an almost un-noticeable bump to a fold of skin an inch in length. Horns are generally covered in hair like the rest of the ear. They have no ill effects on a dog although at one time it was rumoured that dogs with horns had superior hunting ability to those without, a belief which has gone by the wayside today.
The origin of ear 'horns' is part of the origin of the Vizsla itself. Unlike other pointing breeds, the Vizsla was influenced by one of the early greyhound breeds - the Hungarian greyhound or Agar. In the nineteenth
century breeders used the Agar to increase both the speed and drive of the Vizsla and its ability to hunt 'fur' as well as 'feather'. There were three major unintended effects of the infusion of Agar blood into the development of the Vizsla. First the yellow-dun or rusty dun colour of the Agar reinforced the 'sarga' or solid golden rust colour of the Vizsla. Secondly, the Agar gave the Vizsla a topline and rear suspension/angulation unique among the European pointing breeds. The 'sprung' topline and less angulated rear of the Vizsla results from this infusion of Hungarian greyhound blood - the Vizsla uses its back and hind legs for propulsion in a similar manner to the greyhound thanks to the Agar. Third and last, the Agar passed on the distinctive 'szarvas' or horns which were common in that breed.
Now Futaki horns seem to occur almost at random - the bloodlines of those dogs who carried the trait are so widespread throughout the breed that it is impossible to label one line as more likely to produce this trait. Still, it is impossible to say when these obscure features will appear. I recently visited the booth of a dealer in canine oddments at one of the larger shows who was convinced that a very 'greyhound' looking porcelain figure was a Vizsla. When I examined the figure (which was made in Hungary) it was clear that it was a sandy-dun Agar - and there, immortalized in porcelain, were small szarvas on each ear!