The Magyar Vizsla as Guard Dogs

On a February night in 1943, a British intelligence officer named Derek Peters attached to M1-5 was parachuted into Hungary near the edge of the Bacony Forest.  His daring and fantastic mission was to make his way to Budapest and steal the crown of Saint Stephen. This was a plan of tremendous psychological importance. So much so that our own OSS was also plotting independently to carry it out.  The reason was that since the death of St. Stephen, the first Hungarian King, in 1038 his crown has been the Symbol of Hungary’s Sovereignty.

For more than nine centuries Hungarians were taught to believe that their country would endure only as long as the crown itself was safe.  If the Allies captured the crown, it would be a shrewd blow against the Nazi Regime which ruled Hungary. The crown, according to information received my M!-5, was guarded night and day by two soldiers relieved at four hour intervals. It was not locked up but was kept in a small vault faced with glass window.  In this way its custodians kept it under constant surveillance.

Peters plan was direct, not subtle.  He intended to make his way into the crown room, shoot down both guards, break the glass, seize the crown and fight his way out. With the element of total surprise in his favor, there was a fair chance of getting outside the building where other secret agents would be waiting to spirit him away. Somehow he contrived to get into the crown room undetected, with pistol ready he looked around. There was were no soldiers standing in front of the crown with fixed bayonets. Instead, even as his puzzlement grew, two sedge-yellow dogs catapulted swiftly through an open door. They were on him soundlessly before he had a chance to fire a shot. One seized and held his gun hand strongly by his wrist. The other pinned him to the floor, with forelegs on his chest and bared teeth menacing his exposed throat. It was then that the guards came in. Peters was tried and condemned to be executed.  Instead he was taken to prison. Why the sentence was not carried out he did not know, but he surmised it was because the Hungarians hoped that he would disclose the names of his British fellow agents. They worked hard at it, but I kept my mouth shut, he says.

In prison he saw more of the sedge-yellow dogs that were being used for guard work.  In size, conformation and intelligence they reminded him of weimaraners. But all weimaraners, he knew, were gray. A dog enthusiast, Peters could not help admiring these gracefully alert animals.  You can’t help hold a dog’s nationality against him he later said philosophically. We learned that during and after the First World War in England when we shunned the fine little Dachund as a Kaiser dog. Peters learned that the dogs were vizslas, the only sporting dog among the five national breeds of Hungary. He is similar in looks to a Weimaraner but some smaller, a different color and much smarter a guard told Peters. He is so smart that one Vizsla, Champion Aladar 11, was taken to Russia by Stalin’s chief body guard, who said it required only two to guard Stalin, himself and a Vizsla.

Peters was in prison a long time and his admiration for the Vizsla grew. With it grew his determination to take one back to England with him if he got out alive. In the course of time the Americans succeeded in accomplishing Peter’s Mission. We acquired the crown of St. Stephen, which in April, 1951, the Hungarians tried to get back as part of the Ransom for release of Robert A. Vogeler. Peters escaped from Hungary, made his way to Austria and home to England. He didn’t have a Vizsla with him, but he wasn’t back in London long before he was making plans to obtain one. In 1948 Derek Peters went to Vienna and through his underground connections, made arrangements to smuggle a Vizsla out of Hungary. At the last minute something happened and his plan did not come off. A year later he tried again.  This time, his bullet-ridden body was found on the border. Beside it, shot twice through the head, was a handsome male vizsla.

The Hungarians were making it deadly clear that no Vizslas would be permitted to cross the iron curtain without their express authorization. Since then, the authorization has been granted on a few rare occasions, when the canines were allowed to participate in international dog shows. Even Red Hungary could not resist showing off her prize Vizsla on this side of the Atlantic.

Two fellows from Minneapolis, MN tried to import a few by polite negotiations but were promptly turned down. No Vizslas, the Hungarians declared flatly, were to be bred outside of Hungary. It was their national dog, the smartest in the world, the best hunter, the most affectionate house pet and excellent guard dog. Besides they added any Hungarian who owned a Vizsla always gave it special respect and consideration. Although they didn’t say it in so many words, the implication was that a Vizsla was much too good for an American to own, in as much as we probably were in the habit of booting our own pooches around from hell to breakfast. Later in a period of about two years one of these fellows from Minneapolis by underground connections in Hungary and trading a dog of our breeding, two Vizslas were smuggled out from behind the iron curtain or you might say dog napped. They were puppies of about 3 1/2 months old.  Since these arrived in about two years time this fellow imported 14 Vizslas from Hungary.  All were from top bloodlines and from reliable sources.

There are characteristics and qualities bred into the Vizsla breed found in no other breed. For hunting the Vizsla has the best nose is a staunch pointer and natural retriever land or water. He is also affectionate companion and watch dog. He is as thorough as he is reliable and with his very sensitive nose he is often trained by Hungarian Police for man-tracking. He has been successful on many cold trails where other breeds of tracking dogs have failed. Some of these hunters have covered as much as 45 miles over rugged terrain.