The Small Munsterlander was known in early days by a variety of names. Hermann Löns called them "heathland quail dog" or Heidewachtel. Some named them “The little Spy" or Spiönken after the characteristic fashion in which their small hunting dogs worked in the field. Many clergy and teachers owned the dog so they were soon nicknamed ‘Little Master’s Dog’ or Magisterhündlein. But when a club was formed in 1912 the Kleiner (Small) Munsterlander name was chosen. In the United States and Canada, the dog is known as the Small Munsterlander or just SM. The Small Munsterlander is one of the latest versatile hunting breeds to gain popularity in the United States. While they may be a newcomer to the US and Canada, the Small Munsterlander has been used in Germany and Europe since the 13th or 14th century.
For several hundred years these small, handsome dogs had been the true companions of the hunters on the vast moors and bogs in the northwestern part of Germany, mainly in Westphalia. In 1840 when land reforms changed the viability of hunting as a trade, so Small Munsterlanders gradually lost their popularity, and it appeared that their extinction was inevitable. Only on remote farms on the moors did the farmers keep the line pure by keeping just one bitch for breeding and culling the rest of the females in the litters.
The development of the Small Munsterlander occurred in the middle of the 19th century. After the change of the German hunting law, with the increasing number of hunters and hunting enthusiasts and the systematic cultivation of the game stock the breeding of new German Pointing Dogs began. There are reports saying that around 1870 long coated Wachtelhunds“(German Spaniels) were well known in the Munsterland region. These dogs were firm or staunch in pointing; they had excellent scenting abilities and were also able to retrieve.
In 1906 the well known heath poet Hermann Löns placed a public appeal into the magazine “Unser Wachtelhund” (Our Hunting Dog) to give him a report on the still existing specimens of the red Hanovarian Heath Hound or Hannover Bracke. However, instead of that he and his brothers, Edmund and Rudolf Löns, discovered a pointing Wachtelhund on the farms, that they called “Heidewachtel “(heath quail dog) on the farms of Lower Saxony.
Edmund Löns, in cooperation with Dr. Jungklaus, worked tirelessly to improve the breed. They came in contact with schoolteacher Clemens Heitmann from Steinfurt in 1907 and found in his dogs the basis for a breeding program. For 40 years Heitman had been breeding the same line, and was able to trace it as a purebreed for nice looking dog, short in the back, long legged with a great gait, plenty of smooth hair and with beautiful feathers on the tail. The head was long, and the nose often showed a slight downward curve. The mouth was strong, moderately full, but never short. The ears were small, about middle-length, with good coat and they give the head a refined expression; they were set high and at the bottom they become small, good closure and they gave the dog a pretty and trustworthy expression. The height of the dogs was from 38 cm to 50 cm and none of them showed a distinct forehead stop. They had excellent hunting qualities, were dapper, easily handled, very social, and they bayed when tracking.
In 1911 Löns discovered another breed family, the so-called "Dorstener Schlag" from gamekeeper Bernhard Wolber who lived near Velen, Reeken and Coesfeld. The Dorsten line was an excellent looking dog with a great chest, front legs and shoulders. They were steady types, heavily built with good bone, rather long backs, curly coats, and often had a forelock between the eyes. The back was a little longer and the height was slightly taller than the Heitmann dogs often above 50 cm. The mouth was straight with tight lips and appeared a little more pointed. They had beautiful brown eyes, well-formed ears, a good coat, a beautiful tail with feathers, was an excellent expressive bird dog and they had in opposition to the Heitmann dogs a distinct forehead stop. They hunted without baying when tracking.
Edmund Löns dedicated himself to the Small Munsterlander, which was so easily handled and trained. He always referred to the breed as the ‘Heidewachtel’, remaining loyal to the breed until his death. He bears a great responsibility for the conformation and capabilities of the breed. In his breeding program he always took his own path. He was seldom in agreement with what he termed the ‘sporting dog fanciers’, and instead he demanded dogs to be tested under real hunting conditions, including a special test to show the breed’s natural pointing abilities. In many circles he was considered stubborn and contentious. He defended his points of view very persistently and often quite provocatively.
After World War II, fortunately the breed was revived again in the 1950's in Germany and from there spread to Europe and to North America. The first Small Munsterlanders probably reached the United States in the early 1950's. By the 1970's a few Small Munsterlanders started to appear in the U.S. and Canada. In 1971 Tom McDonald imported Elko, a male SM from Germany. In 1974 Paul and Vibeke Jensen imported Bliss, a female SM from Denmark. Paul registered his Jaegerbakken kennel name with NAVHDA in 1973. Paul ran the first two SMs, Bliss and Peto’s Alpha, in the NAVHDA Natural Ability test in 1978.