Archive for September, 2008

Here’s some shameless (I mean shameless) politics. I know I’ll lose some conservatives out there, but oh well.

This video is of Friday’s debate between McCain and Obama with video evidence to back up Obama’s assertions.  This was my grandfather’s favorite part of the debate.


Here’s a humorous clip of how Obama may have prepared for the debate:

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Bummer and Lazarus

In the 1860’s, two dogs became part of San Francisco’s lore.  “Bummer” was a Newfoundland dog with an overshot lower jaw who found a home at the saloon of Frederick Martin. He took to killing rats and earned his keep. He was known for his gentle manner and was well-liked among the various journalists who chronicled local interest stories in the saloons of Sand Francisco.  He fed himself by wandering the streets, gently begging for food. He received his name from this habit.

True to his Newfoundland form, Bummer intervened in a dog fight in 1861. He rescued a mongrel dog from the jaws of his aggressor and then helped nurse the poor beaten dog back to health. The mongrel was believed to be near death, but with the help and support of Bummer, the dog managed to return to vigor. This dog was named “Lazarus,” after the man who Jesus raised from the dead.

Both of these dogs had the run of the streets. And the San Francisco journalistic community began to write about the pair, often coming up with the most bizarrely antrhopomorphic stories about them. The dogs quickly became an institution in San Francisco.

So much was this true  that when the dog catcher detained Lazarus, the public rallied to his defense. This outcry forced the city council to pass a resolution that exempted Bummer and Lazarus the licensing laws and gave them carte blanche to wander the streets.

Life for street dogs is often short, and Lazarus met his end in a tragic way. Lazarus was known for being a surly dog, and he is believed to have bitten a child. Because no animal control person would touch this dog, it is believed that he was poisoned as a reprisal. Some contemporary accounts say that he was kicked by a fire engine horse. However, it is generally accepted that he was poisoned, and a $50 award was issued for information leading to his poisoner.

A major funeral was held, but Lazarus was not interred to a grave. Instead, he was taxidermied and displayed at Frederick Martin’s saloon.

Here’s cartoon of the funeral (Bummer is in attendance):

As the years progressed, the stories about Bummer waned. MarK Twain reported that Bummer had found a small black puppy to be his companion, but very little else was written about him.

A drunk man kicked Bummer in 1865.  The kick was so severe that it caused great distress to his body, and he soon died. When this man was interned at the local lock-up, his cellmate beat him after he bragged about kicking Bummer.

What I find interesting about Bummer is that he’s not a giant dog. He’s a big dog. But in all depictions, he’s not the giant Newfoundland we know today. He’s also not marked in the way that Landseers are supposed to be. In fact, he looks like Landseer that has been crossed with a black Newf. He looks very similar to Custer’s Newfoundland. It’s amazing how much breeds change over the centuries.

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Here’s footage of a Clumber hunting. Compare it with the working cockers in the earlier post. These dogs operate in very different manner. I’ve never seen a flushing dog operate with such sedation!

I have always wondered about this breed. Most of the gun dog breeds are similar in temperament. The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is an outlier, because it’s far more protective than any of the other breeds in the gourp. The Clumber is also an outlier in that it apparently always worked game in this slow fashion. Now that it’s no longer being bred for that purpose, my guess is that it is even more sedate.

All sorts of theories exist about its origins. One is that a breed called an Alpine Spaniel, which I’ve never heard of and there’s no record of, was the ancestor of the breed. I wonder if this isn’t a cross between a St. Bernard and spaniel. The Clumber is almost exactly like a St. Bernard in behavior, just it has a spanielness to it. May there’s a touch of basset in the dog, too.

Whatever it is, my guess is most modern gun dog fanciers will go with springers. This dog is a museum piece. It has a wonderful history, but in utility, it’s certainly lacking.

BTW, flews have little to do with soft mouth, as I’m sure all the retriever people who saw this video screamed when they heard that part. If this were true, all the retrievers would have heavier lips than any mastiff. I have actually never seen a Clumber retrieve shot game, but maybe they do. I’ve only actually seen one Clumber in my entire life, but it didn’t act anything like what I expected a gun dog to act like.

Now this breed does well at conformation shows. One won Westminster a few years back. He’s depicted in that video, as is the one that won Cruft’s.

Now, as a pet, my guess is that such a sedate dog would be a better choice than a golden retriever or a springer spaniel, which are far more active dogs. It’s likely that this breed will be pet rather than a hunting dog, especially when it lacks the biddability and speed of all the other spaniels used for flushing.

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These are working cockers. By the standardized view of spaniels, these are technically English cockers. These are the working form of cocker spaniel, and there are no specific lines of American cocker that can be used as high level hunting dogs. (Although there are few brave breeders and handlers who try).

Most North Americans know about working type English springer spaniels, which have similar conformation to these dogs. I associate the English springer as a gun dog of the pheasant country in the Midwest (where I also place the golden retriever) or in some stuffy British baron’s hunting preserve.   Both working spaniels are high energy dogs, and like all species bred for behavioral traits (such as bird sense and biddability), the appearance tends to vary.  Both working English springers and cockers have less feathering than the show forms of English springer and English cocker, which is useful if you’re running a dog throug the brambles and bracken.

These two breeds have a close ancestry. Through most of their history, the big ones were called springers and the little ones were called cockers. The in-between sizes were later categorized as field spaniels. All three exist today, but the field spaniel is rarely used as a gun dog (because it’s a very rare dog anyway). The cocker and springer have similar show forms. Both have the rage syndome in their show lines, which causes otherwise friendly dogs to attack without warning. The springer has fewer colors than the cocker, although there were red English springers well into the twentieth century. (Welsh springers are red and white, of course.)

Does anyone know whether Clumbers and Sussex spaniels are still used for flushing birds? The Sussex was portrayed as the sporting spaniel in George Stubbs’s paintings of pastoral scenes and country sports. It later became a short-legged, long backed dog that was crossed with the field spaniel. When field spaniels developed the same traits, both breeds fell out of favor. Clumbers don’t look like any breed of gun dog, and from what I’ve seen they don’t really act like them either. They were a pets owned by a few nobles, who really didn’t want a fast flushing dog. The were kept at the royal family’s Sandringham estate, but I heard they were shot, when Edward VIII, who was a patron of the dogs at the estate, abdicated the throne.

Because we’re talking about flushing dogs, my grandfather had several interesting dogs for this purpose. He used Norwegian elkhounds to flush ruffed grouse, which sounds strange, but these dogs do have some interest in birds.  He also trained his chihauhua to flush grouse, too. The grouse would think the chihuahua was a fox and would fly from the ground and perch in a tree where they could be easily shot. The chihuahua appeared to be a weird form of red fox, which the grouse fear above all else. However, when a fox comes, the grouse perch in trees, rather than taking to the air, as they do when confronted with a dog. I know it’s not good sportsmanship to shoot perched birds, but using a chihuahua as a flushing dog is one of the strangest things I’ve ever heard of. It’s right up there with the pack of 15 jack russells that are used on black bears.

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This is an American Cocker Spaniel, which used to be the same breed as the English Cocker. The English cocker is split into working and show forms, but the American cocker has no working form. I’ve heard rumors of a few breeders who are trying to recreate it, but it’s an uphill battle. I’ve seen a program where a woman was using less feathered American cockers to hunt. My grandfather gunned over an American cocker in the 1950’s. If breeders want to return this breed to a working dog, some good advice is to reduce feathering if at all possible. Trainability can be a problem, because I’ve run into a more than a few American cockers that were thick.

Why would anyone who wants to use a flushing spaniel want a dog with that much coat on it? I think the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is built more effectively for work than this breed. And that breed is a genetic wreck.

BTW, I don’t do this nonsense that the registries do in calling an English cocker a “cocker spaniel” in Europe and the rest of the world and call the American cocker the “cocker spaniel” in the United States.  The English cocker is similar to the original form. It’s just a small flushing spaniel, closely related to the Field Spaniel and the English springer. In a litter, the big ones would be springers, the mid-sized ones would be fields, and the little ones would be cockers.

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From messybeast.com, two old enclycopedia entries.

1909  and 1923.

Note how the “retriever” entry shows a dog that we would now call a flat-coated retriever. From 1900 to the First World War, the flat-coat was in its halcyon days. At this time, the golden was part of the flat-coat breed, referred to as “Tweedmouth’s strain,” although Colonel Le Poer Trench’s golden dogs were registered and promoted as Russian retrievers.

Note how the 1923 entry of depiction of a retriever appears to have some wave to its coat. Fanciers had decided to breed out the wave in the wavy-coat. In flat coats, the wave has nearly been bred out, but the golden retriever, which was separated from the flat-coat before this waviness disappeared, still can come in a wavy coat.

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Don of Gerwn pictured above a black flat-coat. 




The picture of Don of Gerwn comes from here — The Complete English Shot. He is not a “Liver-coloured” dog as described here, at least as how liver is described in the flat-coated retriever. His nose and eyes are clearly dark, not liver as we mean in the flat-coat. He is juxtaposed with a true black flat-coat here. He is clearly a dark red retriever (“sandy liver”), which makes sense considering he was from Tweedmouth lines. He actually reminds me of Mrs. Charlesworth’s Noranby Diana, an early show champion golden that also placed in a few trials. Black and white pictures are hard to discern, but I think it is clear that his liver color is different from liver flat-coats. His coloration could carry the pale yellow of his grandsire, Lucifer. This would also be true even if he were a true liver. 

Don was born in the earl 1900’s or late 1890’s, placing in trials 1904.

If you look at the reddish tinge that appears in many liver flat-coats and compare the darkest red golden retrievers, you can see how similar the colors are. No wonder things got so confusing at the separation.

Incidentally, I like this type of golden.  It’s a shame that we’ve decided that the Newfoundlandy type retriever excoriated in Teasdale-Buckell’s book is the only type promoted in conformation.

The most interesting thing in this book is how widely the retrievers vary in appearance. The dog called “Devil” is so different from anything I’ve seen in a retriever. He is sandy colored with “whiskers [bearding] like an otterhound.” I don’t know what the hell he was. Could someone have crossed an otterhound with a retriever or an airedale terrier (a descendant of the otterhound) with a retriever? Maybe it’s an early goldendoodle.

When you read this book closely, the golden is considered part of the flat-coated breed when the book was written. The curly is deemed ruined for working purposes. Only the Labrador and the flat-coat (including Tweedmouth’s strain of golden flat-coats) are used for hunting, because flat-coated breeders have done their best to breed out the lumber and cobbiness that plagued the breed in the 1890’s. In the book, he claims that Americans don’t use retrievers, because Americans make their pointers and setters retrieve. Perhaps true in the early twentieht century. He also describes a breed that fascinates me– the Norfolk retriever. It sounds kind of like a Chesapeake bay retriever, only smaller. He points out that Labs and flat-coats (including what became the golden retriever) were interbred.  This book is certainly a great historical document. I’m definitely going to purchase it. This is an account in which the Labrador was consider secondary to the flat-coat (including the golden) in working ability. And look at the working conformation!

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