I have seen this particular photograph many times in golden retriever history publications and website. It is always pointed out that the yellow retriever on the far left is Nous, the foundational sire of the yellow wavy-coated retriever strain at Guisachan. He looks almost exactly like a golden retriever of today, and at the time, he would have been considered a very typical wavy-coated retriever that had a lot of St. John’s water dog ancestry. He may have been entirely of this ancestry. His breeder, Lord Chichester, left no record of Nous’s ancestry. He was a “sport” in a litter of black wavy-coat pups, and he was given to cobbler at Brighton in lieu of a debt. (I don’t know what sort of debt a landed gentleman would owe a cobbler, but that is the story.) Dudley Marjoribanks, 1st Baron Tweedmouth, encountered the yellow retriever at Brighton in 1864. We all know his story fairly well.
The dog at the far right is the dog that now Scottish nobleman could be without– a Scottish deerhound or “Highland deer greyhound.” This particular dog appears to be a fawn– a color that has since disappeared in modern deerhounds. Every Scottish sportsman tried his hand a deer-stalking or deer coursing. In both activities, a wiry deerhound would be necessary. With coursing, it is self-explanatory, you have to have a sight hound for that activity. In deer-stalking, if the hunter merely wounded the deer, he would sent forth a brace of deerhounds to bring down the wounded stag– an action somewhat reminiscent of retrievers. (Stonehenge would classify retrievers and deerhounds together for this reason).
I think it is likely that the second dog from the right is a black and tan wavy-coated retriever. It could be a Gordon setter, but I am a bit skeptical for another reason. The Marjoribanks family used their retrievers to hunt deer. The dogs generally tracked the wounded ones, but there is a least one account of a retriever named Mars jumping into a bog to “retrieve” a wounded stag. Because of their use in deer-stalking, it would make sense that the family’s retrievers would be displayed with the deerhound.
The final dog in this photo is a bit nebulous. From a distance, the second dog from the left looks like a young golden retriever or a maybe a smaller individual. However, at this time, the majority of all wavy-coated retrievers were on the larger, more heavily boned side. Most looked like Nous and the black-and-tan dog– except that the vast majority of these dogs were solid black in color. Most of these dogs were broad-headed and very “Newfoundlandly” or perhaps very much like the “English Labradors” of today, just with long hair.
This dog’s head is all wrong to be a typical wavy-coat of the day. Its ears are more low-set, and the head is almost conical in shape.
When I first saw this photo, I thought nothing of it, except that this dog looked like a different type of yellow wavy-coat than Nous.
A well-known golden retriever historian pointed out to me today that this dog could have been a “Tweed water spaniel.” Then I remembered a description of the Tweed water spaniel’s head, and I realize that this dog has something like the conical shape that was ascribed to this extinct breed from the Scottish Borders and Northumberland.
Every description of this breed I’ve come across points to the similarity between this breed and other retrievers, so wouldn’t one expect a Tweed water spaniel to look something like a golden retriever?
If this dog is a TWS, then it might be Belle. Belle was born at Ladykirk in the Scottish Borders country, which near the Nothumbrian town of Berwick-upon-Tweed, where the 1st Baron Tweedmouth had been the MP. The Marjoribanks family had roots in the Scottish Borders, and the family had an estate in the region. It would have made sense that the 1st Baron Tweedmouth would have been familiar with this yellow or liver water dog.
By the way, I do not know when this photo was taken. It could have been before 1868, when Nous and Belle were bred together to produce the foundational litter for the strain. If so, then Nous would have had the golden retriever trait of developing a white muzzle in middle age. Perhaps he is the source for the premature graying that is so common in the breed!
Nous also has something in his mouth.I have no idea what it is. He was very much a retriever, and this trait was defintely passed on to his offspring, as this painting of Mary Marjoribanks and either Cowslip or Primrose, bitches that Nous and Belle litter, would suggest.
Judging from the appearance of either Cowslip or Primrose in that painting and that of Ada, another bitch pup from that litter and the foundational bitch of the Ilchester strain of these yellow retrievers, the Tweed water spaniel used in that cross had to have strongly resembled a golden retriever or a “yellow wavy-coat.” The golden retriever phenotype was established early on in the breeding program. Indeed, Nous himself could easily have passed for a modern golden retriever.
The Tweed water spaniel or Tweed water dog didn’t closely resemble McCarthy’s strain of Southern Irish water spaniel at all. And this confusion, I think has led more than a few people astray. Everyone has scoured the old paintings and photographs looking for something like a yellow version of that breed, but they should have been looking at those of small yellow retrievers instead.
I don’t know if this dog is Belle or even a Tweed water spaniel. It could be, judging from the fact that it doesn’t resemble the typical early wavy-coat of that day.
But one would expect that this bitch would have not been radically different from Nous or the modern golden retriever.