Archive for the ‘purebred dogs’ Category

 Ch. Bridford Giddie owned by Moses Woolland. You can't tell me that such short legs are functional to a working spaniel.

Ch. Bridford Giddie owned by Moses Woolland. You can't tell me that such short legs are functional to a working spaniel.

Very few posts have resulted in more invective on this blog than my two posts on the Sussex spaniel. (You see them here and here.)

I have since researched this breed a little more closely.

There have been liver spaniels in Sussex for a long time. The one that Stubbs painted was probably quite similar to the original dog.

Sussex spaniel

This painting was made in 1782.

In the early 1800’s, a particular strain of this liver spaniel was founded by a man known as “Mr. Fuller” from Rosehill in Sussex.

It was he who actually founded the modern dog called a Sussex spaniel

Now, maybe the dogs worked really well for him. And maybe the dogs do have some utility today–although most likely as museum pieces and “heritage breeds.” These spaniels do have good noses and a methodical hunting style that might be of some use.

However, the breed is not the working dog it once was. As a show dog, it was bred for shorter and shorter legs (as you can see in the case of Bridford Giddie.) The dogs stopped being bred for working traits, and the working spaniel people passed them by.

That’s why the breed is in such trouble today in terms of numbers.

The related field spaniel had exactly the same problem.

Ch. Bridford Brilliant, a black field spaniel owned by Moses Woolland.

Ch. Bridford Brilliant, a black field spaniel owned by Moses Woolland.

It also suffered a rather severe drop in numbers from which it has not recovered.

However, its exaggerations have been moderated. In fact, they not only have been moderated, they have been replaced with a requirement for more moderate conformation. And the field spaniel, at least in this country, does have a somewhat more modest footing since the conformation changed.

Please do not assume that I dislike the Sussex spaniel. A spaniel of this type could reasonably have some utility, but when run against the English springer or even an upland game retriever (especially a golden or European working Labrador, both of which have very good noses), it is not going to come out well.

The Sussex might be able to save itself if it were marketed as a docile, non-Avalanche of Rage prone spaniel. I could see this dog as a yuppie puppy– the latest trend among urban professionals who want something unique for their canine company.

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Harding Cox

Harding Cox

In case you were bored with all of that retriever history, I found a little tidbit.  In Harding Cox’s piece on retrievers in Drury’s British Dogs: Their Points, Selection and Show Preparation, I came across rather clear critique of competitive dog showing. Although the piece is about retrievers, Cox launches into an attack on the logic behind competitive dog showing. I only wish he had included retrievers in his criticism, but because he was a retrieverman who showed his dogs, I don’t think we could expect it.

Here it is:

The utility of dog shows as a means of maintaining and improving purity of type in the canine race, without impairing utility, has often been called in question, and really the spurious evolution that has taken place in some breeds, notably in Fox-terriers and Bulldogs, is greatly to be deplored. It is a case of cause and effect, induced by the exaggeration of type, and the sacrifice of a well-balanced and symmetrical whole, to the undue and excessive development of some special “fancy” point. For instance, the craze for exceedingly narrow chests in Fox-terriers has evolved this supposed desideratum at the expense of depth and strength of rib, and consequently of power of loin and quarters. One seldom sees a well-ribbed, square-quartered Fox-terrier nowadays. Again, it was laid down that Bulldogs should be more powerful in front of the saddle than behind it, and that the shoulders should be loose, and the elbows well turned out. Harping on this string, fanciers have produced a result of which they have no reason to be proud; for what do we too often find? Weak, ricketty legs, foundered chests, and wasted loins; rendering what should be a powerful, active dog, a monstrosity and a cripple. Such examples could be amplified ad infinitum.

This book was published in 1903, and 106 years later, we’re still writing about these things. To have such an assessment from someone so feted by fancy is truly remarkable. After all, Mr. Cox appears in the Charles Henry Lane’s Dog Shows and Doggy People (1902), a veritable hagiography of the dog fancy of the early years of the twentieth century.

It is a shame that no one really paid that much attention to him. I wonder what he’d say about retrievers today. I bet he would not be happy.

No more retriever history for a week, I promise.

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The dog above is known to all flat-coated retriever enthusiasts as Ch. Moonstone. He is very important to the flat-coated retriever, but I’m sure that his pedigree can be found in the golden retriever’s founding stock as well. (He looks a lot like Ch. Noranby Diana.)

His sire was Ch. Zelstone, and his dam was named Think. Zelstone is given a pedigree, but he had a very strong Newfoundland characteristics. which may have been through his possible St. John’s water dog ancestry or the fact that he had more than just a touch of the Newfoundland in his pedigree. I’ve read several different accounts of this dog, including one that calls him a full Newfoundland.

Think’s sire was Dusk, and her dam was Wisdom (also known as Jenny). Dusk was the result of breeding two full litter mates from the breeding of Paris and Lady Bonnie. (If you don’t believe me, have a look!) Wisdom’s parents are Moliere (a dog named after a French playwright) and Maud, but their pedigrees are not given. Wisdom is discussed in The Complete English Shot, but her ancestry and that of her parents are  not given.

The reason why I am so interested in the ancestry of Think is that she had a secret. Now, for those of you who were squeamish about the previously mentioned breeding of a brother and sister, get ready for something oedipal.

Moonstone was bred to his mother, and something strange happened.

She had a red puppy. Moonstone’s secret is that he carried the recessive gene for red to yellow.

This dog was named Foxcote.  Because the dog had this particular name, I think one can safely judge this dog to be an actual red, not a liver colored dog. This red color most likely came from the setter, and it probably was not all that rare in wavy/flat-coated retrievers. After all, the main outcross for this strain was the setter, and an Irish setter was considered a top working dog in those days.

And now something else makes sense.

Moonstone’s full brother was Tracer. Like Moonstone, he was black.

Tracer was bred to Gill, one of the Tweedmouth bitches, perhaps in the hopes that he would introduce some new blood from wavy-coats carrying the gene for red.

This breeding makes more sense now. I had originally said that this breeding happened because the 1st Baron Tweedmouth wanted his dogs to have the best possible wavy/flat-coated strains in his dogs. This is certainly true, but if Moonstone and Think could produce a red puppy, maybe Tracer and one of the Tweedmouth dogs could produce some reds and yellows.

However, it didn’t work out that way. The breeding of Gill to Tracer resulted in 10 black puppies, one of which was Queenie, who was bred to Nous II, a dog of the more typical Tweedmouth strain color.

Now, I think the existence of dogs like Foxcote shows that the development of the golden retriever most likely included lots of interbreeding with flat-coats that carried this gene. Because the only flat-coats of that day that were of that color were from Irish setters, the color became quite dark, even darker than the very dark dogs that made up the later dogs in the Tweedmouth strain. This could explain why mahogany dogs were so common.

I should also note here that Moonstone was declared the “perfect” retriever, and just from looking at him, he has a lot of the conformation I prefer in a retriever. He has just the right amount of bone and leg. He is without exaggeration. He looks so good that no wonder he was bred to his mother! (I’m sure that’s what his owners were thinking. No doubt in my mind.)

Of course, this one little survey of early flat/wavy-coat pedigrees shows that there was a lot of inbreeding early on in the breed, which certainly hurt the flat-coat when its numbers dropped in the Interwar Period. The golden, which was selected from the recessive red to yellow dogs in that pedigree, most likely has also suffered from that early inbreeding. However, the likelihood that their ancestors had setter close in their pedigrees may have mitigated some of this early inbreeding– at least until recent years.

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Black Drake

Black Drake

This photo of  “Black Drake” comes from a 1903 text by William Drury called British Dogs: Their Points, Selection and Show Preparation. Black Drake was a descendant of Moonstone. From my reading of the Tweedmouth pedigree, Zelstone was the sire of Tracer and Moonstone.

The selection on retrievers in this book is quite interesting. This piece was written when wavy or flat-coats had essentially had to be black to win anything in a dog show. It is dismissive of liver and red-colored (“golden”) dogs. “Sometimes the cross of the Gordon, and even the Irish, Setter has been resorted to, as evidenced by the throw-back of red- or liver-coloured puppies.” It is from these odd reddish colored way-coats that the 1st Baron Tweedmouth developed his strain, which eventually became the golden retriever.

Drury also obtusely states that the curly-coated retriever “is doomed to practical extinction is a notable and an undeniable fact, which must be put down to the inevitable law of the survival of the fittest.”

Of course, that didn’t happen, but the curly is still quite rare.

One must remember that the flat or wavy-coated retriever was heavily promoted as a working retriever.  It was bred to be easily handled and for really strong working characteristics.

The curly of that time period was like the show golden retriever of today. It had been bred for appearance and not for working ability, and the dogs were considered second rate.  This reputation sunk the curly-coated retriever.

However, this poor reputation ultimately saved it, because the only people who owned curlies were people who actually cared about producing good ones. As a result, the breed has been preserved for its working characteristics, although I doubt that it will ever be popular as a working retriever. I should mention that this is the only retriever I’ve not seen (other than the Murray River curly-coated retriever, which doesn’t exist in the Northern Hemisphere.)

On the Labrador, it talks about using the flat-c0at and the Irish setter as outcrosses to improve it:

Of late years the Labrador has grown in favour, and though the writer has no personal experience of his merits, there are knowledgable sportsmen who swear by him, by reason of his alleged possession of all the virtues which a Retriever should possess. Many of these dogs have been carefully bred and the strains jealously guarded; but to the writer’s eyes they appear, for the most part, rather coarse and cloddy; so that the element of the Setter becomes a necessity, if the quality of the modern Retriever is to be maintained. But first get your black Setter – no easy matter forsooth; though the cross of the red Irish setter with the Labrador would probably produce a fair percentage of blacks. These could be crossed in with a high-quality, show, Flat-coated Retriever, and thus a fresh current of blood would be introduced, which not only would check the tendency to excessive inbreeding, but would probably increase the powers of scent, and induce that steadiness which, it must be regretfully admitted, is often sadly wanting in our modern dogs; for they are high-couraged creatures, and somewhat impatient of restraint.

The expert Drury consulted on that retriever section was Harding Cox, who owned several top flat-coats of his day, including Black Drake and Black Queen. All of his dogs had the word “Black” in their registered names.

Finally, the more I look at these contemporary flat-coats, the more I think that this dog is a long-haired Labrador.

Text of the section on retrievers in Drury’s book.

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This dog is “Thorn.” He was owned by Sewallis E. Shirley, a member of parliament and founding president of the kennel club.

This depiction is from Hugh Dalziel’s British Dogs.

Thorn is further described in the text. Despite his smaller size, Thorn is a dog.

Mr. S. E. Shirley’s (M.P.) Thorn: Age, 5 years; height at shoulder, 22½in.; length from nose to set on of tail, 37in.; length of tail, 15in.; girth of chest, 29½in.; girth of head, 16½in.; girth of forearm, 9in.; length of head from occiput to tip of nose, 10½in.; girth of muzzle midway between eyes and tip of nose, 10in.

Dalziel lists his dam as Young Bounce. This is incorrect. Young Bounce was the dam of his sire, who was named Paris.

A dog named Paris is depicted below in Stonehenge’s work:

Paris is the heavier dog on the left, showing a Newfoundland-type influence. Melody, on the right, shows a more setter influence.

Paris is the heavier dog on the left, showing a Newfoundland-type influence. Melody, on the right, shows a more setter influence.

However, this may be a different dog, because Stonehenge says that this dog has a different ancestry than the dog in Thorn’s pedigree:

Both Paris and Morley are said to be pure Labradors  [St. John's water dogs], the former being by Sir Henry Paulett’s imported Labrador Lion, out of Bess, an imported Labrador bitch. Paris has Won repeatedly the champion prizes at the Crystal Palace and Dublin shows.

It wouldn’t surprise me if there were two dogs named Paris living at roughly the same time. The Paris in the Stonehenge work tends to be of the type that would late be culled out of the wavy/flat-coat line but later preserved and then promoted in the modern golden retriever line.


Whatever the particulars of Thorn’s ancestry, this text further shows how important Sewallis Shirley was in standardizing the old wavy-coated retriever. The old wavy-coated retriever is, of course, the most important strain of retriever. Its lineage can be found in all the other breeds of retriever, except the curly-coated retriever, and it is the direct ancestor of the golden and flat-coat.

As I mentioned before, Mr. Shirley is not only important for retrievers, but he was the founding president of the Kennel Club. Not only was he a political figure, but he was considered an expert in all things canine. And thus, he and his friends put together a gentlemen’s club to promote dog shows and field trials.

To organize all the dogs that were eligible for these events, Mr. Shirley compiled a 600-page stud book for dogs. It was the first of its kind– a Burke’s Peerage for canines. To fill in the narratives about the ancestry of these dogs, he collaborated with the Rev. Thomas Pearce (“Idstone”) to fill in the various pedigrees of all the dogs in the book.

Although one wonders how accurate Pearce’s history actually was, his historiography and that of John Henry Walsh (“Stonehenge”) became the foundational histories of so many different breeds of dog.

The stud book would later become a closed system of ensuring blood purity among various strains. As these founding breeds ran into internecine squabbles, new breeds materialized from the schisms– the golden retriever being a very good example. New breeds were discovered working on farms in Europe and North America, and others were found in the far corners of the world.  It was not long before all sorts of unusual dogs began to appear at shows.

When Sewallis Shirley founded the Kennel Club in 1873, I don’t think he had any idea of how far this institution would go. The Kennel Club model has been emulated throughout the world, which is rather strange, for it is probably the only Victorian institution that still exists largely unchanged since its founding.

And that is how it started. The modern purebred dog institution began with a retrieverman.

Update:  Eley was confused– both Bounces were bitches.

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