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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