Archive for April, 2011

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.

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This Irish water spaniel appears in Stonehenge’s The Dogs of the British Islands, Being a Series of Articles and Letters by Various Contributors, Reprinted from the “Field” Newspaper (1872).

In the text, this particular dog is said to have been a superior specimen. His coat is less profuse and more tightly curled than one might expect from a modern example of his breed, and his topknot looks somewhat like a glorified Mohawk.

Irish water spaniels of this type were very commonly used as retrievers throughout the British Isles, and they were even quite popular in the United States for a time.   The 1870’s and 1880’s were the zenith of their popularity, which also corresponds to the rise of the institutionalized fancy. The dogs now have largely been replaced by the St. John’s water dog-derived retrievers, and the English springer is now the main working breed of land spaniel– which can also moonlight as a water retriever.

But at one time, the Irish water spaniel was greatly sought after for its retrieving prowess.

It’s just a very different dog from the typical Labrador retriever!

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These come from Harry Woodworth Huntington’s My Dog and I (1897). The black dog is Bellingham Bailiff and the rather dark wheaten (?) is Bonny C. from the Newcastle Kennels in Brookline, Massachusetts.

These dogs have much longer legs and less exaggerated heads than the modern show dogs. They don’t  have Groundskeeper Willie faces either. I have no concept of what size these dogs are, but they look like a dog that could go into a fox lair or badger sett in wild country of Scotland.

Scottish terriers are derived from the Aberdeen and Highland terriers. The Highland dog looked a bit more like what we would call a cairn terrier, and the Aberdeen terrier appears to be a Scottish terrier with a slightly broken coat.

These are something like the Scottish version of the German teckel.

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Freckled Dalmatian

This Dalmatian’s name was Perry, and he belonged to someone named J. Dickman Brown.  He was featured in the entry for his breed in Harry Woodworth Huntington’s My Dog and I (1897).

This Dalmatian’s ticking is quite different from the classic type, but we still don’t know the exact genetics of how it differs from classical ticking.

This dog appears to be very similar to a classically ticked dog, such as this Braque du Bourbonnais or Wootton’s “Grey spotted hound,” which was clearly a pointer of some sort.

In the Huntington’s text about the Dalmatian, he recognizes that the dog looks like a pointer of some sort but then gives the standard saw about how Dalmatians came from Timbuktu or Outer Mongolia, which are only slightly more fantastic places than what Huntington actually says or that all breed experts, including the FCI, seem to parrot. As I noted earlier this week, it is much more likely that the Dalmatian is actually a British invention from the eighteenth century that was derived from aberrant pointers or pointer crosses.

This particular dog is quite robustly built. Indeed, he’s a touch portly. Modern Dals are built on more gracile lines. This more robust form might suggest that these dogs were crossed with bulldogs or the heavier English setter of eighteenth and early nineteenth century.

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This is Balto, and his owner is talented young trainer in Denmark.

This dog is an absolute ham. Check out his owner’s channel on youtube.

If this dog were on television, he could put curly-coated retrievers on the map.

And then we’d have to go through the whole “unselling of the dogs” spiel that golden retriever people must use to keep them out of  inappropriate homes. It’s not that curlies don’t have this problem, but when a breed becomes popular, this becomes a much worse issue.

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This painting is by John Wootton, an English painter who painted many sporting scenes.

I don’t agree that this dog is a hound for several reasons.  The most of obvious signal that this dog is not a hound is the grey partridge (“Hungarian partridge”) displayed in front of the dog. This suggests that the dog was a bird dog. The tail appears to be docked, which was a common practice in English pointers in the early years.

And if this is a representation of an English pointer, it would be a very early specimen. Many of the earliest records of pointers in England date to the early part of the eighteenth century, suggesting that many of the ancestors of today’s English pointers were brought back from Spain or France after the War of Spanish Succession. Of course, there are records of pointers existing in England before this time, but the pointer really didn’t become common as a hunting dog for the shoot estates until the eighteenth century.

The dog strongly resembles a Braque du Bourbonnais, but it is the wrong color. Blue roan or blue-ticked is not a color associated with that breed– at least in its modern incarnation. Many members of that breed are also naturally short or bobtailed, and this dog doesn’t appear to have that feature. It looks docked in the same way that that German short-hair or a vizsla would be.

The fact that this dog is referred to as a hound also suggests a French origin. The term for pointer in French is “braque,” but braque sounds similar word in German, which is “Brache.”  Brache always refers to several breeds of German scent hounds. Perhaps there was some confusion about what this dog actually was. After all, it was a common practice for the English to breed smooth-coated pointers from Europe to foxhounds to give them more speed and harder drive.

However, if this dog is an English pointer, it also suggests something about the origin of the Dalmatian. There is an official story about origin of the Dalmatian, but almost all of it is speculative and dubious.  I don’t think for one minute that this dog is Croatian. William Jardine thought the dog was derived from a single import of a peculiarly marked hound from India, but judging from Jardine’s description in The Naturalist’s Library (1840):

From the general structure of the animal, we are of opinion it should be placed with the hounds; but though a very handsome variety, inferior to none of the above in elegance of form and beautiful markings, it is, with some dissent however, said to be without powers of nose or much sagacity, and therefore invariably entrusted to the stables, where it familiarises with horses. Having, in the general description of dogs, noticed the print of a specimen brought from India, with a white fur marked with small black spots, small half dejected ears, and a greyhound-like form, we have there expressed the suspicion that our present coach-dog may be derived from that individual, or from his breed, and we have accordingly given a representation of it.

Dalmatian dogs they are not, although a Turkish grandee might well have possessed specimens of the dog in that country. We figure it accordingly (pg. 193-194).

It is unlikely that any one dog from India could have founded the whole population of Dalmatians, but it makes a whole lot more sense that all of the dubious claims about spotted white hounds in Croatia.  There is a native Croatian hound that clearly would have fit any of the descriptions of these hounds from that region that might be confused with a Dalmatian.

The FCI gave the Dalmatian’s patron country status to Croatia based upon the work of Thomas Bewick, who depicted a Dalmatian in his General History of Quadrupeds in 1792. (Its ears appear to be closely cropped.)

Bewick claimed the dogs were from Dalmatia, but keep in mind that Bewick was not a particularly educated man, who was never formally educated. He was apprenticed to an engraver, and that is how he made his living. He did read books by the leading naturalists of the day, and he did spend a lot of time in nature. But he could have been told  just about anything about the origins of coach dog, and he would have not any way of verifying it.

And yet this is how we base our understanding of the Dalmatian’s origins.

Look at the engraving of the Dalmatian that Bewick did in 1792 and compare it to Wootton’s “Grey-spotted hound.” They have very similar features– including the spots. Jardine clearly states that Dalmatians had some affinity with greyhounds.  Bewick’s dog has some affinities with the bulldog but also has the something like a greyhound’s head. Both bulldogs and greyhounds can have something like these ticked markings. This dog looks like a blend between the pointer in the Wootton painting and those two breeds.

My educated guess is that the Dalmatian’s origins are in England in the middle of the eighteenth century with pointer or setter crosses to bulldogs, foxhounds, or greyhounds. The Dalmatian started out as a mongrel pointer. The modern Dalmatian often exhibits the extended stalking behavior we see in English pointers, and there may have been some addition of English setter to the breed, which perhaps the origin of the long-haired Dalmatians.

I don’t know why the historical research on the Dalmatian is so flaky. It is one of those breeds that has an impossibly fantastic origin theory that one has to question it.

But then I guess you couldn’t call them “Dalmatians” and keep a straight face.

Dalmatians are likely an English breed that dates to the eighteenth century. They likely are derived from unusually colored pointer crosses.

That theory seems far less fantastic, and although somewhat speculative, it is more likely to be correct than the claim that these dogs are from Croatia, Ancient Greece, or Bengal. The model requires fewer dubious assumptions. Therefore, it is more likely to be correct.

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