Posts Tagged ‘Ben of Hyde’

Gipsy, a "white" wavy-coated retriever.

From an article in Country Life (29 February1908):

It is very unusual to find a distinct type of dogs which are true bred and yet owe their origin to nothing more than descent from an ancestor which was merely a freak in a true and pure bred class of retrievers, remarkable when we find two such distinct breeds of existing to-day in the same kennels. On the estate of Mr. C. J Radclyffe, at Hyde in Dorsetshire, a visitor may see a pure white breed of the old-fashioned… wavy-coated retrievers. Mr. Radclyffe has kept for more than forty-five years a well-known breed of these wavy-coated dogs, which until a certain date were all black. A matter of ten or twelve years ago, in certain of the litters sired by one particular dog, one or more of the puppies were born pure white in colour. This dog was a purebred scion of the old breed, and there was no chance of there being any mongrel blood in his veins. The owner carefully preserved all… white puppies, and in course of time hoped to perpetuate a breed of white dogs by breeding from his favourite white dog Gipsy. But out of the first forty-six puppies sired by this clog from black mothers not one of the pups was white. On the other hand, some of the white bitches had whole litters of white puppies. And, by breeding from white dogs and bitches, which were of necessity in the first instance rather closely related to each other, Mr. Radclyffe has been able to establish a breed of these dogs, which it is hoped in future will breed descendants true in colour to their white parents. Naturally, it may be presumed that occasionally certain puppies in some litters will throw back to the black colour of their ancestors.

In the same kennels at Hyde may also be seen the rare sight of a breed of pure yellow’ Labradors. These dogs are owned by Captain C. E. Radclyffe, and, like the above-mentioned white retrievers, they owe their origin to a freak. In one litter sired by a celebrated black Labrador owned by Captain Radclyffe there were two yellow puppies, a dog and a bitch. By breeding from this yellow dog, named Ben, his owner has now collected a splendid kennel of yellow dogs; and, curious to say, unlike the white retriever, Gipsy, quite 75 per cent, of the puppies by this yellow Labrador are true to the colour of their sire, even when he is mated with a black bitch. Their owner has not been experimenting long enough to prove whether or no by interbreeding with the young yellow Labradors he will be able to perpetuate the breed, but he has every confidence that such will prove to be the case. In support of this theory he quotes an instance of where a light – coloured and almost white Labrador bitch, owned by the Hon. Francis Dawnay, was mated with the yellow dog Ben, and all the puppies were either yellow or white in colour. It is noteworthy that none of these white or yellow dogs is an albino as regards the colour of its eyes, etc., and,- moreover, they are as good workers in the field as were their black ancestors. It seems a pity that these dogs cannot be exhibited on the show bench, in order that the sporting public may see how very picturesque and handsome they are in appearance; but it is understood that some rule prohibits judges from awarding prizes to any such dogs unless they are black in colour. It is believed that these two breeds of retrievers are unique, and, needless to remark, their respective owners consider them to be priceless, consequently none of them has ever been sold (pg. 305).

The author has the genetics a little wrong. The “white” dogs were very likely just pale yellows, and the recessive nature of the e/e genotype that causes this coloration is now well-established. The “white” wavy-coats resulted from breeding a black dog that carried this recessive gene with a bitch that carried that gene. That particular gene cannot be traced to a single sire in the way that this article suggests. However, Mendelian genetics was not well-known at this time, so both the breeder and the author can be forgiven for this misunderstanding.

Radclyffe’s yellow Labradors would become better known than his “white” wavy-coats. Ben of Hyde, the dog mentioned in this article, is the first “official” yellow Labrador and the source for most of the yellow Labradors that exist today. This article contains a much better photograph of Ben than I have previously posted on this blog:

Ben is a relatively dark yellow dog, but because it was easier to establish the yellow coloration in Radclyffe’s line of Labradors, it is very likely that yellow was much more established in black Labrador lines before Ben was born.

These dogs were not the result of “freaks,” as this article suggests. Rather, they are just recessive yellows  that popped up in Labrador and wavy-coated retriever lines. Radclyffe was just one of the first breeders to select for this color over the more traditional black color.

I don’t know if Radclyffe had been aware of yellow wavy-coats at Guisachan or if this this dog named Gipsy traces its roots to that breeding program. He was obviously not the first person to select for yellow in wavy-coats, but he was the first to select for it in Labradors.

Tramp, a "white" wavy-coat.

These white wavy-coats are quite intriguing. Very light-colored golden retrievers were virtually nonexistent in the early lines of that breed, but within the foundational pedigrees of golden retrievers, there are dogs of unknown parentage. Perhaps some of these “white” wavy-coats were behind these anomalous goldens, and they are the source for the cream-colored dogs that are commonly associated with “English type” golden retrievers. Because we do not have records of the pedigrees of these anomalous goldens, we can only conjecture.

This close-up of Gipsy’s head does show a retriever that looks very much like a golden:

However, we simply do not have the records.

But the photographs are so beguiling.

Perhaps Radclyffe’s kennels were not just the source for the yellow Labrador. His breeding program may have been the source for the “white” golden retriever, too.

I find it particularly interesting that Radclyffe didn’t realize that his “white” wavy-coats were caused by the same recessive genes as the yellow Labradors.  This article suggests that he was at least considering this possibility when one of the yellow Labradors produced at his kennels was quite pale. Perhaps if it had been born fully white, he would have realized that he was dealing with the same gene in both breeds.

He could have been better able to establish the color in his wavy-coats if he had been willing to breed his yellow Labradors into this strain.

Retriever history is forever revealing such unusual stories.

All golden retriever fanciers known of the 1st Baron Tweedmouth’s breeding program for yellow wavy-coated retrievers at Guisachan. Virtually all Labrador fanciers know of Ben of Hyde as the first official yellow Lab.

But the story of the “white” wavy-coats has been ignored. I just discovered this story today, and I am amazed that I have never encountered it in my quests through retriever history. It is a story that should be examined more closely, for it is possible that these “white” wavy-coats contributed to the foundational golden retriever bloodlines and are a potential source of the cream-colored dogs that are now so popular. These wavy-coats existed at a time when the golden retriever was becoming established as a distinct breed– 1908 is when the Kennel Club recognized yellow as an official color for flat-coated retrievers– and there are so many dogs within the foundational pedigrees that are total unknowns. These unknown dogs could have been some of these “white” wavy-coated retrievers.

The fact that anyone tried to establish lines of these dogs point to a simple reality: Humans are quite visual creatures. From the account in this Country Life article, these retrievers were great workers, but Radclyffe just preferred the yellow and white color.

White wavy-coated retrievers and yellow Labradors. Radclyffe had to have been a bit of a maverick, for even liver was a controversial color for retrievers in those days. Most people wanted a black retriever, whether it was a wavy/flat-coat, a curly-coat, or a Labrador.

Dogs of such unusual colors definitely would have been conversation pieces.

Never mind that they were competent working dogs!

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From ReelDogs

I watched this film many, many times when I was a child. I think it had some influence on my love for frontier stories and our regional dog breeds. I’ve read the novel on which the film is based. (I’ll warn you that Miley Cyrus is the music played on the youtube video, in case you haven’t already clicked it).

The dog that plays Old Yeller in the film was a Labrador cross named Spike.

In the novel, the dog was a cur of some sort.

If this film is ever remade, I hope they use a cur and not a retriever.

Labs didn’t exist in the 1870’s, at least as we know them now.

And the first real yellow Lab didn’t exist until 1899.

That dog was Ben of Hyde.


This is an actual photo of Ben of Hyde retrieving trout, just like the dog in the dog in film caught fish.

This is a photo that shows Ben’s rather feathered tail, and I’m beginning to wonder if he might have had a Tweedmouth strain of wavy-coat in his background.

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