Advertisements
Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Chesapeake bay retriever’

One of the great shibboleths in the dog world is that there is a creature known as the “responsible breeder.”

Each person has a definition about what one is, but for many years, the biggest defining point was the adherence to blood purity cult. Usually this would be mixed in with all the delusions of preservation, as well as the delusion of improvement.*

The unfortunate thing is none of these things have much to do with the real world.

In the real world, crossbreeding isn’t evil. It’s innovation.

Take this nice post by Suzanne Phillips over at the Hoof &Paw blog.

In her part of Oregon, it’s not unusual for someone to breed this:

Photo by Suzanne Phillips.

Photo from Suzanne Phillips.

This dog is a German short-haired pointer/Labrador retriever cross. It’s basically a purposely-bred cross that mixes the ruggedly versatile German HPR wit the always popular, hard driving Labrador. Suzanne mentions that when a friend of hers bred such a cross people drove from hundreds of miles to pick up one.

Such is the reputation of this cross.

She mentions another variant of the cross in the post as well. This time the retriever in question is a Chesapeake, but she has been bred to a German shorthair.

Photo by Suzanne Phillips.

Photo from Suzanne Phillips.

It’s hard for anyone in that old way of thinking to say that these were not well-bred animals.

Chesapeakes, Labs, and German shorthairs are all very useful animals. Not a single one of them was created through maintaining closed registries until very recently.

And even now, many people who want a useful dog don’t pay much attention to the old blood purity rules.

That’s because these blood purity rules are way outside of the average person’s experience with dogs. Almost no one owns a dog that is very tightly bred, and virtually everyone in the public would be repulsed by the idea.

Many people talk about the reason why the American Kennel Club is in such terrible financial straight. Animal rights activist get the blame. The puppy mill paper mills get their share, too.

But I think the real problem is that the American Kennel Club, though it is headquartered in the United States and always has been, is really a foreign institution.

Its values were imported from Great Britain at the height of its imperialist glory. As strange as it sounds today, most Americans were very anti-British during most the nineteenth century. Britain had burned down our capital. It allowed the Confederacy to have the delusion that it was on the side of their rebellion.  It was also a major competitor in the Northwest. Plus, tons of Americans were Irish famine refugees.

As America grew wealthier, wealthy and upper middle class Americans began to emulate the British Empire. Some of the first retriever trials in America were held on Long Island. Labradors were the breed of choice, and they were run almost exactly as they were in the mother country.

Meanwhile, American market duck hunters were blasting away with punt guns and heavy shotguns at vast flocks waterfowl. Their hardy “Chesapeake duck dogs,” water spaniels, and retrieving setters were earning their money. The backwoods market hunters were treeing grouse and turkeys with curs and feists. And very few of these people gave a rat’s behind about the pedigree of the dog.

In fact, most Americans didn’t care for this nonsense at all. The most common dog in much of the country was the generalist farm collie, usually called “a shepherd,” which did some light herding work and hunted everything it was asked to.

None of these dog were maintained within a concept of a “fancy.” There might be shows for foxhounds, coonhounds, and beagles, but every single dog in those shows was also a performance hound. And none of these dogs was kept in a true closed registry, and even now, pack hounds are still crossed on a routine basis.

But they are outside the AKC, and they are also outside the UKC.

Americans bred dogs to perform. In the early days of settlement, vast numbers of dogs couldn’t be imported from Europe. Our dog culture became based upon what can survive and what could do multiple tasks well.

The British dog culture was about specialization and arbitrarily classifying things based upon color and coat and size.

It became well-established among “learned circles” that American dogs, like our livestock, were in desperate need of improvement. From the 1870’s onward, there has been attempt to bring America the glories of canine improvement through closed registry breeding.

And it’s been a colossal failure.

It came closest to success in the middle to late part of the twentieth century, when the burgeoning middle class that had grown up out of the Second World War began to own purebred dogs as status symbol. It’s at this time that my own family got their first AKC dog, a registered rough collie named “Cam.”  Cam produced more than a few litters of collie-foxhounds, which were then quite in demand in West Virginia as varmint dogs.

I’ve noticed that when most laypeople watch dog shows, they only want their favorite breeds to win. They want to see the golden retriever go BIS at Westminster. They don’t care about the rare breeds. They are curiosities, novelties to be looked as if one were looking artifacts in a museum.

And that may be too charitable for some breeds.

I’m sure the untrained eye sees many of the really exaggerated dogs as creatures best belong in a freak show.

And of course, one really can’t argue with them.

Many progressive people rightly complain about how Americans have never adopted certain European ideals, but the notion of a national kennel registry to tell us how to breed dogs is one I’m glad we’ve never fully accepted.

So long as a dog fancy remains this insular, very foreign, and reactionary clique, the American people are going to ignore what these people say.

And buy gun dogs like these.

And doodles.

And Texas heelers.

After all, this culture produces good dogs.

And the dog fancy continues to produce freaks– many of which are unhealthy and very hard to care for.

This is how market economies work. There is failure, and there is success. The dog fancy has been a failure in the United States– and our dogs stand a much better chance because of it.

_________________________________________________________________________

*There will be a post on this at some point,

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

red winchester retriever 1886  1

This old photograph is being marketed that of an Irish water spaniel, but it’s actually something much cooler.

Irish water spaniels were commonly used as retrievers in the US, but the McCarthy type of water spaniel was invariably liver in color.

And it never makes one double click on an image to make one wonder if a dog is actually a golden retriever.

Here’s a close-up of the dog’s head. It’s very retrievery:

red winchester retriever 1886

I think this animal is a red Winchester retriever, a type of long-coated retriever derived from the St. John’s water dog. It was said to have come from Ireland, but it may have been nothing more than a regional Irish variant of the early curly-coated retriever. Such dogs were in demand among waterfowl hunters in America, and retrievers that were born liver or gold/red in color got exported to fuel the market hunters’ demands on Chesapeake Bay.

This red Winchester type is sometimes regarded as a type of long-haired Chesapeake or a breed that got absorbed into Chesapeakes, which occasionally do have long-coated pups.

We could have made at least three breeds out of the types of retrievers out of what became the Chesapeake Bay retrievers.

This particular dog was photographed by Edward Payson Butler in Reno, Nevada in 1886.  People settling in the West in those later days liked to hunt. The Frontier was just about to close off entirely,and people who had made their fortunes in places like Nevada were eager to get improved hunting dogs from back East or Europe.

This red Winchester retriever would have been a prized possession and obviously cherished member of the family,

I should note that there were several names for this dog: brown Winchester, red Chester, and brown Chester.

One story is that the retrievers that founded this strain came from a British ship called the HMS Winchester that was said to have brought the red, long-coated retrievers out of Cork to America’s Eastern Seaboard.

Which of course, brings us back to the Duggan family water spaniels, which were also from Cork.

Maybe this type of water spaniel is the ancestral red Winchester type that was then crossed with the endemic Chesapeake duck dogs to found the red Winchester, which then got absorbed into the modern Chesapeake Bay retriever.

America’s retriever culture relied much more heavily on water spaniels and regional variants than the UK retriever culture. We preferred liver and yellow/red/gold dogs over black ones, while in Britain, the preference was for black ones. Golden, Labrador, and flat-coated retrievers have long, carefully documented pedigrees, but you will not find these documents in regard to curly-coated retrievers, Chesapeakes, or any breed of water spaniel.

We produced dogs like this one.

Just as our coonhounds were likely mostly drawn from the rejects English Old Southern hound packs, which were deer and hare specialists, our native retriever was drawn from the rejects of a culture that was obsessed with producing black retrievers.

Our hunting and shooting culture is very different from the Motherland. We are a nation born of conquering pioneers, not of decaying feudalism.

We were once a nation filled with game, and compared to the British Isles today, we are still teeming with wild beasts.

We didn’t need a dog to say that we were up-and-coming. We needed a dog that had a purposed.

Until the frontier closed.

And well-to-do people began to sport hunt as a homage to a past that once included a Davy Crockett, a Daniel Boone, and a Lewis Wetzel.

This is where we are now.

Sport-hunting begat the modern conservation movement and then the science of wildlife management, and as America has grown wealthy, we’ve been able to save many species. We’ve been able to keep a bit of the frontier wildness about.

We may not have the zapovedniks of Russia, but we still have enough wild or even “feral” places about.

And here, people can keep dogs like this red Winchester’s descendants and take him or her into the places that remind one of that storied past.

It’s never going to be the same, but it is a reasonable enough facsimile.

Read Full Post »

Chesapeake duck dog

From a piece by George Norbury Appold in The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine (1885):

It is sincerely to be regretted, in view of his exceptionally valuable qualities, that suggested a close relationship to the otter-dog. His ability as a retriever emphasized this supposition. His superior qualities in this direction were so manifestly phenomenal that the few original specimens were eagerly purchased from their foreign owners by the gunners of Chesapeake Bay. The ability of this dog to withstand cold and exposure was far beyond that of the Irish retriever [Irish water spaniel]. Within a brief period he entirely superseded the last-named animal as a water-dog. For some unknown reason the Chesapeake duck-dog never became numerous; hence the owner of a pure-blooded specimen could hardly be induced to part with him at any price. In time this dog so identified himself with the waters of Chesapeake Bay as to be known by no other name than that borne by this estuary.

Twenty five years ago he was at the apogee of his fame. Nearly every family living in the bay counties of Maryland owned one or more of untainted blood. Through carelessness the breed was allowed to deteriorate; in consequence, to-day few, if any, of pure blood are in existence. A small number, however, remain of sufficient purity of race and perfection of training to almost equal in efficiency their distinguished and untainted ancestors. There were, in reality, two varieties of this dog, the long and the smooth coated, the latter not so popular as the former. The Chesapeake duck-dog is of the same size as the small Newfoundland [St. John’s water dog], head broad, nose sharp, eyes small and bright, ears somewhat insignificant and set high; coat in color dark sedge, strong and tigtlyy curled, with a peculiar under fur, so thick that the dog can remain in the water a long time without his skin becoming wet. The hair on the legs is not so long. It is particularly short about the nose and eyes. The Chesapeake duck-dog is used by sportsmen who shoot wild fowl either from points or from “booby blinds” set in the water a short distance from the shore.This dog so closely resembles the color of sedge-grass as not to be distinguishable except very near by. He remains in concealment until ordered to “fetch.” At the command he springs into the water, breaking his way even through ice of considerable thickness. The wounded birds he first retrieves. When these are all gathered in, he secures the dead. Ducks in the Maryland waters generally fly in long strings. It often happens that the gunner, armed with a breech-loader, puts in several shots while the gang of birds is passing. In this case the well-trained and sagacious dog has much hard work to do, particularly if the weather be rough. His endurance, however, is remarkable, and he never seems to tire at his task. This continuous immersion in the water would be impossible to any animal not provided with the thick and almost water-proof under fur of the Chesapeake duck-dog.

With his affectionate disposition, great intelligence, strength, and the peculiar physical qualities which he possesses, adapting him to the retrieving of wild fowl beyond any other known breed, it is a great misfortune that closer attention has not been given to the preservation of the purity of the race (pg. 36-37).

The Chesapeake Bay retriever is derived from the St. John’s water dog, as are all the other large retrievers.

This type of “Newfoundland” dog would have been commonly available in the United States, but it was only Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay that anyone attempted to turn this dog into a strain of retriever.

Unlike the St. John’s water dog-derived retrievers bred in the British Isles, the Chesapeake Bay retriever was selected for liver and yellow to red coloration. In Britain, virtually every gentleman had to have a black retriever for driven shoots.

American ducks, however, were always heavily gunned, and there was always a belief that one needed a brown or yellow retriever for camouflage.

Most Americans used water spaniels for retrieving ducks and retrieving setters to pick up land-based game birds, but on Chesapeake Bay there was a retriever culture that was very distinct from that in the British Isles.

In some ways, it was a southern equivalent of the Newfoundland culture which used those rugged water dogs to haul in nets and lines, hunt waterfowl and sea birds, and guard the home.

The Marylanders used their dogs in almost the same way, but a great many of these people were also involved in market hunting, a sort of American equivalent of the African bushmeat trade.  Hunters would go out and kill as many ducks and other waterfowl as they could, which they would then sell to restaurants and markets in the growing cities.

It was bad for our wildlife, but the culture that thrived upon this slaughter created this dog.

In some weird way, the Chesapeake Bay retriever is a bit of a museum piece.

As the outports of Newfoundland have begun to dwindle away, the St. John’s water dog slowly disappeared.

But its descendants have wound up conquering the world. The Labrador retriever is the most common purebred dog in the world. Golden retrievers are also quite popular.

But only the Chesapeake Bay duck dog was essentially kept in much the same way as the dogs of Newfoundland.

This Chesapeake retriever culture got started in 1807, when two St. John’s water dogs were rescued from a British ship that had been working off the coast of Newfoundland. The dogs were placed in the homes of different owners, and one of these dogs wound up in the hands of Maryland Governor Edward Lloyd, a wealthy planter who was into importing improved breeds of domestic stock from Europe. The dog was actually traded for Merino ram at a time when America’s sheep industry was booming and everyone was trying to get Merino stock.

Like our Vermont strain of Merino, the Chesapeake Bay retriever became our variant of the St. John’s water dog.

Today, it’s not as common as its British cousins, the golden and Labrador retrievers, which were derived from St. John’s water dogs selected for estate shoots.

But it still has a devout following.

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Wildfowling is English for duck hunting.

Source.

He may be “wildfowling,” but he’s hunting with an American dog that was once called the “Chesapeake Bay duck dog.”

Read Full Post »

The ash dogs are the ones that look like silver Labradors or Weimaraners, and it is genetically the same– a liver dilute.

The only two colors in Chesapeakes that I can identify with certainty are ashes and deadgrasses.  I tend to have problems separating colors that are shades of liver that have been diluted through sun exposure and colors that are dark recessive reds with brown skin.

 

 

Read Full Post »

This bitch named Polly is featured in George O. Shields’s The American Book of the Dog (1891).

I don’t know if we would call this particular dog a “Red Winchester,” which was the early long-haired strain of Chesapeake Bay retriever,” but this dog has more coat than one typically finds on a Chesapeake Bay retriever of today.

This dog is only slightly feathered, but she may  have been groomed to look a “bit slicker” than she would normally.

Read Full Post »

One could be forgiven for assuming that these were flat-coats, wavy-coats, or goldens. The shading of the dog in the lower right suggests that this dog is an e/e red, which does exist in the Chesapeake Bay retriever gene pool. However, black skin does not.

This image comes from Country Life in America (November 1915). Long-haired dogs occasionally pop up in Chesapeake Bay retrievers today. However. the modern breed is based upon a short-haired dog.

These long-haired dogs were very often quite red in color, and a whole strain of them was produced called a “Red Winchester.”   Many of the early show Chessies were of this Red Winchester type.

Because this breed existed along Chesapeake Bay as a landrace with very different strains, it varied greatly in appearance. I like to think of these dogs as being something like the original retriever, which came in an interbreeding landrace of feathered, curly, and short-haired varieties. The only difference is that the Americans selected for e/e yellow to red and liver colors (including “silver”– liver dilute, which is called “ash” in this breed). The British selected for black dogs almost exclusively and then concentrated the coat types into three and then four breeds. I don’t know why the American Chessie breeders didn’t try to do this, because the British were quite successful at doing so.

The Red Winchester retriever could have been established as a breed, but it fell from favor in the first part of the twentieth century, as it was absorbed into the modern Chessie.

These particular dogs were exhibited at a dog show in Southampton, New York in the summer of 1915.

The Chesapeake Bay dog was the first retriever recognized by the AKC, and for a while, there was  a heated discussion about whether this breed was a retriever. Because the dogs are also derived from the water dogs of Newfoundland (most likely St. John’s water dogs), this argument has long been settled.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: