Posts Tagged ‘Culham Copper’


Noranby Campfire was the one of the first Noranby dogs.

Mrs. Charlesworth’s Noranby goldens were among the three foundational lines that make up the modern golden’s pedigree. Noranby Campfire was the first stud she bred.  His type is of a lithe, dark-colored dog with a somewhat wavy-coat, very typical of Mrs. Charlesworth’s breeding, although most of her later dogs had straighter coats.

Her line was founded with a bitch named “Normanby Beauty.” The name was originally “Normanby,” but a snafu at a dog show changed the name to “Noranby.”

Beauty was bred to Lord Harcourt’s “Culham Copper.” This breeding produced the foundation stud, Noranby Campfire.  Copper’s sire was Culham Brass, and this line, the Culhams, is well-documented in terms of pedigree and photos. This line is originally came directly from Guisachan’s kennels.

Culham Copper, Camfire’s sire:

Culham Copper

Culham Copper

And Culham Brass:


Culham Brass, b. 1904.

Here’s the pedigree for Culham Brass. Notice that there is an obvious black dog in that pedigree with what we would definitely regard today  as a politically incorrect name. The Culham dogs were interbred with black way/flat-coats, and that name is a definitely of a dog of that color.

Notice what features these dogs all possess. They are all moderately boned and feathered. They are all dark dogs, but not as dark as Dual Ch. Balcombe Boy, also of Lord Harcourt’s breeding. This dog was the breed’s first dual champion, but he wouldn’t win a thing today in the show ring. He was what we call a mahogany golden. This color is as dark as the darkest Irish setter, and I think it is rather attractive. I used to see a few goldens of this color as late as ten years ago, but today, this color is strictly verboten. And because of the inheritance of coat color in goldens is such that light colored dogs cannot carry the darker color, you will never see this color return. It is something that dog shows cannot capture, for it is something that only generations of functional breeding can create.

If you’d like to see  a good photograph of Balcombe Boy, check out Marcia Schehlr’s book. His photo is in the early breed history section, which are de rigueur in the dog books. Most of these are total nonsense, but this book is really good in its historical analysis. In fact, that’s where I found out about the Cao de Castro Laboreiro’s influence in the St. John’s water dog. I use the history in that book, along with a cribbed section of Elma Stonex’s expose on the history of the golden retriever that appears in Gertrude Fischer’s book, The New Complete Golden Retriever. Both of these books have really good analysis of the conformation, including a critique of people who breed dogs solely to be flashy and “trendy” in the ring, rather than breeding for a more consistent and functional type. Neither book goes as far as I do, of course, and neither is as blatant as I am. But if you want my idea of what a golden is supposed to look like, go to the last sketch in Schlehr’s book. It’s one of her own pieces of artwork, and it features a field bred dog, with a moderate coat and lithe frame carrying a duck in its mouth. It is well-muscled but not cobby. It is designed to do what it is supposed to do. It is an attractive dog, but not in the way show dogs are. It is an elegance that one might see in the working collies and huntaways of New Zealand or of coyotes mousing in a freshly mowed hayfield.

I hope that this post gives you an idea of what the original goldens were like in the years that they first were split off from the flat-coat. The big, “white,” coarsely built “retrievers” are nothing like these dogs. They are a caricature of this formerly strong working retriever.  Their conformation is designed for slowness and lumber, not for efficient movement on land or in water. (And Raymond Coppinger uses the exact word  that I do in his book on dog evolution when he writes about these pseudo-retrievers–“caricature.” I have criticisms of that book, but I think much of it is really an asset to our understanding of dogs, especially when he talks about what we’re doing to destroy the genetic base and working abilities of our dogs.)

So which breeders are conserving the golden retriever?  The ones breeding the lithe, red field dogs? Or the ones breeding “white” and blond dogs with lots of hair and bone?  I think the answer is pretty clear. The pictures speak for themselves.

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The dog on the right represents the original type for golden retrievers and is now only represented in the field lines. It also has a common characteristic in field bred goldens– a slightly undershot jaw. Some really dislike this characteristic that appears in working type goldens, but since we really don’t want a golden to bite to kill its game– like we would with a terrier or a sighthound– it’s not that big a deal. However, excessive bone and coat are a much bigger deal when we talk about working conformation. The dog on the left represents a light-colored dog, but the conformation is far more functional that we see in most modern “English cream” goldens.

I was recently going through some old golden retriever books. One was Gertrude Fischer’s The New Complete Golden Retriever (1984). Another was Valerie Foss’s Golden Retrievers Today (1994). The former is a classic golden retriever book about golden retrievers in America, while the other is a rather brief survey of the breed in Britain. What is interesting is how the type and color have evolved in both countries.

In the 1920’s, when the breed had experienced just a few years of separation from the flat-coat, the breed in both countries very strongly resembled the dog on the right. As I have stated before, from around 1890 until the First World War, the flat-coat (and the golden– known as “Tweedmouth’s strain”) were the dominant retrievers in Britain. The dogs had been bred with more leg and a more moderate coat. The “Newfoundland” influence was being bred out of the lines of the flat-coat.  The old strain of Newfoundland, which once reigned as the top retriever outcross, had disappeared, replaced with the more modern strain of mastiff-type dog.

Here are two golden retrievers who were shown and worked as flat-coats:

Culham Brass (1904):


(Note the water spaniel influence in his coat).

Culham Copper (1908):


(Note the white markings–not uncommon in working type goldens. It’s a throwback to the Irish setter, which was originally red and white. Most working red setters– field type Irish setters– in the US have at least some white on them).

Culham Brass’s dam was Lady, Archie Marjoribanks’s dog that he kept on the ranch in Texas. These dogs were typical of the type found in Britain at this time. The breed only existed in very small numbers in Canada, where Lord Aberdeen, the governor general, introduced them. The Culham dogs were registered, trialed, and show as “liver flat-coats,” “yellow flat-coats,” or “Tweedmouth’s strain.”

Colonel Magoffin’s first imports to North America in the 1930’s were all of this type. The breed was often mistaken as an Irish setter. Several field trial champions during this time period in America were often thought of by spectators as unusual retrieving Irish setters that could swim.

Lighter colors did exist in the breed in the early years, but these would be called light gold by today’s standards, not cream. The darker colors, because of their dominance in heritability, were simply more common.

In the United states and Canada, the darker colored dogs were much more common well into the 1990s, but in the UK and the FCI, something happened. In 1936, the KC and FCI standard allowed for cream colored dogs, probably hoping to open up the color so that dogs with whitish shadings could be used in the breeding program. The Golden Retriever Club said that the original dogs were cream, so they had to allow for it. Interestingly, the Marjoribanks family bred all of their dogs towards the darker end of the spectrum, even though that first litter between Nous and Belle were indeed light golden in color. (Nous was dark gold).

Then, the standard was rewritten to require that “red and mahogany” were not allowed colors. This would change the way that golden retrievers would develop in Britain and the FCI countries. All truly golden dogs are a diluted red in color, even those that are “white.” Then the KC and FCI standard reduced the height at the whithers– 20 inches became the new minimum. The result was that KC and FCI show breeders began breeding the lightest possible goldens until they were producing the pale creams that we sometimes call “English cream” or “white goldens.” The shorter legs on these dogs was soon accompanied with increased bone, and the breed entirely changed in Europe. If you look throug Foss’s book, the dogs sudden shift around 1960 to this English cream type.

In Fischer’s book, the American goldens do not get more heavily boned at all, in part because her book was published in 1984, before some of the shifts hit the North American golden population. The vast majority of the goldens in her are of the original type. There are light dogs, but there are no “white” dogs. What happens in her book is that the dogs’ feathering becomes more and more excessive. By the 1980’s pictures, the dogs in that book have 7 or 8 inch feathering streaming off their legs and tail. A dog built like a working golden with that type of coat is a beautiful thing to behold, even though that feathering is a hindrance in the field, collecting burrs and becoming waterlogged. Here’s a pic of a famous show golden from this time period. His type is very common in the American Kennel Club shows, although most of the modern American show dogs are now lighter gold than he was.  Heavier bone is appearing in these lines, too, making them even less functional.

Now, we have this dichotomy:


The dog on the right still has the dark color and more moderate body type (although heavier than the originals), so we know this is an American show type golden. The dark gold dogs are not frowned on the ring. You still see American show champions of this color. The dog on the left is the English show type, short legged and heavily boned and not even “gold” in color.

The English type also has been selected for a much more “mellow” temperament. Temple Grandin, an autistic woman who has studied the brain chemistry and behavior of a wide variety of domestic animals (most famously using her knowledge to design humane slaughterhouses), points out in her book, Animals in Translation, argues that breeding golden retrievers to be so calm has made epilepsy more common. Goldens are now subject to Avalanche of Rage Syndrome and may be related to this, which is actually a seizure disorder in which a nice dog suddenly attacks people for no reason. I wonder if the influx of English type goldens has resulted in an increase in aggression and biting in the US golden retriever population. According to one study, goldens are now the Number 3 biter in the US.

I’m not looking for a polar bear golden or a dog with so much coat that it drags half the undergrowth of the forest out with it. I’m looking for the old type, the “Swamp collie,” which varied in appearance but was more often dark gold or golden red in color, often with some white splashes on the face and chest. Something like this:


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Here it is again with English subtitles.

Thanks again to Djanick Michaud of Zomarick Golden Retrievers.

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