Posts Tagged ‘early yellow retriever’

This is one of the earliest depictions of a yellow retriever working. It is called “The Shooting Party–Ranton Abbey.” Francis Grant painted it in 1840.

Ranton Abbey was the shooting estate of Thomas William Anson, 1st Earl of Lichfield.  William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne, is in attendance. He was the prime minister at the time of this painting. There are several other British aristocrats in the this painting– the Henry Paget, the 2nd Earl of Uxbridge and 1st Marquess of Anglesey; Charles William Molyneux, 3rd Earl of Sefton; and the boy seated on the ground is Thomas George Anson, 2nd Earl of Lichfield. These men were all Whig elite.

There are two retrievers in attendance. One is a black and tan dog that clearly resembles a dog of the collie type. The other is an obvious yellow dog retrieving a pheasant cock. He is somewhat like a yellow Labrador, but the coat is more profuse and perhaps even lightly feathered. (Here is a larger copy of the work that will allow you a better look at the dogs).

I would count these two dogs are early examples of the wavy-coated retriever type– although it is unlikely that these dogs contributed to the wavy and flat-coated retriever breed that had eventually developed by the 1850’s.

Whig nobles were into shooting estates. The 1st Earl of Lichfield purchased Ranton Abbey solely for shooting purposes. He spent great sums of money improving the land to improve habitat for pheasants and other game.

This penchant for shooting estates among the Whig elite would extend through the successor Liberal Party. When Dudley Marjoribanks, 1st Baron Tweedmouth, purchased Guisachan in the Scottish Highlands, he was following in this tradition.  Although Guisachan is now famous for being home to the yellow retrievers whose descendants would become goldens, it is unlikely that this animal had any connection to those dogs. But here was a yellow retriever, not quite a golden or a wavy coat, working as a gun dog for the Whig gentry.  The goldens would find themselves working for the Liberals– Whigs of a different permutation– just a few decades earlier.  But other than that, no connection can be made.

It is still an interesting painting , for it gives us an idea of the diversity that once was the retriever dog. If it could retrieve, it was a retriever, and it was bred to other dogs that retrieved. That’s why so many different dogs were used to found the retriever breeds. And why they varied so much in appearance.

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