Posts Tagged ‘field bred golden retriever’

Speedwell Pluto

Speedwell Pluto

I’ve noticed some discord among the golden retriever message boards about a post I wrote about the first golden retriever champion in this country.

The following things are repeated. The GRCA doesn’t want a split in type, so they are doing everything they can to push a dual purpose dog. I’ve even found where on their official website that they want the dogs to have more moderate coats.

The problem is that the GRCA can say this stuff all it wants. It can support dual purpose breeding and competition all it wants.

But the horse has left the barn.

When the standards began to require a dog with more bone and more coat, then the dogs split into two basic types.

It’s unfortunate, but the split has happened.

And like Humpty Dumpty, it probably won’t come together again.

Remember, goldens in working trials are being run against Labradors– lanky, long-legged Labradors that run with a lot of style. They are at a disadvantage if they are short-legged and heavy-boned.

I personally don’t like the look of the show-bred dog.

There– I said it.

But I also don’t like the way it runs, the way it swims, or the fact that too many of them have to be taught to put things in its mouth. That’s one thing that a retriever should be doing automatically.

And despite what the GRCA says about excessive coat, I still see lots of show dogs being put up with lots of coat.

Has anyone ever read any working retriever literature? Have you ever read in any of these books or talked to anyone who has worked them who has said that the golden needs more coat?

I prefer an old-fashioned golden. One that looks a lot like Speedwell Pluto or Noranby Diana. Maybe I like those old 1930’s model dogs. They are built right, without exaggeration of either bone or coat. In the 1930’s, the heavier dogs that had so tinctured the Tweedmouth strain had been replaced with retrievers that had lost their lumber.

I find the whole dual purpose thing rather insulting to those people who bred performance dogs in this breed for years and years, while the show strain deteriorated into something like the American cocker of the 1980’s. The whole exercise is really quite Quixotic, like the Buckleys of the dog world standing athwart history yelling “stop.”

I am fine that this breed has split. I’m not happy that the genetic diversity continues to atrophy, but that problem is not entirely the fault of the split in types. Everyone seems to want to use just a few sires in this breed– and this problem is not only that of the show-line dogs.

I see a split in types. A performance bred dog is going to be a good performance dog– generally better than a show-bred dog. That’s why we have the split in the first place.

And the split isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It allows breeders to focus on producing the kind of dog they want to produce.


I think now that I should say that goldens aren’t the only breed to have split in this way. There are certain factors that have led to splits within breeds, and many of them have been nastier than this little split.

1. If a dog has more than a couple of thousand individual dogs in its worldwide population, it will split. You cannot get all the clubs in all the countries of the world to agree to a single standard. If every club was in the FCI’s registries, maybe that could happen.

2. If the type of dog that does well at a dog show is fundamentally different from the type of dog that is worked, the split will happen. That’s what happens in just about every working breed. If a gun dog breed originated in Great Britain, with a few notable exceptions (Flat-coats, Welsh springers, Irish water spaniels, etc),  that dog comes in a separate show or working form.

3. In the early fancy, internecine conformation debates have caused splits. I say this as if it doesn’t happen today, but in reality, it does sometimes happen. The most recent is the row over what an Akita is. The Japanese have different sort of dog that is confined to a narrower range of colors than the Akitas you typically find here. There have been moves to separate these two Akitas. The most recent split I can think of that affected an AKC breed was when the Norfolk and Norwich terriers became separate breeds, which happened in 1960 in the Kennel Club and in 1979 in the AKC. The big difference between the two is that the Norfolk has floppy ears, and the Norwich has prick ears.

4. If someone discovers that the dogs originally looked very different from the current crop of dogs, there will be a split. How many bulldog breeds are there?

5. The whole history of dogs since the founding the fancy has been the history of these internecine conflicts that have eventually boiled over into schisms. The fancy not only created a way of standardizing already extant breeds, it created an atmosphere in which one could almost guarantee that there would be splits. If a certain strain in a particular breed couldn’t win at a dog show, because it didn’t meet the standard or possess a “fancy point,” the breeders of that strain would pack up their marbles and start a new breed. That’s what happened to the golden retriever. They even made up a story about the dogs coming from Russia to make sure everyone knew that this breed had nothing to do with the flat-coated retriever (except, you know, for sharing lots of different ancestors and being heavily interbred with the flat-coat.)

So when it comes to golden retrievers, roll that beautiful bean footage and lets have more 1930’s models!

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At one time, dogs like these could be top show dogs, as well as working dogs. Sadly, those days are long passed.

At one time, dogs like these could be top show dogs, as well as working dogs. Sadly, those days are long passed.

After World War II, the golden retriever began to make a name for itself in the United States and Canada. Originally, it was primarily owned by people of great wealth, who had the resources to import dogs from Britain. After World War II, the middle class expanded, and the dogs were accessible to the public at large.

One of the most important dogs born in America was CH AmCanOTC Lorelei’s Golden Rip**.  This dog was whelped in 1946, and he had Rockhaven, Yelme, Haulstone, and Noranby dogs in his background. His great  grandsire was FCh Rip ,  the first male golden to win a US field championship. This dog was descended largely from Noranby lines, which is why so many of his progeny were of the darker colors.

Golden Rip was a top obedience dog and show dog, but he also was handled in the field. Breeders today try to do the same with their dogs, but  it is often a very difficult enterprise. The traits that make a dog a good worker, a spry frame and moderate feathering, also go against the breed standard, which wants a broader head and “good bone.” (I think there’s a difference between good bone and excessive bone, and most show dogs have it in excess.)

Here is a picture of Golden Rip. He would not make it in the show ring today. He’s what we would call a field golden today. He is moderate in coat and bone. He is also very dark. He lacks the “bulbous” and “blocky” look we see too often in show goldens. Everything about him says “What do you want me to retrieve?”

Today, he would be laughed out of the show ring. He would be deemed “too dark.” His build would be called “racy,” while his body type would be called “flat-ribbed.” He would also be marked down for having a noticeable occiuput. We always sought this in our dogs because it is believed to be a sign of trainability. Some even call this the “bump of wisdom” or “bump of knowledge.”

Golden Rip was a widely used sire. He was the ancestor of my first golden, who was a dead ringer for a female version of him, except for her white-tipped tail. His bloodlines appear in many show and ffeld goldens on this continent. However, his show-type descendants don’t look like him in the least.

Even today, Rip is a very common name for a golden retriever. I know of at least four dogs with this name. Dogs of his type are the archetypal golden retriever.   If you mention  the worlds “golden retriever” to me, this is the image that enters my mind.

If you were to compare him with champion goldens of today, you’d notice how exaggerated these dogs are from the original form.  My father once called our dog a “red wolf,” because she was built true to that ancient lupine form that is designed for running long and hard for hours on end. The Russians say “The wolf is kept fed by its feet.”   That’s why wolves are built with so much leg and so much endurance. It is through that heritage that the retriever inherited its running and swimming gear, big feet and good legs for tearing through the brush and paddling through the water.

Today, the show golden is bred away from anything resembling the utility of either a wild wolf or a hard- working retriever. It is designed to be a teddy bear with excessive coat and excessive bone. It is a mere shadow of the old dual purpose golden that once existed. The fancy has made it so that they don’t make show dogs like Golden Rip anymore.

If we could get back to a functional breed standard in the golden, I guarantee you that dogs like Rip would exist once again. There would be less division between show and field strains, and our dogs might be considered a viable working breed once again.

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