Posts Tagged ‘flat-coated retriever history’

Mr. Shirley was responsible for founding both the Kennel Club and the flat-coated retriever.
Mr. Shirley was responsible for founding both the Kennel Club and the flat-coated retriever.
     In favor of explaining the development of the golden retriever as a distinct form, I have left out a little history that Flat-coat people know well but golden people seem to ignore. I am a golden owner, so my perspective is that of a golden owner trying to understand its history. However, I have always pointed out that we must know the history of both breeds. Remember, the history of both breeds is very close, simply because the golden was a color variety of flat-coat or wavy-coat through most of its development.
     In this case, I am talking about the role of Sewallis Evelyn Shirley and his founding of both the Kennel Club and the flat-coated retriever. Mr. Shirley was a member of parliament who had always hunted with wavy-coated retrievers.  At the time the wavy-coat was the most common type of retriever, and it differed from the flat-coat and golden in that it was generally a heavier dog  with a coat that was almost always long and wavy.  It was recognized as separate variety in the early retriever club in 1864 (four years before Nous was born), and the wavy-coated dogs began to dominate the early trial circuit. They were also shown in what were loose and informal dog shows for gundogs. Dogs were shown in arbitrary classes, and the main role for the retriever was to be a working animal that was to be trialed.
     Two early wavy-coat champions were Old Bounce and Young Bounce, which belong to a gamekeeper named Mr. Hull, and their descendants were the cornerstone of most wavy-coated strains. His breeding program used dogs that were descended from the two Bounces. He began to breed out the wave in his dogs’ coats. The early standard for the allowed for black and liver. Liver dogs included those dogs from the Tweedmouth strain, even though today we wouldn’t technically consider those dogs to be liver. His main interest was to standardize the wavy-coated variety into the flat-coated breed.
      He was also the founding president of the Kennel Club, the world’s oldest all breed registry, and the early flat-coats were among the first breeds to be shown in all breed shows. This organization was founed in 1873, merely nine years after the wavy-coated retriever was recognized as a separate variety of retriever.
      Mr. Shirley was also the owner of Zelstone, a dog that was probably a purebred St. John’s water dog but was registered as a flat-coat or a wavy-coat. Zelstone also appears as an outcross stude in Guisachan kennel records. He actually looks like a black golden retriever of the show type, and George Teasdale Teasdale-Buckell, another early fancier of the breed, considered his contribution to retrievers to be negative. His offspring developed coarseness and lumber that Mr. Teasdale-Buckell thought actually destroyed the flat-coat as a working dog. (It is currently what is destroying the golden as a working dog).
      The wavy-coated/flat-coated breed began to standardize around this evolving fancy that was trying to match working abilities with clear conformation standards based on working ability. By 1890’s, the wavy-coat became the flat-coat as we know it today. One of Teasdale-Buckell’s bitches, Jenny, had a narrower had than normally seen in the wavy-coat, and her progeny had a great deal of influence on the breed. (She probably had an influence on the goldens as well, because I had  wonderfully biddable golden with a narrow head. She would’ve been a perfect flat-coat except she was tawny with a white tail tip.)
      By beginning of the twentieth century, the more lithe dogs were perfect workers, and they totally dominated the working trials of this period. These changes in the breed began to affect the Tweedmouth strain, too, although heavy dogs could still be found,  largely because of Zelstone’s influence in the strain.
      In 1908, the yellow flat-coat or wavy coat was separated from the liver coloration. The early goldens of this time period look almost identical to flat-coats, except for color.  After all, they were varieties of the same breed.
Culham Brass (1908) had the flat-coat's body type. This body type is still common in field-type goldens.
Culham Brass (1904). Breeding for more lightly-built dogs in flat-coats affected the Tweedmouth strain, too.

Again, we see how interwoven the history of golden and flat-coated retrievers really is.

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In dog lore, we often hear of canine heroes. We have a whole genre of literature devoted to them, as well as “family films.” But the truth is there are real dog heroes out there.

One of these was a flat-coated retriever born in Wales in 1930. He was known as “Jack,” and his owner lived near the River Tawe, a perfect place for an aquatic dog like a flat-coat. There were docks nearby, and the dog had a perfect place to enter the water.

In 1931, when Jack was only about a year old, he saved a 12 year old boy from drowning. Less than a month later, he saved another person who had fallen from the docks. This rescue happened in the view of a large number of the public. He received a silver collar from the city government.


Swansea Jack.

It was said that he would leap into the water any time he heard someone calling for help from the water and haul them in. In his short life, he is rumored to have rescued 27 people. He was named Bravest Dog of the Year by the London Star in 1936, and he received a silver cup from the Lord Mayor of London and two bronze medals from the National Canine Defense League.

Unfortunately, like too many good dogs, his life was cut short. In 1937, he consumed rat poison, and the Swansea docks no longer had their guardian.

This is his burial monument:


Today, the people of Swansea are sometimes called Swansea Jacks. Supposedly, they get this name from this heroic dog.

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From messybeast.com, two old enclycopedia entries.

1909  and 1923.

Note how the “retriever” entry shows a dog that we would now call a flat-coated retriever. From 1900 to the First World War, the flat-coat was in its halcyon days. At this time, the golden was part of the flat-coat breed, referred to as “Tweedmouth’s strain,” although Colonel Le Poer Trench’s golden dogs were registered and promoted as Russian retrievers.

Note how the 1923 entry of depiction of a retriever appears to have some wave to its coat. Fanciers had decided to breed out the wave in the wavy-coat. In flat coats, the wave has nearly been bred out, but the golden retriever, which was separated from the flat-coat before this waviness disappeared, still can come in a wavy coat.

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