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Posts Tagged ‘Holway Barty’

The dog in the foreground is Ft. Ch. Holway Dollar. They are standing “at the line” in a British field trial, which requires dogs to be very well-behaved and patient while waiting to be sent for a retrieve.

She is handled by June Atkinson, her breeder, and the woman who founded the Holway line of working-type golden retriever. Her line is perhaps the most influential in working type goldens in the world.  It is very hard to find a field-type golden retriever in the US or Canada that doesn’t trace to Holway Barty.

I found a very good site about June Atkinson and the Holways at this link.

If one looks at the photos on that site of the various Holway dogs living today, one can see they strongly resemble the field line dogs we have always had in he United States and Canada. Part of this is because of Holway Barty, but also because the field line dogs tend to evolve a particular conformation that is a bit distinct from the dogs that tend to do well in conformation shows. It is not that show dogs cannot do field work or regular hunting work. But because the economics and the intense competition in both areas, the lines have had to specialize. Specialization and divergence in type and behavior are very bad things to happen within a closed registry breed, for these issues further Balkanize the gene pool, creating something like two separate breeds within a single registry.

It’s not particularly good thing, and if there were some way to stop it, I’d be very happy. I don’t think a golden retriever club anywhere likes that this divergence has happened. Knowledgeable people tried to stop it when the split started to become obvious, but it could not be stopped.

Unless the culture and economics of field trialling and dog showing change, I don’t see this divergence being reversed.

Doing dual purpose is very tough in this breed, especially when it must contend with very specialized trial lines of Labrador.

One thing about the Holway dogs: They were and are still noted for their very strong noses, which is a great asset in the European retriever culture. It is important in the American retriever culture, but marking is more important than nose here.

Robert Atkinson, June’s son, is still trialling the Holway dogs in the UK. He won the 1982 International Gun Dog League’s Retriever Championship, which his mother also won in 1954.  Goldens have not won this trial very often. I believe the last one to do so was in 2006.

This is the same a championship that Don of Gerwn, a liver flat-coated retriever whose sire was a “golden retriever” from the Guisachan kennels, won in 1904.

June Atkinson’s line continues to be influential with working-type goldens throughout the world. Dogs from this line have always been in demand, which feeds some of the popular sire problems in working goldens. So it is very important for the continued welfare of the breed to see new lines developing from relatively unrelated stock.

We should certainly celebrate June and Robert Atkinson’s achievements, but we need to be careful about the long-term viability of the working-type golden.

I’m sure that the Atkinsons would not like to see this breed disappear as working gun dog, which was the main focus of their breeding program.

We have real issues with genetic diversity in the working type golden retriever. This problem is mostly the result of the popular sire effect. Just a few stud dogs have been very influential in producing puppies per generation, and part of this problem, at least in American goldens, can be traced to Holway Barty through his grandson, AFC Yankee’s Smoke’n Red Devil. Nearly half of all MH and All-Age goldens that have been born since 1980 descend from one breeding between that Barty grandson and FC Windbreakers Razzmatazz.

This type of breeding might be good for producing good working retrievers, but it is not so good from a population genetics standpoint.

That’s why breeding between the “show” and “performance” types is something that should be encouraged every now and again.

At the very least, it keeps the gene pools a bit more diverse.

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Dual Ch-AFC Tiagathoe's Kiowa II was a dog of distant Holway breeding.

Dual Ch-AFC Tiagathoe's Kiowa II was a dog of distant Holway breeding.

This is from the Golden Retriever Club (of the United Kingdom).

Basically, the findings and analysis on this page are pretty much what I’ve found in my experience with the various retriever breeds, although I think the flat-coat is a highly underrated dog. And the Labrador is a good dog, but it’s not for me. They have a houndish side to them that pops up every once in a while. However, it is easier to mold the houndish Labrador into an obedient dog than to build the confidence of a golden that is totally shut down. Of course, if you wind up with one of those man-eating goldens, you have the exact opposite problem on your hands.

Labs tend to mature very early. They have been selected for early maturity and rapid development of retrieving instincts. That’s one reason why they clobber all other retrievers in working trials. However, I don’t think that most of them ever develop the same sort of working temperament that the golden has. I actually can’t describe the difference in words. You just have to experience them both to get a feeling for it. I feel much more comfortable with the setterish characteristiics that pop up in goldens, whereas I’m sure Lab people like the houndish characteristics in their breed.

One of the most important lines for working goldens in the Holway line. An important sire for working goldens in this country was a Holway, AFC Holway Barty.  The Holway dogs are invariably dark  to mid-colored and lightly built. Some of them are also little 40 pound rocket goldens. They are strictly field dogs in Europe. Some of their progeny have been shown in the AKC ring before the show golden in this country became a blond Newfoundland. These Holway dogs are depicted on that page from the British Golden Retriever Club.

Perhaps my bias against the Lab is my bias against large scent hounds in general, especially the big pack hounds. I grew up where everyone had a coonhound, which are really good at their purpose. I like a dog that you can talk to. And hounds are always sniffing things.

What amazed me about goldens is that they tend to pay very close attention to your voice, even at a tender age. My current dog would sit there and listen to my voice, even before she had any training.

I think that what makes goldens trainable is nothing more than this tendency to listen to human voices. I don’t think they are especially more intelligent than any other dogs. In fact, I find the whole discussion of dog intelligence a nebulous arena. I don’t think that this term means much to a serious dog person. I’m far more interested in biddability and trainability, which are very distinct from the qualities one is looking for an good ol’  bluetick. But a bluetick can figure out all the tricks of a raccoon, working as far as several miles from his handler. That’s something that goldens really can’t do. And biddability is a worthless characteristic in a coonhound, as much as scent fixation is an undesireable characteristic in the retriever.

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