Posts Tagged ‘long-haired Chesapeake Bay retriever’

This bitch named Polly is featured in George O. Shields’s The American Book of the Dog (1891).

I don’t know if we would call this particular dog a “Red Winchester,” which was the early long-haired strain of Chesapeake Bay retriever,” but this dog has more coat than one typically finds on a Chesapeake Bay retriever of today.

This dog is only slightly feathered, but she may  have been groomed to look a “bit slicker” than she would normally.

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One could be forgiven for assuming that these were flat-coats, wavy-coats, or goldens. The shading of the dog in the lower right suggests that this dog is an e/e red, which does exist in the Chesapeake Bay retriever gene pool. However, black skin does not.

This image comes from Country Life in America (November 1915). Long-haired dogs occasionally pop up in Chesapeake Bay retrievers today. However. the modern breed is based upon a short-haired dog.

These long-haired dogs were very often quite red in color, and a whole strain of them was produced called a “Red Winchester.”   Many of the early show Chessies were of this Red Winchester type.

Because this breed existed along Chesapeake Bay as a landrace with very different strains, it varied greatly in appearance. I like to think of these dogs as being something like the original retriever, which came in an interbreeding landrace of feathered, curly, and short-haired varieties. The only difference is that the Americans selected for e/e yellow to red and liver colors (including “silver”– liver dilute, which is called “ash” in this breed). The British selected for black dogs almost exclusively and then concentrated the coat types into three and then four breeds. I don’t know why the American Chessie breeders didn’t try to do this, because the British were quite successful at doing so.

The Red Winchester retriever could have been established as a breed, but it fell from favor in the first part of the twentieth century, as it was absorbed into the modern Chessie.

These particular dogs were exhibited at a dog show in Southampton, New York in the summer of 1915.

The Chesapeake Bay dog was the first retriever recognized by the AKC, and for a while, there was  a heated discussion about whether this breed was a retriever. Because the dogs are also derived from the water dogs of Newfoundland (most likely St. John’s water dogs), this argument has long been settled.

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Trip the Chesapeake

The answer to the question I asked last night is that it this dog was a Chesapeake Bay retriever. The illustration comes from John Henry Walsh’s The Dogs of Great Britain, and Other Countries (p. 121).

The dog’s name was Trip.  He was owned by C. H. Tilghman of Easton Maryland.  This particular dog won “first premium” at a dog show in New York in 1877.

Walsh often got things wrong, but his description of the three types of Chesapeake that existed in the 1870’s is very interesting:

As there now appears to be three types of this dog, the members of the Maryland Poultry and Fancier’s Association, at their first show, held at Baltimore, January, 1877, appointed a committee to draw up a standard of points for judging. On the evening of January 8, 1877, they met the members of the club, and made their report, which was adopted. The committee consisted of the following gentlemen (each representing their respective type): Mr. John Stewart, representing the Otter breed, in color a tawny sedge, with very short hair; Mr. O. D. Foulks, the long-haired, or Red Winchester, and Mr. J. J. Turner, Jr., the curly-coated, in color a red-brown – the bitches showing the color and approximating to the points of the class to which they belong, a white spot on the breast in either class not being unusual. The measurements were as follows: from fore toe to top of back, 25 inches; from tip of nose to base of head, 10 inches; girth of body back of fore leg, 33 inches; breast, 9 inches; around fore feet, 6 inches; around fore arm below shoulder, 7 inches; between eyes, 2 1/4 inches; length of ears, 5 inches; from base of head to root of tail, 35 inches; tail, 16 inches in length; around muzzle below the eyes, 10 inches.

The Otter-type is the one that wound up taking over the Chesapeake breed. Long-haired (“Red Winchester”) and curly-coated varieties have since disappeared in the standardized form. (However, long-haired Chessies do pop up every once in a while.)

I found it interesting that there were some different guesses on the identity of this dog.

The best diagnostic feature of the Chessie is that its topline is usually not level– “hindquarters as high or a trifle higher than the shoulders,” says the AKC standard.

The long hair may have come from the way-coated retriever, which was evident in the US at this time, or it may have inherited some long-haired genes from the odd long-haired St. John’s water dog. Collie-types and setter-types could have also played a role in producing some long-haired dogs. The Irish water spaniel is also a possibility.

Yes, this is yet another breed that had a bit more diversity before it became fully standardized.

Update: Does anyone know of any good books or websites on the history of the Chesapeake Bay Retriever?

In case you didn’t know, this is what they look like today: show chessie


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