Posts Tagged ‘Michael of Moreton’

michael of moreton

The Friends of Guisachan are planning to place statue of this dog at the golden retriever ancestral estate.

Funds are being solicited now.

I received an e-mail about this project about a month ago, and I just now discovered it.

But it sounds like a very worthwhile project!

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Her name is Daleside Vetch:

She was sired by Michael of Moreton, who was an early prolific stud in the breed.  Her mother was a Speedwell dog, and the first golden retriever to ear a championship in the United States was Speedwell Pluto, who was very similar to this dog in type.

You can see the full clip at British Pathé, which shows a 1934 newsreel covering Crufts, “The Greatest of All Dog Shows.”

HT to Jemima Harrison for finding this one. I’ve had bad luck finding golden retrievers on British Pathé. Every time I’ve come across a clip of a supposed golden retriever, it turns out to be that of a Clumber spaniel!


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Rory of Bentley is the grizzled ten-year-old on the left. Ch. Michael of Moreton is on the right– and in this photo, he is only little over a year old.

Michael would later become a very important sire in the early days of the golden retriever breed, and he was the sire of Ch. Noranby Diana, my favorite of the pre-war goldens.

Rory’s lifespan was quite remarkable. He was born in 1915 and died in 1932– a rather long life for even a modern golden retriever.

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Ch. Michael of Moreton was an early prolific sire in the breed.

He also is one of those goldens that had curly-coated retriever ancestry, descending from Ch. Tiverton Best Lad, one of Samuel Darbey’s notable show curlies.


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When I was looking at the foundational pedigrees for the golden retriever, I was expecting to find lots of outcrosses with black flat-coats.  And found them in several different place. It is very easy to trace goldens to black flat-coats.  A relationship between those two breeds has been well-established, but I was definitely not expecting to find a curly-coated retriever behind some of the dogs in those foundational pedigrees.

The dog Rajah (b. 1903) is the sire of Inez and Ingestre Rubina.  These two dogs  usually passed over as foundation stock with nebulous roots. Rajah is also similarly passed over, so I was somewhat shocked when Rajah’s pedigree.

Rajah is listed as a curly-coated retriever. I was skeptical about this listing. Really wavy goldens have been known to exist, and I thought it might be a mistake. Tweed water dogs or Tweed water spaniels were occasionally mistaken for curlies, and I wondered if that might have been a more likely possibility.

My skepticism about Rajah being a curly soon vanish. Rajah’s sire is listed as “Tivertons [sic] Best Lad,” a curly-coated retriever.

I jumped at this name, because I knew from previous research of Samuel Darbey’s line of curly-coats. His Tiverton line was very influential in curly-coated retrievers. For a while, Tiverton was almost synonymous  with curly-coated coats. From that post, you see depictions of Tiverton Victor and Tiverton Beauty, but I had vaguely remembered reading about Tiverton Best Lad, but I could not remember seeing a depiction of him.

A google search found “Tiverton Best Lad” in Charles Henry Lane’s All About Dogs-A Book for Doggy People (1901). The curly that is depicted under the entry for his breed has the caption: “CURLY RETRIEVER CH. “TIVERTON BEST LAD” S.DARBEY OWNER.”

Ch. Tiverton Best Lad. He was the sire of Rajah, the curly who was behind two of the dogs in the golden retriever foundational pedigrees.

The addition of curly-coated retriever into any wavy/flat-coat/ or foundation golden pedigree is a bit baffling. Curlies had been distinct from wavy/flat-coats since the 1850’s, and because curlies were not the top trial contenders, many contemporary flat-coat fanciers defamed them. George T. Teasdale-Buckell described them as useless in his The Complete English Shot (circa 1905).

However against the conventional wisdom this crossing was, I was certain that these dogs were just tiny additions to the golden gene pool, and compared to the wavy and flat-coated retriever influence, they are.

However, I checked out the some of the descendants of Inez and Ingestre Rubina. I was a bit shocked when I found out that Inez was Ch. Michael of Moreton’s great-great granddam through Paxill Brian, Triumph, and Aurora. Granted,  Rajah contributed only3.125 % of Michael of Moreton’s genes, but that is far more genetic contribution than Nous or Belle gave him.

Cubbington Diver had  the same amount of his genetic material from Rajah. Even though he was six generations removed from the curly, he descended from both Inez and Ingestre Rubin at the fifth generation back.

These dogs didn’t really have any curly features. They were fully golden or yellow wavy/flat-coats. However, the fact they did have a curly cross within just very few years before they were separated from the flat-coat as their own distinct breed means that we should at least consider the curly-coat’s contribution to the breed. It may have been minor, but dogs with curly-coat blood wound up doing very well in the breed and producing many offspring– both Michael of Moreton and Cubbington Diver were widely used at stud.  Michael was particularly known for his prepotency and was a prolific sire in the 1920’s and early 30’s. Within the golden breed at large, then, there are little traces of their curly ancestors. Every once in a while, a golden develops a very tightly curled coat. It is not exactly like a curly’s, but it is very different from the more usual wavy-coat that is still quite common in the breed.

As Michael got a little older, some of this curly ancestry may have been revealed. In this old photograph of him, I have always noted how curly his coat was from what one normally sees in goldens today.

Ch. Michael of Moreton. Note the curl to his coat.

I had always assume that this curl had come from his Tweed water dog ancestors. However, I am now imagining that they came from his more immediate ancestors, Tiverton Best Lad and Rajah.  I know that’s an unscientific way to think, but it is so beguiling. I know now that I won’t look at a  golden with a particularly curly coat the same way again.

I have found it a little strange that no one jumped at this opportunity to explore the curly’s influence on the golden.  Retriever historiography tends to be quite Balkanized. Each person specializes in a breed and its very close relations. It has long been established that curlies standardized early on, and they generally were not favored as outcrosses to trial and show flat-coats. The whole process of turning a wavy-coat into a flat-coat often dictated that setters were more likely chosen as outcross than curly-coated retrievers. The name kennel name Tiverton probably wouldn’t have set off too many alarm bells for most flat-coat and golden historians.

If we are willing to work together on historiography, maybe we’ll find even more relationships that we previously thought.

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Noranby Diana is the second dog from the right. She was an English conformation champion, and she had completed a leg or two of her field championship.

Noranby Diana is the second dog from the right. She was an English conformation champion, and she had completed a leg or two of her field championship.

This picture always haunts me when I think of golden retrievers. These are mostly Noranby dogs, mainly descendants of Lady and Culham Brass. Diana’s sire was the famous Michael of Moreton, a dog that also can found in the pedigrees of a great many goldens. I cannot find a good picture of him, but he was similar to Diana in color. However, he had a wavier coat than she did.

The second dog from the right is Ch. Noranby Diana. She would never be shown today. If someone saw a dog like her today, they’d declare her a setter cross. If you did see a dog like her, it would be in a field line golden strain. She placed in trials, but she never finished her field championship.

Diana represents what goldens once were. The dark dogs are now out of favor, except in the performance bred lines, but even in those lines, the dogs of this type are being bred out.

My first golden was very similar to Diana, but she had a lighter colored coat and a white tale tip. She was very clearly of field breeding, with a wild obsession about retrieving all sorts of things and flushing birds. She had a litter of puppies in which one of the dog puppies was exactly Diana’s color. He was given to the stud owners as pick of the litter for his strong retrieving instincts (retrieving at 5 weeks) and dark color (dark color’s association with working ability is an old superstition about goldens).

I’ve always wanted a dog like that dog puppy. A dark colored male golden. Unexaggerated. Rustic. Biddable. Intelligent. Perfect.

It is because of this desire and my deep appreciation for these dogs that this picture haunts me. And it sickens me that the golden is degenerating into a lazy rug with long “white” hair. Should we lose the old type golden retriever, it would be a terrible event in the history of dogs, very much on the level of the extinction of the St. John’s water and the Tweed water spaniel.

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