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Posts Tagged ‘Russian retrievers’

This light cream golden has very little pigment and may approach the "Albino" description of St. Hubert's May.

This light cream golden has very little pigment and may approach the "Albino" description of St. Hubert's May.

Colonel le Poer Trench’s Russian retrievers were founded by a bitch named St. Hubert’s May. You can read about this line of goldens called Russian retrievers here. His dogs were much lighter in color than the other three lines of retriever derived from the Tweedmouth strain. They were heavier in build, too.

May was said to be an albino, but I think she was actually an unusually pale dog with brown skin pigment, like this dog. Most light colored dogs today do not have this skin pigment. They are really black dogs with cream colored hair.

Some of the Tweed water dog/tweed water spaniels were of this color. However, most of the original golden people never bred for this color at all. Even the 1st Baron Tweedmouth intentionally tried to avoid producing very light colored dogs.

It is likely that May was whelped in a litter and culled for being the wrong color. She was then given to Col. le Poer Trench, who according to  his contemporaries, actually knew very little about retrievers. He was told that her light color was a sign of her “pure-breeding,” which he believed whole-heartedly. She was a good worker, so we know that she was not a true albino. Albino dogs usually are useless, because they burn easily and often have poor movement. They are also blinded by direct sunlight, which means that an albino retriever would never be able to mark shot birds as they fell.

She was bred to St. Hubert’s Rock, a dog that had been given to a ghillie by the 1st Baron Tweedmouth. He was a mid-gold color or a light gold in color.

All of their progeny, except for a very few, were light gold in color. None were as pale as their matriarch, however.

This line was kept separate from the other lines of Tweedmouth’s strain, registered as the yellow Russian retriever. It remained until the colonel’s death, and it is believed to have disappeared.

May’s light color is not the origin of the current fad of cream colored dogs, which much more of a fad in Europe than North America. Her line died out, and it was not interbred with the Ingestre, Noranby, and Culham lines.

Light colors appeared into those lines but were originally culled, because it was believed that light colored dogs were unable to work as well as dark ones. I disagree with this assessment, but light colored dogs are nearly absent from working lines of golden. If you find a light colored one, it is more than likely going to be a show dog, so a dark one is more likely to be a worker than a light one. However, color does not affect working ability, but the perception has greatly affected how these lines have developed.

Breeding for exreme palor in the golden, though, really only exists in the mid-50’s, when these dogs became in vogue in the UK. By the 1980’s, they had largely replaced the darker colors in Britain and much of Europe.

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russianretrievers

The dogs above are from Colonel Le Poer Trench’s St. Hubert’s kennel. They are clockwise:  St. Hubert’s Czar, St. Hubert’s Prince, and St. Hubert’s Peter.  Most of the later St. Hubert’s dogs were rather heavily built and coarse. Although they resembled many modern American show dogs, this line is believed to have died out. It is possible that some of these dogs worked their way into the registry, but there are no records that would suggest this.

Trench always swore that his dogs were of Russian ancestry. He even went to Caucasus at some point around 1912 in search of new bloodlines. He did not find any, of course, because 1) the dogs were all in the mountains with the shepherds and 2) the were Caucasian Ovtcharkas and were not suitable as retrievers.

However, his dogs were very different from the other lines of golden. His founding dog was named “St. Hubert’s Rock,” and he was definitely from the Tweedmouth strain, a golden retriever or yellow flat/wavy coat. He was bred to an “albino” bitch named “St. Hubert’s May.” She may have actually been a pale cream dog with brown or dudley skin pigment. She may have been the dog that introduced this light color into the breed. Her ancestry is unknown, although she was probably an unusually colored Tweedmouth dog or descendant of that strain. None of her offspring had her coloration, but virtually all of her descendants were light gold or cream in color.

Mrs. Charlesworth believed the stories about these dogs coming from Russia, even using letters written by a head keeper at Guisachan who used Trench’s evidence for their Russian origin. The letters claimed that the dogs were taken from a group of perfoming dogs that were of Russian origin at Brighton.  Nous was owned by a cobbler at Brighton, but he was a yellow wavy-coat, not a Russian dog at all.

Although Mrs. Charlesworth believed in  Trench’s story, she bred away from his type.  Her dogs, the Culham dogs, and the Ingestre dogs that essentially made up the breed’s foundation stock were mostly of the lightly built and dark type. She refused to breed from a dog that had this heavily built type and light color that appeared in her lines, because he was too much of the old type.

Of course, she believed the old type were of Trench’s type and were  descending from some unknown breed from the Caucasus. In reality, they had all developed coarsness from the Zelstone influence in the wavy-coated retriever.

Although most of the St. Hubert’s dogs were coarse and lightly colored, I have found a depiction of one of them that resembled a Culham, Ingestre, or Noranby dog. The below dog was from Trench’s kennel, but he was somewhat different from the dogs usually associated with his strain.

St. Hubert's Peter

St. Hubert's Peter

I am uncertain that this dog is the same “St. Hubert’s Peter” as the dog depicted in the other portrait. This dog appears darker and more lightly built than the dog in the other picture. It is possible that this dog is depicted twice with the second image representing this dog as a young animal and the first image representing the dog in more advanced years. However, it is also possible that different dogs were given the same name. Peter’s skin pigment tells me that  May, his ancestor, probably was a brown skinned retriever of a very pale cream color.

Albinism does occur in dogs, but it is definitely hereditary. Albino Doberman pinschers  are being  bred that are marked just like normal Dobermans but without pigment. However, this condition is considered a genetic disorder, not an unsual color, although one can find the odd dog breeder who tries to hawk a “rare white Doberman.” 

Judging from the description of May, she could not have been an Albino.  May was said to be a good worker, and albino Dobermans cannot do their work. They are light sensitive and easily blinded in even modest sunlight. They also  get sunburn. If may had been an Albino retriever, she would have had these same problems.

She did not have them, so my guess is that she was definitely a cream dog with either brown skin pigment or a dudley skin pigment.

I’ve come to the conclusion that Colonel le Poer Trench was a liar.  He made up this malarkey story to sell yellow wavy-coats or flat-coats as a breed. I even doubt that he went to Russia in search of new stock, because if you were to cross a Caucasian Ovtcharka with a golden retriever, you would have a very poor retriever on your hands! Further, he claimed to have gone to both the Caucasus and Siberia, which are some distance from each other. The Ovtcharka and the various types of wolfhound that could be considered “proto-Borzoi” are the only dogs native to the Caucasus, while Siberia’s native hunting dogs are all laikas, one of which is the direct ancestor of the Siberian husky.

Lady Pentland, the 1st Baron Tweedmouth’s daughter, said that the good Colonel never met her father. Trench had merely taken the story of Nous’s discovery at the residence of the Brighton cobbler, and he embelished it to the extreme.

Now, I wonder how many other dog origin stories are made up in this fashion? Trench’s story was thoroughly rebutted when Elma Stonex interviewed Lord Ilchester after receiving the full kennel records at Guisachan during the time of the  breed’s development. As near as I know, this is the only incredible dog origin story to have been rebutted with such overwhelming historical evidence.

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