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Posts Tagged ‘Setters’

This is a sketch by Sir Edwin Landseer of a “Setter Dog.” It dates to 1820.

Compare this dog with Breeze, a retriever that was around in the 1840’s.

The little secret about golden retrievers is that yellow and red retrievers have been around ever since St. John’s water dogs were bred to setters.  The fact that the 1st Baron Tweedmouth capitalized upon the color variant to found his line does not mean that the animals weren’t always around.

Of course, most of these dogs would have been “bucketed” before they ever reached maturity.

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This is a depiction of a St. John's Water Dog with long hair. Most breed historians discount the long haired variety of this particular breed, but this variety played an important role in the development of the wavy-coated retriever, the ancestral variety for both golden retriever and the flat-coat.

This is a depiction of a St. John's Water Dog with long hair. Most breed historians discount the long haired variety of this particular breed, but this variety played an important role in the development of the wavy-coated retriever, the ancestral variety for both golden retriever and the flat-coat.

The wavy-coated retriever is an important early retriever breed. It is the ancestral variety to both the golden retriever and the flat-coat, and it is an important out-cross to the Labrador retriever.

The wavy-coat descends from the St. John’s Water Dog, which may have had long-haired dogs in its type. This breed is credited with being ancestral to all retrievers, except the curly-coat, which was in development before this breed from the island of Newfoundland (the island part of the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador) was imported to Britain. (The curly probably was crossed with this dog at some point, however). The wavy-coat was developed when the word retriever described a function rather than a breed. Any dog that picked up shot game could be a retriever. Collies, setters, pointers, land spaniels, and water spaniels were all probably used as retrievers and cross-bred. The St. John’s Water dog just happened to be a very good retriever dog, and it became the ur dog from which all retrievers eventually were developed.

The early retrievers looked something like this:

a cross between a water spaniel and setter, and two crosses between a setter and a St. John's Water Dog.

At the top is a cross between a water spaniel and a St.John's Water dog; From left to right: a cross between a water spaniel and setter, and two crosses between a setter and a St. John's Water Dog.

This picture comes from a bookby a British officer named William Nelson Hutchinson called Dog Breaking: The Most Expeditious, Certain, and Easy Methods, an early encyclopedia of training hunting dogs of all types. The dogs at the bottom are typical of early wavy-coats, while the dog at the top is probably a good clue about how the curly-coated retriever developed once the St. John’s Water Dog was imported. In the original, where I have put the word “St. John’s Water Dog,” the author had the word “Newfoundland.” I changed it because at the time the words were interchangeable, but today, Newfoundland dog is a large mastiff type dog derived from this breed and bred from the late eigthteenth century to the mid-nineteenth century as a fad family pet.  The modern dog called the Newfoundland has many genetic problems, which came from overbreeding as a much larger dog. It has a gentle temperament, but it lacks most of its original working instincts. This should be a warning to all retriever lovers, especially those who like the working instincts and healthy bodies of working retrievers. The same thing is happening to our dogs.

The wavy-coat began as a St. John’s Water Dog and setter cross. Something like this:

This dog is listed as a setter/retriever cross. It's probably a cross between a short-haired St. John's Water Dog and a setter. It is typical of early wavy-coats.

This dog is listed as a setter/retriever cross. It's probably a cross between a short-haired St. John's Water Dog and a setter. It is typical of early wavy-coats.

These dogs became rather popular among the shooting estates. The short-haired St. Johns Water Dogs that existed in Newfoundland at that time were held by very few people in England. The short-haired variety was more common in Newfoundland at the time, because the long-haired variety tended to get bogged down in ice.  Short-haired dogs can swim faster. However, most British gentry had wavy-coats derived from the long-haired dogs of this type and setter crosses. It would make sense, then, that the Newfoundland fishermen were more likely to export long-haired puppies from their Water Dog litters. However, the short-haired variety did make to England, and were used extensively in the development of the Labrador.

The wavy-coat’s other important ancestor was the setter. However, at this time, there were more breeds of setter than the three that exist right now. Welsh black setters were common on shooting estates, and they were certainly used in the Wavy-coated cross. Another variety existed called the Featherstone Castle setter in Scotland that produced yellow and light red setters that were probably also used in the development of the Tweed water spaniel. Gordon setters were in development here, too, and solid red gordon setters were not unknown. All of these, along with the Irish setters (solid red and red and white weren’t separate breeds) and English setters (of all strains), were crossed with the St. John’s water dog. As a result of crossing with setters, genes for yellow and red were introduced into the wavy-coat.

During most of the nineteenth century, black retrievers were the preferred color. Blacks were supposedly easier to train.  Yellow or red puppies were culled or drowned.

One reddish colored wavy coat was born to the Earl of Chichester in 1864. Instead of being killed, he was given in lieu of a debt to a cobbler at Brighton. The cobbler had no real use for a working retriever, but he kept him as a pet. Dudley Coutts Marjoribanks happened upon this dog and offered to buy him from the cobbler in 1865. Marjoribanks was a Liberal MP for Berwick-upon-Tweed and had a large shooting estate in Inverness-shire called “Guisachan.”  Marjoribanks’s title was 1st Baron Tweedmouth, and that man would start the first strain of yellow wavy-coats, which would effect the devlopment of the wavy-coated breed and, later, the flat-coated breed, as well.

This concludes Golden Retriever History II. I will begin with the actual development of the golden retriever from that reddish wavy-coat named “Nous,” which means wisdom.

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Hello,

This is the first post on this blog. Let me tell you I have in mind for it!

I am a person who has some training in historiography and social science methods. I also have a background in golden retrievers, which are the fourth most popular dog in the United States, according to American Kennel Club registrations. Originally a retriever of waterfowl and descended from the St. Johns Water Dog (as are ALL retrievers), the golden has shifted from a hunting dog belonging to the British aristocracy to a  pet. Some enjoy the talents of a working retriever in the field, using those talents to flush and retriever game. Others use those talents in creating sniffer dogs for bomb and contraband or train the dogs in search in rescue. The talents that made the golden a hunting retriever are used in all of those tasks; however, the golden is rarely chosen to be a competitor in retriever field trials.

One of the reasons for this shunning in field trials is that goldens are such beautiful animals and are easily trained. They are widely recommended as family pets because of their good nature. Whole generations of goldens have been bred that have never fetched a duck or flushed a pheasant. These dogs make up the majority of the breed throughout the world. In Europe, the tendency has been to breed goldens with more muscle and bone than could ever be practical in a field dog, while in North America, the tendency has been to breed much more feathering on the dog. When one has to compete against a short-haired dog that can swim very fast (the Labrador) that has well-established working lines, it becomes obvious that the golden is not going to be the field trial competitor’s first choice. Goldens are known for their high trainability, even in the lines that are not bred for work, but the field trial Lab has been selected through the generations to be a retriever trial specialist.

Although I am not currently a breeder of goldens, I would like to have contact with those who are working on producing the working golden, one that can compete with the Lab. I see no reason why selective breeding cannot produce a golden that can work as well in the field as the Labrador, except that there are not enought people out there who consider the golden a working retriever.

The golden has proven to be a superior competitor in obedience and dog agility competition. Goldens have dominated the Lab in obedience and dog agility. However, the golden is often thought of in the field as being the more hard-headed of the two most common retriever breeds. A disconnect must exist here, and I think it has more to do with selective breeding. Generations of Labradors are bred for the field trial, and its peculiar environment. There are specialist lines of Lab that have done nothing but win trials. A short-haired dog is also more streamlined and can swim faster than a long-haired dog. The Lab is also more accepting of harder corrections than the golden, in general. Most retriever trainers use corrections that might be a little strong for a more sensitive dog like a golden.  All of these factors might explain why the Lab is the field trial dog, and the golden is the “swamp collie.”

First of all, let’s talk about how we got golden retrievers.

Here is a look at some goldens of the 1920’s:

Silence of Tone, Noranby Black -Eyed Susan, Ch. Noranby Diana & Noranby Jane--Note that Noranby Diana is dark and appears lightly built and is a show champion!

Silence of Tone, Noranby Black -Eyed Susan, Ch. Noranby Diana & Noranby Jane--Note that Noranby Diana is dark and appears lightly built and is a show champion!

The original golden was considered a variety of the wavy-coated retriever, which became the flat-coated retriever. The golden was considered part of the flat-coated breed until 1920 in the United Kingdom (by the Kennel Club) and 1925 in the United States (the American Kennel Club). The golden retriever club of America was not founded until 1938, and the breed was very rare.
If you don’t believe me about the flat-coated retriever’s close relationship with the golden compare the dogs in the first picture with a modern flat-coat:
The flat-coated retriever still maintains its working ability and its lighter build for fast retrieval work. However, the breed is often considered more difficult to train than goldens and Labs, but this breed is far rarer than either of those two breeds, even though the three were interbred extensively!

The flat-coated retriever still maintains its working ability and its lighter build for fast retrieval work. However, the breed is often considered more difficult to train than goldens and Labs, but this breed is far rarer than either of those two breeds, even though the three were interbred extensively!

 Because the golden was a color variety of the flat-coat, the two breeds have a very similar history. They both derive from the St. Johns Water dog, often thought of as the ancestral Labrador. These were crossed with setters (each region in Britain had its own setter, like the Welsh black setter), water spaniels (of which there were many, many varieties) and working collies to produce a dog that would retrieve game that was shot.

In the early to mid-nineteenth century, economic conditions had led to the development of new economic titles. Romanticism was deep within Britain’s intelligentsia and economic elites. Many people with means to buy land were purchasing estates in Scotland and rural England solely for the purpose of having a shooting estate. Game-keepers raised pheasants for their master’s gun, and the wealthy began to want a dog to pick up shot game. The retriever is the dog developed for this purpose. Originally, the dogs used for this task were water spaniels, which are rather old breeds. They are mentioned in Shakespeare, and often described as a cross between a land spaniel and a “water dog.” A water dog is a dog much like a poodle or a Portuguese water dog. A cross between the two would look something like a cockapoo or one of the other poodle hybrids. However, selective breeding for a mixture of spaniel and water dog traits could result in a dog very similar to the Irish water spaniel and the American water spaniel. The most important water spaniels in the development of retrievers are two extinct breeds: the English water spaniel, which was often liver and white or black and white in color, perhaps similar to the English Springer spaniel into which some of these dogs were absorbed, and the Tweed water spaniel from the Scottish Borders region, which was “liver,” meaning like a chocolate Labrador or pale cream to a tawny coloration.)

The St. Johns Water dog comes from Newfoundland, and its exact ancestry is an utter mystery. Some think it was mixture setters, water spaniels, and hounds that were brought to Newfoundland by settlers and fisherman. Others think that Iberian breeds played a role in it, because Portuguese and Basque fisherman had long frequented the Grand Banks fishery. The breeds of that type usually suggested are the Portuguese and Spanish water dogs and any of the Iberian livestock guarding mastiffs, particularly the Cao de Castro Laboreiro, which resembles a brindle Labrador. Brindle was a coloration of the St. Johns Water dog, so the speculation is rather strong that this breed or its ancestors played a role in its development. Although one does wonder why a livestock gurdian dog would be accompanying Iberian fishermen. The other mastiffs of the region are also suggested, like the Great Pyrenees and the Spanish Mastiff.  One of the reasons why this is discussed is the modern Newfoundland has definite ancestry with the St. Johns Water Dog. It would make sense, then, that big mastiffs were in that breed’s background. However, it’s just as likely that the original Newfoundland was not of the large mastiff type at all. There is a great debate that has long raged through the dog fancy about what the “original” Newfoundland looked like. It is possible that the modern Newf has been bred from the St. Johns Water Dog when it was crossed with mastiffs when it became extremely popular in Europe as a pet. In fact, the Newfoundland was the dog that was ever marketed as a family pet. It was once as popular as Labrador, its close relative, is today. The St. Johns water dog was crossed with setters, water spaniels, and collies to make the first retrievers. The most common type in the early to mid-nineteenth century was the wavy-coat, but the curly-coated retriever was also quite common. The difference between the two was not as obvious as one would think. The curly was not the tightly curled dog of today, and the wavy-coat sometimes had a straight coat! The curly had a much closer ancestry with water spaniels and possibly the last remaining water dogs. It does closely resemble the Wetterhoun of West Friesland in the Netherlands. Both breeds are more protective than the Labrador, golden, and flat-coated breeds.
Curly-coated Retriever:
The curly-coated retriever was in development before the importation of St. Johns water dogs from Newfoundland. However, it was crossed with it at some point. It shows a very strong water spaniel ancestry and may include the last remaining European water dogs in its ancestry. It was once a very common breed.

The curly-coated retriever was in development before the importation of St. Johns water dogs from Newfoundland. However, it was crossed with it at some point. It shows a very strong water spaniel ancestry and may include the last remaining European water dogs in its ancestry. It was once a very common breed.

Wetterhoun:
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This concludes “Golden Retriever History I.”  Continued with “Golden Retriever History II,” which will be coming soon!

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