Posts Tagged ‘Sir Edwin Landseer’

This image comes comes from a painting by Abraham Cooper in the early to middle part of the nineteenth century.  I would estimate that this painting was done in the 1830’s.  Sir Edwin Landseer, the man kneeling before the spaniel on the right, looks to be in his early 30’s.

The only copy of this image I can find is in James Watson’s  The Dog Book (1906).

The spaniel that is facing Landseer– and the likely retriever of the woodcock he is holding– is a Sussex spaniel

And it is very much unlike a Sussex spaniel of the modern era.  It is also post Rosehill-breeding, which suggests that even after Mr. Fuller established his strain, these dogs were often longer leg than they became as show dogs.


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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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Venus the Landseer Newfoundland

This painting is by Sir Edwin Landseer (the artist for whom the black and white dogs are named). It is entitled “The Champion.”  The dog’s name is Venus,  and retrieving rabbits is de rigueur working retriever work in England.

The big dogs were definitely used for retrieving work in the nineteenth century, and water trials for Newfoundlands and Portuguese water dogs do involve some retrieving work. However, Newfoundlands have to “retrieve” people, not ducks.

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The dog giving the verdict to the poodle judge is an old wavy-coated retriever, a black one.

The dog giving the verdict to the poodle judge is an old wavy-coated retriever, a black one.

This painting is by Sir Edwin Landseer, and I uploaded it from wikimedia commons.  The poodle judge is based on a dog belonging to Count d’Orsay. The painting is called both “Trial by Jury” and “Laying Down the Law.”

Supposedly, Landseer was looking at this poodle, and he began to think of the judges and barristers in the British tradition. They wear long white wigs.  Supposedly a judge in attendance said of the poodle that he would make “a capital Lord Chancellor.”

It has been suggested that the dog has been embellished to resemble either Lord Brougham or Lord Lyndhurst, who were both acting Lord Chancellors at various times.

I don’t focus so much on the big white poodle. I focus on the black retriever handing the verdict to the judge, which is pretty similar to all descriptions of the early wavy-coat landrace.

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This "golden Irish" (golden/Irish setter cross) does resemble Breeze. Breeze was either a red wavy-coat or an old-type Irish setter.

This "golden Irish" (golden/Irish setter cross) does resemble Breeze. Breeze was either a red wavy-coat or an old-type Irish setter.

This painting is here. The date of the painting is 1843, which is far too early to be a Tweedmouth line of wavy-coat. My instincts say it’s not a golden retriever. The term “golden retriever” is actually rather new, dating to 1908, when the yellow and red colors were separated from the liver coloration as “Retrievers (Flat-coat, yellow or golden).

My instincts tell me that this dog is an old-type Irish setter, which had shorter ears and broader skull than the modern dog. It is from this dog that the golden inherited much of its characteristiscs.

But the dog really does look like a field-type golden. It even has the white feet and a white spot on the chest. These markings are common in field goldens.

However, it could be a red wavy-coat. The presence of the hare in the painting leads me to the possibility that it could be a retriever. Retrievers retrieve shot hares in Europe, but I cannot think of a good reason for using a setter for hare shooting.  European hares are beasts of the open lands, in fact, much more open territory than pheasants and patridges prefer. I saw my first European hare at Stonehenge, standing out in that large hayfield that lies just beyond the tourist site. It was in short grass, and you could see it very clearly. It  was not trying to hide.

It is well-known that setters were a major part of the wavy-coated retriever, and Irish setters, which were thought of as the most intelligent and biddable of the “index” breeds, were a common choice of setter to cross with the St. John’s wate dog to create wavies. Of course, everyone wanted a black retriever in those days, and any red or golden colored pups were usually drowned soon after birth.

But it’s possible that Breeze was a red wavy.  It is impossible that Nous was the only red wavy-coat ever bred, so I am open to that possibility. If Breeze is a retriever, the painting of him is a great historical record of the early existence of red retrievrs. There is contemporary light gold retriever in “The Shooting Party-Ranton Abbey” by Sir Francis Grant. This dog has some setter features, although I think it resembles a Tweed water spaniel/Tweed water dog of the lighter color. It could also have some scent hound  in it, but I really don’t know. Jeffrey Pepper  has some interesting analysis and even more pictures of od Irish setters. (I, howeer, disagree with him on the possibility of the bloodhound cross in the Tweedmouth strain, because all evidence is hearsay. And a bloodhound is the last thing I’d cross into working retriever strain. I think the big heavy dogs that were said to be bloodhound crosses were actually Zelstone’s progeny at Guisachan. The hair on those dogs is too long and thick to be from a bloodhound, but it’s just right to be from a dog with close St. John’s water dog ancestry. I think the bloodhound cross story is a carry over from the Russian circus dog story,  which used the bloodhound as the only outcross.)

It’s possible that someone kept a red retriever before the Tweedmouth strain was founded. It’s also possible that some of the early goldens in the registry were not descended from the Tweedmouth line but were red flat-coats that appeared when more Irish setters were crossed into the flat-coat to mitigate the real problems caused with the overuse of Zelstone in the line. It’s possible, but I’ve seen no evidence to suggest this.

If anyone knows anything about the dog depicted in “Breeze” by Sir Edwin Landseer, please contact me.  It has piqued my curiosity.

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