Posts Tagged ‘Early Retriever History’

This is one of the earliest depictions of a yellow retriever working. It is called “The Shooting Party–Ranton Abbey.” Francis Grant painted it in 1840.

Ranton Abbey was the shooting estate of Thomas William Anson, 1st Earl of Lichfield.  William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne, is in attendance. He was the prime minister at the time of this painting. There are several other British aristocrats in the this painting– the Henry Paget, the 2nd Earl of Uxbridge and 1st Marquess of Anglesey; Charles William Molyneux, 3rd Earl of Sefton; and the boy seated on the ground is Thomas George Anson, 2nd Earl of Lichfield. These men were all Whig elite.

There are two retrievers in attendance. One is a black and tan dog that clearly resembles a dog of the collie type. The other is an obvious yellow dog retrieving a pheasant cock. He is somewhat like a yellow Labrador, but the coat is more profuse and perhaps even lightly feathered. (Here is a larger copy of the work that will allow you a better look at the dogs).

I would count these two dogs are early examples of the wavy-coated retriever type– although it is unlikely that these dogs contributed to the wavy and flat-coated retriever breed that had eventually developed by the 1850’s.

Whig nobles were into shooting estates. The 1st Earl of Lichfield purchased Ranton Abbey solely for shooting purposes. He spent great sums of money improving the land to improve habitat for pheasants and other game.

This penchant for shooting estates among the Whig elite would extend through the successor Liberal Party. When Dudley Marjoribanks, 1st Baron Tweedmouth, purchased Guisachan in the Scottish Highlands, he was following in this tradition.  Although Guisachan is now famous for being home to the yellow retrievers whose descendants would become goldens, it is unlikely that this animal had any connection to those dogs. But here was a yellow retriever, not quite a golden or a wavy coat, working as a gun dog for the Whig gentry.  The goldens would find themselves working for the Liberals– Whigs of a different permutation– just a few decades earlier.  But other than that, no connection can be made.

It is still an interesting painting , for it gives us an idea of the diversity that once was the retriever dog. If it could retrieve, it was a retriever, and it was bred to other dogs that retrieved. That’s why so many different dogs were used to found the retriever breeds. And why they varied so much in appearance.

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Don of Gerwn pictured above a black flat-coat. 




The picture of Don of Gerwn comes from here — The Complete English Shot. He is not a “Liver-coloured” dog as described here, at least as how liver is described in the flat-coated retriever. His nose and eyes are clearly dark, not liver as we mean in the flat-coat. He is juxtaposed with a true black flat-coat here. He is clearly a dark red retriever (“sandy liver”), which makes sense considering he was from Tweedmouth lines. He actually reminds me of Mrs. Charlesworth’s Noranby Diana, an early show champion golden that also placed in a few trials. Black and white pictures are hard to discern, but I think it is clear that his liver color is different from liver flat-coats. His coloration could carry the pale yellow of his grandsire, Lucifer. This would also be true even if he were a true liver. 

Don was born in the earl 1900’s or late 1890’s, placing in trials 1904.

If you look at the reddish tinge that appears in many liver flat-coats and compare the darkest red golden retrievers, you can see how similar the colors are. No wonder things got so confusing at the separation.

Incidentally, I like this type of golden.  It’s a shame that we’ve decided that the Newfoundlandy type retriever excoriated in Teasdale-Buckell’s book is the only type promoted in conformation.

The most interesting thing in this book is how widely the retrievers vary in appearance. The dog called “Devil” is so different from anything I’ve seen in a retriever. He is sandy colored with “whiskers [bearding] like an otterhound.” I don’t know what the hell he was. Could someone have crossed an otterhound with a retriever or an airedale terrier (a descendant of the otterhound) with a retriever? Maybe it’s an early goldendoodle.

When you read this book closely, the golden is considered part of the flat-coated breed when the book was written. The curly is deemed ruined for working purposes. Only the Labrador and the flat-coat (including Tweedmouth’s strain of golden flat-coats) are used for hunting, because flat-coated breeders have done their best to breed out the lumber and cobbiness that plagued the breed in the 1890’s. In the book, he claims that Americans don’t use retrievers, because Americans make their pointers and setters retrieve. Perhaps true in the early twentieht century. He also describes a breed that fascinates me– the Norfolk retriever. It sounds kind of like a Chesapeake bay retriever, only smaller. He points out that Labs and flat-coats (including what became the golden retriever) were interbred.  This book is certainly a great historical document. I’m definitely going to purchase it. This is an account in which the Labrador was consider secondary to the flat-coat (including the golden) in working ability. And look at the working conformation!

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