Bird Dogs’ Family Secrets and Dirty Laundry

775f0bee-c560-4da4-a91c-02f6f81f18e0 In 1905, banker Alexander L. White found a small spaniel on his way home from Sunday church.  Subsequently, Mr. White adopted the dog, turned him over to his hunting partner Whit Boykin who then bred the dog and started the lines that would become the Boykin spaniel.  In The Boykin Spaniel: South Carolina’s Dog, authors Mike Creel and Lynn Kelley write, “Where the dog went to church became over time a matter of which church the storyteller wanted him to attend. … Such discrepant accounts led to considerable good-natured joshing between Methodists and Presbyterians about the dog’s religious persuasion. Not to be outdone, Southern Baptists have also gotten involved in this debate. As one Southern Baptist wag put it, ‘Let the Methodists and the Presbyterians carry on all they want to about the religious preference of this dog, but I’m telling you that any dog in South Carolina who loves water as much as a Boykin spaniel has to be a Baptist.’”
 
The French Brittany and the American Brittany are two of several breeds that carry the T gene mutation C189G gene for natural bobtails. Natural bobtail is inherited (autosomal dominance) when one parent has a normal long tail gene and one has the C189G mutation.  In the early days as the modern standards of the Brittany breed were being developed, the natural bobtail was a highly prized characteristic. When breeders found it wasn’t easy to guarantee their pups would have the natural bobtail, some of them took to chopping the tails off in secret, claiming to breed clubs or show judges that the bob was natural.
 
United States’ Senator, Secretary of State and statesman Daniel Webster owned one of the first two Gordon setters imported into the country from Scotland in 1842 by George Blunt of Morristown, NJ.
 
The term griffon was applied to European rough-coated pointing dogs many years ago without it specifying a particular breed. Around 1870, Dutch hunter Eduard Karel Korthals, then living in Germany, set about creating an all purpose gun dog. Records show he bought 20 dogs over a dozen years, using griffons, spaniels, Braque’s, Barbets, retrievers, shorthairs and pointers in his breeding program. Since other wirehaired pointing breeds such as the Spinone, German Wirehaired Pointer and Pudelpointer are essentially griffons by that earliest definition, the name Korthals is often added to differentiate the breed.

Photos by Nancy Anisfield.
Allegedly, Italian painter Andrea Mantegna included a Spinone relaxing under the throne in a fresco of the Marquis of Mantua titled “The Court Scene” and another under a chair in the fresco “The Meeting Scene.” Both works are in the Ducal Palace in Mantua, Italy, and were completed around 1475. Whether or not these large-headed, shaggy dogs are early Spinones has never been verified.
 
Smallest of the spaniel breeds, Cocker spaniels were thus named back in the 1800s because they were primarily used to hunt woodcock. They were also called “cocking spaniels,” for the same reason.
 
Three theories over the origin of the Weimaraner and its silvery grey coat are still debated. The Chiens Gris de Saint Louis Theory is based on a “gris” dog that King Saint Louis brought to France. That “gris” referred to a tight mix of brown and white hairs, not actual grey hairs. The GSP Theory says the Weimaraner is a grey version of the German shorthair or a breed that developed parallel. There is some evidence to support this but it is not conclusive. And the Grand Duke Theory credits Grand Duke Charles Augustus of Saxe-Weimar for developing the breed, but the only evidence to support this is a few old engravings that depict the Duke posing with some nice-looking short-haired hunting dogs.
 
The beagle’s name probably comes the Middle French "bee gueule," which translates literally as "wide throat.” However anyone who has heard a beagle baying understands the translation more readily as “Big Mouth.”
 
Hermann Goering, the German minister during WWII who also led the fascist government’s control of all hunting dog breeding, declared that all liver and white ticked shorthairs were to be destroyed because they didn’t blend well enough into the woods like solid liver and roan shorthairs.
 
French poodles did not originate in France but in Germany (“poodle” comes from the German pudel or pudelhund, meaning “splashing dog”). Popular speculation says the fancy poodle cut with the puffs of hair evolved when hunters shaved the poodle for more efficient swimming on water retrieves, while leaving the pom-poms around the major joints to keep them warm.
 
And for anyone who is geographically challenged...the Labrador Retriever was originally from Newfoundland.
 
Blog post and photos by Nancy Anisfield. Nancy is an outdoor photographer/writer, sporting dog enthusiast and bird hunter who serves on Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s National Board of Directors. She resides in Hinesburg, Vermont.