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OUR retriever was produced when the British sportsman found out that it was not good for his pointer or setter to fetch his game, and that his spaniel would not do this so well and quickly as a bigger dog; so the retriever became a necessity. As a sporting dog, he is purely of modern growth. In America it is still the fashion for the pointer and setter to do the double duty of finding and standing his game and bringing it to his owner who has shot it. A dog that does this is no doubt useful, answers the purpose of two dogs, and so keeps down the kennel; but the luxuriousness with which we are surrounded will not take the latter into consideration, and a man's kennel is incomplete without it includes retrievers of one or other of the few varieties. Again, in walking up the birds—which is almost the common procedure nowadays in the south of England and other good partridge countries—retrievers are required, and could not be done without, and so [Vol. I.] B B
they are in grouse driving, duck shooting, and for bringing a wounded hare or a winged pheasant out of the covert. I incline to the opinion that a well-broken, soft-mouthed retriever is the best allround dog a man can have—one whose means are limited, who is fond of sport, and has not accommodation for more than one dog. Let such an animal live in the house and be constituted a constant companion, and there is no knowing how sensible a creature he will prove when his services are required in the field. The retriever is a creation within the past fifty years, and he was no doubt, in the first instance, produced from crossing the old English or Irish water spaniel with the setter, the collie, and the smaller Newfoundland, usually known as the St. John or Labrador Newfoundland. Colonel Hutchinson, in his admirable work on dog breaking, gives us pictures of various crosses, and in general appearance these illustrations are of dogs bearing very much the characteristics of the modern retriever. Colonel Hutchinson published his book in 1847. Still, there were retrieving dogs long before Colonel Hutchinson's time. Dr. Caius wrote of dogs that brought back the “boults and arrows " that had missed the mark, and also such waterfowl as had been stung to death by some “venomous worm.” Conrad Gesner, in the early part of the sixteenth century, wrote of dogs trained to bring back birds to their masters; but such animals as these were the spaniels commonly used at that time. It must be taken for granted that our modern retriever, be he either curly-coated, straight or wavy-coated, black, brown, or pale liver in colour, at some time was produced from one or other of the crosses I have named. The
nick” answered well, and what is now an actual and distinct variety resulted therefrom—one that with careful crossing produces a type quite as well defined as is to be found in the mastiff, bloodhound, and bulldog, which may be taken as our oldest British varieties of the canine race. With the improved farming, close cropping, increasing wildness of game arising from a variety of causes, and a disinclination in the modern shooting man to fill his bag over pointers and setters, the retriever is in many quarters considered to be the dog of the future. Whether this will prove to be the case or not, time will tell. Field trials for retrievers were held at Vaynol Park, the seat of Mr. Assheton Smith, in the autumn of 1871-2, but on neither occasion do they appear to have been particularly successful. The usual competitions for pointers and setters took place at the same time, the retrievers doing their work in conjunction with the other dogs. Birds were scarce, and “Stonehenge,” in his Field report, said the only dog that did really good work was Mr. Parr's Cato, who took the chief prize on the second occasion. Two stakes, one for aged dogs, the other for puppies, were arranged at each meeting, and amongst those who made entries were Lord Downe, Mr. Purcell Llewellin, Mr. Lloyd Price, and others.
Whatever report may be as a rule in a matter of truthfulness, on this occasion it could not be far wrong when retriever trials by its rumour were pronounced a failure; for, although Mr. Price subsequently offered to find ground at Rhiwlas for a continuation of them, the kindly offer was not accepted, nor has anything of the kind been promoted since, though over twenty years have gone by since “Retriever Trials” were run. As a fact, the best work of such dogs would not be seen under surroundings so public, for the real excellence in a retriever lies in its intelligence in finding dead or wounded game under circumstances so exceptional as to preclude any possibility of opportunity being afforded them so to do, as occasion required.