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PERSONALLY I should not have taken any further notice of this variety than has already been done, believing it to be almost, if not entirely, extinct, its place now being occupied by the ordinary retriever; but the Spaniel Club still acknowledges it, so some introduction to their description is required. The old-fashioned water dog our great grandfathers used was the English water spaniel. Mostly liver and white in colour, with a curly coat, it was just such an animal as would be produced through a cross between the modern brown curly-coated retriever and an ordinary liver and white spaniel Reinagle, in the “Sportsman's Cabinet,” gives us such a dog, and later, so recently as 1845, Youatt describes and illustrates the “Water Spaniel.” That writer gives it a good character for docility, &c., and Ewan Smith draws him not unlike a modern curly retriever, but evidently liver and white. Certainly his illustration makes this spaniel a bigger dog than we should have taken the English water spaniel ever to have been. However, the dog is not bred or kept now as a special variety, nor is there much likelihood of its being quickly resuscitated. Youatt said that the true breed was, even at the time he wrote, lost, and the variety was then a cross between the “water dog" and the English setter. However, I believe that the old “water dog" and the English water spaniel were identical, and my opinion is pretty well supported by those who may be considered authorities on the matter. At some of the earlier Birmingham dog shows classes were provided for English water spaniels, but few entries were obtained, and, these becoming fewer and fewer, the classes were discontinued entirely. I have not seen such a spaniel on the bench or in the ring for a long time; the Kennel Club Stud book during the past few years will be searched in vain for an entry of the breed, and the last so entered in 1886 had no pedigree attached to them. Curiosities rather than eligibilities for any Stud Book. In some recent remarks on the English water spaniel Mr. J. F. Farrow, of Ipswich, says:
The grandest specimen of this variety of spaniel I ever saw was Mr. P. Bullock's Rover, which I came across at Birmingham in 1869, when awarded the second prize in the English Water Spaniel dog class. Although beaten for the first place at this exhibition, he made such an impression upon me that I can see him in my mind's eye at the time of writing these notes, almost as clearly as when I was looking at him at the Birmingham Show in 1869. I had more than one conversation with those old spaniel and sporting dog judges, Mr. W. Lort and the Rev. Frank Pearce (“Idstone ") in reference to this dog, and both thought him a most typical specimen. He won first prize at Birmingham in 1866, 1868, 1870, and at the Crystal Palace, and gold medal at Paris in 1865 —the latter a win that, however, the owner and breeder of Rover thought more of, and a medal he was more pleased to show his friends than, any of his numerous other prizes. This dog was a beautiful bright chestnut red in colour, with a very deep square body, which was not long, legs straight, and about twice as long as the fashionable field spaniel seen at our present exhibitions, with beautiful flat bone, which in quantity was sufficient to carry his grand body without being lumbersome. I never heard the weight of Rover, but should judge him, in show form, about 48lb. ; his tail had been shortened a bit, but was rather long; his neck was simply grand, and sprung from the very best of working placed shoulders, and his head was simply a study. Nothing in the show world at the present time have we, even in the numerous beautiful field spaniels, black, exhibited, have we a head with such quality. The occiput showed itself slightly, and the head was of considerable length throughout, the length from eye to occiput and eye to nose being so beautifully balanced ; the brows very cleanly cut, muzzle grandly developed, with just the correct quantity of flew required to give a nice squareness; the eyes dark, showing no haw, but just a little bit of “coral ” could be seen at the inner corner of each eye, and the whole face was brimful of spaniel fondness, life, and intelligence; ears long, well feathered inside as well as outside, and placed low, altogether making up such a head as I would willingly travel 500 miles to see once again. The coat was dense, but silky in texture, the curl of which was not so close or crisp as we like in an Irish water spaniel : his curl was indeed more of a ringlet, with not a particle of topknot; the feathering on legs was not so abundant as is seen on the Irish water spaniel, and was of the right texture for work. Another smart English water spaniel I remember well was Flo, also born in 1869, a winner for several years at Birmingham. Flo was a daughter of Rover, the dog I have just given a description of, and was bred by Mr. Bullock, but nearly always shown by the Hon. Capt. Arbuthnott. This bitch was liver in colour, but of a lighter shade, and not so bright in hue as her sire. Her body was longer, but nothing like so square as Rover's, and she was, perhaps, rather high on the legs, and lacked the workmanlike and typical outline of her sire. A liver and white ticked dog named Don, shown by a Mr. Crisp, was placed over her at one of the Curzon Hall shows, and later this dog did some important winning, but Rover often beat him, and was a long way the more typical of the two. Don's pedigree was never very clearly defined, and, although he had a lot of good sound English water spaniel points about him, he had also points about him that one could see favoured the ordinary springer, or land spaniel ; or, in other words, Don was not so distinctly typical of the variety as Rover, Flo, and others from the then famous Bilston kennels.
These dogs mentioned by Mr. Farrow, and which I recollect perfectly well myself, may be said to be about the most typical of their race of modern times. Similar animals are not produced now, but if there be any one anxious to resuscitate this once favourite dog, there is plenty of material for him to commence working upon, and it would not take long to reintroduce the variety, though perhaps a dog of such excellence as Rover would not be produced for some time to come.
The following are the Club's points and description of the English water spaniel.
POSITIVE POINTS. NEGATIVE PosNTs. Head, jaw, and eyes ...... 2O Feather on stern ......... IO Ears ........................... 5 Top-knot .................. IO Neck ... ..................... 5 Body ........................ IO Fore-legs..................... IO Hind-legs .................. Io Feet ........................... 5 Stern ........................ IO Coat ........................ 15 General Appearance ...... IO Total Positive Points... Ioo Total Negative Points ... 20
“Head.—Long, somewhat straight and rather narrow; muzzle rather long, and, if anything, rather pointed.
“Eyes.—Small for the size of the dog.
“Fars.—Set on forward, and thickly clothed with hair inside and out.
“Body (including size and symmetry).-Large, and very deep throughout; back ribs well developed, not quite so long as in field spaniels.
“Shoulders and chest.—Shoulders low and chest rather narrow, but deep.