« ForrigeFortsett »
picturesque and captivating that I cannot refrain from quoting it. He writes :
The pointer is a model of beauty, worthy of the capital material from which he has descended. He is to be found now in every kennel of mark, with all the attributes and propensities of the highest class, and with intelligence and observation worthy the name of reason. His airy gallop, his lashing stern, his fine range, his magnificent dead-stop at game, his rapid turn to catch the wind of the body-scent, his perseverance, under a trying sun, to catch a faint and hardly perceptible stain of game borne to him on the breeze ; his glorious attitude as he becomes (directly his widespread nostrils assure him he is right) stiff and motionless, with limbs widespread, head aloft, stern high held, and his implicit obedience to the lessons he learnt, perhaps two or three seasons past,—all these wonderful gifts put him on a level with that paragon of hounds with which he claims relationship.
Although this work makes no pretensions to deal with sporting dogs in the performance of their duties, the fact that all gun - dogs are judged by what are known as “field trials,”—that is, an examination of their abilities and merits in the field, success in which counts for far more than their wins on the show-bench,-is my excuse for bringing in the following very best description of such trials that I have ever read, or want to read. Exigencies of space compel me to compress it a little ; but those who wish to read the stirring story in its entirety will find it in Mr. Rawdon Lee's exhaustive article on the pointer in his second volume on Modern Sporting Dogs :
Probably the best work ever done at field trials was in a heat run between Romp's Baby, handled by Mr. Brown, and Mr. Arkwright's Revel, at Blandford, Dorset, in 1882.
The two dogs were ordered down on a ploughed field, recently rolled, and looking as flat as a billiard table, without the least covert ; the sun was shining so brightly that imagination could readily lead to the belief that a beetle could be seen a hundred yards away. It was not a big field, and the wind was coming on in the right quarter.
The bitches were cast off. No one quite knew which was the faster till they got together. Neck and neck they raced alongside, each doing her best. Then Baby drew out and left her friend, who, finding herself outpaced (for the first time in her life), wheeled about, and took an independent beat. Baby completed her cast to the fence, took fresh ground, got the wind in her teeth, and was soon swiftly coming up the field as fast as a swallow, and as prettily. She overtook Revel, once more inviting her to test her pace, which she did ; but finding it “no go," again turned sulkily away, and went on her own errand. The crowd marvelled at the speed of Baby-for she was very small, and of that black or blue-mottled variety—and looked on with astonishment to see how Revel “chucked up the sponge," her sulkiness at being out-paced increasing as the trial went on.
Presently Baby, coming up the field with the wind in her favour, on reaching the centre, pulled up as in a cloud of dust, and stood like a statue, attitudinising like a stage dancer, her neck outstretched, her stern poised stiffly, her toes hardly touching the earth, her whole form quivering. Never was there a more earnest point. But what was it?
There lay the field, shining and shimmering like a newlyrolled onion-bed; not a vestige and not the chance of anything being on it without being seen. Mr. Brown pulled up in an attitude almost as stagey as the bitch. He had complete confidence in her; but her owner afterwards said he doubted the scent, and thought that perhaps Baby saw something. There she stood as Revel, a clever, sensible bitch, came galloping up behind her. She took in the position, came upon Baby's tracks, gave a slight jerk, half intending to acknowledge the point, and then, slowing down, passed her opponent, who never budged an inch.
Revel moved about in front in a half-hesitating way, and lo! to the surprise of everybody, up got a brace of birds about fifty yards on the left front. Mr. Brown of course claimed them for his bitch, and everybody thought she had behaved very well, and Revel very badly.
The latter was brought back; but Baby stood on, stock still, no flinching, no dropping when the birds had risen—there stood she, stiffer than ever, and, if possible, more in the air. You could almost see daylight under her feet. Her handler, his heart never in doubt, began to regard her with attention, and then, as it were, "tumbling to it," went up to her side, and tried to move her on. But no; she seemed to say, “ I've got my birds. You may have a field full if you like ; but if you want mine, you must trust to me.”
Every one stood in intense excitement to see the bitch “do or die," make a fool of herself, or come out with something wonderful. It was odds on the fool. With much pressure she was forced on a few yards, when a hare jumped up close to her, which never shook her in the least. And then, nearly a hundred yards away, a pair of birds rose right in her line. At that instant she dropped as though she had been shot!
The first person who came up to congratulate the owner was Mr. Arkwright, who said it was the most wonderful piece of work he had ever seen.
So much for the pointers of the past-of the days when the drive and the battue had not such a hold on the fashionable sportsman as they have now, and the hardier gunner followed his dog through turnips, stubble, and fallow, and won his bag by the sweat of his brow. Days were, in my distant youth, when the last week of my summer holidays (given much earlier in that era than is the custom now) were made red-letter ones to me by my being allowed to accompany an uncle for the first week of partridge shooting, to "carry the sandwiches"; and I can call to mind many a long tramp, from sunny morn to dewy eve, with Ponto the pointer and Shot the setter, whose working was a liberal education in animal ability. And it is but a platitude, as stale as it is trite, to say that there is perhaps more pleasure in seeing good dogs work than in any other feature of a successful day's sport.
We have come to regard the pointer as purely an English dog ; perhaps we are, as a nation, a little prone to monopolise the canine kingdom as peculiarly our own. But as a matter of fact it is a very popular breed on the Continent. Germany has her strains of pointers—one of them a shaggy-haired animal; and Russia has also a breed. The German pointer is a heavy-set, large-boned dog, with prominent fews and a good deal of throatiness; he is extensively used in the Fatherland, but is slow at his game. The roughcoated pointer, a queer-looking animal, is said to be unequalled in endurance and insensibility to changes of temperature by any gun-dog, and to have a cross of the griffon in him. The pointer still exists in its original home, Spain, and a couple were exhibited at an English show not so many years ago, described as "short, thick-set, small dogs, fawn rather than lemon and white in colour, double-nosed, and with short, stumpy heads—very ugly animals indeed.”
Coming now to modern pointers, here are the opinions of some experts in the breed on the type as it exists to-day :
MR. HARDING Cox.-The type has been very constant, and pointers have bred fairly true to it; though the old-fashioned “square-box" heads are less in evidence than they were twenty years ago, the prevailing frontispiece being now more setter-like. Likewise, we do not see so many of the big, powerful sort as heretofore, Ch. Lunesdale Wagg being a brilliant exception. The average pointer has much better legs and feet than the setter, and herein lies a great advantage to the former. When comparing the points of the pointer bitch Ch. Coronation with the beautiful Irish setter in a tight finish for the coronation cup, I pointed out to my colleague, Mr. Gresham, the superiority of the former's pasterns and feet. His reply was that setters were never so good in those particulars as pointers. Whereupon I argued that the most perfect specimen of the soundest and most perfect breed should take precedence. This logic was accepted by Mr. Gresham, and Coronation received the award. It would be highly satisfactory if setter and pointer benches at our dog shows could be restored to their erstwhile brilliance. Classes for dogs that have run in field trials are very useful, but necessarily attract a limited entry. But possibly if others were provided for dogs regularly shot over (definition to be laid down) and really good prizes offered, we might see some really sporting workmanlike dogs shown. Pointers are particularly sagacious and loyally affectionate; they are splendid companions, even when the gun is laid aside.
MR. H. SAWTELL. — I consider that, notwithstanding the extreme strictness shown towards our modern dogs by some experts, there are still as good specimens of the breed, both for the field and show-bench, in this country at the present time as are to be found elsewhere. I prefer the pointer to the setter because I think it is able to go considerably longer without water when out shooting and unable to get any.
MRS. L. HORNER.-I am not quite satisfied with type. I think the modern dog wants more squareness and length of muzzle. I consider that no dog should be penalised for failure in one pointas, for instance, in the case of the colour of the eye being too light. If a dog excels in every point, this fault should not put him out of the prize list. In giving my opinion of an ideal pointer, I think, first, the head should be in proportion to the body; a light-weight, small pointer should not have as strong a head as a heavy-weight dog, neither should the heavy-weight dog have too fine-drawn a head, or he would appear to be all body and no head. It has occurred to me several times that sundry judges appear to prefer pointers with heads of setter type, quite forgetting that although the setter and pointer breeds are in all essentials of body, legs, feet, carriage of tail, and general bearing practically identical, yet in head properties they are widely different. For instance, the pointer should not have the pronounced occiput which is essential in the setter, and in consequence his head lacks that peaked, narrow, long-drawn appearance we see in most of the best setter heads. With regard to the pointer's muzzle, it should be long, blunt, and square, with deep flews. It should not fall away in front of the eyes, as this gives an appearance of coarseness to the skull. A pointer's colour should be a white body, with light ticks of either liver or lemon, and the blotches of the same colours should not be too heavy, or the dog looks clumsy. The head should always be evenly marked.
The well-known judge, Mr. B. Warwick, in his review of the breed in the Kennel Gazette for January 1903, writes : “I cannot see that there has been any advance, though there has equally been no falling off in quality this year. At the same time, it has generally been one of the old champions who has taken the honours at shows, and until age tells upon them I do not think their owners have much to fear from the younger generation. It has always been a source of great satisfaction to me to see the success achieved by one or two kennels, notably by the dogs belonging to Mr. Arkwright, as with his champions we have