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that time he was a considerably heavier and coarser dog than he is now, showing more of the massive Newfoundland breeding, and less of the racy, sporting type to which he has been fined down. Mr. S. E. Shirley, the President and founder of the Kennel Club, was one of the pillars of the breed, and to him and Mr. Harding Cox, and, more recently, Mr Reginald Cooke and Mr. Allen Shuter, the breed is chiefly indebted for the perfection to which it has attained.
As I am in the happy position of having contributions from three of these gentlemen, I will "cut the cackle and come to the dogs," which occupy a very prominent position on the modern show-bench, there having been considerably over a hundred entries of the breed at the Kennel Club Show of 1903, with four champions competing in the open class for dogs.
MR. HARDING Cox's IDEAL FLAT-COATED RETRIEVER.-The first thing to do when appraising a retriever is to cast the eye over his outline, symmetry, character, action, and stern carriage ; time enough to minutely examine the numerous points of conformation and coat which go to make the acme of excellence, when the standard of “general appearance” has been admittedly reached.
Behold, then, the ideal ! He gives the impression of being, comparatively, a big dog, and is so in fact; but he is not too big. His outline is a succession of artistic curves, of perfect balance. His action in walking or trotting is deceptive, for he displays a stiff sort of roll, which is highly characteristic of the breed. But send him to retrieve the grouse you have just shot, which has fallen on the further side of yon stone wall! Now he stretches out with level, machine-like strides, just touches the fence as he flies it, anon returns, bird held firmly, but tenderly, and without slackening speed brings it straight to your hand, and delivers it dry and unharmed as far as he is concerned. Note the way he keeps his feathered stern waving on a level with his back, as you commend him for his prompt attention to business ; observe the keen, kindly expression of his deep brown eyes, and the cock of his medium sized, close carried ears—there is a picture for you!
Now call up an expert, and ask him to demonstrate his perfections seriatim. He has a long, level head, flat skull, not too broad and certainly not too narrow (an attempt has been made to eulogise narrow skulls ; there must be room for brains, and above all a peaked occiput, à la setter, is strongly to be deprecated). In front of the eye the muzzle is long and strong ; there is no falling away under the eye, and not a suspicion of snipeyness. His nose is large, and nostrils well spread ; his lips tight, without suspicion of loose flews, and the inner membrane is all black. The jaws are quite level, and the teeth large, firm, and dazzling white. His eye is a deep, rich brown; were it light or sloe-black our ideal would be found wanting ; whilst any suggestion of yellow would completely destroy his claims to perfection. Not only is his eye the correct colour, but it is of medium size-neither deep set nor pedunculated. His neck is long and artistically arched, being set into long, sweeping, perfectly flush shoulders. His chest is very deep, and rather narrow; his ribs somewhat flat, being only slightly sprung as regards the “back numbers." (N.B.--Here the writer differs from some authorities, who insist on well sprung ribs ; but he has practical reasons for his dictum, as explained in his chapter on retrievers in the latest edition of British Dogs.) To continue : Our ideal has the legs and feet of a foxhound, but without the pigeon-toed tendency of the latter. The bone is not too thick and coarse, but it has the quality and density of ivory, for our friend is the outcome of a scientific blending of the choicest "quality" strains. As the race-horse is to the cart-horse, so is the thorough-bred retriever to the gamekeeper's nondescript. Behind the ribs the couplings are of sufficient length to ensure liberty of action, and are in true proportion to the depth of the chest. (N.B.-A dog too short in the couplings has a “jumped up" appearance; but a long, weak middle-piece is likewise a serious detriment. All these points should be a question of symmetry and balance.) The loins are strong and slightly sloping to the set-out of the stern, which is of moderate length, its tip reaching to the point of the hock. It has a graceful curve from the root ; but there is not a suspicion of hook or curl at the extremity. It is difficult to describe the stern action on paper ; it needs ocular demonstration. The thighs, second thighs, and gaskins are strong, muscular, and well-furnished: the hocks boney, horizontal as from the point to the pastern, and as true as the lock of a gun in action. Cow-hocks are, unfortunately, too often in evidence, and should be most severely penalised ; this tendency is one that is growing amongst so-called
sporting dogs, as seen at shows, and it behoves judges to keep a very watchful eye on this most horrible failing. The pasterns of our ideal are broad, strong, and rather more springy than in the case of the ideal hound, but the feet of the two breeds should be identical. Find me such an animal as I have described, and I will grapple him to my kennel with chains of gold !
With this eloquent and graphic ideal to create a living picture in our mind's eye, the more critical notes that follow will be found specially instructive.
MR. HARDING Cox.—The type to-day breeds very true and level, and has greatly improved in general quality of late years, There is a tendency with some judges to encourage skulls too narrow and peaked ; also too many light eyes, and bad hock action. There is no Retriever Club proper, so no official standard exists; but some writers allow too much for head and eyes, and not enough for outline, symmetry, balance, and action. I attribute the level, unexaggerated type of the flat-coated retriever of the day to the fact that no specialist club exists for its “ protection and improvement (?)” I have bred these dogs for a quarter of a century, and have in my time had more success in this line than any one, with the possible exception of Mr. S. E. Shirley. I find them very engaging companions, of a most affectionate, loyal, and docile temperament. The best show strains take naturally to their work, and their sagacity is marvellous. It is a mistake to suppose that black is the only recognised colour for the retriever ; a good liver, chocolate, red, or even cream-coloured or white would have full recognition by any modern expert judge, if the dog was up to the proper standard as regards points of conformation, coat, and symmetry.
MR. H. REGINALD COOKE.—As a breeder for twenty years I consider that flat-coated retrievers have steadily improved during that time. Very rarely does one see a bad dog exhibited now at the leading shows. As the flat-coated retriever is essentially a working dog, I consider it important that breeders should not lose sight of his working points, especially at the expense of fancy points. Occasionally there is a tendency to go to extremes in this direction, and not pay sufficient attention to movement, intelligence, activity, and similar points necessary in the worker. As for judging, in a close competition for a championship or special prize between a dog and a bitch, I consider the judge should slightly favour the former. A good dog is more difficult
to produce than a good bitch, and should have a slight preference when the balance of points is nearly equal. For the requirements of modern shooting I consider that the flat-coated retriever is the sportsman's best friend. He is intelligent, tractable, easily broken, and has a charming disposition. In the field he generally possesses a keen nose and a very tender mouthdiffering in this last respect from his curly-coated brother.
M. L. ALLEN SHUTER.-I am perfectly satisfied with the type of the breed, which has been brought almost to perfection. I prefer the flat-coated retriever to any other breed, because it is such a charming companion, very good tempered, very handsome, and, in the right hands, a grand dog with the gun.
MR. ROBERT PATERSON.-I think, with advantage to the dogs themselves, they might be a little higher on the leg for allround work, and rather shorter in the back; they are inclined to be on the clumber side, rather too heavy boned and long and low. I consider that there is too much attention paid to the head, and the other good points of the dog somewhat lost sight of. The head is of little use without good body, legs, and feet. Also I think a dog is penalised too much for faulty tail-carriage. I have bred and broken retrievers for twenty-five years, and I always have a curly or two; but of the two varieties I much prefer the flat. I may say that I work flat and curlies alongside of each other, and, as regards their work, there is nothing to choose between them. But as a companion, and for good temper, the flat is far and away the best of the two; at least this has been my experience, and I have never seen a curly do what I would be afraid to put a flat to follow. But there will always be found a bad one here and there in both varieties. I consider that the flat-coated retriever as a companion is better than the curly; he is not so liable to quarrel, much more docile, easier kept in coat, and with the best of tempers. I like my retriever with a perfectly flat coat, a reachy neck, strong shoulders, short back, deep chest, free from any rollicking gait in walking, and to show altogether racy build without any cloddiness. I think there is a good deal too much of the setter head in the breed.
STANDARD OF POINTS OF THE FLAT-COATED
RETRIEVER SKULL, EARS, AND Neck.-Skull bone wide and flat at the top, with slight furrow down the middle ; brow by no means pronounced, but the skull is not absolutely in a straight line with the nose. Ears must be small, lie close to the head, and set on low, but not hanging down in