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(Clumber colour) is hailed as a rarity. All said and done, nothing is more telling to the eye than a level team of smart, glossy blacks.
Mr. James Farrow, who has kindly supplied me with a photograph of one of his famous strain of spaniels to reproduce as an illustration, and who has bred something like 2500 spaniels in his long experience, and reached the top of the tree so far back as 1873 (when he carried off the first prize for the best spaniel in the show at Manchester), criticising a bench of cockers which he had judged, made the following observation in a recent contribution to the Kennel Gazette :-
The lack of freedom and liberty in action in many of our to-day cockers is a fault created by the whims of fanciers for short backs. Years ago our cockers were considered too long in the body, and no doubt this was so ; fanciers said they must be shorter, which is correct; but fanciers (as, unfortunately is nearly always the case), directly an error is pointed out, rush from one extreme to another, and in cockers now the point seems to be to get them too short in the couplings, which means of course want of liberty. The result is you have a toy spaniel's action instead of that of a cocker proper. ... The dark eye is another point which many of our cockers of the present day lack. . . . Short heads I also object to, and I do not mind whether we go back to the early dogshow days in this country, or take the first recognised illustration of cockers—that published in 1776 in A Treatise on Field Diversions; the head of a cocker should not be short and thick, but long, and, with the proper length, balance in strength of course. Nothing approaching the toy spaniel head is correct in a cocker. Another fault in our cockers, created, in my opinion, by the importation of foreign element in past days, is the too gay carriage of the tail. Some men I know allow that the tail of a cocker may be carried "a bit high"; the lower its carriage and action the better.
I have quoted the above because Mr. Harding Cox has permitted me to use a long letter on the cocker which was elicited by Mr. Farrow's article, and is as interesting as it is informatory. I regret I have not space to quote this letter in extenso, but here are some of the salient points :
With most of Mr. Farrow's strictures I heartily agree, though on some minor points I would fain join issue with him. Mr. Farrow very pertinently points out that there is a tendency with fanciers of almost every breed to rush to extremes as soon as they realise that they have been fostering some point of conformation detrimentally. It was so with field spaniels, when the eyes of those who considered themselves practical sportsmen were opened to the fact that a caterpillar had been evolved which was too inactive for the work it was supposed to perform ; they immediately rushed to extremes, and tried to foist another insect, a daddy - long - legs to wit, on a longsuffering fancy-a creature which was still more useless as an aid to a gun. So it is with cockers. The fiat went forth that the modern cocker was too long in the back and too low to the ground; consequently we now see dogs proclaimed as champions who are weak and leggy, with no bone to speak of, and heads set into their shoulders without respect to neck. . . . My emphatic verdict is in favour of the moderately long, low dog, with plenty of liberty, plenty of bone, and very supple and active,-a miniature counterpart of what an unexaggerated field spaniel ought to be. ...I agree with Mr. Farrow in denouncing the thick skulls, prominent light eyes, and short forefaces that too often appear on specimens that aspire to even championship honours. As long as judges indulge their fancy by placing “chump-headed ” specimens ahead of "quality" there is but a sorry chance of seeing matters remedied. ...I join issue with Mr. Farrow where he deprecates excess of feather ; of course one can have too much of a good thing, but deficiency of feather is a most serious fault, and very detrimental to a cocker in the performance of his duties. ... As for tail carriage, to throw a cocker right back for slightly elevated caudal appendage is unfair and illogical ; the true test of tail carriage and action is only found when a cocker is using his nose ; in the show ring he often elevates his stump half-mast to show his egotistical contempt for the strangers of his race with whom he has been brought into contact, unsought.... One point of great importance Mr. Farrow has missed : What about perfectly flat, fine, thick, glossy coats ? Nowadays I see wavy-coated specimens winning prizes and even championships. It really seems as if it were time to introduce classes for “ curly-coated ” cockers.
The following notes and criticisms from other contributors refer to the black variety of cocker spaniels :
MR. CHARLES A. PHILLIPS.—The best of the breed are certainly of the right type, but many are inclined to be “toyish.” More size would be of advantage to the breed. On the whole, the values of points are fairly correct ; at the same time it would be difficult to get all judges to agree to the exact value of one particular point.
MR. F. E. SCHOFIELD.-Cockers are, in my opinion, better to-day than they have ever been. What breeders ought to remember is that they are sporting, not toy dogs. They are bright, merry little fellows when properly broken.
MR. WILLIAM CALESS.-I am satisfied with type, but would be glad if judges were more consistent, and stuck to one type. Of the sporting varieties of dogs none have gained a greater popularity in the last few years than the cocker. It is a sportsman's dog for all - round working ability, with no equal for flushing game out of thick cover, and turning rabbits out of hedgerows. As a companion he makes the best, being sharp and intelligent, good tempered and affectionate, handy in size and handsome in appearance-in short, beauty combined with utility. I hope breeders will remember the fact that a cocker is for active work, and for this he should not be too long or low, nor yet too short, in body, but cobby and proportionate.
Other fanciers (who wish to remain incognito) observe.—Today's type is a good one, but bred too much for bench purposes. The utility of type should be a primary consideration ; and to that end much shorter and more compact ear and less feather on legs would be advantageous.— I consider cockers are rather too long in the body, and think a shorter, more sporting-looking animal should be encouraged. The long, weedy, straight-haired cocker is not strong enough for sport, and should not be encouraged. I like a cocker as a lady's pet as well as a sporting dog. It is a sweet-breathed, healthy, affectionate creature. A cocker does not yap or make a noise ; it is not a wild dog like a terrier, that rushes about. I consider it an ideal dog for a lady either in town or country.
Upon the subject of “any other variety cockers ” I have the following criticisms :
MR. R. de C. PEELE.—I am certainly not satisfied, or how could we breed in hope of improvement. We want more liberty,