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Archive for July, 2007

Basset Hound

Tuesday, July 31st, 2007

Basset houndThe Basset was not familiarly known to British sportsmen before 1863, in which year specimens of the breed were seen at the first exhibition of dogs held in Paris, and caused general curiosity and admiration among English visitors. In France, however, this hound has been used for generations, much as we use our Spaniel, as a finder of game in covert, and it has long been a popular sporting dog in Russia and Germany. In early times it was chiefly to be found in Artois and Flanders, where it is supposed to have had its origin; but the home of the better type of Basset is now chiefly in La Vendee, in which department some remarkably fine strains have been produced.

There are three main strains of the French Basset—the Lane, the Couteulx, and the Griffon. The Griffon Basset is a hound with a hard bristly coat, and short, crooked legs. It has never found great favour here.

The Lane hounds are derived from the kennels of M. Lane, of Franqueville, Baos, Seine-Inferieure, and are also very little appreciated in this country. They are a lemon and white variety, with torse or bent legs. The Couteulx hounds were a type bred up into a strain by Comte le Couteulx de Canteleu.

They were tricolour, with straight, short legs, of sounder constitution than other strains, with the make generally of a more agile hound, and in the pedigree of the best Bassets owned in this country fifteen years ago, when the breed was in considerable demand, Comte de Couteulx’s strain was prominent and always sought for.

With careful selection and judicious breeding we have now produced a beautiful hound of fine smooth coat, and a rich admixture of markings, with a head of noble character and the best of legs and feet. Their short, twinkling legs make our Bassets more suitable for covert hunting than for hunting hares in the open, to which latter purpose they have frequently been adapted with some success. Their note is resonant, with wonderful power for so small a dog, and in tone it resembles the voice of the Bloodhound.

The Basset-hound is usually very good tempered and not inclined to be quarrelsome with his kennel mates; but he is wilful, and loves to roam apart in search of game, and is not very amenable to discipline when alone. On the other hand, he works admirably with his companions in the pack, when he is most painstaking and indefatigable. Endowed with remarkable powers of scent, he will hunt a drag with keen intelligence.

There are now several packs of Bassets kept in England, and they show very fair sport after the hares; but it is not their natural vocation, and their massive build is against the possibility of their becoming popular as harriers. The general custom is to follow them on foot, although occasionally some sportsmen use ponies.

Their pace, however, hardly warrants the latter expedient. On the Continent, where big game is more common than with us, the employment of the Basset is varied. He is a valuable help in the tracking of boar, wolf, and deer, and he is also frequently engaged in the lighter pastimes of pheasant and partridge shooting.

The Earl of Onslow and the late Sir John Everett Millais were among the earliest importers of the breed into England. They both had recourse to the kennels of Count Couteulx. Sir John Millais’ Model was the first Basset-hound exhibited at an English dog show, at Wolverhampton in 1875. Later owners and breeders of prominence were Mr. G. Krehl, Mrs. Stokes, Mrs. C. C. Ellis and Mrs. Mabel Tottie.

As with most imported breeds, the Basset-hound when first exhibited was required to undergo a probationary period as a foreign dog in the variety class at the principal shows. It was not until 1880 that a class was provided for it by the Kennel Club.

It is to be regretted that owners of this beautiful hound are not more numerous. Admirable specimens are still to be seen at the leading exhibitions, but the breed is greatly in need of encouragement.

At the present time the smooth dog hound taking the foremost place in the estimate of our most capable judges is Mr. W. W. M. White’s Ch.  Loo-Loo-Loo, bred by Mrs. Tottie, by Ch. Louis Le Beau out of Sibella.

Mr. Croxton Smith’s Waverer is also a dog of remarkably fine type.  Among bitch hounds Sandringham Dido, the favourite of Her Majesty the Queen, ranks as the most perfect of her kind.

The rough or Griffon-Basset, introduced into England at a later date than the smooth, has failed for some reason to receive great attention. In type it resembles the shaggy Otterhound, and as at present favoured it is larger and higher on the leg than the smooth variety.

Their colouring is less distinct, and they seem generally to be lemon and white, grey and sandy red. Their note is not so rich as that of the smooth variety. In France the rough and the smooth Bassets are not regarded as of the same race, but here some breeders have crossed the two varieties, with indifferent consequences.

Some beautiful specimens of the rough Basset have from time to time been sent to exhibition from the Sandringham kennels. His Majesty the King has always given affectionate attention to this breed, and has taken several first prizes at the leading shows, latterly with Sandringham Bobs, bred in the home kennels by Sandringham Babil ex Saracenesca.

Perhaps the most explicit description of the perfect Basset-hound is still that compiled twenty-five years ago by Sir John Millais.  It is at least sufficiently comprehensive and exact to serve as a guide:

The Basset, for its size, has more bone, perhaps, than nearly any other dog.

Skull - should be peaked like that of the Bloodhound, with the same dignity and expression, the nose black (although some of my own have white about theirs), and well flewed. For the size of the hound I think the teeth are extremely small. However, as they are not intended to destroy life, this is probably the reason.

Ears - should hang like the Bloodhound’s, and are like the softest velvet drapery.

Eyes - are a deep brown, and are brimful of affection and intelligence. They are pretty deeply set, and should show a considerable haw. A Basset is one of those hounds incapable of having a wicked eye.

Neck - is long, but of great power; and in the _Basset a jambes torses_ the flews extend very nearly down to the chest. The chest is more expansive than even in the Bulldog, and should in the _Bassets a jambes torses_ be not more than two inches from the ground. In the case of the Bassets a jambes demi-torses and jambes droites, being generally lighter, their chests do not, of course, come so low.

Shoulders - are of great power, and terminate in the crooked feet of the Basset, which appear to be a mass of joints. The back and ribs are strong, and the former of great length.

Stern - is carried gaily, like that of hounds in general, and when the hound is on the scent of game this portion of his body gets extremely animated, and tells me, in my own hounds, when they have struck a fresh or a cold scent, and I even know when the foremost hound will give tongue.

Hind-quarters - are very strong and muscular, the muscles standing rigidly out down to the hocks.

Skin - is soft in the smooth haired dogs, and like that of any other hound, but in the rough variety it is like that of the Otterhound’s.

Colour - of course, is a matter of fancy, although I infinitely prefer the tricolour, which has a tan head and a black and white body.

Cocker Spaniel

Wednesday, July 11th, 2007

Cocker SpanielFor the last few years the popularity of this smaller sized branch of the Spaniel tribe has been steadily increasing, and the Cocker classes at most of the best shows are now remarkable both for the number of entries and the very high standard of excellence to which they attain.

A short time ago black Cockers were decidedly more fashionable than their parti-coloured relatives, but now the reverse is the case, and the various roans and tricolours have overtaken and passed the others, both in general quality and in the public esteem. The reason for this popularity of the breed as a whole is not far to seek. The affectionate and merry disposition of the Cocker and his small size compared with that of the other breeds pre-eminently fit him for a companion in the house as well as in the field, and he ranks among his admirers quite as many of the fairer sex as he does men a fact which is not without a certain element of danger, since it should never be lost sight of that the breed is a sporting one, which should on no account be allowed to degenerate into a race of mere house companions or toys.

Small-sized Spaniels, usually called Cockers, from their being more especially used in woodcock shooting, have been indigenous to Wales and Devonshire for many years, and it is most likely from one or both of these sources that the modern type has been evolved. It is probable too that the type in favour to day, of a short coupled, rather “cobby” dog, fairly high on the leg, is more like that of these old fashioned Cockers than that which obtained a decade or two ago, when they were scarcely recognised as a separate breed, and the Spaniel classes were usually divided into “Field Spaniels over 25 lb.” and “Field Spaniels under 25 lb.” In those days a large proportion of the prizes fell to miniature Field Spaniels. The breed was not given official recognition on the Kennel Club’s register till 1893, nor a section to itself in the Stud Book; and up to that date the only real qualification a dog required to be enabled to compete as a Cocker was that he should be under the weight of 25 lb., a limit arbitrarily and somewhat irrationally fixed, since in the case of an animal just on the border line he might very well have been a Cocker before and a Field Spaniel after breakfast.

It is not easy to find authentic pedigrees going back further than a quarter of a century, but Mr. C. A. Phillips can trace his own strain back to 1860, and Mr. James Farrow was exhibiting successfully thirty five years ago. The former gentleman published the pedigree of his bitch Rivington Dora for eighteen generations in extenso in The Sporting Spaniel; while the famous Obo strain of the latter may be said to have exercised more influence than any other on the black variety both in this country and in the United States.

It was in 1880 that the most famous of all the “pillars” of the Cocker stud, Mr. James Farrow’s Obo, made his first bow to the public, he and his litter sister Sally having been born the year before. He won the highest honours that the show bench can give, and the importance of his service to the breed both in his owner’s kennel and outside it, can scarcely be over-estimated. Nearly all of the best blacks, and many of the best coloured Cockers, are descended from him.

At this period the type mostly favoured was that of a dog rather longer in the body and lower on the leg than it is at present, but the Obo family marked a progressive step, and very rightly kept on winning under all the best judges for many years, their owner being far too good a judge himself ever to exhibit anything but first-class specimens.

Meanwhile, although the blacks were far the most fashionable and it was said that it was hopeless to try to get the same quality in coloured specimens several enthusiastic breeders for colour were quietly at work, quite undismayed by the predilection shown by most exhibitors and judges for the former colour. Among them was Mr. C.  A. Phillips, whose two bitches from Mr. James Freme, of Wepre Hall, Flintshire, succeeded in breeding from one of them, whom he named Rivington Sloe, the celebrated dog Rivington Signal, who, mated with Rivington Blossom, produced Rivington Bloom, who was in turn the dam of Rivington Redcoat. These dogs proved almost, if not quite, as valuable to the coloured variety as Obo did to the blacks, and formed the foundation of Mr. J. M. Porter’s celebrated Braeside strain which afterwards became so famous.

During the last few years Mr. R. de Courcy Peele’s kennel has easily held the pride of place in this variety. Most readers are no doubt familiar with the many beautiful Cockers which have appeared in the show ring and carried off so many prizes under the distinguishing affix Bowdler. His kennel was built up on a Braeside foundation, and has contained at one time or other such flyers as Ben Bowdler, Bob Bowdler, Rufus Bowdler, Dixon Bowdler, Eva Bowdler, Mary Bowdler, Blue-coat Bowdler, Susan Bowdler, and others, and Ben and Bob have also been, as sires, responsible for the success of a good many dogs hailing from other kennels.

He has also been fairly successful with blacks, which, however, have usually been purchased and not bred by him, the two best being Master Reuben, bred by Miss Joan Godfrey, and Jetsam Bowdler, a bitch who has distinguished herself both in the ring and in the field.

Coloured Cockers are certainly “booming” just now, and as a consequence the blacks, who are equally worthy of support, are being rather neglected. Certainly it is the case that whereas one sees at most shows big classes of the former filled with a good level lot with hardly a bad specimen amongst them, the classes devoted to the latter, besides not being so well filled, are much more uneven, and always contain a large proportion of weeds and toys. A few years ago the black classes were immeasurably superior to the coloured, and it is to be hoped that in the near future they will regain at least a position of equality with them.

At the last few Field Trial meetings the Spaniel Club has provided classes confined to Cockers, which have filled fairly well, and enabled the small breed to demonstrate that it can in its way be quite as useful as its larger cousins.

A Cocker can very often go and work as well where a larger Spaniel cannot even creep, and for working really thick hedgerows or gorse has no superior. There seems to be every prospect of a brilliant future, and increased popularity for this charming breed.

Its interests are looked after both by the Spaniel Club and the comparatively newly formed Cocker Spaniel Club, and it is also quite as much in favour on the other side of the Atlantic as it is in the United Kingdom. Indeed, the classes in America and Canada compare very favourably with our own.

The descriptive particulars of the breed are:

HEAD — Not so heavy in proportion and not so high in occiput as in the modern Field Spaniel, with a nicely developed muzzle or jaw; lean, but not snipy, and yet not so square as in the Clumber or Sussex varieties, but always exhibiting a sufficiently wide and well-developed nose. Forehead perfectly smooth, rising without a too decided stop from muzzle into a comparatively wide and rounded, well-developed skull, with plenty of room for brain power.

EYES — Full, but not prominent, hazel or brown coloured, with a general expression of intelligence and gentleness, though decidedly wideawake, bright and merry, never goggled nor weak as in the King Charles and Blenheim kinds.

EARS — Lobular, set on low, leather fine and not exceeding beyond the nose, well clothed with long silky hair, which must be straight or wavy—no positive curls or ringlets.

NECK — Strong and muscular, and neatly set on to fine sloping shoulders.

BODY (INCLUDING SIZE AND SYMMETRY) - Not quite so long and low as in the other breeds of Spaniels, more compact and firmly knit together, giving the impression of a concentration of power and untiring activity. 

WEIGHT — The weight of a Cocker Spaniel of either sex should not exceed 25 lb., or be less than 20 lb. Any variation either way should be penalised.

NOSE — Sufficiently wide and well developed to ensure the exquisite scenting powers of this breed.

SHOULDERS AND CHEST — The former sloping and fine, chest deep and well developed, but not too wide and round to interfere with the free action of the fore-legs. 

BACK AND LOIN — Immensely strong and compact in proportion to the size and weight of the dog; slightly sloping towards the tail.

HIND-QUARTERS — Wide, well rounded, and very muscular, so as to ensure untiring action and propelling power under the most trying circumstances of a long day, bad weather, rough ground, and dense covert.

STERN — That most characteristic of blue blood in all the Spaniel family may, in the lighter and more active Cocker, although set low down, be allowed a slightly higher carriage than in the other breeds, but never cocked up over, but rather in a line with the back, though the lower its carriage and action the better, and when at work its action should be incessant in this, the brightest and merriest of the whole Spaniel family.

FEET AND LEGS — The legs should be well boned, feathered and straight, for the tremendous exertions expected from this grand little sporting dog, and should be sufficiently short for concentrated power, but not too short as to interfere with its full activity. Feet firm, round, and cat-like, not too large, spreading, and loose jointed. This distinct breed of Spaniel does not follow exactly on the lines of the larger Field Spaniel, either in lengthiness, lowness, or otherwise, but is shorter in the back, and rather higher on the legs.
COAT — Flat or waved, and silky in texture, never wiry, woolly, or curly, with sufficient feather of the right sort, viz., waved or Setter-like, but not too profuse and never curly.

GENERAL APPEARANCE — Confirmatory of all indicated above, viz., a concentration of pure blood and type, sagacity, docility, good temper, affection, and activity.

Equipment You’ll Need To Show Your Dog

Tuesday, July 10th, 2007

Before you start for your first show there are certain pieces of equipment you will need. One is a strong collar that fits your dog well; either round leather, flat leather, or a chain. Another item you will need is a bench chain. A bench chain is just what its name implies—used to chain a dog to the bench, snapping onto the ring in the collar and to the ring provided for that purpose on the bench.

When fastening the dog to the bench, be sure to leave enough chain so that the dog can lie down but not long enough to allow him to jump off the bench, as he could possibly hang himself.

You will also need a show lead. A show lead is usually much finer than the leads used for walking a dog. Before purchasing a show lead, find out what type is used by the successful exhibitors in your breed. In some breeds the dogs are exhibited on the same chain collar used for benching with a fine leather snap-on lead attached to it.

In some breeds the exhibitors prefer leather one-piece leads. I say leather, but this type one-piece show lead is made up in whalehide, lacing, nylon belting, and many other materials. In the toy breeds some exhibitors use a nylon string, which is no heavier than the lead of a pencil. Terriers are almost always shown on a leather collar and lead.

You will need a sponge, and if you have a liking for the synthetic ones, they will do very nicely. You will want to take along a towel—an old one will do. Your dog will have been bathed before being brought to the show, if he is of a breed that requires bathing, but if he becomes carsick and drools over himself, or if he walks through a puddle and then through dust or dirt, the sponge and towel will help you clean him before taking him into the ring.

If you are sure that you have done every necessary bit of trimming at home perhaps it will not be necessary to carry trimming tools with you. However, a great many people find it advisable to carry with them at least a few trimming tools for those last-minute repairs. A pair of scissors, perhaps a small stripping knife, and any other one or two tools you are fond of for trimming in your breed may come in handy. A comb and brush are necessities, and will be very welcome just before you go into the ring.

Talking of equipment leads me quite naturally to a discussion of crates. A tack crate, with one or two drawers, would have all these tools stored in the drawers ready to go at a moment’s notice. It is not at all necessary for you to take your dog to a show in a crate or to have a tack crate; the majority of dog-show goers do not use crates.

If your dog rides well in the back seat of your car or even on the front seat next to you, and you enjoy having him there and wish to take him to the shows that way, you will find at least nine tenths of the exhibitors doing it the same way.

If, however, you feel you would like to carry your dog to the shows in a crate, or if you haven’t yet made up your mind, I would like to point out these advantages. En route, if you have to jam on your brakes suddenly, the dog will not tumble from the seat to the floor and perhaps hurt himself enough to be limping when he goes into the ring. Instead, he will scarcely be aware of the sudden stop.

If your dog is riding in a crate, he will not be looking out of the window and getting himself all excited at every dog or cat he sees; he will be asleep and resting. If you want to go out for dinner and it is necessary to leave your dog in the car or in a hotel room, you will find that he will soon become so accustomed to the crate that he will be more than happy while you’re away and you won’t have to worry that he may become bored or angry and start to chew on the upholstery—an expensive pastime.

Suppose you are staying overnight at a friend’s home where there is another dog and you can’t very well bring your dog into the house. It may be too cold or too hot to leave him locked in the automobile. He can be kept in his crate and the crate placed in the garage, the basement, or even in your bedroom, and you will rest assured that he will annoy no one and will get his proper rest.

The greatest advantage in using a crate is that it gives you an ideal surface on which to clean your dog at the show, and when the dog is on the bench the empty crate is an excellent place in which to store your belongings. At an unbenched show it is ideal and worth its weight in gold.