The Countryman's Weekly


January 22
08:06 2020

The English Retriever – restoring the wavy coat

By Colonel David Hancock.

OUR native breeds of gundog have had mixed fortunes over the last century, with some minor spaniel breeds likely to disappear, but the pointer and the curly-coated retriever are also lacking numbers, if Kennel Club (KC) registrations are an indicator.

Our handsome and appealing Flat-Coated Retriever is holding its own, with more than 1,000 being registered in 2015 and again in 2016. The Golden Retriever has comfortably exceeded this, with more than 7,000 a year, while the Labrador is way out in front with nearly 34,000 in 2016.

The Flat-Coat is not likely to be spoiled by over-popularity as some pedigree breeds have been. The main threat to gundog breeds, however, lies not in numbers, great or small, but in misguided attempts to change their historic type. The Clumber Spaniel, for example, has been bred to be too heavy for spaniel work, with contemporary specimens being twice the weight of their more distant ancestors.

Both the Golden Retriever and the yellow Labrador fanciers have allowed the white coat to enter their ranks – and that will take some breeding-out, as it surely must be if breed-honesty is respected. We have also permitted the Labrador to come in all shapes and sizes and different coat textures. The show ring, too, has promoted passing trends or fashionable fads – passing them off dishonestly as the real thing, with some well-heeled kennels shamelessly pushing their own ‘brand’. But gundog breeders are not alone in this.


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