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Retriever Field Trials – The Early Days

390 – The Annual, 2012-13

By Amy Fernandez

1925 - The Duchess Of York

Averell Harriman faced many tests and triumphs during his long, varied career. Surprisingly, he considered a 1936 retriever field trial one of his most challenging ordeals. At AKC’s request, it was held at his posh Sands Point estate on Long Island’s gold coast. The Great Gatsby perfectly portrayed its aristocratic cachet during that era. The trial was organized by Harriman’s brother-in-law, Charley Lawrence, and his friends Mr. and Mrs. Marshall Field, which indicates the exclusive nature of the 1930s retriever world.

According to Bob Bartos, “Harriman had some of the greatest Labradors. His Arden dogs were bred from the best English stock and they became the first important competitive winners.” Bartos is best-known as the elder statesman of Scottish Terriers who handled the legendary Ch. Bardene Bingo to Best In Show at Westminster Kennel Club in 1969. But he was also deeply involved in the unforgettable era that brought together the dogs, breeders, and owners responsible for launching retriever field trials and introducing two of America’s most popular breeds, Labrador and Golden Retrievers. Bartos considers himself very fortunate to have owned two truly great dogs at that time. “Bingo’s buddy was a great yellow Labrador. He was my personal shooting dog. He and Bingo were the best of pals.”

Harriman’s Arden Kennel was the source of much of this country’s finest foundation stock including the first Labrador field trial champions. But on that fateful day in 1936 he had never actually attended a trial. In keeping with British tradition, his dogs were trained and handled by Tom Briggs and James Cowie, British experts he had imported as game stewards and kennel managers. Many of Harriman’s fellow club members considered Briggs primarily responsible for Arden’s success, and they didn’t like it.

So, for this particular trial they created the Amateur Open Class and Harriman was informed that he would be required to handle his own dogs. Then in the midst of his political career in Washington, Harriman’s preparation consisted of arriving a day early to meet his dogs. Last minute practice couldn’t compensate for his absolute lack of experience, especially since the Arden retrievers were trained to respond to Briggs’s unique whistle, which Harriman had no hope of duplicating. They agreed that the situation was hopeless. Their only recourse was to rely on the Labrador’s natural ability, exactly what Lawrence and Marshall intended when they cooked up the challenge. Briggs’s last ditch advice to Harriman was to send the dogs downwind of the bird giving them the best chance of picking up the scent.

As expected, two Arden contenders were quickly eliminated, but Blind of Arden defended his family’s honor in high grass and water. He was one of three finalists when the judges called for a rerun. The others failed miserably trying to locate the shot bird. Finally, Harriman was told to send Blind after it.

Blind and Decoy

The judge, Marshall Field, pointed towards the general vicinity, an old tree about 100 yards out in high broomgrass. Admitting that he was cold, tired, and didn’t care who won by then, Harriman sent Blind downwind, far left of the tree. He watched, horrified as the dog confidently trotted past the tree and kept going. Unable to whistle, he was helpless to signal and get him back on track. So, he braced himself to watch the humiliating ordeal play out. Within minutes, Blind was heading back, presumably without the pheasant, the only possibility that could intensify this personal and public disaster. But when he got closer everyone saw the bird in his mouth. Unlike the other finalists, his natural skill wasn’t compromised by misguided handling.

Blind won the trial, but Harriman always insisted that his real satisfaction came from Marshall Field’s grudging admission that he truly was a great dog. “The true Labrador is the most complete dog of all breeds,” says Bartos. “You can specialize a Labrador but he is a scent dog, a retriever, a great family dog. You name it, he can do it.” By the 1930s, the versatile Lab had been highly specialized. Luckily for Harriman, it had not lost touch with its working dog roots.

Harriman knew quality, played to win, and possessed the financial resources to kick out the jams. For members of his elite social class, shooting and sport hunting were revered pastimes. Harriman hunted grouse at Arden and Sun Valley, two of his personal estates, and he never missed the British shooting season. This is where he first glimpsed Labradors in action. He was awestruck.

“The landed gentry found out that dumb Americans would spend thousands to come over for the privilege of shooting a bunch of birds!” says Bartos, “It became a great sport, which it still is.” But he emphasizes that this fun “probably cost the equivalent of $20,000 back then.” The British shooting season became the source of immeasurable social conventions, and it’s easy to overlook that fact that they were based in practicality.

Grouse season ran from August 12 to the end of November, overlapping the September to January partridge season, and the October to January pheasant season. By Victorian times, an invitation for a weekend of shooting was the ultimate status symbol. The allure of British shooting holidays inevitably trickled across the pond. For landowners, tourists became a lucrative source of income.

Shooting parties were a far cry from anything familiar to American hunters, then or now. Most popular was the driven or battue hunt. A line of beaters flushed birds out of the brush followed by the shooters, each one accompanied by a ghillie ready to unload and reload his shotguns. “Even if you paid, if you were a bad shot and didn’t knock your birds down you weren’t invited back because you lost the bird harvest for the landowner. You only got the pleasure of shooting. You did not get to keep the birds.”

This highly controlled pleasure shooting also featured extravagance in every sense of the word, sumptuous dinners, cocktail parties, fabulous clothes, and breathtaking dogs and horses. Money was no object for this crowd, and it spawned a host of luxury businesses. For instance, “Purdey and Scott, the greatest double barrel shotguns in the world could cost anywhere from $30 to $100 thousand dollars,” says Bartos.

According to canine historian Brian Vesey- Fitzgerald, well mannered retrieving dogs also became an essential feature of a well-managed country shoot. “On many partridge manors in England, as on moors in Scotland, and almost everywhere after the opening days of the season, driving has become the rule. And as for pheasant shooting, what was wanted in a day’s shooting was a dog who could be trusted not so much to pick up birds that had fallen dead in the open but to find birds that had dropped in thick cover or had run out of sight. The retriever became of primary importance.”

British field trial winners routinely fetched big prices in America. By the 1920s, the market for expensive setters and pointers was eclipsed by Britain’s most innovative gundog, the retriever. General Hutchinson’s 1847 blockbuster training book Dog Breaking was one of the earliest authoritative references promoting them. “A regular retriever that can be worked in perfect silence, never refusing to come in when he is merely signaled to or softly whistled to when he is out of sight. “

Bartos explains that Labradors didn’t need an app to master this skill. “It was a water dog, a fish retriever.” However, its function was revised in Britain. “The English used him on land like a pointer or breaking dog, and developed him as a nonslip retriever to sit at heel and go out on command.” Retrievers evolved with Britain’s changing hunting trends, and by 1912 dogs that ranged in front of the guns to find game were officially out style according to Sir Hugo Fitzherbert, gundog columnist for The Kennel. “Modern conditions are antagonistic to both pointers and setters, and it is with the various retrievers that the modern shooting man is chiefly concerned.”

Traditionally, gundog training was one of the many varied jobs performed by gamekeepers on British estates. Curlies and Flatcoats were the original gamekeepers dogs, and Sir Hugo Fitzherbert sadly confirmed their dying popularity, “The Curly Coated Retriever who was generally considered to be the sturdiest and best of his kind, has been conspicuously absent since the field trial era.” By 1912,  field trial training had become a gamekeeper’s specialty. “In the early days of trials in 1890, it was rare not to see all retrievers on lead and only slipped when required. The general behavior is now much improved – an improvement which Trials have done much to bring about.” The competitive edge of a top trainer was undeniable. It was also a clear breach of Britain’s class system, a fact that Fitzherbert bluntly criticized in his column, noting that a dog boy was once the lowest rank of gamekeeper “but if the dog boy blossoms out into a dog breaker then he at once rises to a level of the head keeper without going through the intermediate drudgery. He also receives high or higher pay than the head man.” These were only a couple of the unsettling trends that had been unleashed by the growing popularity of retriever field trials.

At the annual Kennel Club dinner that year, Lord Lonsdale monopolized the evening with a lengthy speech decrying the changes overtaking Britain’s retriever world, especially “this craze for unnaturally educated dogs that mark the fall of a bird, await their handler’s directions, and gallop wildly to retrieve it.” Worse yet, was the pervasive practice of owners relying on gamekeepers or breakers rather than training their own dogs “What pleasure can there be in going out shooting with a dog that has been broken by someone else, and is wholly out of touch with you?”

In fact, this was customary long before the advent of retrievers. Although gundog owners earned acclaim authoring books on the subject, most had no practical experience.  A widely reprinted 1886 quote from Sir Ralph Payne summed up the reality. “It is no hard thing to own a fairly good retriever, but to own a perfect one is another story. …a perfect retriever is rarely seen working for his master; usually it is for a keeper, and it may pretty safely be asserted that in the British Isles there are not a score of perfectly broken retrievers that work only for and with their masters out shooting. “The horse was already out of the barn by 1912. To the dismay of purists like Fitzherbert, top retriever trainers were fast tracked into the field trial game. “It is for that reason there has arisen a class of field trial breakers who may have been gamekeepers, but are not so now, and it is to these men that most of the field trial victories fall.”

He went on to admit that by 1911, “Labradors were streets ahead in popular estimation, both for field trials and ordinary work. And there seems to be every indication that they will retain their position.” Despite their growing popularity, Labradors remained tightly controlled by a few aristocratic breeders. They were not easy to come by without insider contacts.

Peggy of Shipton

The outstanding record of Harriman’s Arden kennel must be considered within the context of American Labrador development. And Bartos emphasizes that Harriman knew the right people. “It started mostly big money people from New York and Wall Street, and Harriman practically owned all of Arden, New York.” Harriman founded his breeding program with Peggy of Shipton, imported in the late 1920s as a personal shooting dog. Within a few years of Peg’s arrival, several members of Harriman’s social circle also leveraged their social connections to acquired top notch imports. It wasn’t mere luck that Peg produced knockouts in every litter, including Blind of Arden and his sister Decoy, the breed’s first AKC FC champions. These priceless, handpicked dogs formed the foundation of American Labrador Retriever bloodlines.

For instance, Caumsett, founded by Marshall Field and his wife, the Scottish-bred Mrs. Dudley Coates, brought over British FC Odds On, the sire of Decoy and Blind. In 1937, Decoy was bred to Ch. Raffles of Earlsmoor to produce the acclaimed Ch. Earlsmoor Moor of Arden, winner of 12 groups and five BIS.

Dr. Samuel Milbank was primarily known for his Earlsmoor terriers and his role in the Westminster Kennel Club. He was also a longtime Chesapeake fan until Dr. James Wilson, breeder of Solwyn Labradors in Irving Scotland, talked him into trying a Labrador. Wilson personally selected a dog that needed no introduction. The superbly bred Raffles was an excellent worker and a phenomenal producer. He set the quality bar very high for early Labrador imports.

Peg was also bred to St Mary’s Duke, also from Wilson’s Solwyn Kennel. Whelped in 1933, Ben did impressive winning in Britain by age two when David Wagstaff purchased him for shooting in Scotland and France. In 1937 Wagstaff brought him over for his Ledgerlands Kennels in Tuxedo Park where he confirmed his quality in both bench and field competition.

In 1935, the DuPonts imported Ch. Towyriver James for their Delaware-based Squirrel Run Kennel. Grandson of the legendary Ch. Banchory Bolo, by age two, he was an English champion and became a multiple group winner over here.

This was a stark contrast to the long distance negotiations, shady middlemen, and inferior quality stock that American breeders routinely confronted when attempting to establish new breeds. Money talks, but Bartos makes a point we all know. “Plenty of people spend millions and never come up with one good dog.”

East Coast society’s sudden fascination with Labradors was part of a hot trend, recreating British shooting holidays at home. The most lavish shoots took place in Chester, NY at Robert Goelet’s 8000 acre Glenmere estate. Industrialist and heir to an immense real estate fortune, Goelet ranked among the top ten wealthiest Americans. The media avidly tracked his every move, as married, divorced, hosted fantastic social events, and built palatial homes. His country retreat to hunt, fish, race horses, and entertain friends translated into a 35-room mansion, overlooking Glenmere Lake, built in 1911.

Along with the usual ostentatious display of cars, clothes, and celebrities, five day weekends at Glenmere offered the complete Scottish shooting experience – devoid of actual American hunting conditions. It wasn’t easy, but tower shoots, walk ups, and pass shooting were staged and orchestrated on cue. Many of these ideas, like thrown birds, later featured in early field trials and the first AKC retriever field trial was held at Glenmere.

For most of these weekends, Arden furnished the trained Labradors to retrieve the birds. Proficient retrievers simply added more social bling to these occasions, but even then it was obvious that deluxe dogs were useless without expert management. Bartos explains that this was handled by importing the training and breeding expertise part and parcel with the dogs.“Landowners always had real Scotch and English dog men on their estates. They were experts in breeding and raising game, livestock, and horses. That was their business. And the gamekeepers were also brought over by our so-called elite.” East Coast sporting clubs pulled out the stops to scout the top talent in gamekeepers and lure them over with irresistible deals.

One of Harriman’s first projects after graduating from Yale in 1913 was to hire the Scottish gamekeepers Tom Briggs and his son Jasper for his enormous estate. Like most gamekeepers, they had generations of experience in this business and there wasn’t much about game birds, shotguns, or dog training they didn’t know.

Royal Family with their Labrador

But America is not Britain. In 1905 the Scottish-bred, American dog expert Watson predicted that Americans would have much interest in retrievers because English-style shooting would never catch on over here. He was partly correct. Efforts to recreate it were doomed from the start. Eastern upland game birds were a far cry from docile, domestically-bred pheasants. “That’s why the British gun is a lighter weight than the American shotgun,” says Bartos. “It’s got a straight grip rather than a pistol grip because they shot a lighter load.”

Rugged American hunting conditions required far more adaptability in a good retriever. Of course, Labradors were prized for toughness and versatility long before they became specialized in England.

In 1928, an AKC Gazette feature called the Labrador England’s most popular Retriever for shooting. Ironically, AKC had registered only 23 Retrievers in 1927. “Even though they had been in Great Britain for more than a hundred years, the average person didn’t know what the hell a Labrador was until the late 1920s” says Bartos. “They were always kept on those big estates and only known to landowners and gamekeepers. And all the land was owned by about 12 families. People like Harriman, Carlisle, and Marshall Field didn’t find out about them until they started selling shooting rights. ”

In 1840, Blaine’s Encyclopedia of Rural Sports dates the Labrador’s arrival in England at 1835. “These dogs were to be procured at Poole, where they seem to have been brought as ship’s dogs on boats with cargoes of salted cod.” “Fisherman came from all over the world for the rich cod banks off Newfoundland,” says Bartos. “A lot of the British came from Devon and Poole. They were the only ones to establish settlements and we believe that these settlers developed the breed. I’m sure there were no pheasants in Labrador in those days. Cod are big, deep water fish that were handlined from a skiff or a dory. If they came off the hook and floated away you lost a 20-30 pound fish, worth a lot of money. Consequently, most fishermen had small, short coated St. John’s dogs. Basically, the Lab was a stocky flotation dog with the short clubby rudder tail like a propeller. They worked out of dorries to retrieve fish and they worked on command. You don’t want the dog going in the water more than he needs to.”

The catch was salted, packed in barrels, and shipped back to England. “Evidently, when they docked at Devon or Poole, some of the landed gentry noticed these dogs retrieving and staying at heel. So they bought them and took them to their estates for shooting.” The first to make this discovery was Lord Malmesbury who did his shooting at Hurn Court in Dorset, four miles from the dockyards at Poole. Most historical sources, including Brian Vesey Fitzgerald, agree that Malmesbury turned his friends on to the breed. “Other kennels followed Lord Malmesbury, first the Duke of Buccleugh then the Earl of Home Sir R. Graham, and the Earl of Verulam.” Malmsbury’s hunting buddies soon began raising Labradors on their estates. These kennels became the basis for Britain’s Labrador foundation bloodlines. And dogs like Malmsbury’s Tramp are acknowledged as the root of field trial stock. Early Labradors were frequently crossed with pointers or setters to increase birdiness. However, by the 1870s, breeders maintained private studbooks documenting purebred lineage.

Most historians, including Edward Ash, credit Lord Knutson, better known as Holland Hibbert, for taking the Labrador public. “They had been used for retrieving by a few noble families ever since the first specimens were brought over soon after 1830. Labradors were practically unknown to the wider public until the Hon. A. Holland Hibbert began to send some Munden dogs to shows.” Hibbert founded his kennel at Munden in 1884 with dogs acquired via his aristocratic connections. By aggressively promoting the breed, he also introduced it to fanciers outside of this insulated group.

Labrador Retriever Club’s Twenty-Fifth Field Trials Important gundog trials frequently held at Idsworth, Horndean, Hants, & the Countess Howe’s estate. This picture shows a number of Labrador Retrievers with their handlers.

He began showing his stock in combined retriever classes with Flatcoats and Curlies. When the Kennel Club granted CCs to Labradors in 1903, Munden Single became the first CC winner. A year later, she was also the first Labrador to run in a field trial, when Flatcoats dominated the sport. Single lived to age 20, and thanks to Munden’s donation she can be seen today on display at Tring Natural History Museum in North London. Hibbert also authored The Scientific Education of the Dog for the Gun which outlined methods that remain valid today like the importance of early training. He bred actively until his death in 1935 and his 50 year breeding program reflected the pivotal events in Labrador development – especially the profound impact of training.

British field trials commenced in 1899. In 1904, Munden’s Single was viewed as an unwelcome intruder, but the 11 meetings held in 1911 pulled an entry of 201 Retrievers – 0 Curlies, 98 Flatcoats, and 103 Labradors. The big money prizes at these events were divvied up between 42 Labradors and 8 Flatcoats.

Two years after Munden Single crashed the party, Major Maurice Portal’s Flapper settled the issue of Labradors at field trials. Flapper was Whelped in 1902. Writing in Sporting Dogs, Croxton Smith described Flapper as a big powerhouse of a dog, tireless, quick, and amazingly smart. “In 1906 Major Maurice Portal’s redoubtable Flapper announced that a new force had really arrived. Until then, the winners had been uniformly Flatcoats. By 1907 he had become a field trial champion.”

In The Practical Dog Book, Edward Ash emphasized that “no one realized until he appeared that in the Labrador there was a serious competitor to the previous all conquering Flatcoated Retriever. Before many years Labradors outnumbered all others at field trials and shows.”

A recognized authority on Labrador breeding and training, Major Portal authored The Gundog at Home and Abroad. Flapper was a prepotent sire, also used on Flatcoat bitches with good results. He was also impressively prolific, leaving a legacy of 800 puppies when he died in 1914. It became a popular strategy to cross Flapper offspring with pups from the era’s other superstar, Peter of Faskally, whelped in 1909, out of Munden breeding.

As a sire, Peter of Faskally was worth his weight in gold. But his most lasting contribution was repeatedly validating his owner’s pioneering training methods throughout his phenomenal career. In 1909, Captain Archibald Butter handled Peter to top spot in the International Gundog League Championship using training and handling techniques he had adapted from sheepdog trials. Vesey- Fitzgerald witnessed one of the notable wins that set the retriever world into a tailspin. “Archie Butter was the greatest handler of Labradors to a whistle. He could blow different notes with his fingers in his mouth to say stop, go right, start casting for game. In the most interesting trial in Scotland, he won by sending his dog downhill over two stone walls about 150 yards for a pheasant. We all know more or less where it fell but Archie found the bird by directing his dog from the hilltop far away.”

At first, Butter’s signaling and whistling was dismissed as a silly fad. By 1912, it prompted Lord Lonsdale’s lengthy diatribe denouncing unnaturally educated dogs to guests at the Kennel Club dinner. “Even Faskally Peter, the recent championship winner, although far superior to the other competitors, falls into this marking business. I saw him twice in the collection of his game gallop far beyond his bird, which he only winded by chance on his eventual return journey!”

Publicly criticizing dogs by name was rather tasteless, but it certainly indicates the strong feelings aroused by the revolutionary changes overtaking the retriever world. In part, this outrage was prompted by the crumbling class barriers precipitated by the field trial game. It was also motivated by valid concerns about preserving Labrador breed type and natural hunting instinct. Good or bad, Peter of Faskally heralded the new wave of field trial Labradors and Butter’s method was here to stay.

Watch for Part 2 of Retriever Field Trials in the February, 2013 issue of The Canine Chronicle.

AVERELL HARRIMAN  

At age 17, Averell Harriman became the fourth richest man in America when he inherited the bulk of  his father’s estate in 1909. His father, railroad baron E. H. Harriman had started the Union Pacific Railroad. His controversial rise to power and wealth led President Theodore Roosevelt to dub him a “malefactor of great wealth.”

Harriman spent his childhood in unimagined luxury at  Arden House, a 75-room château on the 25,000 acre Harriman estate 50 miles north of Manhattan, now the 10,000 acre Harriman State Park.  Growing up in his father’s shadow fueled Harriman’s desire to overcome his reputation and measure up to his success. He made fortunes in shipping, mining, and banking.

In addition to Arden Kennel, his side projects included Log Cabin Stables founded in 1923 in partnership with Bert Walker, grandfather of George Bush who was then his employee at Brown Brothers. Three years later, they purchased 20 horses from the estate of August Belmont Jr. including Chance Play, a Man O’ War half brother and the 1926 Horse of the Year.

He also built America’s first ski resort, Sun Valley, at his father’s Idaho ranch. “Harriman was a very good friend of my boss Ted Bennett,” says Bartos. The Bennett family had one of the country’s biggest iron ore deposits, and Harriman personally invited him to visit his new luxury resort. “Ted went out the first year it opened. That’s when skiing was just getting big in this country .And he hit the only damn tree there and broke his leg,”  Bartos laughs recalling that notable day. “The Bennett family was very shy of publicity so they arranged to take him out in Harriman’s private car at 11:00 that night.”

Harriman was equally famed for his eclectic personal life and marriages to Kitty Lanier Lawrence, Marie Norton Whitney (the former wife of Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney) and Pamela Harriman, Churchill’s former daughter-in-law.

However, he is best remembered for his varied foreign and domestic political career.  His positions included Ambassador to the Soviet Union and Ambassador to Britain, and diplomatic assignments in the Roosevelt, Kennedy and Johnson administrations, Assistant Secretary of State, 48th Governor of New York, and Secretary of Commerce under Truman. He also made unsuccessful bids for president in 1952 and 1956. He remained a powerful presence in international policy and Democratic politics until his death, at age 94, in 1986.

LEGAL AND SOCIAL FACTORS THAT INFLUENCED RETRIEVER DEVELOPMENT IN BRITAIN

England’s water dogs were phased out when hunting lands were gradually converted into farmland in the late seventeenth century. Before that, many English landholders routinely hunted waterfoul to supplement their income during winter when flocks migrated from Scandinavia. “Near the northern coast there are numbers who support their families by this industry.” (Taplin)  Enclosure acts privatized thousands of acres of public land. Wetlands were drained and woodlands deforested for farms and industrial parks. And waterdogs became obsolete.

During this era, selling game was legalized. Wild game was a traditional British delicacy, but only modest amounts were available for resale, often illegally. Anyone unqualified to kill game, because they did not own or lease substantial estates, faced heavy penalties. After the passage of the 1831 law, landowners were empowered to “deputize” shooters via certification, similar to the process of obtaining a weekend hunting license. Consequently, shooting invitations became a valuable social and financial commodity. And stocking and breeding game birds for resale became a large scale systematic enterprise for perpetually cash strapped British landowners. It was labor intensive and costly, but the resulting revenue and political leverage made it worthwhile.

Massive kills from big shooting parties  were unbelievable – and common. “Walter Gilbey’s shooting party killed 2,472 head of game last week.” (The Canine World, Nov. 1905) True sport hunters regularly condemned this trend,  “As to the huge bags and attempts to break a neighbor’s records, this is a passing vulgarity which has nothing of sportsmanship in it, and of which we shall hear less, we hope, every year.” (The Field, 1910) Unfortunately, it was here to stay.

On August 12, when Grouse became “legal eating” London papers announced the daily results of lords and gentlemen shooting in Scotland and Yorkshire, and shoppers anxiously awaited the arrival of this prized delicacy on the evening express train. Gamekeepers began shifting their animal husbandry skills to breeding game birds. Between 1830 and 1910, domestically bred pheasants doubled in weight, sometimes exceeding six pounds.

KING GEORGE

1932 - Labradors exhibited by George V

Labradors got another boost in 1916 when King George V made his first appearance as an exhibitor at Crufts showing Wolferton Jet. Sandringham kennels exhibited at a number of shows. Describing this exciting event in his 1938 book Sporting Dogs, Croxton Smith emphasized that “ it must be understood that King George’s Labradors were kept primarily for being shot over. “

GUNDOG TRAINING

Despite the layers of social conventions and hype,  British sport hunters were clueless about dog training. Aristocrats simply didn’t possess the time or the desire to train their own dogs. This traditional gamekeeper’s job had evolved into the expert job of  dog breaker long before Lord Lonsdale criticized the practice in 1912.

England’s most celebrated dog breaker, Daniel Lambert, legitimized this professional specialty long before retrievers became the gundog of choice. After his death, Lambert’s personal kennel was auctioned at headline prices. At that time, 200 pounds was equivalent to $2500, and that’s would be equal to about $61,000 today.

THE FIRST AKC LABRADOR

The first Labrador AKC registered in 1917, Brocklehirst Nell, derived primarily from Munden breeding. Her offspring were used to establish Robert Goelet’s kennel.

RETRIEVER REGISTRATION STATISTICS

In 1926, AKC had just begun registering Golden Retrievers, Labradors had been registered for less than a decade, and all retriever breeds were still lumped together in the AKC studbook.

That year, the Kennel Club registered 71 Curlies, 371 Flatcoats, 400 Goldens, 16 interbreds, 35 Crossbreds, and 1247 Labradors.

 

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