Hunting for a Good Dog

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Published on: Sep. 2, 1999

Last revision: Nov. 3, 2010

the first bird dogs were spaniels. In 1674, Nicholas Cox, writing in The Gentleman's Recreation, talked of taking partridge behind a "setting dog." "out are to understand then, that a Setting dog is a certain lusty Land spaniel, taught by nature to hunt the partridge..Nay, when he is even just upon his prey, that he may even take it up in this Mouth, yet his Obedience is so framed by Art, that presently he shall either stand still, or fall down flat on his Belly, without daring either to make nay Noise or Motion..."

In other words, a "setting" spaniel. Probably had a long tail because the first short-tailed Brittany (only pointing spaniel) allegedly didn't occur until 1950, when a tailless male was born in the Breton town of Pontou. Many Brits today are born tailless, but many also are created by a vet's sharp knife.

No one knows how far back spaniels go, but there was a reference to the spaniel in a Welsh manuscript from 300 A.D. They probably originated in Spain (Hispania of the Romans, Espania of the Spaniards both suggest "Spaniel")

Of course, like pointers and setters, there are different spaniels. The Brittany is the only pointing one, but cockers and springers are no less bird dogs, just ones that flush game rather than point it.

Brittanies are the result of crosses of English setters and French spaniels. English setters probably originated as spaniels. By about 1904, Brittanies were distinct as a breed and have continued as such since.

There are three major classes of bird dogs; pointers, setters and spaniels. If you count the retrieving dogs, there are four, but most retrievers are waterfowl dogs first, flushing and upland dogs second. Among the pointers are English, German wirehair and shorthair, and several other variations. Setters include English, Irish, Llewellen and Gordon, and spaniels, Brittany, springer and cocker.

But there are many other upland dogs as well, including Weimaraners, Clumber and Boykin spaniels, drathaars and griffons.

All sporting dogs are a brew of mixed blood over the centuries. Pointers have plenty of hound in them, and Brits have been crossbred with setters, which have been crossbred with spaniels, and so on.

Quail are the most widely-hunted bird by man and dog. An estimated 35 million bobwhite quail, plus a few million more of the other hunted quail species, fall to hunters' guns each year. Only doves, with a 50 million annual bag, are more

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