CHAPTER XXV. THE SPORTING SPANIEL

COLOUR—The colour should always be a rich dark liver or puce without any white at all. Any white except the slightest of “shirt fronts” should disqualify. The nose of course should conform to the coat in colour, and be dark brown. HEAD—The head should have a capacious skull, fairly but not excessively domed, with plenty of brain room. It should be surmounted with a regular topknot of curly hair, a most important and distinctive point. This topknot should never be square cut or like a poodle's wig, but should grow down to a well defined point between the eyes. EYES—The eyes should be small, dark, and set obliquely, like a Chinaman's. EARS—The ears should be long, strong in leather, low set, heavily ringleted, and from 18 to 24 inches long, according to size. MUZZLE AND JAW—The muzzle and jaw should be long and strong. There should be a decided “stop,” but not so pronounced as to make the brows or forehead prominent. NECK—The neck should be fairly long and very muscular. SHOULDERS—The shoulders should be sloping. Most Irish Water Spaniels have bad, straight shoulders, a defect which should be bred out. CHEST—The chest is deep, and usually rather narrow, but should not be so narrow as to constrict the heart and lungs. BACK AND LOINS—The back and loins strong and arched. FORE-LEGS—The fore-legs straight and well boned. Heavily feathered or ringleted all over. HIND-LEGS—The hind-legs with hocks set very low, stifles rather straight, feathered all over, except inside from the hocks down, which part should be covered with short hair (a most distinctive point). FEET—The feet large and rather spreading as is proper for a water dog, well clothed with hair. STERN—The stern covered with the shortest of hair, except for the first couple of inches next the buttocks, whiplike or stinglike (a most important point), and carried low, not like a hound's. COAT—The coat composed entirely of short crisp curls, not woolly like a Poodle's, and very dense. If left to itself, this coat mats or cords, but this is not permissible in show dogs. The hair on the muzzle and forehead below the topknot is quite short and smooth, as well as that on the stern. GENERAL APPEARANCE—Is not remarkable for symmetry, but is quaint and intelligent looking. HEIGHT—The height should be between 21 and 23 inches.

       * * * * *

III. THE ENGLISH WATER SPANIEL.—In the Kennel Club's Register of Breeds no place is allotted to this variety, all Water Spaniels other than Irish being classed together. Despite this absence of official recognition there is abundant evidence that a breed of Spaniels legitimately entitled to the designation of English Water Spaniels has been in existence for many years, in all probability a descendant of the old “Water-Dogge,” an animal closely resembling the French “Barbet,” the ancestor of the modern Poodle. They were even trimmed at times much in the same way as a Poodle is nowadays, as Markham gives precise directions for “the cutting or shearing him from the nauill downeward or backeward.” The opinion expressed by the writer of The Sportsman's Cabinet, 1803, is that the breed originated from a cross between the large water dog and the Springing Spaniel, and this is probably correct, though Youatt, a notable authority, thinks that the cross was with an English Setter. Possibly some strains may have been established in this way, and not differ very much in make and shape from those obtained from the cross with the Spaniel, as it is well known that Setters and Spaniels have a common origin.

In general appearance the dog resembles somewhat closely the Springer, except that he may be somewhat higher on the leg, and that his coat should consist of crisp, tight curls, almost like Astrakhan fur, everywhere except on his face, where it should be short. There should be no topknot like that of the Irish Water Spaniel.

IV. THE CLUMBER SPANIEL is in high favour in the Spaniel world, both with shooting men and exhibitors, and the breed well deserves from both points of view the position which it occupies in the public esteem. No other variety is better equipped mentally and physically for the work it is called upon to do in aid of the gun; and few, certainly none of the Spaniels, surpass or even equal it in appearance.

As a sporting dog, the Clumber is possessed of the very best of noses, a natural inclination both to hunt his game and retrieve it when killed, great keenness and perseverance wonderful endurance and activity considering his massive build, and as a rule is very easy to train, being highly intelligent and more docile and “biddable.” The man who owns a good dog of this breed, whether he uses it as a retriever for driven birds, works it in a team, or uses it as his sole companion when he goes gunning, possesses a treasure. The great success of these Spaniels in the Field Trials promoted by both the societies which foster those most useful institutions is enough to prove this, and more convincing still is the tenacity with which the fortunate possessors of old strains, mostly residents in the immediate neighbourhood of the original home of the breed, have held on to them and continued to breed and use them year after year for many generations.

As a show dog, his massive frame, powerful limbs, pure white coat, with its pale lemon markings and frecklings, and, above all, his solemn and majestic aspect, mark him out as a true aristocrat, with all the beauty of refinement which comes from a long line of cultured ancestors.