CHAPTER XXV. THE SPORTING SPANIEL
If Black Spaniels are not quite so popular at present as they were some years ago, the fault lies with those breeders, exhibitors, and judges (the latter being most to blame) who encouraged the absurd craze for excessive length of body and shortness of leg which not very long ago threatened to transform the whole breed into a race of cripples, and to bring it into contempt and derision among all practical men. No breed or variety of dog has suffered more from the injudicious fads and crazes of those showmen who are not sportsmen also. At one time among a certain class of judges, length and lowness was everything, and soundness, activity, and symmetry simply did not count. As happens to all absurd crazes of this kind when carried to exaggeration, public opinion has proved too much for it, but not before a great deal of harm has been done to a breed which is certainly ornamental, and can be most useful as well. Most of the prize-winners of the present day are sound, useful dogs capable of work, and it is to be hoped that judges will combine to keep them so.
The coloured Field Spaniel has now almost invariably at the principal shows special classes allotted to him, and does not have to compete against his black brother, as used to be the case in former years.
The systematic attempt to breed Spaniels of various colours, with a groundwork of white, does not date back much more than a quarter of a century, and the greater part of the credit for producing this variety may be given to three gentlemen, Mr. F. E. Schofield, Dr. J. H. Spurgin, and Mr. J. W. Robinson. In the early days of breeding blacks, when the bitches were mated either with Sussex or liver and white Springers or Norfolk Spaniels, many parti-coloured puppies necessarily occurred, which most breeders destroyed; but it occurred to some of these gentlemen that a handsome and distinct variety might be obtained by careful selection, and they have certainly succeeded to a very great extent. The most famous names among the early sires are Dr. Spurgin's Alonzo and his son Fop, and Mr. Robinson's Alva Dash, from one or other of whom nearly all the modern celebrities derive their descent.
Those who have been, and are, interested in promoting and breeding these variety Spaniels deserve a large amount of credit for their perseverance, which has been attended with the greatest success so far as producing colour goes. No doubt there is a very great fascination in breeding for colour, and in doing so there is no royal road to success, which can only be attained by the exercise of the greatest skill and the nicest discrimination in the selection of breeding stock. At the same time colour is not everything, and type and working qualities should never be sacrificed to it. This has too often been done in the case of coloured Field Spaniels. There are plenty of beautiful blue roans, red roans, and tricolours, whether blue roan and tan or liver roan and tan, but nearly all of them are either cocktailed, weak in hind-quarters, crooked-fronted, or houndy-headed, and showing far too much haw. In fact, in head and front the greater number of the tricolours remind one of the Basset-hound almost as much as they do in colour. It is to be hoped that colour-breeders will endeavour to get back the true Spaniel type before it is too late.
The points of both black and coloured Field Spaniels are identical, bar colour, and here it must be said that black and tan, liver and tan, and liver are not considered true variety colours, though of course they have to compete in those classes, but rather sports from black. The colours aimed at by variety breeders have all a ground colour of white, and are black and white, blue roan, liver and white, red roan, liver white and tan, and tricolours or quadri-colours—i.e., blue or red roan and tan, or both combined, with tan. The Spaniel Club furnishes the following description of the Black Field Spaniel:—
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