The rising reputation of English cocker spaniels
by Roger Catchpole
My first English cocker spaniel was named Kensey, bred by two-time English Cocker Spaniel Championship winner Carl Colclough from the Parkbreck line of gundogs. Carl’s father, Clarence, was the gamekeeper on my household’s property in England, and Carl had agreed to promote Kensey to my dad and mom as a favor to his father. Kensey, a good-looking 15-month-old black-and-white canine, was about the perfect current a younger boy may want for. He arrived at my home nicely on his strategy to being absolutely educated and simply in time for my 13th birthday.
Kensey proved to be a beautiful companion—stuffed with searching capability and tolerance for my many errors. In some ways he was as important an affect on my early searching years as my grandmother—a devoted countrywoman and fanatical wingshot. Kensey guided me by the extraordinary highs and inevitable lows of a hen searching childhood.
He stayed with me by highschool, after which I moved to South Africa for a yr overseas. Confronted with the prospect of being overseas for 12 months adopted by 4 years in school, I assumed it greatest to search out Kensey a brand new proprietor who would hunt him recurrently. Fortunately I used to be profitable, and I left him along with his new household earlier than departing.
Following faculty, I used to be in a position to tackle one other pet—this time an English cocker bred by Calla Harrison and once more originating from Carl Colclough’s Parkbreck line. Since then I’ve been fortunate sufficient to personal and practice numerous hen canine, all of them English cocker spaniels.
Trying again, my sturdy relationship with Kensey definitely influenced my views on flushing and retrieving canine. Kensey was a trendy hunter with a good quartering sample. I might solid him in a single course with a hand sign, and he would activate command to work the bottom on the opposite facet, by no means straying greater than 15 yards in both course.
Truthfully, I don’t imagine there’s a higher searching pal within the canine world than a cocker spaniel. I don’t contend that cockers are essentially the most versatile flushing and retrieving canine. Nor do I recommend that cockers are essentially the most sturdy hunters. On common a Labrador will outperform a cocker in water, and a springer will outlast a cocker in chilly climate. Nonetheless, a cocker’s character is unmatched. No canine will do extra to please its proprietor within the area or nuzzle nearer on the sofa. Cockers’ willingness to sacrifice themselves for his or her masters in pursuit of birds is exclusive. For these causes and lots of extra, English cockers are persevering with to win admirers in North America.
Actually the English cocker spaniel we acknowledge at this time has modified markedly from the numerous assortment of canine seen within the UK up till the early 1970s. Untypical cockers current earlier than this time had been largely the results of outbreeding, which was banned by the Kennel Membership round 1969.
Since that point a small variety of cockers have enormously influenced the breed, starting with Keith Erlandson’s FTCH (Area Trial Champion) Speckle of Ardoon, which gained the Cocker Championship in 1972, ’73 and ’74. As revered cocker breeder, trialer and English sporting-dog writer Mike Smith mentioned, “Keith Erlandson began the cocker as we all know it at this time. It was solely after the early 1970s that the working cocker got here to the fore.”
Latterly, my curiosity in cocker spaniels together with my want to construct a powerful line of working cockers within the US led me to Fishing Creek Farms, close to Union Level, Georgia. Right here I had the pleasure of searching quail with proprietor Rob Taylor and information Tyla Kuhn of Sunsage Sporting Canine.
I had met Tyla and her husband, Scott, years earlier whereas waterfowl searching in Louisiana, and we had grow to be associates by our shared curiosity in cocker spaniels. The truth is, my objective in touring to Fishing Creek Farm was to observe Tyla and Scott work their line of English cockers, notably a younger purple feminine named Willow that I had imported from the UK.
Cockers stay to not solely flush recreation but in addition retrieve—and snuggle on the sofa on the finish of the day.
Scott and Tyla each grew up in Oregon and had been among the first wingshooting guides within the state to run English cockers. Their first canine, Otis, was a red-and-white male bred by Jay Parrish of Blue Chip Kennels, in Iowa. What first attracted Scott to cockers and led him to Otis was their measurement and flexibility. Otis proved an enormous hit, not solely from a dealing with perspective but in addition with Scott’s purchasers. Those that hunted over Otis rapidly fell in love with him, even when they didn’t all the time acknowledge what breed he was.
Working cockers out West proved a unique problem to utilizing the canine on a Southern quail plantation, as Scott and Tyla quickly discovered. When working a cocker as a single flushing canine out West, the handler directs the canine to quarter away and, ideally, work into the wind. Though this situation gives the perfect scenting circumstances, it isn’t all the time sensible.
On this case the canine marks off of the handler’s place, in order the handler strikes ahead by the duvet, the canine is all the time working new floor. This close-quartering sample is typical of cockers and different flushing breeds and will end in birds flushing inside gun vary. That is versus pointing canine, which can be inspired to hunt at nice distances as a way to find and maintain recreation. The takeaway is that vary is important however totally different for flushing and pointing breeds.
In contrast, when working a cocker in tandem with pointing canine—which has grow to be more and more widespread on Southern quail plantations—the cocker normally walks at heel whereas the pointers find recreation. As soon as recreation is made and the hunters have reached the purpose, the cocker is distributed to flush the hen(s) and retrieve fallen recreation.
Like pointing canine, cockers could be educated to carry regular to wing & shot, or to “Hup” on the flush as it’s generally referred to. Whereas this talent provides a security characteristic and is interesting to the hunter’s eye, it isn’t all the time sensible for covey birds. With a pair of hunters taking pictures a covey rise, many handlers imagine it’s preferable for the retrieving canine to find downed birds quick, lest they lose a cripple.
Scott and Tyla have introduced the intriguing cocker-pointer mixture to Fishing Creek Farms. Right here, working along with braces of pointing canine, English cockers have confirmed to be fantastic searching companions, ratcheting up the thrill of the flush—particularly with liberated birds. In response to Scott, “Cockers have put the game again into plantation searching.”
The truth is, it’s this mix of English cockers and conventional pointing breeds that has made one of many best variations to modern quail hunters. Merely put: Cockers are carving a distinct segment for themselves as the proper foil to pointing canine on plantation quail. Introducing cockers has gone a good distance towards replicating the expertise of wild-covey flushes.
Whereas searching at Fishing Creek, I had the chance to observe my Willow work quail for the primary time—and her efficiency was electrical. She was elegant in her motion, masking floor quick and with a low motion. Tyla saved Willow at heel till the pointers made recreation, after which despatched her to flush whereas the pointers held regular. Though the pointers had been educated to retrieve, it was evident that Willow held the higher hand on this division.
When Willow took a well-earned break, I used the chance to run my different cocker, Austin—a solid-red male that I had bred within the UK and delivered to the US as a pup in 2012. Though Austin’s efficiency didn’t fairly match Willow’s, the younger canine lacked nothing in enthusiasm and his dedication to search out, flush and retrieve quail. It was simple to see that he had the potential to grow to be a first-rate quail canine.
My experiences at Fishing Creek and elsewhere throughout the US have proven why English cocker spaniels have gained a spot within the hearts of American hunters and assured themselves a vivid future within the area and at dwelling. Certainly, these compact and lovable companions have a character that makes them a delight to share some extent with.
Take into account the Cocker
Since 1893 the UK Kennel Membership has acknowledged distinct spaniel teams, of which the cocker spaniel is one. The title “cocker” originated with hunters who most popular these small-type spaniels for searching tight coverts for woodcock—a observe referred to as “cocking.” At present cocker spaniels are labored on quite a lot of North American upland species. Actually these good little canine have grow to be agency favorites with each pheasant and quail hunters.
The English cocker is a compact, muscular and biddable canine. Males usually measure 15 to 17 inches to their shoulders, with females measuring 14 to 16 inches. So as to keep away from harm whereas searching, working cockers have their tails docked to one-third size of their first week of life. Male cockers normally weigh between 24 and 30 kilos, with females between 22 and 28 kilos. Cockers’ coats are medium in size and could be straight or wavy. It’s also frequent to see feathering on the chest and legs.
English cockers exhibit quite a lot of coat colours, with no breed normal. The three key colour genes are black, chocolate and purple, with purple being the one recessive gene. These three colours ship a veritable rainbow of combos, together with stable black, chocolate (also called liver), purple (generally referred to as golden or lemon), parti-colors (purple & white, black & white, and chocolate & white) and roans (an excellent combination of white and pigmented hairs). Tri-color cockers happen the place the recessive purple colour exhibits by. In such circumstances purple is also known as tan, and the canine is taken into account a black, tan & white or chocolate, tan & white. In distinction to the present number of these canine, it’s vital to keep in mind that working cockers must be bred for his or her capability initially.
For extra details about English cockers, I like to recommend studying the next books: Keith Erlandson’s The Working Springer Spaniel (which, regardless of its title, incorporates a wealth of details about cockers), Mike Smith’s Working Springers and Cockers, and P.E. Jones’s The Working Cocker. For pedigree references, go to cockerspanieldatabase .information, and for particulars on area trials and hunt assessments within the US, go to fieldcockers.com.
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