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Sprocker or cocker? Row rocks Kennel Club

A field trial champion gundog owned by HM the Queen has been accused of not being a true cocker spaniel and instead a springer-cocker, or "sprocker", passed off as a pedigree breed.

Queen with spaniel

FTCh Mallowdale Diamond was presented to the Queen in 2013 to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee

The Sun recently reported that rival competitors have called for DNA tests to prove the breed of field trial champion bitch Mallowdale Diamond, which was given to the Queen as a present by handler Ian Openshaw in January 2013 to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee.

No evidence that Mallowdale Diamond is a sprocker

Shooting Times previously reported on allegations of sprockers running in field trials last year. Not only would trialling spaniels with the heritage of the larger and faster springer give the dogs an unfair advantage, it would jeopardise the pedigree — though it should be stressed there is currently no evidence that Mallowdale Diamond is a sprocker or that Mr Openshaw is guilty of any wrongdoing.

Last year, the Credible Cockers campaign made public a letter to the Kennel Club signed by many A- and B-panel judges, which outlined their concern that efforts to maintain the cocker breed had been “undermined by a systematic and calculated programme of cheating and outright corruption on a staggering scale”.

No proof of parentage

Following this, Canine Alliance director Jo Amsel questioned the ability of the Kennel Club to meet the level of confidence required to guarantee breed purity.

She said: “The Kennel Club requires no proof of parentage of any puppies bred by Assured Breeder Scheme (ABS) members. We have even received reports of an ABS member ‘inventing’ breeds and giving assurances as to the temperament and so on of the puppies.”

The Sun

The Sun broke the story about FTCh Mallowdale Diamond this month

The Credible Cockers campaign was launched by Andy Platt, one of the Kennel Club’s A-panel of field trial judges and chairman of the affiliated Gamekeepers National Association. But his invitation to judge the 2017 Cocker Spaniel Championship, was rescinded by the Kennel Club after he called for more stringent checks. His appointment to judge the 2017 English Springer Spaniel Championship was also later withdrawn.

In his response to the Club, Mr Platt noted what he claimed were further areas for concern in its registration process: “It has been pointed out to me by a third party that four black puppies have been registered, supposedly sired by my dog, out of a red cocker bitch, which is genetically impossible, but the Kennel Club still allowed registration.”

A spokesman for Mars Veterinary, which operates the Wisdom Panel, the dog DNA test with the largest breed database in the world, told Shooting Times: “If questions arise as to a purebred dog’s pedigree and breed ancestry, parentage testing through the Kennel Club is the appropriate course of action. For this evaluation, the documented sire and/or dam are examined to ensure they were the genetic contributors to the dog in question. If they are confirmed as the parents, their pedigree is conferred on to the puppy.”

A spokesman for the Kennel Club told Shooting Times that it was aware of the allegations regarding sprockers and was looking into them, but could not comment on them specifically.

He further described DNA tests as “a broad-brush term that covers a spectrum of quality” and, concurring with Mars Veterinary, said that the Club’s parentage and profiling service can determine parentage, but not breed or breed purity. So it would appear that if a dog is accused of being a sprocker, confirming its parents are really cockers is the best way to settle the matter.

Mr Openshaw declined to comment when contacted.