pointing dog

Spotlight on continental HPR breeds

One of the founding fathers of modern electric blues music was a man known as Muddy Waters. A fellow black musician, bemoaning what he perceived to be the hijacking of their music — mainly by the American middle class — once voiced his concern. Muddy, far simply agreeing, responded: “Black, white;…

Gundog breed Labrador

Which gundog breed would suit all of my needs best?

A: First, find a gundog club by visiting The Kennel Club. This will have details of location, area of operation and what the club in question has to offer. Not all gundog clubs run training classes but most will be able to put you in touch with a good gundog trainer. Your…

curly-coated retriever

Pedigree dogs in peril

Previously I looked at the winners and losers in the annual registrations of pedigree dogs. The winners included the Bracco Italiano and the cocker spaniel, plus the Hungarian vizsla and its wirehaired cousin, while the losers included several of our traditional favourites, ranging from the Labrador to the English springer spaniel. There…

Korthals griffon

Popular gundog breeds – what’s on the rise?

Has the pedigree dog had its day? While it might be much too early to predict its eventual extinction, figures from the Kennel Club (KC) show compelling evidence of its decline. In 2006, a total of 103,773 gundogs were registered with the Club in the UK. Numbers held steady for the next…

flat coat retriever

Why is the flatcoated retriever so rarely seen in the field now?

Last month I dined at Holkham’s Victoria hotel in North Norfolk. Holkham has long been one of the premier sporting estates in England, covering 25,000 acres of saltings, marsh and farmland; its gamekeepers still wear their traditional bowler hats. On the back of the Victoria’s menu was a picture of a…

English setter

Passing over pedigrees?

EARLIER THIS MONTH The Telegraph asked readers to vote online for their favourite breed of dog, which they did in impressive numbers. More than 30,000 votes were cast during the four days the poll was open. Its results make fascinating reading, for in the number one slot wasn’t a breed at…

English springer spaniels

Time for the super-spaniel?

I don’t know how many English springer spaniels there are in the UK, but my guess would be between 160,000 and 200,000. This is based on 12,000 puppies being registered with the Kennel Club annually, plus the fact that there are many pure-bred but unregistered springers. Assume an average lifespan of…

Clumber spaniels

Gundog breeds in focus: The Clumber spaniel

Look at the wonderful Victorian paintings of Clumber spaniels and you will see a dog that has only a passing resemblance to the Clumbers that dominate the show benches today. This sporting spaniel was developed by the Duke of Newcastle at Clumber Park in Nottinghamshire as an active, agile dog,…

Mark and Jamie Bettinson

Mark and Jamie Bettinson: A profile

A glance at the diary entries on the desk at Bridgecroft Kennels in Hengoed, south Wales, reads like a who’s who of field trialling. Bridgecroft is one of the nerve centres of the UK trialling scene. Mark Bettinson was born three miles from the kennels and Jamie, his son, just…

Springador

Why have crossbred gundogs become so popular on shoots?

Are we guilty of overlooking crossbred gundogs? Felicity Winters thought so, and was inspired to write to the editor of Shooting Times, urging us to take more notice of the growing number of crossbreeds working on shoots. Felicity has a point: there are certainly far more springadors (springer x Labrador)…

Brittany spaniel

Rule Brittany

France and England may be separated only by a narrow stretch of water, but the difference in our shooting culture could hardly be more different. Shooting is hugely popular throughout France, but the French word used to describe it — la chasse — neatly sums up our continental cousins’ approach.…

Continental pointers in action

It was over 25 years ago when I first saw an HPR (hunt, point, retrieve) pointer working. I was photographing a spring pointing test and the dog was a German shorthaired pointer called “Basil.” I can clearly remember him casting out over a field of winter wheat, he was running…

Which dog is best for rough shooting?

Which dog for rough shooting? For many gundog owners there can be nothing more exciting and rewarding than shooting over their own dog. However, it takes hours and hours of training to produce a dog that will hunt within shot range, is steady to flushed game (especially ground game) and…