History of the
English Cocker in the Field

The following was taken from the Spanie-L List, January 11, 1997 with the permission of the author, Robin Burk:

Referenced from the Jubilee Book of the ECSCA, Inc.

ACS = American Cocker Spaniel
ECS = English Cocker Spaniel
ESS = English Springer Spaniel

Given the evolution of field trialing AND of the ECS breed in the US, it might help to go back a bit when discussing dual champions among the English Cockers.

According to the Jubilee Book of the English Cocker Spaniel Club of America, the first official field trial for spaniels in any country was held in England at Sutton Scarsdale in 1899. The stake was won by Stylish Pride, a Cocker who was registered but not a bench champion.

Among subsequent show dogs that won at field trials in subsequent decades, the black bitch Eng. Ch. Jetsam Bowdler, wh. 1903, had a major impact on the breed and was still winning Challenge Certificates in 1911. Although as few as 2 field trials were held a year in England, by 1908 Walhampton Judy, a blue roan bitch wh. 1905 and sired by show dog Eng. Ch. Rufus Bowdler. BTW, Walhampton Judy is behind the very famous US ECS conformation stud Ch. Dunelm Galaxy, whose offspring permeate nearly all of the parti-colored show champions in the US.

Eng. Ch. Jetsam Bowdler

The (British) Kennel Club ruled that beginning in mid-1909, all gundog breeds would have to have a "Qualifying Certificate" in the field before an Eng.Ch. would be awarded. The first Eng. Ch. under these rules was Rivington Robena, a bl/white bitch w. in 1911. The Qualifier was required to take place at a field trial and the dog was required to have at least on Challenge Certificate, but the relative infrequency with which field trials were held made this a difficult requirement to meet.

After WWI, field trials became more popular. By 1931 there were at least 23 Field Trial Champions among British Cockers.

The first field trial for Cockers in the US was held in 1925, but none of the entries had been trained at all. Cocker enthusiasts brought over several British judges to assist in training judges and guide Cocker training. In 1926 the field trials of the Hunting Cocker Spaniel Club drew 36 entries, of whom 14 were ESS in a courtesy stake. The trial was held in NY and had as its objective specifically to "bring into competition the English dog (ed. note: EC style Cocker), which by reason of the great use that has been made of them in England for a great many years, are showing greater perfection in their work." Among the dogs that competed in this stake was Silvertip Ducrow, a part ACS - part ECS type cocker (the breeds not yet having been fully segregated in this country), who also stands behind Ch. Dunelm Galaxy.

The Jubilee Book goes on to detail the evolution of field trialing in the States. One event that is worth noting is the formation of the Spaniel Field Training Club of Northern California in 1936. Out of this club came Dual Ch. Don Pablo from Jourdains, an American-type Cocker who took at least one of his 5-point conformation wins from the English class, which was permitted during that time while the ACS / ECS differentiation was still under way.

English-type Cockers were still very rare in the US, and the fact that the AKC allowed American types to compete in the English variety for conformation suppressed EC show champions, as the ACs were thought to look more elegant. Some EC fanciers turned their attention to field work alone, most prominent among them several brothers in Harriman family. Their kennel, Cinar, imported two foundation cockers from Scotland in 1935 and from four litters this pair produced 5 Field Trial Champions:

Fld. Ch. Cinar Spot of Earlsmoor, w. 10/12/36
Fld. Ch. Cinar's Soot, w. 4/19/37
Fld. Ch. Cinar's Chuck, w. 6/13/38
Fld. Ch. Cinar's Ring, w. 6/13/38
Fld. Ch. Cinar's Dash, w. 8/20/39

Three additional ECs completed their field championships just before WWII:
Arbury Squib, Prince Chicot and Rivington Bean.

Arbury Squib went on the complete a bench championship in 1943. Although the AKC did not formally recognize a breed division between ACS and ECS until 1946, a mere 50 years ago, by 1943 the bulk of the documentation showing that ECs in this country went back solely to British stock and were otherwise a separate type and lineage had been collected. Therefore, Arbury Squib may be considered the first EC dual champion in the United States.

Dual Champion Arbury Squib

During WWII, field trials were scarce and the ACS had nearly disappeared from the field. However, there were 2 trials in 1945 in the eastern part of the US which drew 8 ECs and in 1947 Hollybrook Don completed a field championship.

In that same year, Camino Boy, a black and white EC owned by H.C. McGrew of Fortuna CA completed his field championship. By the end of 1950, Mr. McGrew took Camino Boy to his bench championship, thereby creating the second EC dual champion in the US.

Dual Champion Camino Boy

Field trialing ebbed and flowed in popularity, and the Depression and WWII made importation of british stock -- a necessity for increasing the breed's population in the US -- very difficult. However, by the 1950's, EC fanciers were able to acquire stock that had a long history of field as well as bench performance, and local bloodlines had also begun to solidify. The first Cocker National Field Trial was held in 1953 and a daughter of Dual Ch. Camino's Boy, Camino's Cheetah, won her Natl. Fld. Ch. with ease. EC field champions and National Field Champions continued to be made, in part with the importation of International Fld. Champions, throughout the 1950s. By 1962, however, few ECs were being entered in field trial stakes in the US, perhaps because the breed finally had sufficient autonomy and breeding momentum for conformation results to take center stage.

In Britain, field trialing with English Cocker stock has continued without interruption and the Eng. Ch. title continues to include proven field performance as a requirement. (Conformation-only champions are titled Eng. Show Ch.)

By the mid-1970s, interest re-emerged in field testing ECs. Several EC breeders and field handlers were involved in the definition of Working Dog tests and served on the AKC advisory committee re: the creation of the J/S/MH tests.

In 1977, the first WDX certificates were issued to ECs: Deborah Mason's Amer./Can. Ch. Merryborne Minstrel and Sue Rose's Amer./Can. Ch. Rose's Sherry Lenore, Amer. UDT, Can. UDTX. A WD was also awarded to Robt. and Lorraine MacLennan's Ch. Mittenwald Gentian Andrew.

Attempts to revive field trialing with ECs have been made over the last two decades and at present substantial momentum has gathered. Sue Rose..... continues to be a leader in this movement.

Those who would judge the fitness of ECs for field use, especially within the conformation lines, by the scarcity of dual champions must first take into account the history of the breed in this country and compare that to the breed's record elsewhere. It was not until 1946 that ECs could compete in conformation on a "level playing field". And it was not until the late 1950s that sufficient stock had been imported and bred to BEGIN the process of developing lines with any substantial base.

When I was researching breeds, it was not uncommon to find wave patterns in the development of the rarer spaniels -- large amounts of importation, followed by home breeding, followed perhaps by the evolution of a distinctive type and standard, followed again by a new, more selective wave of imports. Whether or not this is what is currently happening in ECs, a significant number of full Eng. Ch. have been imported to the US recently, and interest in field training ECs is on the rise.

I submit that it is at least 25 - 50 years too soon to say whether or not a field / show split is NECESSARY to produce outstanding excellence in either arena. The limited gene pool which obtained for the first half of this century, under the press of events muddied by the separatation of the cocker breeds, simply does not allow well-founded judgements to be made at this point.

Robin Burk

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