American Llewellin's by Edmund Henry Osthaus
The following is a brief history of the Llewellin Setter
The modern Setter is said to be descended from Spaniels, which had been trained to stop and set the birds instead of flushing them. The time and place, however, where this first occurred is shrouded in obscurity.
The excellences of our present-day Setters can be attributed largely to Edward Laverack. This gentleman, about 1825, secured a brace of Setters, Ponto and Old Moll, from the Rev. Mr. Harrison, of Carlisle. These dogs he mated, their progeny in turn were interbred, and this formulae of breeding was continued for upward of fifty years, in the course of which time Mr. Laverack created a strain of Setters bearing his name, which were as famous for their field qualities as for their beauty.
The types of all breeds of dogs have been determined almost entirely by bench shows, and if these had been the only influence that had operated upon the English Setter family, there would be but one recognized type of English Setter. This, however, is not the case, for half a century ago, just about the time that bench shows were getting upon a sound basis, practical sportsmen in both Europe and America instituted field trials for Bird Dogs. These contests have enjoyed a remarkable vogue, and as a result we have had bench show Setter fanciers developing a type of Setter which expressed their ideals of what an English Setter should be, and another group of field trial men devoting all of their attention to developing field qualities with an entire disregard for size, color, general type, conformation, and other things that the bench-show men hold most dear. The only question that concerned the field-trial man was utility, his only standard "the survival of the fittest."
The conclusions that men arrive at in writing a bench-show standard as to how a practical working dog should be built and how his head should be supported on his neck or his shoulders placed in relationship to his body, is more or less whimsical and subject to change. There is no way of determining, that which is right, and that which is wrong. There is always danger of overemphasizing the importance of some point at the expense of others and losing sight of the fact that under the laws of correlation it is impossible to change one point without changing all others to a greater or less degree.
The field-trial men have never permitted details of conformation to detract from their single object of practical performance. As a result of the operation of the law of the survival of the fittest, a field trial type has been evolved that is easily recognized, and breeds truer to type than the bench-show dogs that have been fashioned in response to the opinions of men who were without means for determining the accuracy of their judgment. The bench-show winning Setter today is a very elegant animal, but no more so than the field trial dog, with every element of utility expressed in his countenance, written in his frame, and recorded in his pedigree.
The bench show setters of today have a Laverack foundation. Half a century ago this was more or less mixed with native blood, which disappeared before rapid importations of dogs from abroad. These early importations were nearly all Laverack, or at least the Laverack strain predominated. Those that followed them were often mixed with other Old English Setter strains, and all of them were distinguished by much grace and beauty, particularly in coat, color, and general outline. Many of them had been bench-show winners abroad and a few had appeared at English field trials. Occasionally they were placed in America, but on the whole they were all lacking the speed, dash, endurance, and unquenchable spirit necessary to win American stakes. Their names are regarded with disfavor in field trial pedigrees.
Among the first Laverack dogs to be brought to this country were: Pride of the Border and Fairy; then came Emperor Fred and Thunder; Plantagenet and Foreman were prominent in bench shows in the early '80's, and shortly afterward Rockingham, Princess Beatrice, Count Howard, Monk of Furness, and Cora of Witherall had the center of the stage. In the '90's Albert's Ranger was attracting a good deal of attention, and later came Mallwyd, Sirdar, Stylish Sargent, Dido B, Bloomfield Racket, Blue Bell, Moll O'Leck, Meg O'Leck, Stylish Bell Bonner. All of these dogs while attractive in appearance lacked rugged character and the well-balanced proportions of the field-trial strain. Most of them were bred in England or were descended from dogs of English breeding which, although they might have proven fairly satisfactory workmen under old country conditions, were unable to cope either in speed, style, endurance, or quick, snappy way of working with the field-trial type.
The history of the field trial strain is as follows: About the time the Laverack strain of Setters were in their zenith in England, Mr. R. L. Purcell Llewellin, who for several years had been experimenting with various families of setters, purchased a number of Mr. Laverack's best dogs of the pure Dash, Moll and Dash-Lill Laverack blood. These Laveracks he crossed with some entirely new blood, which he obtained in the north of England, represented by Mr. Statter's and Sir Vincent Corbet's strain since referred to as the Duke- Rhoebe, the latter being the two most prominent members of this blood.
The most important cross in the development of the field English Setter was the Duke/Rhoebe-Laverack cross. This cross provided the sportsman of the late 1800's a Setter with boldness, stamina and pointing instinct not known prior to this time. The Llewellin is based on this cross. According to the FDSB to be a FDSB registered "Llewellin" an English Setter must be 100% Duke/Rhoebe-Laverack. No other blood is allowed.
The most widely known Llewellins are the American and Humphrey Llewellins. The American Llewellins today are the descendants of the early Llewellin imports into America. These dogs were largely 50% Laverack and 50% Duke/Rhoebe. Today few survive as pure American Llewellins and are close to 55-60% Laverack 45%-40% Duke/ Rhoebe. Due to being strong willed and bold, they were used extensively in the develpement of the field trial English Setter.
The result of these crosses was eminently successful, particularly at field trials, and swept everything before them. Their reputation spread to America, and sportsmen in different sections of the United States and Canada purchased many, so that this line of breeding soon became firmly established in this country.
The name that stands out most conspicuously in the foundation of the field trial Setter in America is Count Noble. This dog was purchased from Mr. Llewellin by Dave Sandborn, of Dowling, Michigan, who, after trying him out on the prairies, was on the point of returning him to England, but was persuaded not to do so by the late B. F. Wilson, of Pittsburgh. The character and qualities that Sandborn objected to were those to which Mr. Wilson attached the highest importance. On the death of Mr. Sandborn, Count passed into the hands of Mr. Wilson, who gave him opportunity to demonstrate his sterling qualities and his reputation was soon established from coast to coast. The body of this famous dog (pictured above), mounted, is now on display at the National Bird Dog Museum, Grand Junction, TN., where it is visited annually by many sportsmen. Other famous names are: Gladstone, Sue, Druid, Ruby and Gath and their descendants; Bohemian Girl, Roderigo, Gath's Hope, Gath's Mark, Count Gladstone IV, Antonio, Tony Boy, Geneva, Mohawk, Lady's Count Gladstone, Rodfield, Count Whitestone II and Sioux. Thousands of the descendants of these famous dogs are scattered all over the country, and many of them in field trials have perpetuated the fame of this branch of the Setter family. The men who for half a century have owned and bred and raised them have always been deeply concerned with the absolute purity of the line of breeding of their dogs, and have never tolerated an out-cross of any kind and object to a dog whose reputation is based solely upon some bench-show performance.
The Humphrey Llewellins (Horsford Dashing, Horsford Count & Countess, Dashing Bondhu's and Windem's) were the result of Mr. Humphrey combining his Llewellins from Mr. Llewellins stock with American Llewellin and Laveracks from Law Turner and others. His Horsford Dashing were almost 100% Laverack and his Dashing Bondhu's were 80 to 90% Laverack. His Horsford Counts and Countess's were American Llewellins and his Windems were the result of breeding a Count or American Llewellin to a Dashing. These dog were known to be bold but easy to handle - gentleman's dogs. Today they survive with some American Llewellin outcrosses as Advie, Highland, and Machad Ambassador lines. There are pure kennels of Dashing Bondhu (also called Scinn Amach) and Windems (also known as Clonclurragh) in Belgium and Italy.
The question of formation, weight, and color has always been of minor importance. Everything has been predicated upon their performance in the field, and as a result of this devotion to the single standard of utility they have succeeded in establishing a general type easily recognized, but for which no standard has ever been written.
"In the mid-1860s, R.L. Purcell Llewellin of Pembrokeshire, South Wales, began his breeding program utilizing dogs obtained from Laverack. Llewellin was primarily interested in developing dogs for field work, and he experimented with various crosses before discovering the nick that would ultimately establish his name as a synonym for topnotch field-bred English Setters." As an aside, confusion also stems from the fact that the AKC does not recognise the Llewellin separately from English, and they refer to all "field-type" English setters as "Llewellin" which is technically incorrect....but we all know what the AKC has done for field dogs :)
"Llewellin's breakthrough occurred when he purchased two dogs, Dan and Dick, while attending a field trial at Shewbury in 1871. Dan and Dick were sons of a dog named Duke, owned by Barclay Field, and a bitch named Rhoebe (Rhoebe's dam was half Gordon and half South Esk, a now extinct breed), owned by Thomas Statter; both of these dogs were out of northern England stock noted for outstanding field work. Llewellin bred Dan and Dick to his Laverack females, and a new era in bird dog history was begun."
"The Duke, Rhoebe, and Laverack crossing produced exactly what Llewellin was looking for, and the offspring quickly attracted the notice of sportsmen in both England and North America. Dan proved to be especially preponent, and it was he who sired Gladstone, one of the most important Llewellins of all time. Gladstone quickly established himself as a top field performer and sire. His achievements contributed greatly to the surge of popularity the Llewellins were soon to enjoy."
"Today, only the Field Dog Stud Book (FDSB) of Chicago, published by American Field, recognizes Llewellins as those English Setters whose ancestry traces back to the Original Duke-Rhoebe-Laverack Cross." Hence, all Llewellins are currently registered via the FDSB separately from English. Although some do breed English to Llewellin, in such cases, the litter must be registered as English Setter with the FDSB and NOT Llewellin. Any such outcrossing of Llewellin lines disqualifies the resulting litters registration as Llewellin with the FDSB.
So, why do Llewellins have a separate registry with the FDSB, and other field-type English don?t? This is a simple matter of timing and history. Llewellins were so dominant to any other 'English' setter of the day that they, in essence, won a separate registry in 1902. In fact, Llewellins were the base stock for most (if not all) field-type English in the U.S. today. So, the percentage of Llewellin blood in most modern English lines is most likely quite high. Current field-type English (Ryman, DeCoverly, Tomoka, Tekoa Mountain, etc.) was not established for several decades after the Llewellin; therefore, they are not recognized separately from English by the FDSB.
"Traits: Intelligent, strong natural abilities, a desire to please, willingness to work for the gun and a companionable disposition. You can make a pet of these dogs and you won't have a bit of trouble with them in the field. Their disposition contributes to the dog's easy handling. One of the most interesting and controversial points to arise in any discussion of Llewellin setters concerns their appearance. Many sportsmen erroneously believe that a purebred Llewellin can be identified by its color and markings. In actuality, a Llewellin can be marked and colored like any other English Setter, and appearance is neither a guarantee nor a condemnation of bloodline purity." Indeed, it is not surprising that many modern field-type setters have a Llewellin like physical appeareance since these dogs are also bred for nose, and stamina. "Because many of the early Llewellins were tricolors - white with solid black heads and tan eyebrows and check patches - that coloration has long been considered standard by many sportsmen. But equally common are the blue and orange beltons. And although somewhat rare, there is also a chestnut belton, a color particularly favored by Llewellin himself. The term "belton" was first used by Laverack, and was taken from the name of a town near Northumberland, England where many of the setters carried this distinctive color scheme" (ticking only with no spots; my Indy (below) is a blue Belton). Additionally, one may here the term 'Belton-type' setter. This is a misnomer, and is misused to describe field-type English that are used almost exclusively to hunt grouse and woodcock.
Pups that are born all white will eventually develop small black, orange, or chestnut ticks (very small spots) all over their bodies. When older, these pups will end up with a great number of ticks and are called "beltons" (blue belton, orange belton, or chestnut belton). Blue refers to black hair that mingles with the white surrounding hair to form bluish-gray coloring. Ticking will not be completed until a pup is about 9 months old. All large spots will show up on a pup at the time of birth (pups with large spots on the body, and/or partially or solid heads are not referred to as belton). Adult weight averages around 50 pounds and height is about 24 inches with females being slightly smaller.
"Although lacking the exaggerated beauty of bench setters, the modern Llewellin Setter is indeed a good-looking dog, and he is every inch a sporting dog."
©2005 Neosho Valley Llewellin's (Ernie Hardman) All rights reserved.