Sunday, January 27, 2008

A relative of the Labrador?

I saw this neat statue of a Newfoundland at the Chesapeake Maritime Museum. It stated that it was a progenitor of the Chesapeake Bay Retriever. The Chessie is a tough dog and it's always been stated that it took an especially hardy dog to brave the waters of the Chesapeake. Back a few decades ago, there were huge guns that were mounted on skiffs that were used to down multiple birds. They were like boat-mounted cannons. The hunters needed dogs that were capable of going out and retrieving all of these ducks, in particular going after cripples first and then back to pick up the dead ones.

The museum stated what has been the most popular thought on the origin of the Chessie. That story involves the 1807 shipwreck of an English ship bound for Poole, England. The crew and two puppies survived the wreck: a brown male named Sailor and a black bitch dubbed
Canton in honor of the rescuing ship. But unlike what was stated at the museum, it was more probably that these puppies were St.John's water dogs, no doubt bound for Lord Malmesbury's estates, which at this time was developing the prototype for the Labrador Retriever
breed. These St. John's dogs were sometimes referred to as the lesser Newfoundland.

I have also read that the two puppies were on an English ship that was enroute to Newfoundland, while carrying a load of codfish. As its sailed into the Chesapeake Bay to pick a partial load of lumber, it wrecked and these two pups were saved as it sank.

I don't think that it's known whether Canton and Sailor contributed as much to the breed as they are credited with, or even whether they were bred to one another at all. But the hunters in the area wanted not only a fanatical retriever for the hard conditions but also a coat that would blend in with the marshes. The coat color of Chessies has interesting names such as dead grass.

Some of the other breeds believed to have played a part in the Chesapeake's development include coonhounds, Curly Coated Retrievers, Irish Water Spaniels, and setters.

I suspect based on what was available at the time that the St. John's Water Dog played a part in the background of the Chesapeake, just as it did for the Labrador. I can also see the Curly Coat gene in the background of the Chessie. I'm just glad that the Labrador temperament is what it is. I'll take the fun loving Labrador over the tougher Chesapeake any day.

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