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About The Pointer
Author: Robert Leighton
It has never been made quite clear in history why the Spaniards had a dog that was very remarkable for pointing all kinds of game. They have always been a pleasure-loving people, certainly, but more inclined to bull-fighting than field-craft, and yet as early as 1600 they must have had a better dog for game-finding than could have been found in any other part of the world.
Singularly enough, too, the most esteemed breeds in many countries can be traced from the same source, such as the Russian Pointer, the German Pointer, the French double-nosed Griffon, and, far more important still, the English Pointer.
A view has been taken that the Spanish double-nosed Pointer was introduced
into England about two hundred years ago, when fire-arms were beginning to
be popular for fowling purposes. Setters and Spaniels had been used to find
and drive birds into nets, but as the Spanish Pointer became known it was
apparently considered that he alone had the capacity to find game for the
gun. This must have been towards the end of the seventeenth century, and for
the next fifty years at least something very slow was wanted to meet the necessities
of the old-fashioned flintlock gun, which occupied many minutes in loading
and getting into position. Improvements came by degrees, until they set in
very rapidly, but probably by 1750, when hunting had progressed a good deal,
and pace was increased in all pastimes, the old-fashioned Pointer was voted
a nuisance through his extreme caution and tortoise-like movements.
There is evidence, through portraits, that Pointers had been altogether changed by the year 1800, but it is possible that the breed then had been continued by selection rather than by crossing for a couple of decades, as it is quite certain that by 1815 sportsmen were still dissatisfied with the want of pace in the Pointer, and many sportsmen are known to have crossed their Pointers with Foxhounds at about that time.
By 1835 the old Spanish Pointer had been left behind, and the English dog was a perfect model for pace, stamina, resolution, and nerve. The breed was exactly adapted to the requirements of that day, which was not quite as fast as the present. Men shot with good Joe Mantons, did their own loading, and walked to their dogs, working them right and left by hand and whistle. The dogs beat their ground methodically, their heads at the right level for body scent, and when they came on game, down they were; the dog that had got it pointing, and the other barking or awaiting developments.
There was nothing more beautiful than the work of a well-bred and well-broken
brace of Pointers, or more perfect than the way a man got his shots from them.
There was nothing slow about them, but on the contrary they went a great pace,
seemed to shoot into the very currents of air for scent, and yet there was
no impatience about them such as might have been expected from the Foxhound
cross. The truth of it was that the capacity to concentrate the whole attention
on the object found was so intense as to have lessened every other propensity.
The rush of the Foxhound had been absorbed by the additional force of the
Pointer character. There has been nothing at all like it in canine culture,
and it came out so wonderfully after men had been shooting in the above manner
for about forty years.
It was nearing the end of this period that field trials began to occupy the attention of breeders and sportsmen, and although Setters had been getting into equal repute for the beauty of their work, there was something more brilliant about the Pointers at first. Brockton's Bounce was a magnificent dog, a winner on the show bench, and of the first Field Trial in England.
Newton's Ranger was another of the early performers, and he was very staunch and brilliant, but it was in the next five years that the most extraordinary Pointer merit was seen, as quite incomparable was Sir Richard Garth's Drake, who was just five generations from the Spanish Pointer. Drake was rather a tall, gaunt dog, but with immense depth of girth, long shoulders, long haunches, and a benevolent, quiet countenance.
There was nothing very attractive about him when walking about at Stafford prior to his trial, but the moment he was down he seemed to paralyse his opponent, as he went half as fast again. It was calculated that he went fifty miles an hour, and at this tremendous pace he would stop as if petrified, and the momentum would cover him with earth and dust. He did not seem capable of making a mistake, and his birds were always at about the same distance from him, to show thereby his extraordinary nose and confidence. Nothing in his day could beat him in a field.
He got some good stock, but they were not generally show form, the bitches
by him being mostly light and small, and his sons a bit high on the leg. None
of them had his pace, but some were capital performers, such as Sir Thomas
Lennard's Mallard, Mr. George Pilkington's Tory, Mr. Lloyd Price's Luck of
Edenhall, winner of the Field Trial Derby, 1878; Lord Downe's Mars and Bounce,
and Mr. Barclay Field's Riot. When Sir Richard Garth went to India and sold
his kennel of Pointers at Tattersall's, Mr. Lloyd Price gave 150 guineas for
The mid-century owners and breeders had probably all the advantages of what a past generation had done, as there were certainly many wonderful Pointers in the 'fifties, 'sixties, and 'seventies, as old men living to-day will freely allow. They were produced very regularly, too, in a marvellous type of perfection.
Mr. William Arkwright, of Sutton Scarsdale, Derbyshire, has probably the best kennel in England at the present time. He discovered and revived an old breed of the North of England that was black, and bred for a great many years by Mr. Pape, of Carlisle, and his father before him. With these Mr. Arkwright has bred to the best working strains, with the result that he has had many good field trial winners.
For a good many years now Elias Bishop, of Newton Abbot, has kept up the old breeds of Devon Pointers, the Ch. Bangs, the Mikes, and the Brackenburg Romps, and his have been amongst the best at the shows and the field trials during the past few years. There are, of course, exceptions to the rule that many of the modern Pointers do not carry about them the air of their true business; but it would appear that fewer people keep them now than was the case a quarter of a century ago, owing to the advance of quick-shooting, otherwise driving, and the consequent falling away of the old-fashioned methods, both for the stubble and the moor.
However, there are many still who enjoy the work of dogs, and it would be a sin indeed in the calendar of British sports if the fine old breed of Pointer were allowed even to deteriorate. The apparent danger is that the personal or individual element is dying out. In the 'seventies the name of Drake, Bang, or Garnet were like household words. People talked of the great Pointers.
They were spoken of in club chat or gossip; written about; and the prospects
of the moors were much associated with the up-to-date characters of the Pointers
and Setters. There is very little of this sort of talk now-a-days. Guns are
more critically spoken of. There is, however, a wide enough world to supply
with first-class Pointers. In England's numerous colonies it may be much more
fitting to shoot over dogs. It has been tried in South Africa with marvellous
results. Descendants of Bang have delighted the lone colonist on Cape partridge
and quails, and Pointers suit the climate, whereas Setters do not.
The Pointer is a noble breed to take up, as those still in middle life have seen its extraordinary merit whenever bred in the right way. As to the essential points of the breed, they may be set down as follows:--
HEAD--Should be wide from ear to ear, long and slanting from the top of the skull to the setting on of the nose; cheek bones prominent; ears set low and thin in texture, soft and velvety; nose broad at the base; mouth large and jaws level.
NECK--The neck should be very strong, but long and slightly arched, meeting shoulders well knit into the back, which should be straight and joining a wide loin. There should be great depth of heart room, very deep brisket, narrow chest rather than otherwise, shoulders long and slanting.
LEGS AND FEET--Should be as nearly like the Foxhound's as possible. There should be really no difference, as they must be straight, the knees big, and the bone should be of goodly size down to the toes, and the feet should be very round and cat-shaped.
HIND-QUARTERS--A great feature in the Pointer is his hind-quarters. He cannot well be too long in the haunch or strong in the stifle, which should be well bent, and the muscles in the second thigh of a good Pointer are always remarkable. The hocks may be straighter than even in a Foxhound, as, in pulling up sharp on his point, he in a great measure throws his weight on them; the shank bones below the hock should be short.
COLOUR--There have been good ones of all colours. The Derby colours were always liver and whites for their Pointers and black breasted reds for their game-cocks.
The Seftons were liver and whites also, and so were the Edges of Strelly, but mostly heavily ticked. Brockton's Bounce was so, and so were Ch. Bang, Mike, and Young Bang. Drake was more of the Derby colour; dark liver and white. Mr. Whitehouse's were mostly lemon and whites, after Hamlet of that colour, and notable ones of the same hue were Squire, Bang Bang, and Mr. Whitehouse's Pax and Priam, all winners of field trials. There have been several very good black and whites.
Mr. Francis's, afterwards Mr. Salter's, Chang was a field trial winner of this colour. A still better one was Mr. S. Becket's Rector, a somewhat mean little dog to look at, but quite extraordinary in his work, as he won the Pointer Puppy Stake at Shrewsbury and the All-Aged Stake three years in succession. Mr. Salter's Romp family were quite remarkable in colour--a white ground, heavily shot with black in patches and in ticks. There have never been any better Pointers than these. There have been, and are, good black Pointers also.
HEIGHT AND SIZE--A big Pointer dog stands from 24-1/2 inches to 25 inches at the shoulder. Old Ch. Bang and Young Bang were of the former height, and the great bitch, Mr. Lloyd Price's Belle, was 24 inches.
For big Pointers 60 pounds is about the weight for dogs and 56 pounds bitches; smaller size, 54 pounds dogs and 48 pounds bitches. There have been some very good ones still smaller.