Clumber spaniel makes history

clumber spaniel(Photograph: Heidrun Humphries)

A three-year-old Clumber spaniel has made history after becoming the first of the breed to win an AV (Any Variety) Spaniel Novice Stake since 1899 – a feat only previously achieved by the bitch Beechgrove Bee over a century ago.

Midori Diamond Huddlestone (Rigg), who was handled and trained by Roy Ellershaw, took first place after competing against 15 springer spaniels at the trial held by the Tyne, Tees and Tweed Field Trial Association in late December.

The result represents something of a well-earned milestone for Rigg's owners John and Jane Smith-Bodden, both of whom are dedicated committee members of the Working Clumber Spaniel Society (WCSS) which has worked tirelessly since 1984 to maintain the Clumber spaniel as a natural working gundog. “Rigg and Roy have obviously made history with this win but it must be remembered that Rigg is simply representative of the quality of dog now available in the modern work-bred Clumber spaniel,” said John. “We are talking about a typical, rather than exceptional dog from the current stock. There are a number of others who currently have significantly good trialling dogs. Putting this excellent raw material into the hands of handlers experienced at this level, such as Roy Ellershaw, shows what can be achieved. That was always our aim and we hope that others will see the opportunity which clearly exists to succeed with a Clumber.”

Announcing the momentous result with fellow judge Duncan Sutherland, Malcolm Taylor laid emphasis on the fact that Clumber spaniels have a different style of hunting from springers and cockers and this should be appreciated and applauded when effective. He commented: “The Clumber did not miss a blade of grass in his ground coverage and turned in an impressive performance on the day”.

The future?

Less than 200 Clumber spaniel puppies are born each year in the UK, compared to 30,000+ cockers and springers, yet as a result of the WCSS's hard work and dedication to restoring and maintaining the breed’s physical soundness and functional qualities, Clumber spaniels have undergone an extraordinary transformation.

Unfortunately, the Kennel Club does not currently have a channel through which Rigg can advance further following his success; there is no Open Stake which a Clumber can enter, simply because, for decades, it has seemed incredible that one could qualify. All of those enjoying the remarkable progress of the breed must hope that ways can be found to allow dogs of Rigg’s calibre to fulfil their potential to compete at the highest level...


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