Tweed Water Spaniel Revisited

The Tweed Water Spaniel is a mysterious breed. It is very probable that this was a water dog/retriever that resided and hunted along the Tweed River. I am inserting previous blog posts to revisit…

This is from: “The complete farrier, and British Sportsman” By Richard Lawrence (veterinary surgeon.) –  dated: 1816

Upon the sea-coast this breed is principally propagated, where they are mostly brought into use, and held in proportional estimation. Along the rocky shores and dreadful declivities beyond the junction of the Tweed with the sea of Berwick, water-dogs have derived an addition of strength, from the experimental introduction of a cross with the Newfoundland dog, which has rendered them completely adequate to the arduous difficulties and diurnal perils in which they are systematically engaged. These stupendous and inaccessible cliffs and precipices are so favorable to the propagation of soland geese, sea-gulls, and wild fowl of every description, that the coast may be said to be covered with them, from one extremity of the northern district to the other, and the necessitous and laborious class entirely support themselves and families, during the greater part of the year, by patient attacks whenever there is a probability of success, (otherwise they never discharge a gun) and by the persevering exertions of their dogs. Those cliffs, or recesses, are selected which, from their situation at certain angles, or points, afford the most promising expectations of success: in each of these, (but not at a less distance than one quarter, or the third of a mile from each other) huts are so curiously constructed with sods, intermixed with loam, marl, and other applicable articles, as to form, when finished, a seeming part of the rock itself. To each hut is a door, or shelf, within, for the convenience of depositing provisions and ammunition, as well as three circular openings of four inches diameter, (to the right, the left, and the centre,) for the discovery of the fowl on their approach, and the subsequent discharge of the gun, when they, fortunately, were within shot, but which is never discharged except the magnitude of the birds promises a profitable hit; the smaller tribe are permitted to pass unmolested. In this sequestered situation, remote from every human eye, accompanied only by his faithful dog, the adventurer takes his seat at the very dawn of day, his success depending more upon the fluctuating favor of the elements than upon any energetic endeavors of his own. This occupation (for by the happy and enlightened part of the world it cannot be termed a sport, or amusement,) requires more patience and philosophy than any other in which the dog and gun are conjunctively concerned.

Tweedside Water Spaniel

Posted on May 18, 2011by 

I was reading a book this morning that had reference to a Tweedside Water Spaniel. The author was giving his own account as to the value of a good retriever in the Highlands of Scotland. He differentiates between the Irish and the Tweedside so they must have had their differences which makes the image of Belle in the Guiaschan photo even more plausible.

In pheasant shooting two varieties of the dog, not already treated of, are used—the cocker or spaniel, and the retriever. Both may be used with advantage in other kinds of shooting, the retriever being invaluable, and far too little employed by sportsmen. The retriever, as his name implies, is simply any dog which recovers and fetches game when killed, as some pointers and setters do by nature, while others of these varieties are so taught, especially on the Continent. This is an accomplishment, however, these breeds are much better without. But a proper retriever should be a powerful dog, patient, and quite under command, and never leaving your foot until told to do so. The Irish and Tweedside water spaniels make good retrievers, but want power, to secure which a cross with a genuine Newfoundland dog is recommended. A perfect retriever must possess a good nose, strength, and steadiness, and must take to water freely—acquire these qualities by any manner of breeding whatever. He must besoft-mouthed, i.e., he must not injure game while carrying, but, like Isaak Walton with the frog, use them as though he loved them. The produce of a strong Newfoundland dog with a gentle-tempered setter slut is as good as can possibly be advised. Such will both hunt covert well, doing quietly the work of a dozen noisy boys, and retrieve wounded and dead game successfully through goodness of nose derived from the dam.But as good and bad qualities in dogs are hereditary, the young sportsman need not pay particular attention as to how the good qualities have been obtained by crossing, provided that they are there, and cannot do better than purchase the progeny of proved parents, regardless of the breed—this being quite a different thing from setters or pointers, which have a certain specific and instinctive work to do, independent of general sagacity. Retrievers are seldom thoroughly trained until two years old; they cannot be broken-in at once like the pointer—hence the best are those which have followed a keeper’s steps from puppyhood, and their price is high when perfect in all their parts. In fact, no dog is so valuable to the sportsman, yet, notwithstanding, they are not used to nearly the extent they deserve. A retriever saves time, game, money for beaters, and also saves labour in trapping, by recovering dead game which would otherwise be lost, and serve for food for all sorts of running vermin, which are thus drawn into ground where retrievers are not used.

“Scottish field sports: a volume of mingled gossip and instruction” – By James Dalziel Dougall  1861

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2 Responses to Tweed Water Spaniel Revisited

  1. M.R.S. says:

    Of course, by “Newfoundland dog” the writer does not mean the huge breed of that name we know today, but the sort of dog from the New World that was a contributor to several breeds of retriever. This old type of Newfoundland dog looked more like a coarse Labrador, and was often long-coated and came in various colors.

    • Jan says:

      I have seen in a number of old books where they will actually say the “larger Newfoundland” or the “smaller Newfoundland.” It is a little like the Munsterlander which later became separate breeds, “Large Munsterlander” and “Small Munsterlander.”

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