Thursday, March 26, 2015

What Kind of Dog is That?

We get asked this question occasionally, especially when walking our dogs on leads in the city. My favorite question so far: "Is that a long-haired Dalmatian?"  Once is a while, people who know setters will ask what kind of setters we have?  Llewellin?  I usually answer bird dog setters.

English setters have evolved in the past 150 years in many directions, the AKC and American Field distinction between show and field setters the most obvious break.  A peek in the classified section at back of a gun dog magazine reveals many ES field lines: Llewellin, Old Hemlock, Twombley and Ryman among others.

My setter bias leans in the Ryman direction.  According to The Real Ryman Setter, written by Walt Lesser and Lisa Weisse, an excellent history of George Ryman's line of setters by the way, Ryman set out to breed bird dogs, more specifically a grouse and woodcock dog,  Since that's what we hunt in northern Wisconsin, Ryman seems the obvious choice for us.

When I see any English setter out in public, though, I'm drawn to it like a bee to honey.  I walk up to the owner like a yokel and ask, "Can I pet your dog?"  I can't help myself.  I love setters, like other dog owners love their labs, their chows, their poodles.  Sometimes we cannot even articulate why we prefer a certain breed.  Years ago we threw our lot in with English setters, and we have yet to regret our decision because we wanted calm and gentle gun dogs we could share our home with.  AKC, American Field, Llewellin, Ryman -- they're all English setters, they're all dogs.  And really it's the dog I love.

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