written for Australasian Gundog       winter 2000

You are right if you believe the Clumber is an ancient type. The white spaniel appears throughout the aeons in illustration and text; and the spaniel of old was a heavy and long bodied dog with short broad ears. The modern breed standard demands these qualities from the exhibition Clumber; qualities that have earned this type of spaniel a unique place in history. By the time the white spaniel acquired its breed name from the Sherwood Forest country estate of the Duke of Newcastle-under-Lyne it was a sought after and valued working companion. A dog ideally suited to the demands of working the Nottinghamshire estates of woody cover with heavy thickets and sparse game populations. The white spaniel with its long, heavy and low set body and strong legs with a powerful hindquarter and short broad ears could easily penetrate this cover without undue damage to himself and showed the intelligence and tenacity to stick to the trial of game either to flush it for the gun or retrieve a runner. The added bonus of having a basically white colour allowed hunters to spot the dog in heavy undergrowth and know precisely where he was working, for unlike so many other breeds, the Clumber is a silent worker.

The history of the white spaniel appears to go back at least as early as 5000BC in the Iran area where a clay figure typical of the form of this breed has been found. From there, the presence of the white spaniel is scattered through the history of Europe, and appeared in the UK at least as early as Medieval times. His actual vocation developed as the population moved from East to the West, and the first records of him being on British soil has him a famed creature from the otherworld (supernatural). As more occurrences in the archives appear of the white spaniel in Britain and neighbouring parts of France, so the population or distribution to the East seems to have drop off. There are good records on the white spaniel in the Clumber form we know today appearing in Britain in the 500s, 900s, 1500s and especially from the early 1700s.

Any ancient breed will attract fables and myths; unfortunately there are also complete fallacies. The most glaring is the claim that the Clumber derives from a Basset Hound cross. The instigator of this nonsense, disproved by genetic knowledge on several points, unwittingly created a tale that has been reproduced without thought by “writers” for over 100 years now; rather unfair on Dalziel [1879], who actually said: “I content myself with imagining the introduction of the French Bassets to the Clumber kennels”. It was a guess based on misinformation and disproved by genetic studies.

While the most commonly accepted story that the Duke of Newcastle under Lyne, while Earl of Lincoln, received some white spaniels has no support in any family archives; it is without doubt that the Clumber we know today was developed by the gamekeepers to his Grace. The Mansell family served and supplied gamekeepers to the Duke and his descendants for at least five generations and for this time (1760s to 1850s) of one hundred and ten years essentially had control of the white spaniel and its breeding. The Dukes kept a large kennel, but the white spaniel from these strains were also scattered about friend’s estates in the Nottinghamshire area. The advent of general all breeds dog shows saw the Clumber offered a breed class rather than competing as a spaniel of fixed weight and no breed name. And the honour of a breed section in the first studbook which was published in 1879. These honours were also achieved in Canada and America. The Clumber arrived in Australia in 1883; the first pair coming direct from Clumber Park.

Since arriving in the Southern Hemisphere the breed has been here consistently in either Australia or New Zealand if not both concurrently.

The white coat dissuades most guns from wanting a Clumber, but this is merely a fallacy as mud will drop away when dry leaving the owner with a bright and clean coat. Three of Dick Morten’s imported Clumbers earned Certificates of Merit in trials; but essentially the Clumber has found his domain in the show ring down south. As early as 1899 the first Best in Show in the antipodes was claimed by a Clumber when the Australian bred Ponto took the honour at Auckland Kennel Club. A drought, aggrevated by the two world wars, saw the next one being won by David Irving’s Ch Thornville Swim at her Australian debut in 1958. Her daughter Ch Erinveine Gleam took the next, just two years later. And from the 1980s Best in Show or Runner Up Championship winners have included

  1. Ch Raycroft Startrex,
  2. Ch Dukerie Amberley,
  3. Ch Dukerie Britenbreezie,
  4. Ch Dornoch Edward Bear,
  5. Ch Erinveine Marchioness,
  6. Ch Baswei Lord Sebastion,
  7. Ch Erinveine Nonetheless and his litter mate
  8. Ch Erinveine Noteworthy,
  9. Ch Raycroft Swashbuckler at Bruisyard,
  10. Ch Shonaway Duke o Monmouth,
  11. Ch Erinveine Regal,
  12. Ch Erinveine Privilege,
  13. Ch Erinveine Crackerjack,
  14. Ch Grashez Society Rose
  15. Ch Bowhouse Storyteller
  16. Ch Clumberlea Lady Totenham,
  17. Ch Erinveine Charter,
  18. Ch Erinveine Magistrate and
  19. Ch Erinveine Keys to Thcity.

And you are right; for every one of these top winners there have been many more to claim Championship Best in Group awards and a host of other group and show broad sashes. What I have found interesting in compiling this list is the number of generations the top wins have penetrated. Startrex was the sire of Amberley who was the dam of Edward Bear, but alas that line has failed to breed on any further. But also sired by Startrex was Britenbreezie, grandam of Marchioness (who was dam of Monmouth) and Noteworthy and Nonetheless; None was the sire of Privilege who is the grandsire (through Ch Erinveine Union Jack) of Crackerjack, Totenham, Keys to Thcity (yet to have litters), and Charter (who is granddam of Magistrate).

A breed as ancient as the Clumber is can only continue to achieve in modern society if it is based on a sound foundation. Just as the modern breed standard demands a “very powerful and well developed” hindquarter I can envisage the Clumber will steam through and prove to continue to be a real force in the show ring in the next couple of decades at least. With care and honesty and respect for conformation and the written breed standard the Australian or even New Zealand  bred Clumber will continue to demand the respect of judges with an understanding of the breed’s heritage and workability, without a need to “Americanize” or glamorize the coat of the breed or to develop high stepping flashy and wasteful leg action seen in many of the more recently developed “show” breeds, and at all points should the beanbag – shake a dog into a “stack” style be shunned . If breeders can manage to use the written breed standard as their guide in selecting dogs to breed from then they will be able to produce a dog suitable for the show ring or other endeavours. It is a shame to say that America has had to prove this point for us in the tracking department, AmCh Erinveine Herald at Arms TD is the first Clumber bred in New Zealand or Australia to gain a tracking title. Dick Morten proved the value of the Clumber in the New Zealand field in the 1950s, and Australia’s Ch Erinveine Myth was the first to gain an official obedience qualifier for the CD, this is a breed stupidly shunned for these areas of competition..

The Clumber is a lovely show dog, but he is capable of competing in other domains too, competitive domains; not simply the domain of stealing the hearts of his owners.

As a consequence of his long heritage, the Clumber is well represented on the delightful cigarette cards of years gone by as well as on other trade cards, postcards and playing cards, and numerous prints. The first issue to feature the Clumber is the scarce Taddy set published in 1900. He appeared again in 1901 and 1902 on the black and white Ogdens tab series to feature contemporary photos, then in 1904 in Ogdens Fowls Pigeons and Dogs series which was used in 1908 by Edwards Ringer & Bigg and also Studio and Fry’s Chocolate and the same design appeared on the Canadian issue of 1911. Many more designs were adopted and published; the first non-cigarette trade card was published by Church and Dwight in 1902 and features a stunning colour portrait of a Clumber on the run retrieving a woodcock or snipe. Many more issues came out throughout the twentieth century and amongst postcards I know of 56 individual designs.

Breed specific books have been a little scarce until the 1990s; but certainly the Clumber appears in just about every encyclopaedia published; in fact the breed had the honour of featuring on the cover of one the parts of James Watson’s The Dog Book 1902, which like Hutchinson’s famous multi part encyclopaedia of the 1930s was published as sections. The first breed dedicated book was The Clumber Spaniel published in 1912 and written by the most famous of ‘spaniel’ men James Farrow (Obo Cockers). This original publication has enjoyed two facsimile reprints one published in the UK and the other in Australia in 1988. Grayson and Furness (“Mrs” Raycroft) published their The Clumber Spaniel in 1991 and Ironside and Charlesworth published Aristocrat of Spaniels in 1996; Hoflin in the USA published Jan Irving’s Clumber Spaniels in 1998, and Ed Presnall took the Clumber into the electronic age with the publication of his Clumber Spaniel Handbook on CD-ROM in 1999; which took out the Maxwell Riddle award at the Dog Writers Association awards! In 2000, Jan Irving’s The White Spaniel was published as a limited edition and is by far the most comprehensive and largest of the books published to date with 270 plus A4 pages and 370 plus black and white illustrations and 37 colour pictures.

All round the Clumber does well in the modern age. From a sound footing and working on conformation and adhering to the dictates of a breed standard first drafted early in the mid 1800s which has suffered very few tinkerings or alterations the breed generally attracts an educated and thoughtful owner and breeder. The fly by nighters are generally “out of” the breed within five or six years; perhaps leaving a trial of discontent behind them, but the true Clumber breeder enjoys many decades with this breed. The Royal family 96 years (and recently rekindled by HRH The Princess Royal), Foljambes 70 years, Miss Reed of Oakerland Clumbers and Sussex 60 years, Clark of Alveley spaniels 54, JT Flowers of Biggin Clumbers and Gordons 45 years, Dick Morten of New Zealand’s Irirangi Gundogs 40 years, Margaret Doncaster 40 years, Australia’s Irving family 40 years, Mr and Mrs Cresswell-Ward of Neasham spaniels 35 years, Capes of Carnforth Gundogs 33 years to Mrs Furness 32 years of Raycroft Clumbers.=