by ALFRED O. KING, SR.
I have had many inquires about the "American Llewellins", what is meant by the term, and to learn more about them. Because most of these questions have come from Association members I have decided to begin a series of articles concerning their history and accomplishments.
In this writing I will give a basic explanation of what an American Llewellin is and why they were tagged as such.
As many of you know my interest in Llewellins came from my Grandfather, William Luther King. I have an old photo of him in 1907 with a Llewellin pup and a new Browning Automatic shotgun. This and the stories my uncles told are what first triggered my passion to learn more about them and to have one of my own. Pure Llewellins were hard to come by in those days, early 1960's and even fewer believed there were any left in England. The thought of importing a Llewellin only vaguely fluttered (like the rush of a covey rise --- exciting and then gone) through the mind of this ordinary farm boy. There was only a wish and a someday hope. I knew if I wanted one so badly, others would too. I did not want them to be extinct, I wanted to be able to pass them along to others.
In the late 1800's a particular strain of English Setter began to be imported to America by the American sportsmen. Mr. Llewellin himself, did not call his dogs Llewellin Setters, he preferred they be called "Field Setters" as he called them himself in England.
The "Field Setters" of Mr. Llewellin's were a great success and far superior to the Native Setters and Pointers in America at that time. The American sportsman began calling them Llewellin Setters in order to distinguish them and in recognition of the "country gentleman" who developed them.
The American field dog registry "Field Dog Stud Book" recognized them as a separate breed from the "Native Setters" that were in America at the time of the entrance of the Llewellin to America. Of course the term "Native Setter" does not have the same meaning as that of Native American. Native Setters were also imported dogs. All setters are known to come from the courts of England and the European Kings. The Natives Setters were brought over by Officers, Immigrants, Plantation owners, gentlemen sportsmen, etc..
The following statement is from a book in my personal Library. "The Field Dog Stud Book", Annual Register, Volume II, published in 1902 by The American Field Publishing Co., Chicago, Ill. states in the preface, "For the purpose of definite distinction the Llewellin setters have been separated in this volume from the English setters, under Llewellin classification; a list of the Llewellin setters registered in Volume I is also published, thus establishing a perfect record of Llewellin setters. The reason for this is explained fully in the article following, entitled "Llewellin Setters."
For the benefit of those breeders who wish to preserve the Llewellin setter in its purity, it has been deemed wise to bring together in a separate list the names of as many of this group of dogs as possible. It is now about thirty years since this breed was created, and during that time a great many generations have been bred and much outside blood has been introduced into the breed. It is, therefore, becoming more and more difficult each year to trace the blood lines of these dogs. Those which run back ten generations to the original cross have in the base of their pedigree more than one thousand names, while the whole pedigree of such a dog contains more than two thousand names. True, many of these appear several times, still there are a great many names in such a pedigree with which breeders are not familiar, and as many do not appear in any records, it has become a serious task to determine in many instances whether or not the pedigree is that of a pure-bred Llewellin setter. The further the breed gets away from its base the more difficult is the task of verifying the pedigree. It Is time, therefore, to list these dogs, so that those which shall be bred in the future may be traced to a group whose pedigrees have been approved.
It may well be supposed that it has been a serious task to verify the breeding of the dogs whose names appear in this list. The work has been in the hands of an expert and no pains have been spared to make the list correct. In spite of this the list is not expected to be without error. The whole country has been searched for evidence, and while the record is reliable as a whole, errors have undoubtedly been admitted, even though they have been backed by affidavits. Not that any affiant has been guilty of a misstatement of the facts, but rather that they have been in error. Aside from such errors as are likely to get in an original list of this kind in spite of the utmost care, the list is comparatively correct.
No attempt has been made to make this a complete list of the living Llewellin setters. Only those have been entered which have been offered for registration. Nor has it been possible to classify in this list as Llewellin setters all which have been offered for registration. Many which are no doubt purely bred have been registered among the English setters, because it has not been possible to trace their pedigrees to the foundation of the breed. The owners of these dogs can have them recognized as pure Llewellin setters if they will furnish a pedigree that will be satisfactory to the registrar.
In selecting dogs for this list the following rule has been observed: Dogs which trace to Duke-Rhoebe-Laverack blood without an admixture of any other blood are Llewellin setters.
By referring to the tabulated pedigrees it will be seen that Dan, Dick, Dora and Daisy are the progeny of Duke-Rhoebe. The produce of any of these crossed on the Laverack setter is called a Llewellin setter. The progeny of Kate, sister of Duke, crossed on the Laverack setter, is also admitted to the list.
Another year it will be revised and all that is possible to do will be done to make it absolutely reliable."
I would like to begin this series by explaining to you more history behind the American Llewellins. I could write only my own opinion -- in my own words (which I do often add) -- what the writers of that day said. But I feel you would enjoy it more seeing these writings for yourselves. They wrote a lot closer to the "present day facts" than any writer of today could. Mr. Graham was there to witness the generations following the original imports. In this way you can come to your own conclusions as to what the writer was attempting to convey; whether about a particular dog or man who bred or owned a Llewellin at the turn of the century. Keep in mind that all writing is an interpretation of facts and many of these old writings will differ on exactly the same subject.
I will begin this series of articles by quoting Joseph A. Graham, from a series done on English Setters, in "Outing" titled "American Llewellins" except for the section on Dan, Dick and Dora (this because I felt he did not say enough about the dog he indicated as the "progenitor of nearly all the first-class American field trial dogs") from my book "The Llewellin Setter, Origin and Historical Development". His discourse on the "native stock" is the first and fullest explanation given; his statements are taken as "law" to this day. Also, in this writing Mr. Graham names and describes a great number of the first Llewellins as they were introduced to the American sportsmen and continues into the first few decades of Llewellin Setters. In my research, Mr. Graham's is the only reference I have found to date on some of the dogs named in this article.
By JOSEPH A. GRAHAM
At the beginning of a brief series of English setter studies, it may be as well to dispose at once of the notion that there was ever a "native stock" having any attributes of an established family. It is surprising that any man should mention the term in that sense; yet I have heard it used frequently by old sportsmen, conveying the assumption that there was a more or less fixed American strain before the Llewellins and Laveracks began to cut a figure. It almost goes without saying that the "native stock" was simply what it happened to be in each of a thousand localities. For generations before the Civil War -- that period coinciding almost exactly with the establishment of field trials and regular records in England -- both setters and pointers had been brought over at frequent intervals and had left their progeny at different points from Maine to Florida, and as far into the interior as enterprising field shots had then penetrated. Men's natural sense of fitness had generally kept setters separate from pointers in breeding, but had carried the breeding science to an extent very slightly beyond that point. If a man wished to breed setters, he seldom did more than use the best stock in the neighborhood. When the Laveracks began to come over, and later the Llewellins, they were mixed with this neighborhood stock to some extent, but were kept distinct when the breeders possessed any enlightened aspirations. The native stock, with its prevailing liver-and-white and its frequent graftings on Irish and black-and-tan, can be left out of the story except where individual specimens, as the case of some of the Campbell dogs in Tennessee, exercised an influence on the blood and families successful in public performances.
The first success of Mr. Llewellin's dogs in the English field trials at once aroused interest and caused importation. Well informed fanciers are acquainted with the oft-told story of the Llewellin origin. It should be said, by the way, that the term, as marking a special strain of setters, is not recognized in England. Mr. Llewellin is known there merely as one of a large number of gentlemen who have had successful kennels of English setters. The triumphs of his entries in the English field trials and the attention which imported specimens excited on this side led to a strenuous discussion, out of which it came about by common understanding that the term "Llewellin" should be given to the strain in America. It is well to state that field trials in England were and are comparatively small events, and never had anything resembling the relative prestige and influence which they have won in America. Mr. Llewellin, at home a field trial patron among few, is a "bigger" man here.
A brief word on the threadbare subject of how Mr. Llewellin produced his English setters. For many years before he took up the subject, Mr. Laverack's beautiful setters had been the center of attention, and in spite of the fact that they were regarded somewhat doubtfully by shooting men, had gradually assumed the first place in popular favor. Their most notable characteristics were smoothness and symmetry of proportion and beautiful, fine, fleecy, straight coats, with the aristocratic color of lemon belton or blue belton. It was the opinion of Stonehenge and most of the English authorities that Mr. Laverack's bitches were far superior to his (male) dogs, at least in field quality; the Laverack tendency to heavy and thick shoulders being a defect more conspicuous on the male side. However that may be, the blue belton bitch, Countess, and her sister, Nellie, brilliantly distinguished themselves both on the bench and at field trials.
At the same time, Mr. Statter's Dan and his brother Dick achieved distinction in the trials. Dan was a very large, white black and tan dog, the upper part of his body being nearly all black. He had been bred by Mr. Statter. His sire was Barclay Field's Duke, a black-and-white dog, one of the best early winners at trials and described as very fast and extremely intelligent in bird work.
Dan's dam was Mr. Statter's Rhoebe. She was not at all a brilliant field performer. Mr. Llewellin describes her as "great, big, long, low, and heavily built." Mr. Brailsford says that she was slow, but that Mr. Statter regarded her highly, chiefly on account of the breeding of her dam, Psyche, the latter having come of a well-known and highly esteemed strain of setters, the Beaudesarts, which had been for the most part black in color. Rhoebe, however, had qualities of some sort which made her a most successful matron. Her sons and daughters were winners for several years at the trials.
Mr. Llewellin bought the Laveracks, Countess and Nellie, and the Duke-Rhoebe dogs, Dan and Dick. Dan became the progenitor of nearly all the first-class American field trial dogs. His sister, Dora was imported into this country by Mr. Adams of Boston, and left an important line of descendants, the most favored and famous of which was Druid, imported ahead of Dora and owned by Mr. Arnold Burges of Michigan. Another son was Drake, owned by Mr. Adams."
Because of the statement, "Dan became the progenitor of nearly all the first-class American field trial dogs.", I feel most of you would like to know more about him. The following quote from my book, "The Llewellin Setter", will give you more insight on this outstanding bird-dog that is attributed to have passed so much to his descendants which are today's American Llewellin.
DAN, DICK AND DORA
Dan was a beautiful white, black and tan dog. He was a big dog, stylish, high headed, with great courage. He was not a very gentle dog. Dan was bred extensively to Countess, Nellie and other Laverack bitches.
Mr. L. H. Smith writes in the article submitted to OUTING in 1896, "Mr. Llewellin had purchased for the then unheard of price, three hundred pounds, the English Setter dog Dan and his brother Dick. Dan was a large, powerful, coarse-coated, good-looking dog, and a grand worker in the field. He ran in the Shrewsbury trials of 1871, winning all three stakes for which he was entered. After this he put out his shoulder, and was never able to run at a trial again."
It was written in THE NEW HUNTERS ENCYCLOPEDIA in the early 1900's that, "Llewellin's Dan was a dog of great prepotency and when he was crossed with the flighty Laverack bitches he seemed to add just what was needed and his offspring were dog's of sterling qualities."
The finest example of his off spring was the great and notable GLADSTONE, whelped in 1876. Gladstone is considered to be the fountain head of the six pillars of the American Llewellins.
To give you an idea of how quickly the Llewellin line developed let us note here the whelp of this 'family'. Dan's year of birth was 1871, Gladstone's year of birth was 1876, Gladstone IV's year of birth was 1896. Gladstone IV was the winner of the first American Grand National Championship ever held.
The writer goes on to say Dan, "Possessed unusual stamina, great hunting intelligence, and unusual nose, and the right amount of high-strung nervous energy."
Mr. Hochwalt opinion of Dan, in his book THE MODERN SETTER, in 1923, was, "Dan seemed to nick remarkably well with all the Laverack bitches and no matter what their quality or individuality, he seemed to be able to produce good puppies. The erratic and gun-shy Lill II, bred to him brought forth Lincoln, which came to America in later years and was the foundation of the Gleam blood (which I will tell you more about later), through other combinations. Petrel was another bitch of little individual value, but she was bred to Dan and then sold to L. H. Smith, of Strathroy, Ontario. Coming to America in whelp she brought forth a litter from which was born the great Gladstone (as I have said, one of the greatest of all our early American Llewellins and the beginning of the American Llewellins, as they became know). Mr. Llewellin had very fair success with this cross at Field Trials. As a consequence, it was not long until a great demand ensued for this wonderful field trial breed (Llewellins), from sportsmen in America, and so it came about that dogs from the Llewellin Kennels began coming over about as early, or nearly so, as they did from the kennels of Edward Laverack."
Mr. Hochwalt goes on to say in his writing, "Dan's great prepotency seemed to overcome his faults in the progeny. He was a fine, big, upstanding dog, nearly all black on the body, with white on the legs and tan shadings on the jaws. As a nick with these rattle-brained Laverack bitches he seemed to bring the desired leavening and results were good."
Mr. Llewellin crossed Dan and Dick on the Laverack bitches. He used Dan more than Dick. Evidently Dick was not as great a sire as Dan because there is not nearly as much mentioned about him in the old writings.
Immediate success came his way. After all his years of perseverance he was satisfied with a consistent line. He was not the originator of this strain because he had watched Mr. Starter, Mr. Field and the elder Armstrong breed these crosses. Why these gentlemen did not carry the strain further has always been a puzzle. This seems to substantiate that Mr. Llewellin truly did buy up the majority of the lines. After Mr. Llewellin had such success with these Duke-Rhoebe-Laveracks others of course followed him.
Not long after Mr. Llewellin acquired Dan and Dick he bought Dora, a sister to them. Dora was larger than Dan. At the time of purchase she was in whelp to Laverack's Prince.
Dan and Dora were larger dogs weighing 55 to 58 pounds and coarse blooded. This, mixed with the Laverack show quality dogs, was a combination that produced quality with a conformation for work. This blood of Dan and Dora also put a larger size to the Laveracks.
As mentioned before the Dan-Laverack, which in the writings of Stonehenge was considered to be the first 'Llewellyns' Mr. Llewellin bred, pups were bold and aggressive while the Dora pups were more docile and gentle, some people even thought timid. Llewellins are not timid, they just aren't hard headed and stubborn. They are an understanding dog that know what you tell them without any force.
The combination of these bloods in subsequent generations made the perfect combination. Her type of blood is what made the Llewellins evolve into such a pet and loving companion, along with excellent field qualities. Mr. Whitford states in his articles for FIELD AND FANCY, in 1907, "After the first cross dogs had passed away and their progeny had been bred together there was more evenness of temperament although the Dan quality would assert itself now and again in high couraged dogs, while the Dora disposition would crop out occasionally as shown in the more docile dogs." He goes on to say, "Of course the most desirable type of temperament was a blend of the two. That is, the ideal in this respect was a dog of the Dan style and boldness coupled with the gentleness of Dora." The evenness quickly developed with subsequent generations.
When Mr. Llewellin's experiments with Duke-Rhoebe-Laverack crosses proved to produce such excellent field dogs as with the Dan, Dick and Dora dogs; he found out he could not buy any more Duke-Rhoebe to carry his breed further. Therefore he bought Rhoebe-Laverack and Duke-Laverack for the basis of widening his breeding program.
Mr. Whitford, in his 1906 and 1907 FIELD AND FANCY articles, says, "Some of these he used with good success, while others did not prove to be of much value. However, he had got enough good dogs out of the crosses he had made to carry on his breed without fear of ruining it by to close inbreeding." ---end
Mr. Graham continues, "A dog whose name is of consequence chiefly because it appears in a great number of pedigrees was Bergundthal's Rake. He was inbred to Rhoebe.
With Gladstone, Count Noble, Leicester and Lincoln, these dogs, Rake and Druid, enter into the pedigrees of nearly all the fashionable Llewellin families in America. The six are the foundation dogs of the American Llewellin. If the student is after essential influences and simplest terms, he can throw out all other Llewellin importations as minor incidents."
The American Llewellins of today descend back to these blood lines. About 3 generations ago I began using the prefix name of "King's" on the American Llewellin lines. The only purpose of this is to enable the layman to distinguish these lines from the more recent imports (various lines of Bondhu & Wind'em). Very few of my American lines have any blood outside these American Llewellins. It has been said by some researchers of the Llewellin pedigrees that American Llewellins are probably some of the purest strains of Llewellins.
The reason for this statement is; after World War II was over there were very few dogs left in England. Many were believed to have outcrossed with any available English Setters (dogs other than the Duke-Rhoebe-Laverack base). To substantiate this, I have a letter from Dr. Maurice to Mr. Shaw, stating this fact, "Due to the war we lost most of our bloodline." The inquiry was to import back to England some of the "Ch. Tony" blood that Mr. Shaw bred.
We continue with Mr. Graham's writings, "It will be seen that Mr. Llewellin's dogs were a combination of Laverack with the Duke-Rhoebe blood. These two foundations of the Llewellin kennel differed so widely in characteristics that the great variations in the appearance and quality of their descendants are not remarkable. The Laveracks were usually small or of medium size. Rhoebe was very large herself and gave to all her progeny a tendency to size. To this day it is the case that some Llewellins look like Laveracks, and some like Dan and his mother. Some do not weigh over thirty pounds, while occasional specimens run up almost to seventy pounds." (Those who are familiar with my writing, know I have to 'add my two cents'.) Although it does not, easily, appear so, this size and weight description is actually written in the past tense. In Mr. Graham's description of the subsequent generations of Llewellins he indicates a greater uniformity. The American Lines of this day are much more uniform. The particular 'lines', attributed to the breeder who maintained each, for several decades, reflect their preferences as to color, conformation, and only somewhat in size and weight. Females average 45 to 50 pounds and males average 50 to 55 pounds. The Asrah Wiley line that Mr. Dick Biggs of Paragould, AR imported, males weigh 60 to 65 pounds. I have a stud dog, "Girard" from this line. "If we assume that vigor, good sense, and level disposition were the characteristics of the Duke Rhoebes, whereas it is known that the pure Laveracks, as a rule, were not remarkable for mental qualities, at least in field work on birds, it seems that the irregularities in this respect which are noticed in the Llewellins may be attributed to the two different foundation elements used by the originator of the strain. Llewellins are sometimes brilliant and sometimes commonplace. In the families which are bred by active patrons of field trials there is of late years a marked tendency to uniformity, but the type so suggested is by no means a general rule among even dogs bred by these gentlemen. This type should, however, be described, since it apparently bids fair to attain more or less of ascendancy. It is represented by such dogs as Tony Boy, Marie's Sport, Roderigo, Gath, Lady's Count Gladstone, Rodfield, Geneva, Sioux, and Mohawk (all American Llewellins). It is of medium size, compact body, relatively small and short head as compared with the Laveracks, and of harder and thinner coat. Many of these dogs, like Gladstone carry the tail curled upward almost like that of a foxhound, though when at active work in the field they commonly keep it below the level of the back. This high tail might have been culled by Mr. Llewellin as a result of the recent beginnings of his breeding program. Mr. Llewellin was, at one point, accused of sending his "culls" to America. This DID NOT mean that they were not excellent bird-dogs. Please remember that Mr. Llewellin was aware of this and it is well documented that Mr. Llewellin was the most severe of critics of his dogs and would destroy any dog that was not an excellent "Field Dog". It is noted in several historical documents that he destroyed 'dogs by the hundreds; because they did not meet his standards. Whether Gladstone would have had a far different fate if his dam had not been sent to America already bred we will never know. Though he proved to be an extremely excellent bird-dog he might not have been acceptable in England. This is because English dog breeders required the tail to be level or below the back. Remember the statement, "It is well to state that field trials in England were and are comparatively small events, (bench & show have ALWAYS had priority in England) and never had anything resembling the relative prestige and influence which they have won in America. Mr. Llewellin, at home a field trial patron among few, is a "bigger" man here." Again remember that Mr. Llewellin, himself, would have culled any dog that did not prove his goals. As for the high tail dogs, to the Americans it did not matter. You can tell in these articles on Gladstone that he was a superior "Field Dog" and he produced great numbers of champion dogs. If you have the issue of Volume 3, Issue #4 refer to this writing for details of how he badly defeated the top Native Setter in America, Joe Jr. Many of you may not know that to this day America is the only country in the world that desires high tailed pointing dogs. They are usually characterized by intense nervous energy, good speed in the field, and a disposition to self-hunt. Breeders are endeavoring to increase the size of field trial dogs by selecting larger breeding specimens, but it is not likely that the average size will much exceed fifty pounds for the dogs and five pounds less for the bitches. That weight seems to be somewhere about normal, for what may be called the American LleweIlin strain, just as the normal height seems to be between twenty-two and twenty-four inches at the shoulder.
The qualities which enter into the American Llewellins cannot be understood without an examination of the leading dogs which enter into their pedigrees.
Beyond comparison the first in importance is Gladstone. This remarkable dog was a white, black, and tan, by Llewellin's Dan out of the lemon-and-white Laverack, Petrel. He was imported "in utero" by Mr. Smith of Strathroy, Canada. When a small puppy, he was bought by Mr. P. H. Bryson of Memphis, Tennessee, and attained his reputation while in the ownership of Mr. Bryson and his brother, Mr. David Bryson. Gladstone won on the bench as well as in the field, but it was probably the prestige of the dog as well as the somewhat irregular character of bench-show entries in those days rather than his strict show qualities which gained him the ribbons. He weighed a little more than fifty pounds, and stood twenty-two and a half inches at shoulder. In utility points he was a finely built dog, quite thick in the shoulder, but with superb chest and perfect feet and legs. He was very strongly made and of exceptional speed and staying power. His head was short, the muzzle was inclined to be "snipey," and the ears were set quite high. The defects of head, as rated by bench-show standards, have been persistent in his descendants, probably because the same faults were more or less inherent in the entire strain as well as in Gladstone himself." My "King's Gladstonyo Jack" has these same characteristics. He has been line bred from the Gladstone blood along with my Bomber III line. Isn't it amazing how after over 13 generations these characteristics are still prevalent in the line. As the old men used to tell me "Blood will tell". "Under the old field trial rules in force when Gladstone first appeared in public, he was several times defeated. At that time competition was judged by the number of stanch points made by a dog, and it consequently happened that an inferior dog with good luck or a good handler could often beat the most brilliant. (Another project I have started and not gotten back to, is a chronological study of the progression of Trial Rules. The statement, "Under the old field trial rules in force ......." takes a bit of thought. I assume that Mr. Graham was referring to Number of Points VS Quality of Points made by a dog.) In spite of an occasional defeat, Gladstone was regarded by all good judges as the best young setter ever seen in the United States. His bold and brilliant character, positive, snappy bird-work and flawless courage gathered him a host of admirers the whole length of the Mississippi Valley and spread his reputation across the ocean.
Counted as a factor of importance in the production of the American Llewellins, Count Noble must be ranked next to Gladstone. He was a large white, black and tan dog, long in the body and not considered a well-proportioned setter. He weighed sixty pounds. This dog was imported by David Sanborn of Baltimore, Michigan from the Llewellin kennel, and owned by him up to the time of Mr. Sanborn's death, when he passed into the possession of B. F. Wilson of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. He was by Mr. Llewellin's favorite, Count Wind'em, and his dam was Nora, by Dan out of Nellie. He was thus inbred to Dan, though the major portion of his blood was Laverack, his sire, Count Wind'em, being three-quarters Laverack. Like Gladstone, he forced himself on public attention by the successful brilliancy of his public performances. He was a dog of great speed and wonderful endurance, particularly good on prairie chicken and able to hold his own in any company on any game."
CONTINUED.................... I will continue this article in the next Llewellin Journal.
Please refer to the following list of past Journal
issues containing individual articles on specific dogs: