hunting, flushing and retrieving of game”. Obviously all breeds classified in a “Gundog” or “Sporting dog” group (terms vary according to country and kennel club) were bred, originally, for that purpose or they would not have been so classified! However, one has only to observe many (if not all!) gundog breed (conformation) classes, both at home and abroad, to see that it is patently obvious that most of the representatives of these breeds would not be physically capable of carrying out the task for which they were originally bred, let alone have the skill to do so!!
Many gundog breeds have now split into “working” type and “show” type. These two varieties actually display different conformation in several cases although both supposedly conform to the breed standard! (at least if they are K.C. recognised breeds) I refer only to breeds in which I know the following to be the case in the U.K. In some instances it tends to be more a matter of presentation (e.g. Irish and English Setters) but breeds I know to have two distinctly different “types” include the ESS, Cocker spaniel, Labrador Retriever, Golden Retriever and Clumber Spaniel.
So, how might the term “working gundog”, as opposed to just “gundog” be defined? My definition would be something along the lines of ...
“A gundog trained to a sufficiently high standard such that it is able to, and does, work on a shoot (or shoots) in the capacity of hunting, pointing or flushing and retrieving game”
“displaying a proven ability to be an asset on any shoot and capable of achieving the work required of it's handler, breed or function in an efficient manner being quiet, under control and steady to all and any livestock.”
So would a dog that goes only beating be termed a “working gundog”, as the level of “gundog training” required can be virtually nil (some people take their dogs beating on a lead, others beat without a dog ... a dog certainly isn’t essential)? Some beating dogs, of course, are highly trained and undertake picking-up duties as well, especially on more informal, or walked-up shoots. So the answer to the question? ..... well, I’d say possibly not, but it is debatable!
Generally speaking virtually any breed (within reason perhaps!) may be used for beating (although the spaniel breeds excel) and retriever breeds are used for picking-up ..... but this is only a generalisation and is not always the case!!
HPR breeds are bred to do what their name implies, but are best suited to the larger wide-open spaces of upland moors and enormous arable fields as they are bred to range far more widely than would be acceptable in any spaniel breed (apart from the Brittany, which is no longer called a spaniel and is an HPR) ..... (or an Irish Water Spaniel of course, which is classed as a retriever!!)
....................... to be continued in a future post on The Working Barbet!!