Monday, April 21, 2008

Getting to the Heart of the Matter

The following are excerpts from an article written by Dr. Joel Morris (Belmor) and published is the GSCA Review, 1978-1988...

The American Field sets forth a Shooting Dog Standard for Gordon Setters. This is a Field Trial Standard of Performance for Gordon Setter Championships. The standard provides a benchmark to judge Gordon Setter championship performance, to recognize class Gordon Setters who possess these characteristics and to improve the breeding of superior Gordon Setter field qualities. It is acknowledged that a Gordon Setter may not demonstrate all of the championship characteristics listed, however, it is desirable that he approximate as many of these characteristics as possible. The following qualities are to be evaluated in judging a championship stake:

Point. The dog stands proud, intense, rigid, confident, high head and tail, is steady to wing and shot, an immovable picturesque statue.

Application. The dog demonstrates an intense desire to find game, is animated, cracking, a joy to watch, independent, makes intellegent use of the wind, confidently attacks ground, cover and objectives.

Nose. He stops on a dime when he scents birds, accurately locates the birds, and uses body rather than foot scent.

Range and Run. He adapts his pace and range to terrain and cover, may be absent for periods of time. He hunts his way out in a forward direction, making appropriately wide casts and hunts the limits. He runs gracefully with little wasted effort.

Handling. He responds positively to handler's voice and whistle. He may verge on being "out of control" but comes around. Rough handling can be a sign of superior desire to find birds rather than not handling, and should be judged accordingly rather than penalized.

Backing. He naturally backs his bracemate with a high head and tail.

Stamina. He can finish the hour strong with capacity to continue.

Undesirable characteristics include lack of intensity and style on point, creeping, pottering, lacking application, lack of desire and independence in finding birds. It is indesirable if the dog stays within shotgun range, avoids or steals a point or has insufficient stamina to finish a course properly.
It is a serious blemish on the integrity and character of the championship as well as to the reputation of the judges to award a championship to a dog that does not demonstrate championship qualities. The judge has the responsibility to award the championship to a class dog. Anything less is a disservice to the breed, participants, the sponsoring club and field trial community. It is better to award the title to a class dog with minor errors than to award it to a mediocre dog with multiple finds that does not approximate the championship qualities outlined above. Style, desire, intensity, range and application should be stressed. It is better to withhold the championship than to award it to a dog that made it around clean, but lacks overall class performance. In other words, "don't give it away," "don't do us any favors." This is an American Field championship, the dog must be championship quality. It must be capable of placing in (non-A.K.C.) all breed American Field competition(from the American Field Shooting Dog Standard for Gordon Setters).....

The Gordon Setter Club of America runs it's field trials under the sanction of The American Kennel Club. However, many of GSCA's regional committees also run trials under the sanction of the American Field. There are currently three major Gordon Setter field trial organizations running events under American Field rules. They are the National Gordon Setter Association, the National Gordon Setter Field Trial Club and the Heart of America Field Trial Club.
The Mid-Atlantic Gordon Setter Field Trial Club was very active during the 1970's and early 1980's. It ran championship stakes during 1984 and 1985. Many of it's members are also members of the National Gordon Setter Field Trial Club. This club was established in 1956 with George Penterman as it's president. An American Field club, it has run both regional and National Gordon Setter field championships.
The National Gordon Setter Association publishes a quarterly newsletter called The Gordon Castle Setter. It also helped establish the Open and Amateur Gordon Setter Shooting Dog Championships. It oversees the election of Gordon Setters into the American Field Trial Hall of Fame. Member clubs of the National Gordon Setter Association include the Gordon Setter Club of Hawaii, the Gordon Setter Field Trial Club of Northern California, the United States Gordon Setter Field Trial Club and the Heart of America Gordon Setter Club.

My comments...
To put this, and the current state of the Field Gordon Setter in perspective, all of the Field Trial Clubs that ran under the auspices of the American Field are now defunct, and it's exceedingly rare to find a Gordon running AF events. There are a few that could make a mark, but, the vast majority would rather seek mediocrity under the AKC. The Gordon had a chance to make the big time... I fear that time is lost!

More on Dr. Morris and the impact that he and his Belmor dogs had on the breed tomorrow....
Stay tuned....


  1. Bill -- another provocative post. Here's a question for another Bombshell post. What's the point of field-trialing (whether AKC or AF)? or hunt testing, for that matter? Any dog that wins or qualifies does so according to a standard that may have nothing to do with how an owner may actually want to hunt with their dog (if they even want to).

    A great dog is a great dog, we know it when we see it -- and for me, that ultimately means whether I look forward to hunting with them. I'm not convinced the standards are necessarily the problem.

    all the best

  2. I agree that many of the requirements for a FT placement have little or nothing to do with gundog performance in the real world. Many of the attributes of a fine working dog would earn am immediate DQ at a hunt test, or cause a dog to be picked up at a FT.
    FT's are however, a way to improve the breed, if run against quality opposition and a believable standard.