Thursday, June 26, 2008

Dissent even then...

We've seen how the breed has split with protagonists on both sides. It's quite surprising that this is not a new phenomena...


by George S. Pugh

In the early American Kennel Club Gazettes, as well as other publications and books of this period, we find references to the American Gordon Setter Club, and also to the Gordon Setter Club of America. Sometimes the reference was simply to the "Gordon Setter Club." At first I thought these might be different clubs, but after much search it became evident that there was only one club, which had dissension among it's members over the correct name and type for the Gordon. Harry Malcolm was a very active and outspoken advocate of a light, racy type of Gordon which he chose to call the "American" Gordon Setter. This type was not popular on the benches, and another faction within the club backed the heavier type that we know today. Mr. James Watson, editor and judge, had the following to say regarding Mr. Malcolm's type of Gordon:
The American Gordon is a light-built black and tan setter incapable of winning against dogs of type, and no owner is going to continue paying entry fees and express charges on dogs incapable of winning.
A special meeting of the Executive Committee was held November 28, 1890, and the resignations of Mr. Malcolm and his cohorts were accepted and a new slate of officers elected. Shortly afterward a new Constitution and By-laws were drawn up and adopted. The Standard for the 'Ameriocan Gordon Setter' which had been written under the aegis of Harry Malcolm was scrapped, and a new one for the Gordon Setter was drawn up and adopted July 7, 1891.
The club was probably formed sometime in 1887, but it was not until July 1888 that it was listed by the American Kennel Club as an active member. The club was formed through the efforts of Mr. Harry Malcolm, who was it's first President. It was first referred to as the 'American Gordon Setter Club,' and I am sure that while Mr. Malcolm was in control he insisted that it be called by this name, for his avowed purpose in organizing the club was to gain recognition for and to promote the American Gordon setter, which he felt was the only true Gordon. In a chapter entitled "The American Gordon Setter," written by Mr. Malcolm while he was still President of the club, he tells us of it's formation and objective;
A dog who is simply a prize winner, no matter if he is not pure bred, or is even gun-shy, or has never seen game, is more valued by the average mug-hunter than the finest field dog in the country. The bench shows were to blame, in a measure at least, for this state of affairs, in having only one class in which this breed could enter, and that for Black and Tan Setters when, in fact, they should have had a class for Gordon Setters, and the Black and Tan should have been in the cross-bred or English class.
To remedy this evil, and save the Gordon Setter from the odium that was being cast upon him by having to be entered in the same class with the Black and Tan (causing the best specimens of the Gordon setter to be kept at home for many years), the field sportsmen, and lovers of the pure-bred Gordon setter, met and formed a club, known as the American Gordon setter Club. We went before the American Kennel Club, requesting them to give us a class in the Stud book for our pure-bred dogs; and to call this strain the American Gordon Setter. Our request was granted; and in the future, none but a dog with a pure Gordon setter pedigree can be registered as an American Gordon Setter.
The cross-bred dog, who depended upon his black and tan color to deceive the public, has now to be registered in the cross-bred class. The success of the American Gordon setter Club in this matter has saved one of the best strains of field dogs from utter ruin. So the strain of dogs that was known at the Duke of Gordon's Castle as the Gordon Setter, and in England as the Black and Tan setter, are now known in America as the American Gordon Setter.

I have never followed the logic of insisting that only those Gortdons of direct English ancestry should be called 'American' Gordons. However, the efforts of Mr. Malcolm and this club succeeded in having the newly formed American Kennel Club change it's Stud book title for the breed to 'American Gordon setters.' This designation did not have popular approval, nor did it have support of the new regime now in control of the club; and soon- in Novenber, 1892- the American Kennel Club returned the title to 'Gordon Setters,' which title they have held ever since.
This early Gordon Setter Club was quite active and did much to promote the interests of the Gordon. No doubt the most important step was writing a clear standard for the breed. This did much to improve the quality of the breed judging, for prior to this time each judge had his own opinion of what a Gordon should look like, usually formed from reading some edition of the British writer 'Stonehenge.' The club spent much effort to get shows to offer prizes for Gordons and provide the same number of classes for them as for the English and Irish Setters.
As we have noted earlier, the club held two field trials, one in 1893 and another in 1894, but did not continue it's efforts in this direction.
After 1908 which saw the last of this first Gordon Setter Club of America, the breed was not represented at the American Kennel Club until the present Gordon Setter Club of America was admitted to membership on December 2, 1924..


The more things change, the more they remain the same....

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