Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Can Icons be replaced?

There are a few people in the world of gundogs that I would call icons, because they have left such a mark, and cast such a long shadow on their respective breeds. One of these folks is the remarkable George Bird Evans, and the other is Robert Wehle..

The loss of George Bird Evans was a great one to the literary community, and I believe that a man of his writing skill and style can never be replaced. There are younger folk out there, but none with the memory of a GBE that can take us back to a time of gentlemanly gunning with classic Setters now long gone.

And what of the Old Hemlock name? Mr. Evans gave the nod to various breedings to carry on the Old Hemlock name, and a masterful job he did, as the Old Hemlock brand still carries with it the mystique of gentlemanly hunting behind a regal English Setter.

A good friend was offered the opportunity to carry the Old Hemlock torch after the death of Mr Evans, but declined. The Old Hemlock tradition carries on in very capable hands, but upon the loss of such a giant in the gundog world, are things really the same? Or can they be the same?

The world will likely never see another man like George Bird Evans, and that is decidedly our loss!

And what about the inimitable Bob Wehle? The man who made the Elhew Pointer the premier performance dog in recent times.

Bob Wehle knew breeding and genetics from large animals, and used his hard won knowledge to create the most famous line of English Pointers ever. The only thing needed to sell a litter was an Elhew prefix in the pedigree, and the Elhew name is still a selling point. But, does the name still carry the same weight under the person annointed to carry on the name?

There will only be one Bob Wehle, and his books are required reading for anyone in the gundog community, no matter which breed one is affiliated with. It's all relevant and his words carry great weight.

Will we ever see "larger than life" folks like this in the future of gundogs? Will things be as they were, or move on? Our breeds are suffering from lack of genetic diversity. Will someone step up and proclaim enough to be enough, or just carry on the road to ruin for canines..

The two gentlemen mentioned were giants in their field. Without their strength and vision for their respective breeds, will these strains survive and carry the weight that they once did? One thing is for sure, these men were true leaders, and things will never be the same without them..

Some folks just cannot be replaced!


  1. This is a subject that I know little about. I know only a mix of opinions and descriptions of what folks are doing--from stuff that one reads as he goes along.

    What is missing that spells doom for these wonderful dogs? I've been made to understand that much improvement has been made and that some lines are as good or maybe even better for the intended purpose of locating and setting the game bird--particularly, but not limited to the Ruffed Grouse.

  2. John,

    A vision and dream for a strain of dogs is a difficult thing to pass along to someone else. Everyone has there own ideas of what a gundog should be.
    As far as genetic damage, go to Deb's blog, A Piece of the Purest Challenge, and read about the genetic flaws that are being concentrated by current breeding practices, and how some breeds are on the brink of destruction because of them. There's some thought provoking information there!!



  3. Bill: you picked a couple of good ones there! I'm not sure if knowing wonderful dogs makes you a good writer, but both George and Bob could write, too, and that has certainly helped their legacy.

    I gather that the Elhew line was bequeathed to Brian Hays at Chokebore Kennels in RI. Hopefully we can all pass on like Bob Wehle, while watching dogs run.

    I think that what made GBE's and Bob Wehle's dogs as successful in their respective fields was both vision and a long-term perspective on a work-constantly-in-progress. There are no short-term remedies, even if there are occasional brilliant dogs to build from.


  4. Good thoughts Bill. I think you know how I feel about this. A worthy line of bird dogs requires one mans stubborness, a good size breeding colony and lots of money. Pedigrees and Ch.s on them are nice, but the dogs are what make or break a line. I think todays world makes this kind of breeding tough as dogs are becoming members of the family that sleep in our beds and the idea of kennel dogs leaves a bad taste in many peoples mouths, but this is what it takes to esatablish and mantain a successful line of bird dogs.