Description & History

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is an American breed which was created and developed mainly from British stock.

In 1807 an English brig was wrecked off the coast of Maryland. Her crew and two Newfoundland puppies were rescued by an American ship, the Canton. To show their appreciation for the help and kindness they received, the crew gave the puppies - a red dog called "Sailor" and a black bitch they called "Canton" to the settlers who lived on the coast. Both dogs were excellent retrievers with an affinity for water: characteristics they passed on to their progeny, although they were never mated to each other, only to local dogs.

As time progressed, their descendants were crossed with other retriever and hunting breeds. Curly and Flatcoated Retrievers, Irish Water Spaniels, and Coonhounds are all believed to have played a part in creating the present day Chesapeake. They retained the characteristics of their two forebears - including endurance and retrieving - plus gaining another - improved general appearance. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, dogs in general were developing along new lines, appearance was becoming important to a number of breeders and the Chesapeake was no exception to this new development. Dogs which were excellent workers but not always attractive to the eye were being replaced by dogs that were gradually conforming to new standards. By 1885 the breed standard for the Chesapeake was established and the breed was now distinguishable in its own right. In 1933 the American Chesapeake Club's standard points were approved by the American Kennel Club.

Today in the United States the Chesapeake has no equal as a retriever. Although adept at working on dry land, it is far superior to other gundogs when retrieveing from water. Inclement weather is not a problem to the Chesapeake. It is protected by its dense woolly undercoat and coarse top coat. These enable it to spend hours retrieving duck and other game birds in conditions which most breeds would find beyond their capabilities.

The breed was not bred for the show ring, although they do participate. They are also trained for obedience and tracking.

The first Chesapeake arrived in England in the 1930's and belonged to Mr Nigel Holder. His name was Bruce. Since the early 1970's, a number of Chesapeakes have come to the British Isles and are a proving as popular as British gundog breeds.

Rosamund Walters.

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